My First Wednesday Night Dinner

My recent meltdown (which after further research I self-diagnosed as being the 4th stage of retirement) unexpectedly produced several positive outcomes.   As detailed in my previous post, my husband and I agreed that I would henceforth make dinner every Wednesday night.  More importantly, it spurred honest conversation, which helped us both.

To be clear, my “existential crises” (or meltdown as I half-jokingly referred to my recent discomfort) was not particularly serious.  After my last post, I realized I must have caused some concern, as a few friends reached out to me to ensure I was all right.  I assured them that I was simply going through a bumpy but perfectly normal phase in my journey.  It is important to me, in writing this blog, that I be honest and transparent about both the ups and downs of my first year of retirement, which may make some uncomfortable or cause worry.  But I fear the tendency to sugarcoat our lives not only causes others to feel inadequate in comparison, but also circumvents the opportunity for our community to identify with or assist us in our pain.  My hope is that others can learn from and benefit from my experiences.  (And I certainly appreciated the calls of concern!)

Getting back to my first Wednesday night dinner, which was last Wednesday, I must say it was marvelous.  I picked that day because my husband does volunteer work every Wednesday and I have the house to myself. I reasoned it would be a good day for me to learn and experiment and mess up in peace, and would cause my husband less heartburn not having to witness.  I know how to cook, and in fact kept myself reasonably fed during my twenties when I was single, but I’ve become rusty the past 10-15 years. I also wanted to play loud disco music while I was cooking.

The salmon and tomatoes

The salmon and tomatoes

I chose heart-healthy recipes from my “Cholesterol Down” book (the diet plan which I’ve used to control my LDL levels) including walnut-encrusted salmon, peas with dill and margarine, roasted tomatoes with garlic and, for dessert, baked stuffed apples.  I’ve been lobbying for more fish on the menu, and I dearly wanted to prove I could make a tasty AND healthy meal. I assembled my list of ingredients and on Tuesday, we went grocery shopping together and bought what I needed.

In order to be ready to eat at around 6:30 pm, as my husband was due home at 6:00, I started the prep work at around 4:00, figuring that would give me plenty of time.  (Wrong! We didn’t eat until 8:30 pm.) My first task was to chop cilantro.  Since we bought fresh cilantro, dill and basil, and they’re all green, I wanted to make triple-sure I had the right herb, so I ran to the computer and googled “What does Cilantro look like?”   After looking at images that assured me I had the right herb, I googled “How do you chop cilantro?”  I found a short You Tube video of some amiable rotund chef who explained that one folds the bunch of cilantro in half, that the stems may be included in the chopping, and then demonstrated chopping.  I ran back and replicated the amiable rotund chef.

Then I decided, as long as I’m going to all this trouble to make a nice meal, I should also make a nice presentation.  So, rather than sit at the kitchen island while watching the news, like we usually do, I set the table in the dining room.  I put out place mats (ones that reminded me of France), silverware, cloth napkins and a candle.

For the next recipe, I needed to chop dill, so I ran and googled “What does dill look like?” and “How do you chop dill?”  I found the amiable rotund chef again on You Tube who explained that one should NOT include the stems when chopping dill and again demonstrated the chopping process.  I went back to the kitchen and chopped my dill.  For the last recipe I repeated this process with the basil (except this time by process of elimination I cleverly identified the basil). By now, I felt incredibly grateful and bonded to the amiable rotund chef.

Peas with dill.  Who knew the potatoes would take an hour to simmer?

Peas with dill. Who knew the potatoes would take an hour to simmer?

And then at 5:00 a curious thing happened.  My husband came home early. He explained that his last appointment cancelled.  When I heard the key in the door, my heart sank.  I really wanted to have everything ready when he walked in the door – to wow him.  I also worried that he would be uncomfortable with me cooking in his kitchen, or that he would hover while making “suggestions” or I would have some catastrophe while he watched.  Instead, I heard him say “Ooooh!” as he saw the table set in the dining room, and then he walked into the kitchen, gave me a big kiss and hug and said “I’m really glad we’re doing this.  I’ve been looking forward to this meal all day. I’m sure it’s going to be great!”  And with that, he went to the computer in the family room and quietly checked email and news while I continued working on the meal (and no comment on the loud disco music).

