Yoga Nidra

If you’ve read my recent posts, you already know that I am a bit of a ‘Savasana disaster.’ I am totally aware that all true yogis (and yoginis) out there will cringe at such a phrase – but it’s true. When the rest of the class settles down so seamlessly into their final pose, lying on their backs in perfect stillness, I fidget. I discreetly try to put on my socks (can I help it if my feet get cold?). In the process, I accidentally knock over my water bottle. I think about reaching for my extra sweater, but I fear that will end in another disastrous consequence. I suddenly can’t remember where to position my hands. I then peek down and notice that my tank top has slipped significantly below my bra-line. My mind starts racing. How long has my top been like that…and who has seen what? And so it continues… until the teacher’s voice softly suggests that we begin to move our toes gently. At least I am on-track there–both sets of my toes, as well as my adjoining feet, have been wiggling non-stop for quite some time.

After this confession, I have no explanation why I recently signed up for a Yoga Nidra class. Yoga Nidra is a bit like an hour-long Savasana. (What was I thinking?!) It’s a relaxation technique where yoga students recline in complete stillness. They are then guided by their teacher’s voice to focus on their slow, relaxed breath, engage in guided visualization and completely let go.

The benefits of Yoga Nidra are said to:
• help consolidate our body’s energy and relax the nervous system
• calm the mind
• release tension
• promote deep rest and relaxation
• counteract stress
• help relieve depression and anxiety
• reduce insomnia
• increase awareness of the connection between body, mind, and spirit
(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)

Everyone of all ages and ability levels can participate in Yoga Nidra. In order to enhance your practice, it is recommended to:
• wear loose, comfortable clothing
• use props (bolster under knees, neck pillow, eye mask, blanket) to increase comfort
• practice in a peaceful environment (calm, comfortable, clutter-free)
• allow a couple of hours between your last meal and your yoga class
• if there is no Yoga Nidra class offered in your area, you can practice at home with one of many free or purchased audio guides (example). Source 4

So with all of my ‘savasana-related baggage,’ as well as being a bit ambivalent about most things ‘meditation-related,’ I attended my first Yoga Nidra class last weekend.

What was my experience?

It was amazing. My body and mind relaxed instantly. Everything slowed down. For the first time that I can remember my mind quit preparing and rehearsing productivity lists. I experienced the immensely satisfying feeling of being in a deep sleep…while still awake. Instinctively, I turned my palms down and pressed into the floor to prevent the sensation of floating away (totally strange but true). I left feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed than I have for quite some time.

After class, a fellow yogini invited me out for tea and pie. A Sunday afternoon simply doesn’t get any better than that!!

Kind Words

良言一句三冬暖
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb

I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.

! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.

I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.

To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.

It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).

After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.

Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?

__________________________

Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.

“Hi, Honey, I’m Home…Forever!”

There are endless quips regarding marriage and retirement.

“When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you, to the one that married you.” (Gene Perret)

“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband and half the salary.” (William Mitchell)

“A married husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” (Ella Harris)

“Warning: Retired person on premises. Knows everything and has plenty of time to tell it.” (Annonymous)

And the title quote (also from Gene Perret).

I’m sure that you can add others….

A year before I retired, I diligently began to read all that I could on the emotional side of retiring. The work that I read on marriage and retirement stopped me in my tracks. Much of this research hammered out the frequently mismatched perceptions of couples once retiring (ranging from different opinions on money, time together/apart, chores, daily activities, travel, family commitments, etc., etc.). According to this research, this misalignment can lead to marital breakdown where, as several studies found, a quarter of American divorces take place with couples who are fifty-years or older. (Yogev, 2012) It can also apparently lead to such strange phenomena as
“Shujin Zaitaku Sutoresu Shoukougun,” literally “One’s Husband Being at Home Stress Syndrome.” (BBC News, 2006-11-29) The more I read, the bleaker the news. I quickly quit reading.

After nineteen months of being officially retired, what is my personal experience with marriage and retirement? Without being too much of a schmoopie, I couldn’t be happier. So much so that I went back to the research with fresh (but slightly more experienced) eyes. What did I find?

