Privilege Blog

Retiring To Your Self, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:12am



This week, Materfamilias blogged about reaching the decision to retire.  I use the term “reaching” advisedly, because these big life decisions often sneak up on us, like the proverbial bend in a mountain road. One minute you’re trudging along, eye on uneven terrain, the next, vistas.

It’s been a little over a year now since salaried employment and I parted ways. I am not actively looking for a job, and therefore call myself, “retired.” It’s an interesting time.

As context, both my career and my retirement have followed a slightly irregular path. As I’ve said before, I wound up a software executive – on a whim. Ha! I bet that’s a sentence nobody expects to read on a Saturday morning.

And, as may be true for many of my generation, I spent the early years out of college bumping through various Travel The World And Explore Your Soul situations. Even after I got my MBA, and therefore acquired a veneer of A Known Quantity and therefore got hired a lot, once I had kids I career flickered more, if you will. Stayed at home, consulted. Worked part-time, went back to work. Zoomed to vice president level, stepped out for a couple of years. Stepped right back onto the racetrack. Then off.

To here.

Retirement, for me, and I imagine for many these days, has little in common with the  5/days week on a train to the city, times 44 years, testimoniral dinner with gold watch, done, cue golf, that 1960s literature loved to ridicule.

Instead, this.

In early months, you miss your work. I wrote about that for the mostly younger women at Corporette, here. Then, you start to focus on those things you didn’t have time for while you worked. I also wrote about that on Corporette, here. The best part of getting older is sharing what you’ve learned, right?

It has taken me some time to pick up non-work activities, tasks and goals without attributing them the same urgency and anxiety as paid work. But it’s happened, I think. And once that To Do list calms down, something else happens too.

It turns out that anyone who is not retired is too busy. Way too busy. Over-worked, overwhelmed, under-resourced. At least everyone I know. So you, the retiree, become the spare resource. And the world senses your availability, and starts to pull. Almost like someone installed a beloved but incessant vacuum hose somewhere in your front yard.

This is the moment when you really choose your retirement. When you handed in your badge you only stopped paid work. What proportion of your capability do you exercise on yourself, now, what on the asking world?

I don’t have the answer. There is no one answer, of course. Everyone’s different. I only know the words that have begun to speak in my mind.

I don’t want to be done living until I have lived some time centered. I want to give, I want to support, I want to do some part of my old job, I want to garden, to care for my husband, and to sit, in quiet. All of it, self-instigated.

I am not making up for what I never had, only for who I never was.

Retirement is when you cross your legs on the sofa, under your laptop. You relax your feet. You chose your pajamas, you kept that old college sweatshirt, you recognize what you see. Not from selfishness, nor revenge, nor pique, no pouting. But I think we’ve all got the right to plainly be in our bodies and our minds, without feeling a single tug. At least once.

Or maybe I’m just telling that to myself, because it’s what I always needed.

Have a wonderful weekend. No, have a wonderful day. You owe nothing, not even to Sunday.

38 Responses

  1. Since I was a stay at home mom for most of my career (a history teacher otherwise), I’ve considered myself retired since about 2001 when our youngest child finished high school. Since then, I have supervised the building of three buildings at our farm, enjoyed the quiet solitude of the farm, attempted to reorganize my house, have become a grandmother, and have been my husband’s sounding board as he thinks about retiring. It’s a big deal making that decision! I applaud those of you who worked a long career and are nearing a time when you can find yourself in a different way.

    I still have days when I feel like I have to justify myself. Most days I just try to work on that day’s to do list and feel some sense of accomplishment as I settle in to read a good book.

    1. You clarify what I was thinking. This is the kind of “retirement” that can be done at any time, in a way. It is what meditation is supposed to do for you, but I’m not very good at mind clearing when I work.

  2. Lovely writing as ever Lisa!
    Some of our friends are beginning to talk about retirement and what that will mean for them. My husband is ten years away from retiring (at least) though he would like to ease into more personal writing rather than working, at some point. I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing, organizing the household and the details, blog-writing, keeping track of the family etc.
    I’m enjoying your retirement because your blog keeps getting better and better if that was even possible!

  3. Yes, yes, and yes again! Thanks for linking to me, but thanks for articulating one of my reservations. I want to prioritize some space in my retirement for finding out some things about myself. I’d love to get bored for at least a minute and see what that might be like. But I know that I could be busier than I currently am at work with the many possibilities I’ve purposefully kept at bay over the last decade or more. I’m still sorting, letting troubles and concerns and excitement and anticipation rustle around and in and over all my days as I look a year or so ahead. So helpful to have you somewhere on the same path.

  4. I love these insights!!! I have 28 years til retirement.

    Can’t wait to see how your spent the next phase x

  5. First as an observer, and now as a participant in the retirement experience one truth has held true. People who are happy and satisfied before retirement are apt to be just that in retirement. It sometimes takes a little time to find one’s footing, but those who find their worth and validation from outside sources are likely to have that same struggle without the validation of a pay check. It is helpful to remember that retirement only refers to employment. Work continues, accomplishment continues, and oh, the freedom!

    1. @Kathy, I have found that having unfettered time, for the first time really in my life, has finally let me feel who I might be.

  6. Such insightful observations about this unpaid work time. I wholeheartedly agree about living a centered life before being finished with living. Just having time to reflect on life, relationships, religion, etc. feels like luxury. Why did we let this fast paced, rushed world happen? Have we benefitted in any way? Perhaps this is why my mother used to tell me I needed to “rest”. That older generation knew a thing or two about how to live.