Everything took a little longer than I thought, and I have to say, the recipe for roasted tomatoes with garlic was a pain in the ass.  It called for me to cut tiny tomatoes in half and fresh garlic into slices and then “stud” tiny tomatoes with even tinier garlic slices.  When I looked up “what [the hell] does it mean to stud something with something” on Google, the amiable rotund chef was nowhere to be found, but I gleaned from other sources that it meant sticking a garlic slice into each tomato.

The potatoes that were simmering with the peas took forever, so I decided to begin dinner without them.  I lit the candle, my husband opened a bottle of wine, and we seated ourselves in the dining room and started on the salmon and tomatoes.  Later the peas and potatoes were served, and we finished with the baked apples for dessert. I was thrilled with how well everything came out.  We talked and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in our dining room. I recounted all my googling and what I learned about chopping herbs (which actually impressed my husband). He very thoughtfully and sincerely told me, “These dishes are all fantastic.  They could honestly be served at a fine restaurant.   I hope that you will cook more often!”

And the pies de resistance…the baked apples!

And the pies de resistance…the baked apples!

All in all, a successful beginning to my “re-orientation” phase.  It was a satisfying day, and most importantly, we’re both looking forward to next Wednesday!

Existentialism, Disenchantment and the Six Stages of Retirement

I suppose it was inevitable, but I must unhappily report I’ve suffered my first post-retirement existential crisis.  Following a whirlwind (or manic) first five months that included a dream trip to France, multiple football weekends in Annapolis, several road trips to the Bay Area, and then the holidays, I now find myself at home, alone with my husband in our empty nest, no job, and no big trips planned for awhile.  So now what?

My detailed retirement plan

My detailed retirement plan

Before I retired, I recall seeing articles counseling prospective retirees to plan not only for the financial, but the non-financial and emotional aspects of retirement.   I planned the financial aspects down to the penny, but I was so busy working, parenting, traveling and everything else that I didn’t spend time thinking about the rest.  I just knew I (1) didn’t want to do THAT job anymore, and (2) would go to Paris and other places and maybe learn to cook and play golf and eventually do some volunteer or part-time work.  Beyond that, I reckoned I would figure it out when I got there.  And since I was the primary breadwinner in the family, I never allowed myself the luxury of seriously considering what I would do if money were no object.  I therefore had zippo in the way of a detailed plan or burning desire or vision for retirement. But, seriously, how hard could it be?!

One of the many things I failed to sufficiently appreciate while I was busy concentrating on my career was that my already-retired husband had basically taken over the house.  He was home, happily cooking, shopping, doing laundry, and watching really loud intense action movies in Surround Sound in the middle of the day.  And his daily routines, for the most part, did not include me.  So, my 24/7 lurking in his territory and my newly enthusiastic plans to start cooking or reorganize the house or rearrange the kitchen has not been met with enthusiasm.  I did not expect to be the intruder in my own house.  And I certainly never imagined I would be battling my husband over who gets to do chores. (“Aw c’mon let me do the dishes tonight!”)

Then there are issues of loneliness, self-worth and meaning.   It can be lonely around the house, even with my husband around.  It brings back foggy memories of my 4-month maternity leave, when I was so starved for adult conversation that I found myself chasing down other mothers at the playground. Even though I’m not an extreme extrovert, while I was working, I was accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the office and being around people.  Now it takes effort to socialize, and the further I get from my working days, the less I have in common with my working friends.  I also know that I’m easily bored and can get restless without the daily urgencies of the job that kept me on my toes. I find that without a “job” – whether chores or paid job or volunteer work – my self-worth suffers.  I miss that sense of purpose and accomplishment.  I have not yet identified what I want to sink my teeth into next, but I feel an obligation to find activities that use my skills and talents to give back to my community and I would like them to be meaningful to me.

