"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."
-- Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Surprises in Retirement

     B said to me the other day:  "Now I finally know what retired people mean when they say every day seems the same. I can't even tell when it's the weekend anymore!"

     She went on to explain that before Covid, we had some structure to our lives. I played table tennis on Mondays and Wednesdays, did my tutoring on Thursdays. She led her therapy group on Thursday nights and went to church on Sundays.

     But now we have nothing on a regularly scheduled basis. We do Zoom meetings, but they are catch-as-catch-can. We will see friends for an outdoor get-together, but again, not on a regular basis. The only constant we have right now is watching the Philadelphia Eagles game on Sunday. And we're not even football fans! We only do it because it's an appointment we can hang onto.

     I remember, when we first retired, we wondered how we would spend our days. We knew there'd be some tension between enjoying all the time in the world and finally be in charge of our own lives -- and the responsibility for creating some structure and meaning in our lives. Would we find new activities, new friends -- and new meaning beyond work and children?

     We were surprised how easy it was to fill our time. So easy that we wondered how we managed to to hold down a job. The search for structure and meaning has been more challenging. But we were getting there until . . . 

     . . . the biggest surprise of all:  Covid-19. People talk about how Covid-19 is exacerbating the trend toward digitalizing our lives. We don't go to stores anymore, we shop online. We don't have dinner at other people's homes, we talk on Zoom.

     I think Covid has also forced us into a more traditional retirement. Today, we're not getting out, not traveling, not getting a post-retirement job, not doing as much as we thought we would. So we have time to make breakfast every morning, sit around and drink coffee and read a book or troll the internet. Dinner is now a daily event, when it used to be something we often rushed through on the way to a meeting or event.

     Has Covid changed your life? Do you think the changes will continue after the Coronavirus has disappeared?

     One thing I've loved about retirement is that my stress levels have gone down. Way down. As a result I lost about 15 pounds. But now the stress is building again. I'm not sure why. Maybe the feelings of confinement, maybe the anxiety of waiting for this thing to finally end. 

     So I find myself snacking in the afternoons. I try to take a walk, but I'm not as consistent as I should be. A schedule is what got me to exercise regularly. So since this all began in March I have gained back a few pounds.

     One thing I have not done -- but should -- is try to develop a new skill. Several friends have discovered the joy of cooking, now that they have time on their hands. One friend of mine has taken up painting -- and you know, he's not half bad! -- while a couple I know is starting to learn Italian -- in preparation for a trip to Italy they intend to make as soon as this is all over.

     In some ways retirement has actually prepared us for the Covid lockdown. We don't have to worry about work or a paycheck -- and that is an incredible blessing in this world. Also, I've become more comfortable with my own company, and in retirement B and I have already figured out how to spend more time together.

     Finally, I'm really surprised at how long this pandemic has lasted. Remember March? We thought it would go away by summer! But now I wonder -- what surprises await us next year? Will Covid linger longer than we think? Will we keep up our new activities, or go back to the old normal?

     I always thought retirement was a time for quiet reflection, for comfortable days and serene sunsets. Who would'a thunk it would be so full of surprises?

31 comments:

gigi-hawaii said...

I lose track of the days, too. Lol. For instance, I thought it was Sunday, but it was Wednesday. I was shocked when David told me it was Wednesday.

ApacheDug said...

Ah Tom... I enjoy your writing a lot and related to just about every sentence here! I feel like B (and Gigi), some days I get out of bed and sit there scratching my head... is it Friday or Saturday? For some reason, I keep losing track of those 2 days.

Right before I retired in January 2015, a couple friends made me worry when they said my life was too wrapped up in my work and I’d go stir-crazy unless I took up a new hobby, did some volunteer work, maybe a part-time job. Nope, that hasn’t happened. I spend more time online than I should, but watch a lot less tv than I did when I was working and go to bed earlier now too. I do want to get out more (once this pandemic ends), would love to take a cross-country trip via Amtrak to visit relatives and see more of this country from the ground... I’m just not in a big hurry to do anything right now, and feel a little guilty about it too sometimes to be honest.

Olga said...