    1. @Jane, They did. And the world is less poor, less hungry, and less sick now, so the technologies of the day have been good to mankind. But we really need to embrace stillness, somehow. Too bad I had to wait for retirement. Others with more sense may find it sooner?

  7. I realized how insanely busy I was only after I retired….for me choosing life in the slow lane, tending my garden, helping my elderly mother, lunching with my friends, cooking, walking, reading and savouring time with the grandchildren is pure bliss. I love being retired. I loved my job but thie stress and fatigue caught up with me by my 58 th birthday….I highly recommend it.
    You sound very comfy in your new routine and I sense you are pleased with your decision.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  8. I find that Bungalow Hostess has said what I was just thinking – that I only realized how hard I had worked, for so long, when I stopped (well, mostly stopped – I still have a part-time position). It is wonderfully liberating.

  9. It’s been more than twenty years since I rusticated myself completely. In the beginning, in the City, there were “issues” — not so much for me, but for others. Gradually, I figured out that I just didn’t care about any of that anymore.

    Good luck.

  10. I’ve read this post at three different times today, and each time had the same reaction. Enjoy this now, as I don’t think you’re “retired” for good. Just intuition or a hunch, but I think you’re on an extended vacation at home.

  11. Well, as we have just learned, I’m rusticated;). But yes, you are very right, for the right project and the right team, I’d still be game. I’ve just gotten so dang picky.

  12. Lisa it was such a pleasure to read this post as we’ve experienced many of the same travels through life.

    Now is the time (for me, anyway) to consider what I want for the next ten years and what that looks like.Also to experience every single day joyfully; whether going on a walk this cool crisp day, painting, reading planning to see friends I have not for some time etc.

    Here is to this next phase of life!
    The Arts by Karena

  13. I stayed home for 7 years after my youngest was born and we moved cross country. Staying home meant all that keeping up and caring for 3 kids (and a mother in law) involved. It also meant teaching adjunct law classes at a local college; working as a substitute teacher; teaching Sunday School; taking many adult ed classes; becoming a craft maven and doing craft fairs; being president of garden club; doing a draft of an enormous novel based on my Italian heritage; and other sundry entertaining, educational, and exhausting forays.

    Since going back to work full time for 13 years, I fear retiring!

  14. Trying to think of something profound to say ~ Guess that’s the point ~ thanks for getting my wheels turning Lisa!
    You always do this to me. That’s why I stop by.
    Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday.

  15. Sigh, weekends are so short! I’m decades from retirement (and nowhere near where I’d like to be before I retire) but I’m generally a bit tired at the moment. Maybe I need to take a bit more of my leave…

  16. Though some persons enjoy a long phase as a fit and active elder, no one can count on it. Therefore, I am glad I ceased a very demanding career when I did.

    1. @Duchesse, Yes, good point. And I am now focused on trying to help my chances of at least reducing the pains – skeletal-muscular that is – I am bound to suffer as I age.

  17. I retired a couple of years early from a career I loved and an exhausting commute that was wearing me out. I have no regrets and adore retirement. But, like many, I find that it is very easy to get way too busy in retirement. Working time is fairly protected but retirement time isn’t. I’m finding that three years into retirement, I need to set up some pretty solid boundaries on my time. Maybe it’s just me, but I need to practice almost as much personal time management in retirement as I did in my working years.

    Life is short. My sister died unexpectedly at my age. I realize my time is limited to do the things I want in life. So I need to set priorities and boundaries. And one of those priorities is for some unpressured personal time.

    1. @Rodharete from Oregon, I think it’s important to realize it’s not selfish, it’s not just knowing what you don’t want to do, it’s having a vision of what you do want, and what in some ways we might say we owe to the gift of life. The chance to notice it.

  18. Such a beautifully stated post. Centering has been paramount, and something I have struggled to find balance with. I also realized only recently that I have just retired, or is it retired again? The first time, I retired from paid employment, where I was busy but did have some centering, to unpaid employment where I was far busier, and more stressed than I had been in my professional career. Now I see the profound need for that sofa time, that puttering time in the garden, contemplative time, and a need for a slowing down of life. I think it would probably benefit us all but I am nonetheless grateful to find it now. But then, I think this is what I always was, and always needed to be, but am only just now accepting and appreciating the need to honor that stillness.

  19. Excellent post, as usual your experiences resonate and I enjoyed reading.
    I’ve discovered unexpectedly that retirement is an ongoing process. Husband and I retired 2 years ago from engineering jobs and while we were very prepared financially and mostly prepared emotionally, we knew there would need to be adaptations we just didn’t really know what or to what degree the changes would occur. Never having had time off other than the typical 2 week vacation, we had no clue what unlimited freedom would really be like. Its wonderful of course, but surprisingly different than predicted and a fun challenge at the same time.

  20. Beautifully put- It jogs me to the thought maybe that we should feel “retired” on a regular basis, like a weekly state of mind, on a “day off”. I have done it all. Worked for 30 years as wife and mother, trained in a skilled job along the way, and felt sadly held back from myself all along, mainly due to a poorly done marriage. When that fell to the roadside as those things will, I can finally feel free to be me. Kids off and running into their futures. Being alone for retirement does feel scary sometimes but its all I ve got. Me!! Decided to work again in my very own business and feel great as well as somewhat saddened by all that I truly missed along the way. People wake up!! Get it while you can- do your bliss NOW!!

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