Get Social in Retirement

I have learned over the years that I am pretty good at entertaining myself. I have a wide variety of interests, hobbies and passions to pursue that bring meaning to my day. I have never had a problem being by myself. It is nice to have the freedom to do what I want spur of the moment. I can read a book or go for a walk, make my lunch even if it is not yet noon, catch a recording of last night’s favorite sitcom, do a quick workout or pretty much whatever else might strike my fancy.

Although I am happily independent I also like people. I enjoy sharing a meal and discussing current events. I am always ready to debate the merits of the current coaches and players on the San Jose Sharks team. I love a good joke although I am not very good at remembering them. I get a lot of satisfaction interacting with a variety of fellow life travelers.

When we retire it is not always easy to feed our need to socialize. Part of the program requires we leave our jobs behind. The good news is we leave behind the stress that typically comes with that job. The bad news is we also leave behind co-workers and friends who filled our day. We no longer have that chit chat and dialogue that kept us engaged and on our toes. Who will we share our stories and jokes with? With whom do we relive those bad calls made by refs over the weekend? Who do we debate the merits of current politicians and their cronies? One of the most difficult aspects of retirement can be the emptiness experienced when we leave behind those people who have become such an integral part of our lives. You hope the relationships will continue beyond work and sometimes they do. But more often with the separation of duties comes a separation of interests and loss of common ground.

Staying socially engaged can be challenging when we retire. Without co-workers our circle of friends diminishes. But staying socially involved is important to our health and happiness. Interacting with others can help keep our minds sharp. Debating, challenging, supporting and questioning require we use our brains. If we hope to prove a point we need to coherently argue our position. The more we talk the better we get at it.

It is amazing how quickly our ability to communicate can slow if we do not regularly engage with others. After being retired for six months I noticed I was not quite as quick as I had been while working every day. I had to think a bit harder to best express my thoughts and that was just six months into retirement. Imagine how things might be in ten years.

Fortunately for me my wife loves to socialize. She still stays in touch with friends from her childhood and meets new people all the time. With her paving the way I am a happy carry-on to various dinners and events I would never have been party to otherwise. Her social nature rubs off on me and I am better for it. If not for her gentle prodding I might find my hermit like tendencies overwhelming the social me.

We happily discovered a couple we know from a previous job lives just a mile down the road. They are a fun intelligent couple who we are spending more time with. My wife and I agree that if we could have picked one couple to be our neighbors it would have been these two. Since they have lived here for the past three years they have insight into various organizations and events we might consider to better get to know the neighbors. Based upon their input we have investigated a local tennis club and spa, scheduled our first attendance at the local gardening club, and met the wine maker at an excellent winery just down the road.

As newbies to the neighborhood we don’t want to rush ourselves. Rather than jump into too many things at once we prefer to take our time and investigate our options. We keep our eyes and ears open for possible activities to enjoy together. At the same time we look for areas that we might pursue individually whether a pilates class for her or a writing course for me or volunteering at the local park.

I am learning the importance of getting out there and socializing – even more so now that I am retired. If I can keep engaging and challenging my mind I hope to improve my chances of staying sharp into the coming decades. Interacting with others, sharing ideas, putting my memory to the test and defending my point of view helps me navigate my journey. And I never know what someone is going to come up with – there is a lovely unpredictable spontaneity about that. Socializing in retirement is good in so many ways. Best of all there are some darn interesting folks out there just as interested in meeting you as you are them. Enjoy!

Love Being Retired

As I write this week’s blog I sit on the deck on a rocking bench (like a rocking chair only a bench) looking out at the field of mature oak trees that fill the canyon behind our house. There is a slight chill in the morning air as a crystal blue sky peeks between majestic branches. The air is still with no hint of a breeze. Later in the day a predictable wind will whip through the canyon but for now all is calm. The peace and quiet is inspiring interrupted only by the buzz of a hovering hummingbird daintily feeding while flashing its amazing coat of iridescent ruby and emerald. And here am I doing what I enjoy.

I love being retired. Knowing that I am in control of how I choose to spend my days is empowering. The freedom to do what I want when I want for as long as I want is refreshing. And living where we do is ever inspiring. If sitting under the oak trees is a bit too cool I can venture to the other side of the house – the sunny side, where my wife can typically be found – and warm up a bit while watching the roses grow. We are situated in a valley that can get warm on summer days. But should the heat become too oppressive a mere 15 minute drive delivers us to the beautiful pacific coastline where the weather is more temperate and the waves ever breaking.

I love being able to be spontaneous. If something good comes along we have no problem acting on short notice. An unplanned dinner with friends we run into while walking or a quick escape to listen to a local musician playing down the road or an impulsive decision to catch the sunset on the beach – we can do whatever, whenever. And being retired allows us to take advantage of this spontaneity during the week. We are no longer forced to seek our entertainment on the weekend when everyone and their brother is doing the same. My wife and I find ourselves happily staying close to home on the weekends since our retired weekend is effectively five days long.

I love the smells of retirement. Now that my wife has retired the house is regularly filled with wonderful cooking aromas. I kid you not this morning while drinking my coffee I detected a heavenly scent that turned out to be freshly made Jamaican banana nut bread. An hour later the oven was sharing savory whiffs of an equally amazing blueberry coffee cake. It looks like I better pick up my exercise routine if I hope to maintain my waistline. I Swiss flag on Jungfrauyochlove the sweet scents of freshly cut roses, the rich aroma of newly brewed java, the earthy air after an infrequent rain (California you know…), and of course the salty tang of ocean breezes.

I love having time to exercise. Everyone knows the importance of trying to stay fit and for me working up a sweat is something I enjoy. The difference in retirement is you now have time throughout the day to do your thing rather than struggling to squeeze in an abbreviated workout somewhere in a busy schedule. I love getting outdoors whether to hike park trails or walk the neighborhood. My wife and I have a nice three mile loop that takes us downtown to our favorite coffee shop or local post office and then back up a workout worthy hill to the homestead. And should we find ourselves in need of a little fortification to make it back up the hill we can pause at one of numerous wine tasting rooms prior to heading home.

I love spending time with the people I want. We have only been in our new home for three months but have already been visited by most of the family. My best friend who I have not seen in many years visited us from Colorado taking advantage of his recent retired status. No more high power business meetings, no more company cocktail parties, we fortunate retirees get to spend time with those we want. We even have time to meet new people who share common interests and passions. Not too bad if you ask me.

I love trying new things. Whether learning a new piano piece or trying my hand at growing vegetables from a seed or cooking up a mouth-watering recipe or finding a new trail to hike. I can revisit passions from my past or seek out new ones. I can step outside my comfort zone or remain safely within its confines. And I have learned from those who have gone before me the time to do it is now. I will never be younger than I am today so am taking advantage of my relative youthfulness.

I love being retired. I realize how lucky I am to be where I am and do my best to never take for granted my fortunate situation. Retirement is a wonderful time to live, explore, experience, and enjoy. And we each get to make the most of it. Enjoy the journey.