Yet another acquaintance who retired at the same time I did recently said to me, “Retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be.”
Frankly, I don’t get it. I love being retired. I gladly trade my moments of loneliness, occasional bouts of boredom, and finances that are sometimes on the edge, for my freedom—freedom from the unending daily stress of rushing to and from the office and of being always at the mercy of petty despots in a faux totalitarian state.
In truth, when I received a cancer diagnosis, one of the first thoughts that entered my mind was, “Well, whatever else happens, I have had two wonderful years.” Two years that would not have happened had I not been forced into the early retirement that I had never planned to take. Two years for which I have been immensely grateful. Two years in which I have had time. Time, at last, for myself. Time to do all I want to do for others.
I wonder if what my retired acquaintances are truly expressing is actually just coming head-to-head with the reality of aging. Sadly, it’s true: I am not as physically limber as I once was. Unexpected aches trouble me, especially at night; and although I have not yet experienced major physical limitations, I nevertheless find myself concerned about them in my future, as well as the ever-present reality of falls (such as the tumble I took last year down my own stairwell). Recovery from such mishaps is no longer assured or quick. I discover that I look for ways to avoid dropping to the floor, since getting back up requires a touch of maneuvering and the inevitable “Ooof!” escaping from my lips. Growing older is frightening because the only way out of it is even worse.
The truth is, though, that I can’t remain focused on these minor physical problems, because I’m usually just too busy. I work constantly on this blog (and anyone who recalls writing essays in high school is well aware of just how much work that takes). I read all the books I never had time to read—and that’s a lot of books–and I write comprehensive reviews of each, as well as reviewing any product I buy on-line. I joyously babysit my little granddaughter and lend a hand in completing household chores at my daughter’s home, knowing that every dish washed or load of laundry completed is time freed that she might spend with her own child. In the warm months, I invade her garden to battle weeds and overgrowth like enemies of an evil empire; in bad weather, I crochet
and sew and join coloring groups
and catch up on household chores. I read the daily news from at least three different sources to be certain I’m getting a well-rounded viewpoint. My home (always neat as a pin) is at last nearly both as clean and almost as organized as I like it to be, and I’ve even managed to accomplish some of my home improvement tasks. I use the expertise garnered from 45 years of office work to help a friend create flyers and manuals for the classes she teaches. I help out with sick friends, and, blessedly, when I fall sick myself, I don’t have to worry about calling in to the office, obtaining a doctor’s excuse, or dealing with unsympathetic supervisors. I meet friends for yoga or meditation, creating vision boards, thrift shopping, girls’ home movie afternoons, flea marketing and antiquing. I have coffee and breakfast with them as we discuss the state of the world, verbally trash all the world leaders, consign every politician to the nether regions of hell, and rehash exactly the many ways in which everything would be SO much better if we were running the show.
I do, in fact, everything that I always longed to do during the weary years from the age of 18 until 62, when I worked full-time, cared for my home and family, and, struggling to meet all my responsibilities, never quite seemed to catch up or get enough sleep or have any time for myself.
I’m not certain how to respond when my retired friends claim that they are disappointed in the reality of their situation, for I fail to understand their mindset. The truth is, I’m having a rip-roaring good time. Retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be—it’s better.