• Sixty percent of couples report that there is (ultimately) an improvement in their marriage after retirement. (Forbes, 2007)
• Compared with a matched sample of working men, male retirees
reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. (Kulik, 1999)
•Both wives and husbands tend to indicate greater marital satisfaction if they retired at the same time. (Forbes, 2007) Although, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, fewer than twenty percent of American couples retire in the same year.
• Married couples are twice as likely to save for retirement, often giving them more financial security in their retirement years. (Social Security Administration)
•Retirement reinforces the pre-existing quality of individual marriages, e.g. retirement tends to have a positive effect on marriages that were previously strong and happy, and a negative effect on marriages that were previously shaky. (Missouri Families)

I also went back to Yogev’s research. If I hadn’t quit reading her work so early, I would have realized that it was filled with practical tips and just plain good advice for starting retirement as a couple on a positive note. e.g. :

•Take time and think about what each of you would like to do during retirement
•Communicate openly
•Be specific by what you mean
•Be willing to compromise
•Set boundaries
•Find shared interests
•Ensure individual personal space
•Designate household tasks
•Allow yourself to take baby steps on new endeavors – you seldom need to rush
(Yogev, 2012).

As I perused these strategies, I shuddered with gratitude. I am realistic about my shortcomings and am thankful to have someone who balances out areas where I am not naturally inclined. As in dancing, the moves are more effortless, and enjoyable, with a strong, steady partner. Someone who can both seamlessly lead, and follow, allowing you to find your own unique steps as an individual while maintaining harmony as a team. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Richard. There are no words to express my deepest love and appreciation.

January 21, 2000
Back to the scene of the crime!

__________
Yogev, Sara. A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse …But Not for Lunch, Familius, Second Edition, 2012.

For those who have not seen Seinfeld’s take on schmoopies recently, you really should watch it now!
And if you missed my (slightly ‘schmoopied’) anniversary post last year, you can catch it here.

Retirement: Am I Still Transitioning?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I took the ‘leap of faith’ into retirement without a clear map of what we wanted our post-career life to look like. We did follow our plan to relocate to Vancouver Island. We have also been spending much time with family/friends, enjoying our grandchildren, meeting new people and traveling…all of which we had hoped to do.

In fact, our retirement so far has been a whirlwind of family time, social time and travel. It has been the gaps in-between those fast-paced times which gives me pause to wonder, “Am I still transitioning?” “Should I have a more established routine?” “Am I achieving what I wanted from this amazing gift of freedom?”

We had decided to give ourselves ample time to transition. But how long does transitioning take and should I be doing something more with my retirement? Volunteering? A deeper commitment to my community? Contributing to world peace? Or even just achieving a more established routine or engaging in some form of ‘employment’ (shriek here)!

Originally led by the work of Professor Robert Atchley, (The Sociology of Retirement, R. C. Atchley – 1976), researchers suggest that the psychological process of retirement follows a similar pattern to other major areas of transition, and can be divided into distinct stages. Researchers also suggest that it is not always necessary to complete each of these stages sequentially before moving onto the next. Also, like many other transition models, there are several variations on the labeling and description of the phases. The sources are endless. I have listed just a few of them here. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4).

The core phases are often described as follows:
1. Pre-retirement – Planning Phase
2. The Final Days of Work – Farewell Phase
3. The Initial Days of Retirement – Honeymoon Phase
4. So this is it? – Disenchantment Phase
5. Building a New Identity – Reorientation Phase
6. Moving On – Establishing Routine and Stability Phase

And there it was, staring me in the face–the disenchantment phase. It hits us all, even if just fleetingly — especially after travel or holidays. As Abba so appropriately asked in their song, ‘Happy New Year’*, What do we do at the end of the champagne and fireworks? How do we know if we are going astray, or do we keep on going (astray) anyway? (Source 5).

And that really is the question that I have been asking myself this post-holiday season, after my eighteen months of retirement. Luckily, again, according to researchers, it is these exact questions (Who am I now? What is my purpose?) that we need to ask ourselves in order to achieve closure from our working days and fully embrace our retirement years.

Currently, I would say that I am juggling between Phases 3 and 5, with a healthy dose of Phase 4 mixed into the intervals. I’m definitely not at Phase 6 quite yet. Since that stage is about ‘finding stability and routine,’ I think I’ll keep experimenting with what’s out there for a little while longer!

If you are retired, do these phases seem familiar to you? Are there any additional phases that you would add?