Another issue I’ve discovered is that unstructured days can lead to an ADD-type existence.  There are so many things I can or should or want to do, and it becomes disorienting and overwhelming.   Paralysis sets in and I feel like I’m spinning when I don’t know what to do first.  And then entire days go by and all I can remember doing is emailing my cousin or researching wine racks on the Internet.  At this rate, I’m not going to make any significant contribution to society!

Which all led to my first post-retirement (and post-holiday) existential crisis.  Looking forward to months at home, with “clean up the garage” the only major item on my calendar for February, I felt anxious for the first time about retirement.  Damn those article writers!  They were right!  I should’ve had a plan!  After I finish the garage, what the hell am I going to do with myself?!  And will my husband and I even survive the garage?

Since I was in a state of blissful denial, I obviously didn’t do my homework pre-retirement.  Yesterday I googled “emotional adjustments to retirement” and was shocked at the volume of resources. Among them I found an article that describes the stages of retirement and was relieved to see that my own existential crisis was quite normal and actually fit the description for the “disenchantment” stage, which follows the “honeymoon” stage.  The author described the disenchantment phase as similar to the stage in marriage when the emotional high of the wedding wears off and the couple now has to work on building a functioning relationship together.  After looking forward to retirement for so long, many retirees are faced with a feeling of letdown. Retirement isn’t a permanent vacation; it can also bring loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness and disillusionment.  The stage following disenchantment is described as the “reorientation” stage where the retiree moves on to build a new identity in retirement.  It is described as the “most difficult stage in the emotional retirement process and will take both time and conscious effort to accomplish.” And it gets worse!  “Perhaps the most difficult aspects of this stage to manage are the inevitable self-examination questions that must be answered once again, such as ‘Who am I, now?’, ‘What is my purpose at this point?’ and ‘Am I still useful in some capacity?’  New – and satisfying – answers to these questions must be found if the retiree is to feel a sense of closure from his or her working days.  But many retires cannot achieve this and never truly escape this stage – make sure you do!” (Mark P. Cussen, “Journey Through the 6 Stages of Retirement”)

Oh, for crying out loud, even retirement is going to be hard work!  I probably understood this deep down, but I had successfully convinced myself retirement was going to be a piece of cake.  But I also know from experience that major life changes, even good ones, cause anxiety and require adjustments.  I appreciate now that I need to take charge of structuring my own post-retirement life, that it will take work and courage, and nobody is responsible but me.

My recent existential crisis manifested itself in some heated and ridiculous exchanges with my husband where I accused him, among other things, of chore hogging; frantic searches for adult education classes to swiftly learn new hobbies or explore new career paths; and an urgency to expand my circle of friends to provide companionship and sounding boards as I discern next steps for myself.  I also recognized there is a spiritual aspect that compels me to renew my spiritual disciplines.

Thanks to my “disenchantment” stage (now that I know what ails me), I am now signed up for seven (yes, seven!) adult education classes over the next three months, ranging from “Winter Soups and Stews” and “Golf” to “Blogging for Fun and Profit.”  I’m trying out three different women’s small groups at church to find the best fit.  I’ve scheduled myself to participate in group exercise classes every weekday morning at the YMCA – we’re members, it’s right down the street, and I now have no excuse. After intense but fruitful negotiations, my husband and I agreed that I will make dinner on Wednesday nights (a major concession I am proud of).  And today I attended my first Lectio Divina gathering at church (a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer) that really fed my soul.  I briefly considered setting up a Doodle poll with every friend I could think of to schedule lunches for the next six weeks but rejected the idea as giving the appearance of desperation.

Who knew retirement could be so exhausting?  Here’s looking forward to Stage 6!