I have also lost track of days although I still participate in regular activities over Zoom that help to give some structure. These groups are important to me and I am grateful that I can participate, but I don't see much of other friends that I would just meet for social times like going out to lunch or just getting together to talk. It seems I see less of my closest friends.
One of the things that surprised me when I first retired was how there was still that definite sense of weekend. That has fallen by the wayside since the pandemic I think we will be lucky if things return to complete "normal" in another year or even two. I hope I am wrong.

DJan said...

I don't think we will return to our pre-pandemic lives, but something different. More people will work from home, and I have grown to like my Zoom yoga classes and hope they will continue. Our world has been altered permanently, how much is an open question.

Celia said...

"Nothing is permanent but change" or so the saying goes. Just figured out it is Sunday ha ha. I'm home alone most of the time as I have COPD and heart problems so I am being careful. Surprisingly I'm only occasionally stressed by the situation. Mostly for family who are still working during this. I get my groceries delivered and discovered I kind of like it. I remember that both my grandmothers got their groceries delivered years ago. I've gotten to know the delivery people thru texting and brief conversations masked in my doorway. I think we could remain friends after this is over. An unexpected gift. I love to read and have become one of Thriftbooks constant customers. After I finish a book I take my van out for a drive and go leave the book with a reading friend. I've also taking to getting drive thru lunches when the weather is decent and then I go find a nice spot to eat lunch and walk a little. Our town is in a remote corner of Washington state so there's lots of places to stop. Sometimes it's just on the side of the road by some farmers horse pastures. Lunch with the horses. Life is good.

Tom said...

I am well-oriented today, because it's Sunday and I'm watching the Eagles game. I just wish they could win every once in a while. Would make it more fun. Celia and DJan, I agree, change is what happens, whether we like it or not, but sometimes it just seems to happen so fast!

Arkansas Patti said...

I just looked at my calendar and was stunned to see I actually have two weeks totally free. Guess it is the pending holidays but I have not one Doctor's appointment. Gosh, how will I know what day it is?
I do feel a bit guilty being retired for as you said, the pay check keeps coming in each month. Neither food nor rent are even a thought. Truly miss the face to face interactions but keep hoping this too shall pass. Now let's see,today is Sunday--I think.

Barb said...

As my daughter the Washington fan says, only in the nfc east can you be four and seven on Thanksgiving and be at the top of your division..

Red said...

Good suggestion to take up a new activity and learn new skills . Some of our old skills could be improved so that when this is over we can be better.

Marilyn in New York said...

Congratulations on losing 15 pounds at a time when many are stress binging and putting on weight. That's a great accomplishment. A few months before Covid times, I lost 70 pounds dieting. I'm thrilled that I've kept off the weight this year. Hooray. It can be done. Keep up the great effort.

Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

Even though I'm working I sometimes lose track of days. But I did take up a new hobby to fill up those extra two hours I have now that I don't commute to the office. I've been teaching myself how to crochet. Still not great, but always improving.

AWmom said...

We take classes sponsored by our park district currently we take cardio line dance ,back and balance excercise,ceramics,bingo, a arts and crafts.My husband takes the excercises classes and drawing and painting.i also have a book club and a senior meeting every week.Maybe your park district or university offers continuing education online.It has given us a new schedule we enjoy. We FaceTime,Skype or zoom with family. For the nine classes weekly for 10 weeks the senior rate is 38 dollars. It lets us know what day by the days acivity. Some Friends do the week by topics Monday meals and cooking,Tuesday is Tunes and travel,(listen or play music and look up places ) Wednesday is words ( word games and reading) Tidy up Thursday( cleaning and house projects) and Friday is fun Friday .she does something fun or at least shares a funny joke with friends.I prefer my classes but whatever gets you through these weeks .

Carol Cassara said...

I enjoyed your thoughtful discourse on these changes and it's made me think about how my own life has changed in more than the obvious ways.

Meryl Baer said...

The days run into each other. Definitely a slower lifestyle than pre-Covid. I wasn't exercising enough, but am more diligent now. I cook more than I ever did. But I miss much of my old lifestyle - especially travel, spending time with the kids and grandkids, going to the theater.

Laurie Stone said...

I'm embarrassed to say my life isn't that different! I still write in the mornings and will occasionally mask up and duck quickly into a store or do some errand in the afternoon. My friends and I get together on walks. Yes, I miss restaurants, but its amazing how little has changed for me -- besides the horrifying news every night.

jono said...

