There is No Going Back

Fond memories of days gone by are a joy to replay in our mind’s eye. Whether reliving a particularly happy time in our life or recalling a rare perfect confluence of all things good, our past can be a riverbed of precious nuggets waiting to be mined. Occasionally memories might even outshine the life we currently live.Do you ever find yourself tempted to return to that special place packed with special memories to do it all again? It was so perfect – why not go back? You might stay at that same wonderful bed and breakfast, maybe even in the same room. Is that spectacular dining spot still around, perhaps with that identical table and oh-so-memorable view? Maybe you take again that same wandering path through hillside vineyards or find once more the hidden wine shop tucked inconspicuously into an obscure corner of the village. Though memories may be clear, the way back is not always.

About nine years ago my wife and I visited an off-the-beaten-path restaurant in Intragna, Switzerland. Our table was one of about fifteen spread comfortable across one large room. The food was incredible. I swear I can still taste the truffle pasta. Through the window we gazed upon a little valley speckled with brightly painted houses the air resonating with bell-clanging cows while in the distance lurked the ever present snow capped mountains. As the meal unfolded we witnessed the slow progression of a spectacular sunset painting the world a royal red before closing down the day. Service was friendly and nine years later I still remember my first sip of grappa from those foot long bottles they acrobatically poured at meal’s end.

The memory remains crystal clear, like we were just there. Talk about the perfect moment.

Last year we revisited this spot excited to relive our nostalgic experience. I think we were realistic – we did not expect such a perfect moment but were hoping for something close.  It turns out our memories far out shined current day reality. The experience was not bad it just was not a good as before.  The food was not quite as tasty, the service mediocre, and the whole vibe was a bit off. That certain magic was missing despite some near misses.

Messing with perfect memories can be a risky proposition. What are the chances the second time around will be better or even as good? You can safely assume not everything will be the same. And there is always the chance they will be worse, inferior, not worthy of special memory categorization at all. Imperfections might actually pollute that perfect picture painted years ago. Is it worth the risk?

My dad grew up in Sioux City, South Dakota. Over the years he shared many colorful stories of his life adventures, some comical, some heart rending, all near and dear to him. A few years ago he took my mom on a trip to show her his old stomping grounds. You would expect signs of “progress” over the interim fifty-plus years (aka traffic, sprawl, dirt roads converted to highways, all the wonderful ingredients of growth). Not only were most of the familiar landmarks gone, they could not even find where the old farmstead had been. Little was as it had been when dad was growing up. Fortunately they were able to hook up with my dad’s roommate from medical school so the trip was still a success. That said it was not what they had hoped.

Revisiting and attempting to relive a perfect moment is a noble pursuit. What fun it can be to plan and make arrangements to do it all over again. We do all we can to get it right, down to the smallest detail, and hope for the best. If things do not work out exactly as we hope it will not be due to any lack of trying.

Some may choose to play it safe – leave that perfect memory alone and savor it in blissful review. Break out a nice Pinot Noir, bring out those pictures and take an invigorating virtual stroll down memory lane. Ah but those were good times.

But if you decide to play it safe what about those potential new memories that will never be realized? Although our second Intragna excursion was not on par with the first, while on the trip we discovered the beauty of Thun where we took a lovely boat ride around the lake and wandered the historical streets in search of amazing pastries. Other new experiences included walking the castle wall in Lucerne overlooking the city and nearby mountains, a quick ferry across the Rhine in Basel, and a truly amazing walk among the vineyards along Lake Neuchatel. Now we can add these new special memories to our existing database.

Good memories are a wonderful thing. While we are still able to why not make as many of them as possible. Cheers 🙂

LoveBeingRetired.com

Retirement Blues

According to life’s great book of rules, retirement should be the satisfying, well-deserved culmination of a life spent in preparation for just this moment. Away from the stresses of the working world, able to pursue interests that are actually interesting, free to spend time as you want – darn close to the definition of the perfect scenario. How could anyone find they are anything but happy to be retired?