My First Post-Retirement Performance Review

Unbelievably, I’ve been retired for an entire quarter already.  Since I’ve positioned Year One of retirement as scientific experimentation (which warrants some level of rigor) AND old corporate habits die hard, I feel compelled to give myself a post-retirement quarterly review.  Dusting off the old performance review templates from memory banks (and causing myself stress just thinking about it) here goes:

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = bad/you suck, 5 = excellent/good job):

(1) Progress toward stated Year One goals:

Paris trip – 5

Rest/recuperation – 4 (points off for jet lag)

Have fun – 5

Clean-up projects around the house – 2

Clean-up projects in garage – Q2 – AFTER HOUSE

Route 66 driving trip – Q3 – AFTER HOUSE AND GARAGE

Observations: Q1 was dominated by R&R, travel and fun. I was primarily a big goof-off, which fit my objectives perfectly.  After catching up on sleep the first two weeks, the majority of waking hours was spent planning and executing our fabulous Paris trip, two reunion weekends (my law school and my husband’s high school) and then three additional trips to Annapolis and one trip to San Jose for Navy football games.  We managed to attend all five Navy home games AND the Navy–SJSU game (resulting in all W’s which should bump me up to a 5+ rating on some scale).  Out of curiosity, I tallied days home v. days away and we were clearly away more than home, almost twice as much September through November. Which is a perfect excuse for why I didn’t get more done at home.

I did start working on home cleanup projects in between trips.  I managed to make my way through 2 ½ rooms (including closets), as part of Operation Purge, which entails sorting, tossing and trips to Goodwill.  After the holidays, our travel will slow down and Operation Purge will swing into high gear.

(2) Positives:

Flexibility – I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility.  It’s fun to do things spontaneously and go places, like restaurants or the mall or movies, during off-hours and avoid crowds.   When planning trips we can go an extra day or two or (what the heck!) week to take advantage of lower fares or less traffic.

Free time – my free time is now truly free.  In the past, I rarely had a vacation where there was no BlackBerry to check, no email to return, no conference call THAT I JUST HAD TO dial into.  I can really relax and be present and enjoy myself.  On several of our fall trips to Annapolis for football games, we booked extra days and explored the area – we visited small towns we’d never seen, museums we’d never discovered, scenic drives we’d never taken.  With free time, the world becomes an oyster!

Less stress – See two points above.  Friends have commented (with no prodding on my part) that I look physically younger, happier and more relaxed.  I sleep better and my energy level is higher. I didn’t realize how much stress I was under until I was away from the job for a while.

Time with hubby – I was worried (as was my husband!) that too much together time might lead to unpleasant consequences, such as one of us killing the other.  It has been an adjustment (mostly with our home routine that I have disrupted).  However, for the most part it has surprisingly been a non-issue.   In fact, we are really enjoying doing things together, especially the travel.   I am thankful my husband is an available partner in my retirement activities.  If he was still working, I don’t think it would be nearly as enjoyable.

Travel – something I loved about my job was the travel.  I relished staying in hotels, visiting new places and exploring cities.   However, I often didn’t have time to do much sightseeing when I was working.  Although I was perfectly happy traveling solo, expeditions with a partner are much more rewarding. Now, we can go to those bucket list places and do those bucket list things we’ve always talked about, and at our own pace.  I was gratified that our inaugural trip to Paris was a success and gave us the confidence and incentive to do more big trips.

(3) Challenges:

An office – it may sound silly, but I do miss having my own office.  When I was working, I shared our home office with my husband.  But there’s something important about having your own space.  Even in retirement, there are things to do – bills to be paid, appointments to be scheduled, events and travel to be planned, etc.  I am, for the time being, using my laptop and cellphone in our den as my office.    But I have no desk or desk chair or file cabinets (or IT department or administrative assistant or receptionist, but I need to get over that). For now it is working fine, but at some point I would like to set up my own home office space (maybe in my son’s room once he graduates college but don’t tell him yet).

Time management – after being constantly under the gun in the corporate world for the past 25 years, it’s difficult to approach a To Do list with anything other than a fanatic urge to finish as quickly as possible.   I find myself with that old familiar stress when I still have (horrors!) unchecked items on my list, even if they are things like “Look for Ribbon for the suitcases at Jo-Ann Fabrics” or “Sort Magazines on the Coffee Table.”  The other trap is that I am often unsure of what day of the week it is (forget ever knowing the date) and sometimes I have to think hard about what month it is.   Without the structure of work, it is easy to lose track of time. I know I have more time now, but the days seem to just fly by.  How did I ever have time for a job?