___________________________________

*When I was part way through writing this post, I came across Abba’s song ‘Happy New Year’ featured on Hugh’s Views and News blog. It fit in perfectly with my theme. It is truly amazing how often this ‘synchronized blogging’ happens. You can check out Hugh’s post here.

What Do Retirement Bloggers Look Like?

I’ve been striving to keep myself busy. Daily yoga, lots of time with friends and family, and my on-line blogging course have been key activities. I initially felt like an anomaly in my course, as all other participants were younger, and most were focused on design. Despite being totally out of my comfort zone, I have persevered.

One of the most enlightening aspects of this course so far was a homework assignment that we were asked to do with an on-line partner. I was fortunate to work with a young designer named Miranda. I immediately loved her blog. It was fresh, playful and on topics (design and interior decorating) of which I know embarrassingly little. As part of our homework, we were asked to list five things that we liked about the other person’s blog and five areas where we would recommend modification. For her first comment, Miranda suggested a change from my black blog background. Where I had found it ‘neutral’ (and thus less likely to clash with my feature photos), she was concerned it could appear oppressive. As you can see, Miranda won on that point. It is now pine green.

Her next comment threw me a bit off-balance and was totally illuminating. “I don’t believe that your title is good enough for your blog.” she began. “I imagined a little old lady, pottering about when I saw the title… but look at you!! Funky…love the denim jacket–not sure I know any granny who wears one!”

I totally had not expected that. I have never been one to avoid using the title ‘retired’ when asked what I do. Shamelessly, I have often shouted it out quite gleefully from the streets. I caught my breath. Do people really imagine “little old ladies (or gents) pottering about” when they hear the word ‘retired?’ And although I love being a grandmother, was I now considered a “granny?” Yikes!! My immediate fear was that I would need to rush into my closet, get rid of my denim jackets and don violet and lace!

In the comment section of a previous post, a few of us had a dialogue about ‘not your father’s (or grandfather’s) retirement,’ and how many current retirement bloggers are documenting new territory that has no steadfast map. After I first announced my retirement, I began to follow many of these bloggers. I appreciated the myriad of snapshots that they provided on what retirement can look like today. I gained a great deal from following them at that time, and continue to learn from them still. I have also learned significantly from partnering with Miranda, especially in terms of reaching out to readers. Although I easily let go of my ‘oppressive’ black background, I will need to reflect further on my blog’s title. That one is not as easy to rethink.

What do retirement bloggers look like today? Here is a small compilation of just a few of the retirement bloggers whom I regularly follow.screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-7-08-43-pmYou can check out their blogs, and the blogs of others, at my sidebar. You may just be surprised by what you find!

For our next homework assignment, we have been asked to create a mood board (on Instagram!) that visually captures what our blogs represent. Once again, this is totally out of my comfort zone… but it is very consistent with my current thinking. Watch for it here shortly!

Retirement Responsibilities

So far, I’ve written a fair amount about the perks and freedoms of retirement. Without a doubt, the list of retirement pros is long. However, I would be neglectful not to portray the flip side. As the famous saying goes: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With (great) freedom comes (great) responsibility.”(Source)  I initially began the following as a simple list of bullet points that could be included in a retiree’s ‘job description.’  Once I started writing, I began to realize the vastness of this topic. My sincere apologies to anyone reading in a hurry!

Do Your Homework – After my husband and I made the financial decision to leave our jobs, I began to research the emotional side of retirement. I found the quickest and most interesting way to do this was to follow retirement bloggers. Instantly, I could read personal accounts of the daily highs and lows of retirement, and learn from others who had pioneered ahead of me. I believe that this single decision helped best prepare me mentally for my life after leaving the workforce…often in 800 words or less! Some great blogs to check out are listed on the sidebar of this post. In addition, I have quoted from a few of these retirement blogs in this article.

Find/Maintain Purpose – When high expectations are not met, boredom and frustration can set in. As author/blogger, Tom Sightings has recently posted, ““We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.” Not finding purpose is frequently cited as a chief concern among those struggling with retirement.

Expect the Unexpected – According to the Ontario Securities Commission Report (2014), more than 50% of Canadians, aged 50 or older, said something outside their control negatively affected their retirements. The unexpected can come in the form of health issues for yourself or a family member. It can also come from the sudden decline/loss of an investment or property. Backup plans and safety nets are essential, especially when you do not have a steady employment income.

