Catching Some Rays in new ways
In my first post, I mentioned that I had quite a fits-and-starts few months when I retired. I could not quite get my equilibrium back when I didn't have to wake up at 4:00 AM to drive from my home to Tampa each day and focus non-stop on the tasks of the mission at hand at work. (Truthfully, I think I may have just been burned out.)
But, I also distinctly remember my husband, Jim, saying, "Kathy, I'm not going to retire as you did. Cold Turkey is not for me. I'm going to slope out so that I have time to figure out retirement before I have to completely let go of work." I also remember thinking to myself, "Yeah, right! You try it and see if it really is as easy as you think it will be." I kept my defiant tone to myself, but I waited to see what his adjustment really brought to light.
Well, just as I suspected, his slope out went extremely well while it lasted. He worked first 3 days per week, then two, but then the workload exceeded the time allotted so he increased his commitments again. Finally, when the time for the slope-out ended, and he reached his final retirement date, he, too, felt a bit adrift. I am not surprised. Although women like me have been deeply involved in our work identities for decades, men's work identities are often even more closely tied to their place in the world. At risk of violating some unwritten rule of gender decorum, I believe that most men of retirement age have been conditioned to see themselves far more in relation to their work than women of a certain age (my certain age) have been.
Jim, too, had to recreate routines, test new activities, try on new roles, then say No to those that just didn't fit or turned out to be something other than what he had hoped. He had to assess his values, re-calibrate his fitness routine (non-existent before he retired.)into a daily discipline, and he had to learn to reach out and make friends. Men friends… friends he found exclusively at work prior to retirement.
Jim's been retired for a little over a year now and he is still figuring it out. But, he has taken on and dropped one volunteer role, added a board membership in a not-for-profit with a mission he really believes in, and has dropped 25 pounds and quit smoking… something the Doc insisted on, and he focuses on daily with more relish that I can muster for my own fitness routine. (Darn competitive, that guy!) And, he seems to make friends everywhere he goes, though none close enough to call on in an emergency yet – but some of those relationships will deepen over time.
Still, he is a work in progress, as am I. I may drive him nuts because I sometimes commit us to couple things without asking, or volunteer to take the grand kids for an overnight without telling him. He drives me nuts sometimes because he has insisted on taking over the kitchen and the grocery shopping to ensure he gets just the right veggies and cereal he loves. (He can have the kitchen… just give me back my grocery store trips.) And, each night he insists on comparing the number of steps we walked on our fitness trackers. (I leave mine off sometimes, just to be ornery.)
But, we are figuring it out. Sometimes together, and sometimes not. Finding the balance of closeness and independence, of commitment to causes, or to projects, or just to taking care of ourselves in new ways, we didn't have time for when work took up all our thought and energy. Yep! We are finding rays of light all over the place these days – Light for Our Second Life.
How about the guys reading this post? What has been your own experience as you face this new season of your life after work? Drop me a note in the comments section and fill us in.