Lack of routine – since Q1 was all about travel, I haven’t really settled into a “normal” routine.  I still feel like I’m on an extended vacation.  In Q2, once our travel abates and I start working around the house, I would expect a more normal (or less abnormal?) daily rhythm to develop.

Post-retirement activities – somewhat related to the previous points, I have purposely not made any decisions about how I will spend my time after this first year and have in fact turned down several offers.  It has not yet become clear to me how I would like to spend the bulk of my future time in retirement.  I know that, in addition to our travel, I would like to get involved in ongoing “work,” whether that be volunteer, part-time or non-profit, that will be meaningful to me.    As much fun as I’m having with my life of merriment, I can already sense a need for some “greater good” purpose to be significantly reflected in my activities.  I also miss the camaraderie of co-workers and the sense of pride that comes with team/organizational accomplishments.  Once I have my major home projects under control, I will embark on a more focused search.

(4) 360 feedback:

For purposes of this review, I asked my sole “co-worker” (my husband) for feedback on how my retirement is going thus far.  His response was “You’re doing fine.”  Okay, then! Whether that answer stemmed from an understandable fear of the repercussions of saying anything negative or from extreme laziness in answering one stupid question, (hey I was in the same boat for 25 years, I know the game!) or was, in fact, an accurate assessment (albeit somewhat sparse), I can’t say for sure.  I will therefore interpret his response as akin to the proverbial “Pleasure to have in class” comment I always received from my teachers in grade school and leave it at that.

(5) Overall rating: 

5

That’s the other beauty of retirement.  I’m now the boss and I can rate myself whatever I want!

Good Grief – Reflections on the Process of Leaving

I’m really glad I had a proper burial at work.  I say that because the whole process felt like a strange mix of birthday and funeral.   When I made the final decision to retire, I did a fair amount of thinking as to how much notice I should give.   Since my 55th birthday was in August 2013 (at which time I qualified for Early Retirement) my primary exit strategy was to wait until my 2012 bonus was safely in my bank account, wait a few more weeks for the optics, and then give notice.   There wasn’t a great deal of precedence for the proper protocols…. in recent years, not many people stuck around until retirement age.  Or if they did, we were increasingly receiving curt emails that read “We thank John Smith for his 30 years of service.  His last day is tomorrow and we wish him well.”

AngelWings-Betsy-Quyn-John-Mel

A picture taken on one of my last workdays of me and my closest work colleagues by some artwork outside our office. In hindsight, it would have made a great photo for my workplace “Funeral” program – depicting my ascension into retirement!

So, I figured four months should be more than enough.  That way, the company would have some time to decide how to replace me, and I could offer to participate in the hiring or training process for my replacement.  When I first gave notice, I was pretty burned out and disillusioned and I wanted nothing more than to walk or run quickly from the building in the cover of night. What I didn’t foresee was what a fun chapter that last four months would prove to be.

Over the course of my last months, I sometimes wished I had given less notice. Some days just seemed to drag on, and nobody seemed to be in much hurry to make decisions about how to replace me.    I contended daily with the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, depression and acceptance).   Not me, mind you –  I was alive and well and smiling ear to ear, and yet everyone around me was mourning my loss, and different people were in different stages on different days.  And then the politics and  jockeying for my leadership role began.  It was exhausting. And more than a little weird.

On the other hand, I felt liberated once I no longer had financial goals to worry about.  The job wasn’t so bad when I could spend my time doing more of the things I liked about work without worrying incessantly about my daily/weekly/monthly results and those of everyone who reported to me.  It gave me time to coach and mentor and check in with people (both clients and colleagues) I hadn’t had much time to talk to.  I even helped sell a couple of big projects the last month before I left!   I began spending more time with my friends and activities outside of work, no longer had that low-level work 24/7 anxiety, and was delighted to see my energy and humor come roaring back.  Friends started commenting that I already looked years younger!