Watch Expenses – Following the above, balancing and prioritizing finances are critical skills, especially in retirement. Budgeting for your expenses and cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary expenditures (i.e. living below your means) helps provide extra security in retirement and a less stressful post-career life. A Dave Ramsey quote (recently cited on Mr. Fire Station’s early retirement blog) is very appropriate here: “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”

Become a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades –  In the workplace, it is often easy to access the skills of other people, leaving you to focus on what you do best. Prior to retiring, my husband and I seldom worried about computer troubles, or editing, or…well, many things! Complicating this matter further,  living overseas gave us quite affordable access to housekeeping, maintenance workers, spa services, movers, etc., etc. The day that we retired, these all became ‘luxuries of the past.’ We have each become much more versatile in our skill sets.  We now know more about our computers than we ever thought possible. We confidently tend to household chores and maintenance tasks, We eat out less often. Even home manicures/pedicures/hair coloring are now part of my regular routine (shriek here)! Going along with the above bullet-point, the more that you can do for yourself in retirement, the broader your financial safety net will be.

Use it or Lose it – It is common understanding that a decline in cognitive and physical performance takes place in our senior years. Although many factors can contribute to this, the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is frequently cited.   Thus, daily activity, self-care and not letting ourselves fall into sedimentary routines is essential as we age. The great news from researchers is that although it may take more effort to learn new information during our retirement, our foundation of knowledge and experience can far outweigh that of youth. (Source) This same body of research indicates that those who keep themselves informed and up-to-date in their post-work life tend to have a much higher retirement contentment rate.

Enter with your own self-esteem and self-worth fully intact –It is said that in a wolf pack, wolves instinctively admire the role/position that other wolves have in the pack at that moment. (Source) During our career lives, it is often easy for people to connect with us, or instantly feel respect for us, simply based on our job titles. Replacing that career title with the word “retiree” usually does not pull the same punch. (Janis at RetirementallyChallenged covers this topic nicely!) It is essential to come into retirement with a healthy self-concept and our own intrinsic motivation. I can’t help but link a BlitzZoom video here—It’s appropriate…and makes me laugh every single time that I watch it!

Have a Caregiving Plan (both for giving and receiving care) –Last year, the cost impact of caregiving on American female caregivers, in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits, was $324,044.  [Source) Caring for an ailing parent, spouse or simply for grandchildren is a reality for many, especially retirees. Due to the demands of this multi-faceted role, it is important that caregivers also take care of themselves and get the support that they need. Essential resources for caregivers include: respite, up-to-date information, training, home modifications and support groups/family counseling. Blogger Kathy Merlo has recently posted on this topic, offering practical self-maintenance strategies for caregivers.

Nurture Relationships – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Having strong, positive relationships has been solidly linked with longer life.(Source) Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) For married retirees, the importance of healthy communication, flexibility and give-and-take cannot be understated.

 Give back – Retirement is a great time to reflect on the joys and opportunities that we have had in our lives. It is also a great time to give back to others. There are endless ways in which to do this. Local volunteer organizations, like Volunteer Canada,  connect volunteers with others who need their skills/support. Still hesitant? Helping others increases self-esteem and offers multiple health benefits. Volunteering also provides personal empowerment and stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve nervous and immune system functioning. (Source)  Linda, at Thoughts From a Bag Lady In Waiting, wrote a very eloquent reflection on her experiences volunteering at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece. Your giving back contribution does not have to involve a major commitment…every little bit counts!

The above only begins to scratch the surface of the ‘Retirees’ Job Description’. What responsibilities would you like to add? I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

You Know You Are Retired When….

Here I am packing for another trip. In the past, this would not have been unusual if it were official vacation or even business travel. But, it’s simply a random October get-away. Insert light bulb going off here: ‘I am retired!!’

As strange as it may seem, I often forget that I am no longer employed. This isn’t only due to my  ‘ingrained work patterns’ (although I definitely have them). It’s more that the things that I do in retirement have become my job (both my passions, and my responsibilities—the exciting, and the mundane). After all, I retired from a position…not from life.

This blog, cooking, house/yard maintenance, dog-walking, budgeting, exercise, travel and taking care of the ones that I love…are all part of my current job description.  It’s a flexible, fluid list that shifts and is modified daily. Still, there are moments when reality strikes me, and I blurt out loud, “It’s true…I really am retired!” Here are few of my defining retirement moments.

