In this post guest writer Barbara Richardson reflects on her first 18 months of retirement.
I retired in June 2019 after 35 years of a rewarding, thrilling, adventurous career. I thought a lot about it before I retired. A lot. Would I be bored, lose my self-identity, have financial worries without a paycheque, get depressed? I finally made my decision and have never regretted it. Self-absorbed worry is apparently just one of my personality quirks.
I knew what I did not want to do. I didn’t want to move from work warrior to workout warrior. You know the friends. Regularly posting or talking about their early morning workout, followed by a long mountain hike (15000 steps!) or cycle, maybe fit in some laps in the pool etc. Nor did I want to retire from a job only to look for another one. I didn’t want to feel compelled to sign up for every volunteer opportunity anyone mentioned. I just wanted to retire and find my space. When did our generation decide we have to justify our retirement by being ‘busier than when I was working!’?
The first year went well. I moved my household from Europe back to my home province of Alberta. There was enough to occupy me – opening boxes, hanging pictures, organizing, throwing out. Digging through boxes from long-term storage is definitely a trip. And it was summer, so I could return to my gardening passion. Soon fall was upon me, but a long-anticipated solo road trip down the West coast lay ahead. Of course, I had also worried about it: would I be lonely, bored, nervous? Fortunately, we can now bring GPS, podcasts and music with us in the car. I enjoyed every moment.
I had also, pre-retirement, booked to spend two months in Victoria to get away from the winter cold. In February I was off to BC to visit a sister and friends. Lunches and dinners on patios, visiting old friends and colleagues, walks by the ocean. Perfect. And then COVID hit and I scurried back home to lock down.
Oh well, I thought. It will be April soon; I can get out in the garden again. Seems I forgot that gardening season in Alberta begins at the end of May. Luckily, I was now catching on to online shopping. I had an exercise bike delivered to my house. Minor glitch when I realized I had to put it together. But I discovered there is always someone online who has posted a video explaining exactly how to do EVERYTHING. Who are these people?!
I hung on, tried to stay somewhat healthy through the winter and spring, made it to the summer again and then the fall.
And this brings me to my one thing. Last year, I was inspired by my amazing niece who set herself a goal of doing 200 workouts, serious workouts, in the year. That means working out 4x each week with just two weeks off. The thing is, Codie not only runs a household with two very active boys but also helps run two big businesses in two different towns. I thought, damn it: if she can do it, I can do something.
I’d spent the first retirement months trying to keep myself somewhat healthy by walking, or cycling or paddle boarding. But I decided to add a goal of 120 weight-lifting sessions in 2020. A little over 2x a week. Not an audacious goal, but maybe a doable one. I’ve used weights over the years to keep fit, but this would be a personal commitment to do it every single week. And hopefully help my fading muscles so I could get up off the damn floor.
I made a chart and after each workout added an X. COVID grew worse and I obsessed about Trumpocalypse and tried to stay positive. I didn’t learn a new language, or write a novel, or learn how to make pasta or read all of Obama’s reading list. I did watch too much Netflix, stay in my pajamas until noon some days, eat too much junk food and spend too much time online reading about politics. I continued my walks and spinning away on my cycle. And I ground my way through my weight workouts every week. Me and my weights and my workout mat. I stuck to it. Looked up videos to inspire me. Read articles about health. And lifted those bloody weights up and down. Then marked an X on my chart. Somehow it made me feel I had some control, in a world gone mad, and had accomplished something positive. It made me feel okay about my new COVID retirement life. I had one small goal.
And here I am, a year later in the dead of winter, and I made it. I marked that 120th X on my chart and feel pretty darn good. I haven’t transformed my body or my life. Or returned to my physical youth or done amazing things in retirement. I still worry too much. But I’m stronger than this time last year, and I did it. Every week, whether I felt like it or not.
One thing. It seems just that can get us through. When I moved to new cities around the world for work, I used to say I only needed one good friend, and then I would be okay. The year 2020 reminded me of the power of just one thing. •
P.S. Any readers care to share their one thing of 2020 in the comments below?