And then came August, which, between my birthday and retirement, morphed into one long party.   I was getting calls, emails, and cards from clients and colleagues wishing me well in retirement.  I actually found myself a little over-stimulated (and having trouble sleeping) by all the excitement.  I kept expecting my own grief to kick in once I had to confront actually saying good-bye to colleagues I’d worked with for so long,

I had several retirement celebrations (official and unofficial) and I was surprisingly and genuinely happy at each of them.   It was a little like being at my own funeral and getting to hear the nice things people said about me.  Plus, I realized that I had made some really good friends that would carry over into my retirement life, so I wasn’t that sad about saying good-bye.  And I certainly wasn’t going to miss the job itself.

Most importantly, those four months gave me the chance to honor and appreciate the parts of my job, my company and my colleagues that I really loved and cherished.  So, on August 15, when I walked out the door, that spirit of disillusionment and burnout had been replaced by a spirit of gratitude and pride.  I know that, in corporate America today, few workers get the “gold watch” retirement send-off anymore.  Mine was pure gold, and for that I’ll be forever thankful.

The Great Experiment: Early Retirement…….or Now What?!

Since I am looking at this first year of retirement as a science experiment, I harken back to high school science where we were required to write up our experiments using a prescribed format.  Now this is bringing back bad memories as I passed chemistry by the skin of my teeth, and only due to the patience and competence of my lab partner Charmaine (who went on to be an RN I later heard).   But pushing qualms aside in the name of good scientific discipline:

Experiment Name:  Betsy’s Early Retirement

 Aim(s):

  1. To finish clean-up projects around the house that have been kicked down the road for too many years;
  2. To learn how to “do” retirement happily; and
  3. To discover rewarding activities that feed me physically, spiritually and emotionally (and perhaps financially).

Sub-Aim:

  1. To avoid driving my husband OR myself crazy, OR finding myself right back on the “busy” hamster (or guinea pig to keep the science imagery going) wheel doing pointless stupid activities that provide no satisfaction or compensation for my time, which would be even worse than my old job (at least I used to get paid)

Hypotheses:  By the end of the year, my lack of a specific or well-thought-out plan for retirement or any detectable notable skills or hobbies will propel me to:

  1. Get involved in one or more volunteer, non-profit or part-time work activities that will get me out of the house and provide social interaction and an outlet for my energy but provide enough flexibility to do trips and travel; OR
  2. Stumble across some presently unknown skill or hobby which will prove all-consuming and will lead me to become, for example, the next Barefoot Contessa (cooking) or Patty Sheehan (golf) or finally win the Valley Beautiful award for our house (gardening); OR
  3. Beg for my corporate job back after we spend all of our money and/or drive each other crazy.

Equipment:  I will be heavily relying on my support system: my husband, son, and therapist, our financial advisor, my friends, my church community, Rick Steves, the Laughing Chicks (you know who you are) and my Book Club.  I will also be tapping into our Wine Club stash as a resource.

Procedure:   I set up a short framework or  “To Do List” for myself this year that I intend to complete:

  1. Visit Paris for the first time with my husband (a life-long dream!)
  2. Clean out the garage and a storage shed (the much-deferred clean-up projects that will be painful and God-awful but liberating to complete)
  3.  Inventory my deceased parents’ belongings (in said garage and storage shed), work out with my brothers what to keep and what goes to who,  and get rid of the rest
  4. Pack up the parental items for my brothers in our new SUV and…..
  5. Do a Route 66 driving trip with my husband (another life-long dream) to deliver the goods (first stop…St Louis!)
  6. Determine what our next big trip will be and when
  7. Rest and recover from the corporate world!

Beyond that, I will go with the flow, open myself up to new experiences, not make any commitments for a year and purposely let things evolve.  Stay tuned for observations and results!   (Now you see why I wasn’t so good at Chemistry…..I usually had no earthly idea what was going to happen in our experiments.)

A New Dawn – What I did My First Day of Retirement

In some ways, I had two “first” days of retirement.  My last day at work was a Thursday, so Friday was my first official day of retirement. I was happy to be free of my job and I wanted to do something special to commemorate the event.   Awhile back, I saw an ad campaign; I believe for Ameriprise Financial , that featured photos people took of the sunrise on their first day of retirement.  I thought that was pretty cool, so I filed the idea in the back of my head (the back of my head is a scary place) for “someday.”

