Living On Retirement Time

As I navigate my day to day retirement I am discovering there is nothing better than enjoying the freedom to do what you want with your time. Rather than facing the burden of a list of to-dos assigned by someone else I can now journey down those paths leading to those things I really care about. Instead of sweating it out as I prepare for the hot seat that is a quarterly “sales numbers meeting” I can meander throughout my garden pruning a dead leaf here, fertilizing a needy plant there, adding a bit of water where needed. Rather than face the stressful chore of firing an underperforming employee I can now spend my efforts creating the perfect cappuccino with just the right amount of foam, minimal bitterness and that velvety smooth finish. My power lunch meetings now include only those people I choose to be with where we discuss topics that are mutually interesting and the only pressure is who will be quickest on the draw to snatch the incoming bill first.

Doing what you want can be wonderfully invigorating. Each day offers the potential for something new. And equally important you are able to enjoy yourself at a pace that fits me. There is no need to rush. There are no life or death deadlines pending.  Before I get out of bed I cannot tell if I will start the day in a state of high energy or so-so energy or no Couple with Balloonsenergy. Now that I am retired I can shape my days activities according to how I feel once the first cup of coffee is coursing through my veins. Rather than forcing myself to perform at a level above where I am comfortable I can make adjustments to my plans to better insure a complementary fit.

Along with living at a pace that fits me for the present moment I am free to stop what I am doing midstream. Imagine starting a project that you can quit at any time. It can be very empowering. I am an organized guy. If I need to get something done I put it on a list. (It sometimes drives my wife a little crazy that the only way to insure my doing what I commit to is to add the activity to that list.) But the nice thing about retirement is I only have to stay at it as long as I want. For example, our new backyard is bigger than what we had before. And there is a lot to do from weeding to moving plants to getting rid of a diversity of refuse discarded by the previous owners. If you look at all that needs to be done it can quickly feel overwhelming. So I break it into smaller more manageable projects that I can stop at any time. Prune and fertilize the roses but not all at once (there are over 80 bushes!). Clean up the old leaves but one area at a time. Collect and throw out the garbage but don’t try to do it all at once. It has taken me awhile to feel comfortable stopping before a project is completely finished. But I now accept that I can quit when I want and pick up where I left off tomorrow – or the next day. Without that pressure to get it done I am better able to enjoy what I am doing in the moment. When the enjoyment diminishes I can head off to something more interesting.

For some living at that relaxed retirement pace is not automatic. Making the transition from full time work to full time retirement can be challenging. My first six months were a bit unnerving as I tried to teach myself how to slow down. My wife is going through a similar situation. She is two months into her retirement and still feels she should be doing something more. I encourage her to see what is out there that she may enjoy doing whether volunteering or part time work or whatever. I believe to really enjoy a relaxing and meaningful retirement it is important to have a wide variety of interests and passions. You need a curiosity that keeps you asking questions and searching for new experiences. Try to learn it is okay to live at a pace that suits you. And be comfortable with the reality that you will not necessarily accomplish something earth shattering every day. But that is okay. It can be just as rewarding if you look back at the day passed and find yourself smiling. Feeling good is what retirement is meant for. You just have to get used to living on retirement time and then not waste a minute.

Good Retirement Advice from James Dean

I remember James Dean from his ”Rebel without a Cause” days. Talk about the epitome of cool. Garbed in his ubiquitous leather jacket wearing that famous confident yet boyish sneer, Dean looked at the world in his own unique way. He did not allow events around him to control his life but rather dictated just how he was going to live. He chose not to let life pass him by without reaching for the most he could. In the end he pushed the envelope a bit too far. But along the way what a story!

One particular quotation from him often echoes in my mind: “dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.”

Now for a slightly crazed virtually fearless teen heart throb who knew no boundaries, such a mantra sounds about right. But what about the rest of us mere mortals and specifically those of us who are living our second act? I believe those words of wisdom spoken from the lips of a rebellious youth decades ago have something worthwhile to say to all of us living the retired life today.

I for one have always been a bit of a dreamer. I remember as a kid playing football catch with myself, lobbing the ball into the air and running madly to catch it. Although the actual swinging monkeysactivity may have taken place on the asphalt outside my house in my mind I was center stage on the football field streaking to catch the game winning pass as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Who has not upon occasion dreamed of what might be? In our imagination perhaps a particularly superb member of the opposite sex might take notice of you or maybe your boss will appreciate all you have done and give you the praise (maybe even promotion) you so deserve. Why buy a lotto ticket if you do not imagine for a moment what you might do should your numbers come up? Las Vegas would be nothing but desert were it not for the dreamers – sometimes borderline obsessive – who regularly contribute to their local economy. And closer to home it is not so difficult to dream a bit picturing you living the perfect retirement life.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming. Many a dream has proved the inspiration for great things. Dreaming removes perceived barriers that reality tends to throw in our path – nothing is impossible. But dreaming alone does not make those wishes come true. It is far more likely that the combination of a good dose of hard work and focused effort ultimately get it done. That is where the living now comes into play.

Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.

I ask myself if there is some way to put those words to good use in the context of my retirement. What can I do to make the most of today? To begin with I guess I can get up off my butt and engage a little more in living. Waiting for life’s memorable moments to catch up with me may feel safe and easy but if I do not do my part I may miss the boat entirely. It is up to me to take action. The ball is in my court.

If today was my last day how would I spend my hours? I don’t really have a bucket list – I have pretty much tried to do those things that mattered along the way rather than wait. Of course there are still many places I want to visit. The more I read about history and other cultures the more I want to explore them first hand. I imagine myself walking the streets that famous figures trod long ago or sitting along the bank of the famous river Rhine or Seine or Danube or Colorado. I want to try Peruvian food. I would love to learn the swing dance steps set to In the Mood by Glen Miller – man that rhythm just gets into my blood! There are a bunch of melodic complex songs I would like to memorize to play on the piano. I might like to try my hand one more time at the guitar. I want to cook one of those Emeril Lagasse masterpieces that wow those lucky guests chosen to sit around the table and partake.

My brief list may not impress everyone but it includes some of what I would personally like to do. So, now that I am retired and have the time, what am I waiting for? If I don’t take the first steps to do those things I dream of they will never become more than dreams. How much better to do them, to live them, to enjoy them first hand and if I find I like it, do it again? Why not – what do I have to lose? What am I waiting for? What would James Dean do?

There is always time for dreaming. But I am learning life is also what you make of it today, right here and now. Is there something you have always wanted to do but maybe not had the time? Guess what there is no time like the present and retirement can be just the occasion to go for it. There is an old saying, life is like a coin: you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. How will you spend your life coin?