'Just how did the first year of retirement go for you?
Updated: Mar 8
It’s absolutely mind bending how fast time goes by as we get older. It is over 12 months since my last day of work in 2018 and it has been an extraordinary year.
Like many Type A’s, I greeted retirement with a high degree of skepticism. I was worried about how I would react emotionally to simplifying my life and the types of commitments I should make to backfill my time. I often used the empty canvas analogy when my friends asked how it was going, and talked about selectivity in filling that canvas. Well, I can tell you, it has paid off.
So, how did it go?
First, one of my children needed my help for several months right after I retired. It was the first time since she was in second grade, that I could devote all of my time and attention to her - and she needed as much help as possible getting through a tough patch. Over my working years, I had adapted to the incredible balancing act that every working mother struggles with. For years, I had to settle for giving my children a limited amount of my time. I hoped they would be proud of me for my work accomplishments and for setting a strong example. I hoped they would forgive me for not always being there for them. To a large part, they did. But when times were challenging and they really needed a larger chunk of me, I could never fully deliver. This time I could, and felt both my daughter’s gratitude and a personal calm that I was able to be engaged and helpful when she needed me.
My health, although a continual concern, is much easier to manage. I am active when I want to be - particularly in the mornings, and rest when my body needs to. I have found most days, I don’t need to sleep in the afternoon, and can kick back and read or write instead. I exercise more regularly, and am a healthy eater with a freezer full of vegetables from my garden that go into my weekly soups.
I am around more to help with grandchildren when my kids are in a pinch. Although not quite willing to take on regular shifts, I am an ace in the back pocket and can hop over to their homes for a couple of hours coverage and after-school running around or that interval before school in the morning after my kids leave for work and the grandkids’ buses arrive. That makes me feel helpful and keeps me tight with my grands.
Speaking of the six grandchildren, as my children keep feeding them, they keep growing - imagine that! Their individuality is emerging in a big way and with it more opportunities to develop special relationships between each one and me. Once I had hoped to see them born into the world safely, and now I have six new friends with whom I love to play and guide. It’s totally joyful.
I have gotten to know my friends more fully. Now that many of us have a little extra time, we find ways to share it together, seeking partners on field trips, advice and support as well as lots of laughs. I’ve even broken down and learned Canasta - just for an excuse to spend more time with them. Mahjong will wait till 2020 and as for Bridge, who knows how long I can stall.
I was able to enjoy and share an entire summer at our lake home - I dreamt about this since childhood and it did not disappoint. No longer do I arrive exhausted on a Friday and hurry out Sunday afternoon. Now, I come and go as it pleases me, using the lake as a primary residence for three months and truly enjoying the view, my garden and the nature connected to it. I have an open door to friends and family (especially the grandkids!) and love to share the happiness I have there with others. I was elected to the community board and enjoy the time I spend participating in keeping lake life clean and protected.
About three months ago, I decided to write another book. My first, Almost a Princess, was an essay memoir written at a time when I believed my newly diagnosed ovarian cancer was going to take my life. To my delight and surprise, it did not! Now, ten years out on new treatments, I am blessed with more time to explore my life. Self-expression is a top priority to me and writing is my form of it.
This new book, a historical fiction, is based on the scant information I have about my great-grandmother Mathilda, who came to NYC in 1886 as a one-year old. She bears the roots of my BRCA-1 mutation and ten years ago, no one in the living family could remember her name. So, being a big reader - particularly partial to historical fiction, I decided to take the plunge and give poor Mathilda a life - albeit fictional. I may share some historical tidbits in future blogs - NYC was the fastest growing city in the world during her lifetime. She lived during one of the most incredible social experiments ever with immigration, women’s rights, tremendous advances in architecture, city planning, machines, medicine and the workplace. There’s an abundance of fascinating facts to dress her story and I find myself spending as much time researching as writing.
Last, I continue to adventure out into the bigger world with my husband - sometimes simply to get out of Dodge, and other times to see more of the world. I am so very thankful for every moment we have to enjoy each other and our lives together.