Like an oncoming freight train, I knew it was coming towards me, on time and at full speed. I’d lived a full woman’s life–career, motherhood, family and friendships, along with many personal interests. A life well and fully lived. It wasn’t the shadow of death lunging towards me, rather it was “retirement”–those seemingly endless lazy, crazy days where we can do anything we want (or so we’re told!). The actual impact of retirement threw me off my emotional, physical, and mental track for a couple of years. Only recently, have I found my way back on my track to myself and have re-designed a life I love.
I’d always been busy. My life was a happy blend of various activities, friends and family and career, with commitments along the way. I thought it would be a simple transition from “making money and saving for retirement” to focusing on more time to do those things I loved doing.
Things I didn’t anticipate
Oh, was I wrong on so many levels–this life transition has been so much more, affecting all parts of my life.
In my usual Capricorn, plan and plod ahead fashion, I had researched “retirement” and read dozens of books, articles, and blogs, and of course, had many lengthy conversations with my financial planner. It was a subject to be studied and mastered. Seems I’d missed a few key emotional components along the way in my research.
Although self-disciplined most of my life, suddenly with no kids at home or clients, I was no longer accountable to others, nor was I clear about what even motivated me. So little got done. (For more information on how we’re motivated to do things, I highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, a fascinating perspective and fun quiz.) My time, for the most part, was my own…and I flopped around like a fish out of water for much longer than I wanted.
The days are long and the years are short.
This is so true raising children and especially true in retirement. For years, I was used to a schedule and meeting the demands of others–kids, clients, or other outside forces. Without a full calendar and few external demands on my time, hours and days drifted into one another. After a couple of years into this second half, I looked back and realized I’d accomplished little. All those projects, travel dreams, writing a book, taking up piano, getting optimally fit, etc. just didn’t happen. I felt dissatisfied and mildly depressed. Not good or bad, I simplyobserved this about my life.
I slowly figured things out. I am now much happier and I love the open space, flexibility, and opportunities this time of life offers. What did I learn?
My 4 secrets to a vibrant, active second half of life
- Create your own daily time guidelines schedule.This gives me a framework to be and do the things I want to do at the time of day best suited for my bio-rhythm. After about a year into retirement, I began to see a daily pattern in my activities which aligned nicely with my energy levels throughout the day.
I’m an early riser, so the first 3 hours “the time is mine”–coffee, journaling (less structured, more contemplative writing), meditating, inspirational readings, browse favorite sections of the newspaper, and a morning run/workout/tennis.
The next 4 hours are my “get it done” productive time–paperwork, structured writing, home and garden tasks, and project/goal related activities.
The next 3 hours generally are “out the door” when I try to cluster and schedule appointments, lunch/coffee with friends, shopping, etc.
The afternoon/evening time is “at home”, cooking, entertainment, winding down the day. Obviously the days vary, but it gives me a flexible guide. Determine what daily time guidelines work for you.
- Find Your Balance—alone and with people.As an extrovert, I enjoy and thrive in the company of people, so I make sure I schedule time and activities with family, friends, and interesting people. Often I write in my locally owned coffeehouse as it provides solo writing with people around.
I make sure I enjoy special times with my husband for a movie, happy hour, golf, or a outing, beyond simply daily passing each other in the hall. Too much “at-home” time becomes very lonely and depressing for me.
I cherish long phone conversations with special friends. Beyond Facebook and social media, face to face time with friends works best for me.
- Plan ahead.Get things on the calendar or they won’t happen. Last December, my husband and I were looking back on the year and realized that with the exception of a few long weekend trips, we didn’t go anywhere. For someone like me who loves to travel, I was stunned. We had some There were health issues to clear up earlier, which slowed our travel plans down, but we decided to up our travel game for the upcoming year. So far, a 2 week golf vacation (on his bucket list) in April, traveling the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, I played in a USTA Nationals tennis tournament in Phoenix, we relaxed for a week on Maui (our first trip there together), and a fall trip to Italy is scheduled. This year, we are spending a couple years’ travel budget and happy to do so!
We already have a European river cruise vacation planned in the future with friends. There is something about having it on the calendar which makes me very happy.
- Set a personal goal and work towards it.To avoid aimless wandering, I realized I need a bigger goal with a plan, a like-minded community to help me achieve something big.
If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you know I ran my first 1/2 marathon a few years ago at 60 years old. I decided to kick it up last year, and I ran a full marathon (read my blog about it here)! Took loads of training, mental and physical discipline, and a great coach and running community to do it. The sense of accomplishment was amazing and now I feel I can just about anything within reason.
So, I’ve re-booted my second half of life after I retired. I’m happier and healthier and far more productive.
If you’re stuck in this second half or contemplating a major life transition, I urge you to give these suggestions a try. Please comment below on what’s working for you. I’d love to hear from you.