A new dawn – sunrise on August 16, 2015, my first official day of retirement

When that “someday” actually came, I convinced my husband to go with me at sunrise to some hills overlooking the other side of our town facing east.  We researched the time of sunrise, scoped out the perfect spot for a photo, packed up a camera and tripod and then rolled out of bed at 0-dark thirty and drove to the spot.  And I didn’t even have a cup of coffee to fuel this insanity.

My fashion choice for the day was the the “Free At Last “T-Shirt I presented to my father before my wedding in 1988

For the special event, I chose to wear a t-shirt that read “Free At Last – Fathers Day 1988.”  This was a shirt that I gave my father (now deceased) the night before our wedding (which was a Fathers Day weekend).  He had been so proud of my career and me and, besides the event-appropriate freedom message, it was a meaningful way to include my parents in this celebration even though they are no longer here.

Of course, what we failed to take into account in our sunrise calculations was that the sun came up behind some peaks to the northeast, making sunrise about 30 minutes later at our particular spot.  That meant coming up with all sorts of novel ways to entertain ourselves on a road in the hills above town at dawn.  Luckily this was CA in summer so braving the elements was not a concern.  One diversion was taking practice pictures of me jumping for joy with the sunrise in the background…timing it just right for the camera shutter.  After doing about 20 of them I was exhausted, but I got a couple of shots that really made me laugh.

Synchronized jumping – should be considered at the next Senior Olympics!

After we got our shots, we went home and back to sleep.  Later I prepared for a girls weekend beach trip, so Friday ultimately felt more like the start of a 3-day weekend than the first day of retirement.

Monday was therefore, in my opinion, my real “first” day of retirement, and here was my agenda (all times are estimates since I quickly lost track of time):

  • 8:30 AM…Wake up
  • 9:00 AM…Check my calendar to see if there is anything on it (force of habit – there wasn’t)
  • 9:30 AM…Eat oatmeal (made by my husband) with my husband
  • 10:30 – 11:30 AM…Sort through stuff I brought home from office
  • 11:30 AM….Throw 90% of it away
  • Noon….Check Facebook and send email to my friends at work just to irritate them
  • 12:30  PM….Eat peanut butter & jelly sandwich I made myself (gold star)
  • 1:00 PM…Clean out my closet
  • 3:00 PM….Take a nap.

Note:  Around 4:00, I was going to start working on our itinerary for our upcoming Paris trip but my husband suggested we go for an early walk and then drink margaritas in the pool in the rafts with cup-holders that we recently discovered in our garage, which sounded like a much better use of my time.  Planned agenda aborted.

All in all, it was a surprisingly busy day “doing nothing.”   I did feel like I got some things accomplished.  There wasn’t the adrenaline rush of closing on a big new business deal, but a satisfaction in a  having the luxury to do one thing at a time at a slower pace and focus.  I always felt like I was juggling 30 balls in my job.

Post-script:  My husband made the margaritas a tad strong…so the day was ended with both of us passed out on the couch after watching the CBS evening news with Scott Pelley.  Three cheers for the old boring folks!

Early Retirement

Reflecting on my last day in the office

Reflecting on my last day in the office

After a fairly intense 25-year corporate career, I recently opted for early retirement at age 55. On August 15, I turned in my BlackBerry, laptop, American Express, and security badge, packed up a few family pictures and files from my office, and walked out the door.   It felt like the weight of the world off my shoulders! I shocked more than a few people with my decision, as I was at the height of my career and earning potential and few could see me sitting at home doing nothing all day.  For crying out loud, I don’t even do the cooking, cleaning or laundry at home and we recently achieved empty-nester status with our son off to college in Annapolis.  My biggest hobby is reading People magazine when it appears in the mailbox each Friday, and reading a book a month for my book club.  Co-workers consistently asked me “So what will you DO, Betsy?!!”

Continue reading