Loafing and Puttering: It’s a brand new skill for me…but I honestly believe that I am getting the hang of it.

Realizing that Other People Still Work: When I take out the recycling, I am always surprised to see people walking onto the school bus, or getting into their cars, briefcases in hand. I am reminded that it is no longer a holiday. Seriously, it jolts me every single time.

Does Anyone Really Know What Time it is? I am frequently unsure of what day or date it is (except for garbage and recycling days…because I have an email reminder sent to my phone)!

Casual Friday Anyone?  What I used to wear for “Dress Down Day” at work is now what I wear when I want to dress smartly. Me in jeans is now me gussied up.

Empty Store Syndrome: I now know what the inside of a mall looks like on a non-weekend, non-holiday. There is so much space — it almost echoes! Really, who knew?

Forbidden  Fruit: My Book Club meets on a Wednesdays at…wait for it…1:30 p.m.!  My walking group also meets midweek and midday. In my previous life, I had no idea that this would ever be possible…or allowed. (In a future post, I will mention more about the average age in our small town. Spoiler alert: It’s old!)

How Early is Too Early? Richard and I regularly eat dinner three hours earlier than we did during our work lives. (And I say ‘three hours’ because I don’t want to embarrass myself and admit that it is sometimes ‘four.’)

Open Classroom: On a previous post, I received a very insightful comment from a reader named Marilyn. A lifelong learner, she wrote that one of the best features of her retirement is that she now gets to choose her lessons….and her teachers. This is an aspect of retirement on which I wish to capitalize further.

Task Completion:  Similar to the freedom to choose your own learning, is the freedom to complete your tasks at your own pace. I can binge-task on one day, and play hooky the next. (I also have ‘pajama days’, like today, where I just get stuff done…without ever getting out of my PJs). I can abort an unfulfilling task half way through, or simply shelve a project for a very long time. Ignoring tasks in front of me was an unfamiliar concept to me during my work life.  But, like with loafing and puttering, I believe that I am quickly catching on!

24/7:   I now get to do things in ‘real time,’ with much less need to delay gratification.  A perfect example is the day that our first grandchild was born. He arrived earlier than expected. The moment that I got the call, I was on the next ferry (literally) and was able to meet Charlie shortly after he was born. I plan to do this again when our next two grandchildren are born (this November and December). Now, how cool is that?

So, what are your defining retirement moments (real or imagined)? I’d love to read them!

 

We’ve Become the Hewitts

My husband and I have been long-time friends with Stan and Deidre Hewitt. That’s not their real names, but let’s call them that for the purpose of this post – they’ll recognize themselves soon enough.

The Hewitts retired a couple of years before us. ‘Extremely active’ does not begin to describe their lifestyle. At their home in BC they both regularly golf, cycle, camp, garden, cook, entertain, help out with the grandchildren (and the grand-dogs). They also are avid downhill skiers. Frequent travelers, they spend much time in California and Arizona, as well as trips abroad (they’ve recently returned from cycling in Cuba). Stan, the poster-child for retirement-energy-extraordinaire, frequently competes in triathlons and other endurance sports. In fact, Stan regularly sets his alarm clock for six a.m. each day simply because he does not want to miss anything. Deidre, an avid reader, said that she used to read multiple books per week…before Stan retired. “The year that Stan joined me in retirement, I barely finished a single book”, Deidre told me–with her broad smile, “we were simply too busy!”

Each retired couple that we know models a unique retirement lifestyle.  Some are much more content with a gentler, stay-near-home pace, while others maintain lifestyles that definitely rival the Hewitts for speed, stamina, and travel miles! When planning for our retirement, we were aiming for a balance between the two ends. In my mind’s eye, we were currently living that average, in-between lifestyle.

Yesterday, at a family gathering in Vancouver, a friend innocently asked, “how was your recent trip?”  I stared blankly. Was she talking about Kelowna, where we had just driven back from that morning? Or Victoria, where we were last week? Or Spain, where we were less than a month ago? Or England where we were for our youngest son’s graduation just before that?

“We’ve turned into the Hewitts!” I exclaimed to my husband once we had returned home. “How so?” he asked. I handed him our September calendar. “Four nights of camping, followed by family visiting from out of town, followed by another family outing in Vancouver, followed by our road trip to Palm Desert,” I said, highlighting only the key events. “You left out the visit from the Hewitts,” Richard said. “They emailed this morning–they’re stopping by in the middle of the month on their way to Tofino.”

