The Pleasant Surprises of Retirement

As September looms, it brings an anniversary of sorts: around this time last year I left what turned out to be my last job. It, like many changes in life, turned out to be the right thing at the right time; my mom had gone into home Hospice care. If I hadn’t been out of work at that time, I would not have been able to help my parents. Once I left that job, I could concentrate on what really mattered—my family. Suddenly I became a retiree.

What exactly does it mean to be retired? For me it was a change in attitude more than anything. I discovered things about myself I didn’t know existed—for example, I found grace and solace in helping my dad take care of Mom. I also found that I didn’t miss that job one bit; not even a little. I realized that, after decades of claiming I was a real “people person,” it turns out that I really wasn’t. The jobs I liked best where those where I could hole up and write my technical manuals alone and in peace.

Leaving the job, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. From the time Mom went into Hospice until the day she died (a scant three and a half months later), it was a gift and a pleasure to be there with her and my dad and to help out. Just being with them at this time was incredibly precious.

These days I find myself busier than I could have imagined—with this blog, with visiting my dad, with friends, and of course more time with the Crankee Yankee and our four cats. I started reading again (after Mom’s death I found I couldn’t settle enough to read for several months), and later on, I began making jewelry again—something that also came to a full stop while Mom was ill. I have inherited my mom’s considerable bead collection, and have been inspired to make more styles of jewelry than I would normally have done. (Between you and me, I think that Mom is inspiring me!)

I also find a lot of pleasure in harvesting from our raised bed gardens: cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, chives, basil, parsley and oregano. This year we planted corn for the first time, and it is now taller than we are. Tiny ears are forming; we can tell from the silky tufts of corn tassels. Our sweet potatoes are spreading their vines so thickly that you can’t see the soil. Our brussels sprouts already have little buds all along their stems; the promise of delicious roasted garlicky sprouts for the fall!

Perhaps the biggest change is having time to do as I please. It’s been decades since I had that freedom, and it’s a real pleasure. If I feel like sitting on the porch and reading all day, I do. If I walk away from my housework for a day, who cares? It will eventually get done. If I don’t make that lasagna I promised, then we’ll just have leftovers. Big deal.

There is also the possibility of becoming involved with new things, new people, new projects, new ideas, new ways to honor the gifts I’ve been given. While I was working crazy schedules at my various jobs over the years, I never imagined how refreshing retirement could be. Also, after years of collecting stuff, I get a lot of pleasure in giving a lot of it away.

Funny, isn’t it, what we keep and what we can let go? I am finally getting to the ‘letting go’ part, and it’s surprisingly fun. For example, that intricate silver bangle I just had to have years ago? I’m giving it to a friend this year. Just the thought of her getting enjoyment out of it makes me happy.

It’s an old saying that we spend half our lives accumulating stuff, and the other half giving it away! But what you don’t get until you are retired is what a joy AND freedom that can be.

So call me a retiree; so what? I now fully embrace it, and I’ll take all those senior discounts, too, thanks very much!


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