Be careful what you wish for…

What if you discover you are not entirely ready to retire? What if you are unprepared to fill your free hours with worthwhile, meaningful and fun things? Perhaps worst of all what if you become bored? The thought of twenty or thirty more years spent pursuing the same dismal course can bring on those retirement blues big time.

I enjoy being retired. But the beginning of my second act was anything but enjoyable. Having lost my job at the tender age of 53 no one was more surprised than me to find I was no longer hirable. Apparently 30 years of experience was no longer valued in the fast moving technology start-up rocket-to-the-moon companies I had been happily engaged with to this point. Upon finding myself “on the streets” I struggled for more than a year to find some fit, enduring multiple pulse-quickening sweaty-pit-inducing interviews but found no takers.

At first I was confused. To this point I had moved seamlessly from company to company with very little time between jobs. Someone always wanted me on their team. I thought I still had “it” but apparently that was not the case. What had changed so drastically?

I questioned my own worth. Was it something about me? Had I lost my mojo, was I no longer good enough? In the end I fear I was just too old to fit the bill with the twenty-something CEOs driving those enterprises onward. My original plans had been to work to close to age 62. Forced retirement could put a major crimp in the financial position I had hoped to be in before my exit. Not the best way to start a retirement life.

What if you find as you enter your “golden years” you are not physically or mentally up to launching a new life chapter? Many retirement age folks have worked long and hard along the way. Some may just be worn out. Now that you finally have the time to do all you dream of you just don’t have the energy. Talk about grounds for a serious case of the retirement blues.

What if you find yourself living your retirement dream solo? Probably not exactly the dream you envisioned but sometimes reality just the same. All those adventures you planned with your significant other, those spur-of-the-moment escapes, those travels to previously unvisited destinations, those peaceful times spent side-by-side reading or just enjoying being together – without someone to share the moment a piece of the magic is missing.

What if retirement is just not what you expected? You may be free to do what you want but do you know what that might be? Will an empty calendar be a good thing or not? You may have hobbies but are they enough to entertain you for ten or twenty or more years?

Before you let those retirement blues get the best of you take a moment to remember what you have dealt with and survived to arrive at this stage of your life. Each of us has faced challenges. If you have raised a family you have weathered storms the likes of which only fellow parents can imagine. You have withstood everything from teething to tantrums, sleepless nights to dance recital jitters, teen angst to bewildered young adults struggling to grow up, and on and on. You have to be pretty tough to get through all this with all your marbles (or at least most of them).

Many have weathered careers that were a far cry from what we imagined when we began. Not all bosses are a joy to work with. Not all deadlines are reasonable. Not all who should be promoted are in fact promoted. Sticking with it is no easy chore and yet you prevailed.

Retirees are survivors. Don’t sell yourself short. Call upon those super hero strengths you developed along the way.

I try not to worry about things out of my control. Too often I imagine all the bad outcomes that could be and then when the moment arrives it turns out not nearly as awful as I imagined. Unfortunately I cannot take back those worrisome moments spent in anticipation of something that ultimately never was. I am learning it is better to go with the flow rather than try to prepare for every possibility.

Coping with the blues is part of the human experience. Retirement blues is just another track on the same record. We have done it before and with a little luck and determination we should be able to do it again.

Happy Retirement!

LoveBeingRetired.com

What Do You Do For Fun In Retirement?

One of the great rewards of retirement is when you get there you can do what you want. Whatever you love, whatever you are most passionate about, whatever you have always wanted to try but never had the time, all await your undivided attention when you cross the retirement threshold.

I don’t think one really appreciates the nature of free time until you retire. While on the job any free time you may squeeze out of the day offers a brief taste, a momentary respite in an otherwise turbo world. In a flash you find yourself back on the treadmill quickly bidding adieu to that relaxed pressure free escape that too soon becomes but a memory.

As a retiree you are in the driver seat. As a retiree you set the pace that suits you best. As a retiree you have time for fun – finally. And now that you have all the time in the world, what do you do?

It is not always easy to effortlessly transition to a life where no one tells you what to do. Freedom might even feel a bit scary if you find you are at a loss over how to fill the hours.