So, maybe we do currently have a rather active retirement lifestyle. Like the Hewitts, we are having tons of family-time, friend-time, exercise, and adventure. We have also been able to do this in very low-cost ways (often with dog-in-tow). Most importantly, we are loving every minute of it. When it’s time to take a break or slow down a bit,  I know that we will do so.

As I am typing this, the phone rings.  A couple of minutes later, I grab my September calendar, smile,  and add in just one more thing!

Retirement: Everyday Is Saturday–Or Is It?

My husband started it! Early in our retirement, he threw down the gauntlet and wanted us to preserve defined weekends. I pouted…just a little bit…okay, a lot! For years I had been totally sold on the concept that during retirement every day would be Saturday (or Sunday). To me, it was now like saying there should be no Santa or no Tooth Fairy! Why wouldn’t we want every day to be Saturday?

During the first two months of our retirement, we were fully immersed in intense house renovations (insane, I know – but it was cathartic and served as a great transition from work). At Richard’s lead, we did the renovations on Monday to Friday and took the weekends ‘off’.

With the renovations behind us, we have continued that schedule. As best as we can, we now try to make the weekends special and confine more mundane tasks and our ‘to do lists’ to the weekdays. In this way, we not only have defined weekends, we also have a weekly escape from household chores and other drudgery.

My husband just may have been on to something. In a study on ‘the weekend effect’, led by Richard Ryan at The University of Rochester, (January 2010) researchers tracked the mental moods and physical symptoms of working adults during both weekdays and weekends. Not surprisingly, participants indicated being happier during the weekend with less physical complaints.  “Weekends were associated with elevated feelings of freedom and closeness — participants said they were more often involved in activities of their own choosing and spending time with close friends and family members. People also felt more competent during the weekend than they did at work” (source). Even those who worked on weekends reported feeling happier on Saturday and Sunday. For this latter group, researchers suggested that it was probably because “cool events tend to happen on the weekend.” They also proposed that there was a likely social contagion effect, i.e. when other people are happy around you, you become happier yourself (source).

Live Science (February 2008) reported on another interesting study that found that weekdays often bring heavier rain than weekends. “Summertime storms in the southeastern United States shed more rainfall midweek than on weekends….The cause could be the air pollution created by the daily grind—traffic and business operations….The clearest day of the week was Saturday, with nearly twice the rainfall on the wettest day, Tuesday afternoon (source).

Could the ‘weekend effect’ also apply to retirees? Ryan’s study did not look at non-working adults, or at adults over the age of 62. However, it makes sense that special Saturday/Sunday events, weekend visits with working friends/family members, social-contagion, less rain, as well as old habits dying hard, could have a positive impact on a retiree’s weekend.

I began this post at the beginning of May (when weekend farmers’ markets/special events were beginning to step up in our area), and I once again experienced the “twin blog phenomenon”. To get more details for my post, I increased my on-line search for “retirement-everyday-weekend” and came across a blog post, Every day is Weekend In Early Retirement? by Mr.Firestation. That post was written just one day before my search. Seriously, how does this happen? I had never previously come across this blog, or this blogger. Regardless, Mr. Firestation and I had both been working on the same blog topic at the same time (and I discovered that many bloggers that I follow, follow his blog). I put my draft away for a while and wrote on other matters. Then, after a particularly fun and rejuvenating long weekend, I pulled out this draft once again.

It is true. Even in retirement weekends are significant. They cause an increase in special events, outdoor community activities, and a mixture of age groups out and about (or, in respect for our recent Canada Day, “oot and aboot”).  Used wisely, weekends can also provide a break from tasks and chores (which sadly do not disappear in retirement).

In response to the question “is every day the weekend in retirement”? Mr. Firestation sat firmly on the fence and concluded both “yes and no.” His reasoning was that for most retirees, weekdays are more relaxed than when they were working. Conversely, he also argued that weekends are even more special as retirees can avoid scheduling chores during that time, giving them even more time to take part in special events with friends and family. (source)

I totally agree with Mr. Firestation’s conclusion, and in the process, I have found a great new blog to follow.

Once again the weekend is near…bring it on!

Feature Photo: Cedar Sunday Market, Vancouver Island, BC.