I am still working which probably helps me keep track of the days, but I seem to be "retired" when I am not at my job. I gained a few too many pounds, but have lost some of it and, like you, I have been a little less consistent in my activity levels. OTOH I have been playing more music by myself as the band is on hiatus until this disease is gone. At least the vaccine is starting to roll out this week and I am hopeful that summer will be a bit more normal.

Wisewebwoman said...

I find time races Tom, just gallops. Particularly Friday to Friday. I gasp when I look at the calendar. I'm reading slightly more - I've always read a lot but I take more time in my online library book ordering. I'm not knitting as much as I thought I would though. I do some exercise, some meditation (though I am an atheist, I should add) I maintain a couple of websites, I have long phone calls with distant friends, several zoom meetings through the week including one on Sunday with my siblings who are scattered throughout the world, self maintenance duties fill in the rest of the time, online grocery shopping, laundry - which is a bit of a hike in my building which is a 2 storey sprawl of a place.

I try not to look ahead as it sets me off into thinking I did not expect to live out my few remaining years imprisoned, in a manner of speaking.

Today, though, we have the vaccine in Canada ready for rollout.

XO
WWW

Rian said...

Tom, I also don't think we will return to our pre-covid normal (at least I'm pretty sure I won't). Too much has happened that I think has changed our lives and how we live forever. Even if stores and restaurants open up again (and I do miss going out to eat...), I'm not sure that the memory of this 2020 won't haunt us and bring a moment of panic every time someone sneezes around us. I do think family get togethers will resume for those of us who have first line workers in the family (this is the hardest part for me) and friends will gradually come back 'physically' into our lives, but I doubt that we will forget easily this time of isolation and death. And I do think we have 'learned' a lot during this time. I just hope the end of Covid is really coming with this vaccine.

Janette said...

"What day is it today?" is a common question between the two of us. We grocery shop early Friday mornings. I teach one of our grands Friday afternoons. Other then that---nada.
We are building a house in a different state, so I spend loads and loads of time exploring cabinets, paint colors and furniture layout mixed with sorting and taping up one box to move a day. That still does not help with, "What day of the week is it?"
My step grandmother used to let me come and visit. It was always on my half day Wednesdays. When I would miss, she would complain (in a loving way) that I totally messed up her week- since she would not remember appointments for other set days of the week. I was the linch pin. Now I understand.
As far as the future? I will feel more comfortable moving around to eat lunch by the waterside in about six months. I have great plans on doing a heck of a lot of getting outside....and not being watched (except by an occasional bear).I also look forward to my grands telling me what they learned in school today and what the librarian introduced them to. Such simple pleasures.....

Rebecca Olkowski said...

It often feels like I'm wasting time not doing the things I would normally do like getting out and about and traveling. I was confined before the pandemic because I was caregiving my BF and then thought I'd have some freedom afterward, but now I'm still stuck. Can't wait for this to be finally over but it may be a while.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! It has been a strange year for sure and one most of us will be happy to see pass soon. I spent the first 6-7 months sort of in hibernation. I did manage to stick with my blog (except I took an entire month off for the first time) but I recently read the book "The Practice" by Seth Godin and it has re-inspired me and also tells of the many advantages that a blog or other "practices" provides us with. I'm actually excited for the future again (of course the election helped with that too) and looking forward to seeing what happens next. I've decided I'm far too young to just "wait it out" at this point and plan to create and experience as much as possible from here on out! ~Kathy

Anonymous said...

To combat 'what day is this and what did I do two days ago' malaise, I started to keep a quick daily diary, just the date plus a few lines in a simple text file.

It helps. And I can look back and see what I did two weeks ago.

Aside from helping me remember what and when, it affirms that, yes, I was productive.

Linda Myers said...

I rely on my online calendar, synched to my phone, to keep me on track. I play handbells on Monday. I usually swim on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I have Olli classes. I'm presently helping one of my sons as business manager for his new remodeling company. I miss live theatre and live music and hugs.

This too shall pass!

Madeline Hill said...