Fear not – many have gone down the same road you now navigate. A little practice, a pinch of creativity, a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and you should soon find your second act all you hoped it to be – maybe even more.

What do people do for fun once they retire?

One regular LBR reader typically ends her correspondence with “keep on dancing.” Two years into retired life she explores opportunities to volunteer and engage with her community. Each day is a chance to try something new and her perpetual optimism fuels her journey.

A friend has become very involved with the quilting community in our area. She attends regular get-togethers, man’s booths at local events, and enjoys conversing with others similarly inclined. Plus she creates some truly beautiful quilts whether to decorate her own home or donate to worthy causes.

Senior Playing at Water's Edge

My wife has a dedicated table (on wheels) set aside to build challenging jigsaw puzzles. She works on nothing less than 2000 pieces and has completed some majestic works. And once again proof it’s about the journey rather than the destination – once completed she calmly takes them apart and puts back in their box (after taking a picture of course).

One neighbor teaches a yoga class weekly out of her house. A handful of dedicated locals show up regularly to bend, stretch and meditate their way toward better lives.

Gardening is a wonderful way to feed your creativity while at the same time enjoying the outdoors. There is always something to do if you hope to keep things ship shape. And in the end efforts spent weeding, pruning, fertilizing and defending the crop from varmint’s results in beautiful flowers, tasty veggies and juicy fruit.

Along the lines of enjoying the outdoors taking a walk or hike through the neighborhood and surrounding parks is good exercise, puts you in contact with people around you and gives you a chance to ruminate as you take in nature. No planning is required – just head out the front door and start walking. You never know where you might end up.

My wife discovered the wonders of Pinterest on her iPhone. Each day she scans the site for new creative and tasty recipes to try out. Talk about a win-win situation! My favorite to date is the Pear Tart with powdered almond crust.

Another friend has become quite the bicycle rider. He is often seen wandering the back roads or slipping and sliding down mountain paths in local parks. Great exercise and he sure covers some ground.

My brother has set a goal to visit all the California Missions. His family joins him as they track down new locations near wherever they happen to be traveling. History, beautiful scenery and quality family time are rolled into one memorable outing.

The same brother feeds his passion for music by joining with a handful of similarly minded young-at-heart to play songs for friends and family. He still composes original works and I find there is nothing better than sitting in on a jam session to share his joy of music.

My dad has always loved going for an afternoon drive. The nearby Sierra Foothills offer unlimited views of gnarly old oak trees sprinkled across expansive rolling hills. And when the wild flowers are blooming there is no prettier spot on earth.

My Aunt Lydia took up oil painting later in life. With no formal training just because she enjoyed doing it she began putting on canvas colorful still life portraits as well as a multitude of scenic views. All family members have a picture or two from her gallery.

Have you ever felt the urge to write a story? Or perhaps document your family history for future generations? Retirement can offer the perfect opportunity to release the writer within you.

Our neighbors are avid bird watchers. They love spotting a new winged visitor in the trees and figuring out what the heck it is. They turned me onto a great app that helps identify unknown fliers by their size, colors, and even the song they sing. Check out Merlin from Cornell Lab.

My wife and I have incorporated a few games into our end-of-the-day agenda. Come 5:00 you can expect to see us sitting down on the patio engaged in a spirited battle of Gin Rummy, Backgammon or Dominoes. We find a little friendly competition helps get the juices flowing before dinner.

A few other options you might consider: learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, volunteer, become your own handyman, figure out your family tree, add a pet, travel, join a choir, try your hand at the art medium of your choice, learn to cook, start a business, buy/rent an RV and hit the road, babysit, be a mentor, and the list goes on.

Having fun in retirement is not so difficult. Of course you have to give yourself permission to do so. Occasionally you may feel slightly guilty having free time to do what you want while so many others struggle in the same old day to day grind. But remember you paid your dues. You survived the grind and this is your chance to make up for lost time. Now is your time to have fun.

LoveBeingRetired.com