But that's life. And it's a good life.
This morning I was listening to the radio and the last broadcast of one of my WKAR colleagues, Melissa Ingells Benmark, who is retiring after 26 years at the station. (You can see from the comments on the link how much she'll be missed!) Melissa hosted our "Morning Edition" program and was a wonderful radio producer who could tell remarkable stories with only her voice, the sounds of the world and a good interview or two. She's also a wonderful person who is way to young to retire and I suspect someday, somewhere, I'll hear her voice again!
It reminded me that two years and two months from this day -- Friday the 13th -- that I retired from WKAR. When I left I was sick, I was stressed out. Management changes that directly affected my job, layoffs and illness had stopped my happy heart from singing and life felt precarious. I haven't spoken about this often except to close friends but there were days when I would begin to cry before I even arrived at the office, then stay in the parking ramp sobbing in the car, until I could pull myself together enough to go inside. I looked terrible and I felt worse. It was a nightmare.
I was tired. I couldn't sleep and I had little energy left to simply live my life.I'd like to think I put a good face on it but my friends and family will tell you that I'm not that good an actress and make-up only goes so far. I was done in, as they say. Everything gone but the core. And while I'd try to smile, even that was an effort.
It's a strange feeling when you can no longer do well what you love and what you've worked at for so many years. Oh sure, I could still write a good press release, edit a magazine, coordinate events and do pledge breaks with the best of them. But because I felt that I looked terrible, sounded worse and coughed constantly (and let me tell you, I am more than aware of how annoying that is). I felt as if I no longer could be the me I wanted to be.
It wasn't that my colleagues were anything less than supportive. I worked with wonderful people and leaving them was terribly difficult.They were my work family and we were like every dysfunctional family -- we loved, disagreed, supported, helped and learned from each other. But I felt as though I was letting them down -- whether they did or not.
Yes, there are down days. But I control my time. If I need to sleep in because I had a bad night, I do. If I have to stop in the day to nap, I can (though I rarely do that!). I have time to do the things I'd put on the back burner before. I might take a class or workshop that meets on a weekday, do art while it is light, go to store when it's not crowded, cook more for Rick (and myself), hit Trader Joe's on a weekday, spend long, continuous days at the lake or take a road trip and not have to worry about catching up with anything more than the mail and the New York Times.
Life is good. I haven't been really sick since I retired. There's the this-and-that of life (I just wrapped up a few months of physical therapy for my back and shoulder) but I expect that. To be honest, I expected worse. Yes, life is very good.
Someone told me I should write the book about happy retirement. I probably could but the truth is that everyone's retirement will be different because we are all different and everyone's situation is different. I was fortunate because my university had a fine retirement program and I don't have to panic so much about finances as some. That said, I have plenty of friends who had different retirement plans and they're faring well too.
Why? I think it's largely attitude and activity. I did a blog post shortly after retirement where I talked with several friends who had retired and asked for tips. I took plenty of them to heart.
Here are mine.
Find a hobby or a passion. For me it is art, cooking and my theatre board work. For Rick it will be his bike hikes and practicing his classical guitar. These are longstanding hobbies but yours might be something new, something you discover through taking an adult ed class. Maybe it's a commitment to a volunteer cause you find important. I have one friend who has written five novels since his retirement and repeatedly goes back to revise and improve them, building on what he has learned. That "what" doesn't matter. It's the fact that you are keeping yourself engaged, whether it is physically, creatively, mentally or all of the above.
Make the effort to keep work friendships. Facebook is fine but not physically interactive. If you liked the people you worked with, don't let them go. I may not do it often enough but I am in touch with work friends and we will periodically have lunch or dinner, just to keep in touch.
|Our Cork Poppers group brought new friends into my life. Now they're old friends!|
|Financial planning can be a maze -- if it's not your thing, get good advice -- and save now!|
Consider a second career or part-time work.. I always feel good when I get a call from WKAR asking me to do a contract job, whether it is writing a fundraising letter or planning an event. (The pledge breaks I still do are for love!). Perhaps you are using your creative talents in a new way or discovering something new, like my friend Kate who has designed and is selling a wonderful bird calendar and expanding her design skill by taking linocut printing classes.
Or you might be like my former work colleague Jill, who has started a website selling art related to nature and animals. It's brand new and soon you'll see more items for sale there (including some from me!). This was completely new for her -- and she's having a blast with it
You may have a life so full and financially adequate that you don't need or want to do it -- but remember, it isn't too late if that's something that appeals.
|It's time to add some fun to your life. You've worked hard so make the most of the days at hand!|
Listen to your body. If you are dealing with physical challenges or chronic illness, listen to the signals and honor them. If that means a nap or altering a schedule, take heed. All of this helps deal with the stress of life. And listen to your body's signals on illness. As we age we are more likely to develop "issues." A bad back, arthritis, internal issues which may (or may not) manifest as a more serious disease. Listen and check it out. If all is well, you're good to go and the mind is relieved. If not, you are on top of things with a far likelier chance for a better prognosis.
Every day when I wake up, I am grateful. I'm grateful to be able to lay in a bit longer, a purring Lizzie snuggled by my head, dozing in and out of "Morning Edition" on the radio. I'm grateful to feel well, to have a wonderful family -- Rick and the kids here, cousins elsewhere. I'm grateful that my life is full of fun friends where our unspoken code is one of mutual support and great fun, listening and playing. I am grateful I have the gift of choosing how to spend my time and adequate -- not extensive but adequate -- resources and very good insurance.
In this month of giving thanks, I have so very much to give. And while I'm at it, I'll give a wish to my friend Melissa and others who are making a transition into new experiences.
Be happy. Be healthy. Find joy and cherish it. Time goes by so quickly. Make the most of every moment.