Our routines are totally blown away from Covid.My husband worked part time in his chiropractic profession on Thursday and Saturdays and stopped seeing patients in March. I gave up my in persons volunteering at a cat rescue and also the food kitchen. My Thursday/Saturday art group ceased meeting in person but we ZOOM weekly (not the same, but something to look forward to!), MyBook Club meets online now. And we cancelled all our 2020 travel of course. I watch way more TV than ever, i used to have WEEKS I did not turn on a TV but now I am grateful to catch up on series and movies that I’ve missed. My husband and I look forward to the Crown and Outlander. We take drives to the local rivers for a change of scenery.We hike in local mountains on weekday mornings so the trails are empty. I cook a lot, but then i always did.It just MEANS MORE now..we look forward to dinner hour more than ever, we put on music, we eat more slowly. I miss live theater and musical events. Also, my Canasta group of really good friends are a bit older than me, and all 4 of us are very cautious— no in person meetings till vaccine is distributed. I find myself working more on my spirituality, praying and meditating more, writing more in journals. EVery week I try to watch some educational youtubes and listen to podcasts.We exercise an hour a day every day! I make up interesting playlists on Spotify and we play music for part of every day..Super important to us not to let Covid ruin our health! All in all, though this is “Different” times, we are counting our blessings.

Anonymous said...

Sunday is the day on which the funnies (blame my Philly upbringing; cartoons to the rest of you) are in color. That's all ye need to know.

Neil said...

Yes all previous comments are valid. I have been retired for many years and way back had to realize that to feel productive and enjoy my time, I needed to find things to do that were fulfilling and/or fun. Every couple years perhaps look for new alternatives. COVID ain't enjoyable but it can be productive if I tackle those projects put off for years. I decided to find and log in all the important documents and records and personal contacts we need to manage life. In the event of an interruption, (even temporary) spouse and family will know where everything is. I discovered My Life Directory booklet which prompted me with over 100 topics. I was amazed at the number of things (deeds, passwords,certificates, old receipts for major purchases) I couldn't find easily. Now I feel I have made progress. Neil PS It also comes as a PDF

Anonymous said...

Baby boomers are either going to die of the corona-virus, or will get abused in retirement homes. And you boomers deserve this for destroying your own children's future, your own children's lives. Look in the mirror. You baby boomers are extremely evil people.

Bob Lowry said...

My wife and I are happy with our own company and our own activities. Except for missing an occasional concert or play, I don't think our lives have changed that much. We did stop going to church: the mask mandate isn't strictly enforced so we don't feel the risk is worth it. Otherwise, as long as we have the Internet, hobbies, and the library allows me to take out a ridiculous number of books, we are OK with the semi-isolation.

One major plus for us that probably helps with this attitude: our daughters, grandkids, assorted cousins, and son-in-law's parents all live within 10 minutes of each other. We gather every Sunday so being away from family is not a problem.

Unknown said...

Valerie from Texas

Baby boomers are not evil people. I am one and I help others of all ages. As I have stated before I have been everywhere since April and have been around a lot of people. I have not gotten sick with coronavirus. Also my 10 year younger sister says she is going to take care of me when I need it. She helps take care of people even though she works full time. If she can't or won't I have enough money to stay at home and be taken care of. Please don't lump all baby boomers together as we are not all the same.

Rita said...

I'm 40 years old female I tested genital herpes (HSV1-2) positive in 2016. I was having bad outbreaks. EXTREMELY PAINFUL. I have try different kinds of drugs and treatment by the medical doctors all to know was avail. Six months ago I was desperately online searching for a helpful remedies for genital herpes (HSV1-2) cure, which I come across some helpful remedies on how Dr OYAGU have help so many people in curing genital herpes (HSV1-2) with the help of herbal treatment because I too believe there is someone somewhere in the world who can cure herpes completely. At of the past 2 months, however, I've been following his herpes protocol Via oyaguherbalhome@gmail.com or +2348101755322 and it stopped all outbreaks completely! To my greatest surprise I was cured completely by following the protocol of his herbal medicine . Don't be discouraged by the medical doctors. There is a cure for HSV with the help of herbs and roots by a herbalist Dr call Dr OYAGU he is so kind and truthful with his herbal treatment, kindly contact him for more information Via oyaguherbalhome@gmail.com or WhatsApp DR on +2348101755322 or visit his website https://oyaguspellcaster.wixsite.com/oyaguherbalhome you will be lucky as I am today

Kay said...

I don't know why I feel like I'm busier than ever. What the heck am I doing? I've made a ton of masks, true. But what else of major importance? Gosh... my memory is fading. This is not good.