Reflections on Retirement – One Year In

This past week, I hit the one-year mark both of being officially retired and of living back in Canada. With a full year behind me, has it been all that I anticipated? Yes and no–in equal measures.

I remember a conversation that I had with one of my daughter-in-laws the day that we arrived back home. It went something like this:

DIL: So…what are you going to do now that you are retired?
Me: Nothing.
DIL: You will probably want to do some consulting.
Me: No.
DIL: Or some other kind of work, or volunteer work.
Me: Nope.
DIL: Take a class, join a ladies’ golf team, learn a craft.
Me: Not really.

I recognize that this was probably a very frustrating conversation for my daughter in law–who is truly one of the nicest young women you will ever meet.

Having retired 24-hours earlier from a rewarding, full-on and intense career, I wanted to relish in the thought that I could now do nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

I wanted to unplug, unwind, and begin to calm my driven personality. I also wanted to go as “blank slate” as possible so that I could be genuinely open to accept or decline new paths as they appeared. Most of all, I wanted to be present for my family and make up for lost time.

When I first announced my retirement, a long-time friend gave me this advice:

“Many opportunities (especially for volunteer/part-time work) will come your way. Don’t jump into any one of them too quickly. Be selective and make sure that it is something that you feel passionate about before you take on a big commitment. Give yourself time.”

I have taken this advice literally.

I did have a half-formed thought to start a blog—which I did six months into my retirement. Fifteen years earlier, when I first moved to Beijing, I started a personal log that I emailed to friends and family. I never maintained that log for long but wished that I had. I now had the opportunity to record my thoughts, as I (once again) transitioned into a new world. I didn’t want to miss this second chance.

I also had a vague, but persistent notion, that whatever passions I did commit to, I wanted to contribute to world peace.

I know, I know!

It sounds so very ‘beauty-pageant-contestant-ish’. It also sounds bigger than Ben Hur. But what I had in mind was more of a series of small, intentional actions that, when done repeatedly, became habit over time. Okay, so I may not have had this piece all worked out. I did know that I wanted to nurture peace within myself, practice understanding and non-judgment, focus on the positive, commit to acts of kindness and be confident that even the simplest steps can tilt our world towards peace. I also knew that I wanted to read more on this topic, and surround myself with people for whom genuine compassion is an instinct.

Before leaving work, we didn’t have many set notions about how our retirement would look, nor what we would spend our time doing. We did believe that we had found our retirement house and that we would now spend time on its renovation. Ironically, that is the one significant piece that did change, as the renovations were a larger commitment, both of time and of cash, than we had originally understood. Also, despite our advance research, we didn’t adequately factor in the full extent of “winter rain” in Oceanside. We’ve been told that it was an unusually wet winter…fingers crossed that this past year was a one-off!

On the flip side, some things that I believed I would never be interested in (like curling, or daily yoga, for example) turned out to be extremely enjoyable, and I will definitely continue with further.

So, in a nutshell, what have I learned about my own retirement so far, and what have been my biggest takeaways?

I believe that the key to retirement is being prepared (obviously financially) but also mentally, emotionally and socially (at least in terms of your support group). The other key is being flexible, and being willing to accept that something you thought was a given for your retirement may not turn out as planned. Allow yourself time to chill and do nothing and also to deepen/renew/discover your passion(s). Also, allow yourself to walk away from something that is going to drain your energy…. or your cash.

As for passions, this blog has helped me to reflect more deeply on my experiences, structure my thoughts, maintain my writing and technological skills, keep in touch with friends/family around the globe and meet new people. It has also sharpened my eye to the beauty around me and has given me cause to stop and enjoy the splendor of the moment, no matter how mundane that moment may have originally appeared.

As for my world peace ambition—how’s that going? I believe that world peace is a lifelong quest, with individual steps and collaborative teamwork being equally important. The essential thing is the commitment, the intentionally of the goal and the gratitude for all that we have. For me, the intentionally and gratitude are definitely present…. I now seek meaningful endeavors to which I can commit.

So, that’s my reflection on my first year of retirement. I am both excited and hopeful as I begin my second year. Once again, time with family is at the top of my agenda.

 

*The feature image was taken on June 15, 2015, at Horseshoe Bay Ferry in Vancouver, as we waited to board…and begin our new life. Hope and optimism abound!