About This "Retirement" Thing

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Have you noticed how frequently the symbolism of two lone chairs is used to depict an aging couple? Usually for retirement, occasionally for “active adult living”, even for old-people-intimacy concerns (although that is usually two old people sitting in two bathtubs that are side-by-side in a field, for some reason) (if you’re going to be intimate, wouldn’t you both be in the same tub?) (and why are the tubs in a field of wheat???)

“What in the world are you doing?” “Aren’t you too young to be retired?” “Won’t you run out of money?” “What happens if you live to be 95 years old?” “Don’t you get tired of doing nothing?”

These queries, and oh so many others like them, come flying at me at the oddest times. I’m not sure why they get asked, but they do. I’m also not sure what the motivation is behind the questions … Curiosity? Jealousy? Anger? Concern? Maybe all of these things?
I’m rapidly approaching 66 years old, just a few short weeks away. If I’ve learned only one thing over the past weird year, it’s this: Life really, truly is very short and things can change in the blink of an eye. A lot of that “I’ll do it when I get the time” stuff on your bucket-or-whatever list stands a good chance of dry rotting if your life path gets derailed. I know many people understand this, because they have seen their life go wonky on them. I know I certainly fully understand this fact, having experienced it when my son committed suicide at the age of 30 and when my wife of nearly 35 years finally couldn’t fight the cancer any longer.

I have also seen it, indirectly, through Sheila, my significant other (for those who don’t follow my blog postings), whose son also suddenly passed at a far too young age and whose husband died just a few weeks after my wife. Sheila had life plans, too, that were stopped dead in their tracks. I have a few years on Sheila, but just a few. Among the many commonalities we have is this complete understanding that time can run out on you very fast, and neither one of us wants to see that happen.

Being really truthful, retirement has some challenges. Speaking only for me, the stresses of a fairly intense day gig are gone, but so are many of the achievements realized, along with the satisfaction of knowing you “did good”. While the stress is less, so is the feeling of reward for a completed project. Perhaps this would not be significant to many, but it is to me. I have worked just about my whole life, since the time I was 12 years old, so to find myself suddenly “free” every day is a bit odd.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be in the position I’m in. No commute, especially in this nightmare Greater ATL traffic. No sleepless nights worrying about the status of a job, or contract, or report. No arguing, no fighting, no more cussing, no more ulcer pain … there is a lot to be said for being retired.

No more paycheck. That took some adjustment, since I’m being forthright here. I’m beyond blessed to be in a financial position where I don’t NEED to work, since years of cautious planning, a steady dependable job, sensible living and very good luck resulted in savings being possible. But, when you are used to a steady injection of funds hitting your bank account, and that injection disappears and withdrawal takes place instead, it does give you pause.

I will begin to receive Social Security benefits within the next month, and while it won’t replace the previous income, it likely will feel a little bit more natural to see a deposit instead of all transfers/withdrawals. And as the music starts to stabilize somewhat, income will be realized from that as well. So, don’t cry for me, I’ll be fine. Just be aware, for those about to embark on this retirement path, it will likely take you a moment or two to get your head wrapped around the “no job” thing.

As stated above, Sheila is just a few years behind me, so she is watching to see if the top of my head explodes as I settle into this situation. We have had many talks about the future, with both of us anxious to spend the maximum time possible together, and what we will do with that time. Travel? (somewhat, we hope).  Create? (we already do this, perhaps we can venture further into our talents).  Enjoy the arts? (we sort of do this already).  Sleep? (nah, we both get up at the crack of dark).  But whatever we do, we want to do it together for as long as we possibly can.

Like me, Sheila has been fortunate, as well, with sensible living, hard work and good luck giving a cushion for her retirement. I suspect she, too, will feel the “uh oh, no more paycheck” thing when it comes around, but I’m not worried about her ability to rationalize that, at all. She’s very bright and generally level headed (just don’t ask her where her keys or sunglasses are), I’m positive she’ll adapt nicely.

Sheila insists that I get some kind of perverse pleasure in having my sig other go off to work each day, though. But nothing could be further from the truth … seriously. I look forward to the day when we can be “retired” together and do the things we feel like doing. I hope we live to be very old, together.

For those contemplating retirement, or those who think it can’t be done, have the faith. If I can do it, and be successful at it, so can you. Take a moment to clear the noise from your head and hopefully you’ll see that there is a path to enjoying life in our senior years …
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