Before I retired I did a lot of thinking about it, making lists of hopes and fears (which look remarkably similar to the ones Steve has enumeratedin his thoughts on retirement). I think my biggest fear was of “drifting” – I’d always envisaged retirement as my opportunity to get on with the things that work prevented me from doing. I wanted to do more textile work and more “art” and above all I wanted to discover whatever it is that will really motivate me and make me feel alive. After a while I realised that like all of life’s major changes – marriage, parenthood, bereavement – no amount of planning and anticipation prepares you for the emotional journey of the real thing; you just have to do it. This fear has definitely been realised! I know myself well enough to know that given the chance I do just drift. I have always found it hard to motivate myself and I get easily distracted, rushing on to the next task before the first one has been completed (which is why I’ve always had such an untidy desk and the kitchen always looks as if the scullery maid’s on holiday). This would be fine if I actually enjoyed the drifting, but so often time is just frittered away on the computer. (I’ve given up solitaire for Lent which has been a great discipline, but I haven’t managed to bring my need to “just check my emails and have a quick look at facebook” under control.) I think to myself that I would like to go and visit the Museum and Art Gallery in Cardiff (a modest train journey) or to go to the British Museum (rather further, more planning required), but the days pass and I still haven’t done them. I haven’t done a great deal in the way of textile work either – and certainly no “art”. So, surprise, surprise – it wasn’t work stopping me from doing those things; it was me. Lack of drive, lack of commitment, these are the things I’ve always berated myself for, so why should I change just because I’ve retired?
Another thing which has surprised me is that retirement has felt more like an ending than I thought it would. Our move to Bristol, retiring at sixty – these were things that were supposed to mean that retirement would be a new start with lots of lovely things to look forward to, rather than an end. Over the past year there have been several episodes when I have felt I was balanced on the edge of falling into depression. This has both alarmed me (I really don’t want to go there again) and made me angry with myself – it seems so self-indulgent; my life is fine, I have people I love, who love me, I have things to do and things to look forward to, I am not without value – there is nothing to be unhappy about. And yet, and yet... I have come to the shocked conclusion that although it’s not something I believe with the conscious, rational part of me there is a deep subconscious part that has absorbed the prevailing world view that work and economic value are the things that make us worthwhile.
#I recently heard an older woman say that she would love to see the northern lights and my inner-meanie said to me “Well that’s not going to happen, is it? She’s too old and she can’t afford it.” And then I felt ashamed and wondered when I started thinking that older people couldn’t have dreams which would never be fulfilled. I suppose a lot of life is about managing expectation – having dreams, but not being unrealistic. Over the years there are many things that we realise we can’t have or do because of money or circumstance or ability and as we get older more of the dreams of our youth have to go on the “never going to happen” pile. So has there been anything good about the past year? Yes, of course, lots of things. I went on a wonderful retreat/reading week at Sheldon, Steve and I enjoyed a brief holiday in Wales and lots of days out during his summer holidays last year. We have seen friends and enjoyed time with family. My days aren't spent entirely aimlessly because I look after our grand-daughters one day a week; I do Stu’s book-keeping, I’m treasurer of Malago WI, we have a weekly meal and discussion of faith issues with a group of friends, I’ve joined a community choir, I read and knit relentlessly and I have done some quilt-making. So actually life is full and rich, it just needs a bit more focus. # Coincidentally, while I have been drafting this post our great friend Si posted a link on facebook to a talk/blog post called Steal like an Artist. There’s some real practical wisdom in there and I am particularly attracted by the advice not to wait until you “know yourself” before you start doing the things you want to do and by the suggestion that you should project the image of the thing you want to be in order to become it. I had a conversation with someone yesterday who asked me if friday is my day off. When I said that I am retired she expressed surprise because “you always look busy and organised”. In the subsequent “what did you do when you were working” exchange she confessed that she had thought I was a psychologist! (I have absolutely no idea why and neither did she seem to). I’m obviously projecting some kind of efficient but empathetic image, which is a comfort I suppose! # I think it’s time I dusted down and resurrected my Fifty before Sixty manifesto and think about a new set of goals and targets. I need to dream some new dreams and make some of them come true. # PS. Blogger is having some serious problems with paragraph spacing at the moment (as others have observed). This is my third attempt at getting paragraphs where I want them to be and I don't hold out that much hope for it being right even now.