Saturday, 27 March 2010


No longer relatively retiring.
I am now retired.
For a couple of years after my husband's death I vacillated around, back to work, sort-of retired, back to work again. Hence the Relatively Retiring blog-name.

When I was at work I thought how wonderful retirement would be; the freedom, the glorious freedom to do this or that or even nothing; to sleep through the yelling of the alarm clock, not to have a weekly dead-line, not to have appointments and meetings at hourly intervals.
When I was juggling family life with one and sometimes two careers simultaneously I yearned for peace and isolation. I wanted to take a long hot bath all by myself without someone pounding on the door, asking for food, a lift to a friend's house, or provoking an argument about the use of a games machine.
I wanted to concentrate in a meeting without having to think about supper, and without continually glancing at my watch to see how long I was overdue at the child minder's.
I wanted uninterrupted time with my family without being called to the phone about one or both jobs.

Now, I have it.
I have the time, the peace, the freedom, the isolation. I don't need to worry about supper, and I can have a long hot bath all alone whenever I wish. The phone may not ring for a couple of days.
In the having of it there is terrible loss.

I miss my former life; all of it. The noise and anxieties, the frustrations and arguments, the constant need to meet the demands of others.
I miss it, and did not realise that when it went a sense of identity would go with it.
Retirement is not easy, and I have found that you have to work just as hard to stay afloat as ever you did in the work-place and in the all-in wrestling match of family life.
Only now it is a lonely battle, which others do not see.

You do not let others see lest you become a drain, a responsibilty.
You wake in the morning and think, 'Why bother?', and then you put your energies into bothering, being positive, thinking of others, staying afloat.

Being retired.


Zhoen said...

Too much of anything is too much. I expect you will find your way to balance, adjust to the new circumstances, and enjoy where you are right now.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: Thank you. I'm sure you are right, but the contrast is very great, and it's sad that, for so many of us, the balance is so hard to achieve at both ends of the scale.

Isabelle said...

Oh dear, I know exactly what you mean as far as the mothering bit is concerned (though I still have the husband around). I miss it so much. As for work... I'm thinking that next year will be my last and in a way I can't wait and in a way, I'm a bit scared. I can't imagine not having a function any more... though I know I'll still be mother, wife, daughter...

Blogging is actually a comfort, don't you find? - silly as I'm sure this sounds to non-bloggy people.

You said that you've always written professionally, which intrigues me. Maybe you should continue to do this? Or maybe you are doing so. You certainly have a way with words.

I hope that you're feeling a bit more positive. The garden is, as Molly says, a great interest. Though currently, in Edinburgh, it's dark, cold and pouring with rain! Brr.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly and Isabelle: thank you for your kind words. I am interested (and a bit shell-shocked) by the paradox of finding out it's not what you wanted after all, and by the effect of loss of identity. I know it's necessary to the growth of the human condition that we go on struggling to make sense of it all: and I don't want to stop growing just yet!
Yes, the garden and the writing are two essentials. I need my hands in the soil every day, even when it's cold and wet.

Mouse said...

Your post moved me and also struck a chord. I have been experiencing something similar since returning to England. I thought I could pick up the threads of my old life but they have unravelled in my absence and now I feel as all I have left is a tangled mass. It's very difficult to weave a new way forward but I'm sure it is possible. The trick, I feel, is to accept that a door has closed and not to spend too long gazing back at it but to look for the one that will soon open and to go through it with a sense of adventure.

Meanwhile, if you'd care to write proper letters please send me your address and I'd be happy to enter into a real conversation with you

With Love Julie

Relatively Retiring said...

Mouse: many thanks for the thoughtful comment. I know we share this sort of predicament with so many others, and I do agree about not trying to go back through a door that needs to remain closed.
My e-mail address is there, and I'd love to hear from you.

den said...

May you come across sparkly diversions here and there to strap to life's buoyancy aid.
An offering in the form of a book
Corvus A Life with Birds Esther Woolfson
I find living in someone else's world so much easier than inhabiting my own.
Keep on truckin'
x x

persiflage said...

It is indeed a huge adjustment, far more difficult than can be imagined, when you retire. It takes a long time. I left work to move cities and live with my husband = previously we had lived in our own cities and come together at weekends. It took a good couple of years to adjust to not working, and the loss of identity and the sense of purpose was very great. It took longer to build my own life here and to develop other friendships. Perhaps some people can achieve all of this seamlessly, but I was not one of them. Much time and effort, physical and emotional, is needed. I think of you, compare the situations, and wish you well. The adjustment will happen for you, I am sure. It is a pity that it seems to happen at such a slow pace.

leslee said...

I spent 13 years freelancing after working for a big high-tech company for the previous 13 years. It wasn't retirement, but still quite an adjustment to work from home. And it became nearly retirement, with very little income, for the last few years before I started a full-time job again 4 years ago. I did love the freedom of being on my own schedule and I really looked forward to the times when I met with my clients - people love to see you when it's not every single day!! I also had to work hard to make a social life so I wouldn't be so isolated. I took classes and made dates with friends. If the work hadn't dried up I'd probably still be doing it. But I like the structure of my job now. I miss the freedom to nap! and take walks and I miss having more free time. Alas, it is hard to get the balance right. If I could afford to work part-time I'm sure it would be a better balance.

Relatively Retiring said...

den: I like the idea of life's boutancy aid, and I will follow up your book suggestion. Don't forget that tea-shop with bells sometime.

Persiflage and Leslee: thank you so much for your kind comments. I feel I should apologise for sounding so miserable, but really I am taken with the concept that the minute we get what we want we feel we'd rather not have it.
In just the last couple of days two people have said, 'Lucky you! I can't wait for retirement', and I have just said, 'Are you quite sure about that?'

riseoutofme said...

A thought provoking post ... I, for one, am guilty of wishing my life away ... it'll be better when I retire or when the million and one things that HAVE to be done leave home with the offspring, then I'll have the peace and quiet to do ALL the things I really WANT to do ... Pshaw.

NOW is the only time we have ...

I wish you peace and serenity in your retirement.

Relatively Retiring said...

riseoutofme: that's a wise comment, and very difficult to live by. I'm sure we are all guilty of wishing our lives away, and also of playing the 'if only' game!
Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Reading the Signs said...

I found you through Zhoen's blog and have enjoyed my visit here. This post resonates in me, even though I am not yet at the official retiring age. But I have, in effect, retired for other (health) reasons and for those reasons also have lived my life to a different drumbeat for many years. The question of identity (who am I if not this or that?) is one that always meets us, I suppose, at threshold points in our lives.

Wishing you joy and strength on your new journey.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

People, especially those who are in the early phase of retirement are not used to having more free time, no deadlines, and no pressures that is why they are having difficulty adjusting. On the other hand, retirement should be about having more family time, finding new things to do, and enjoying yourself.

Ever since I retired, I was all alone with not much to do all the time. I felt completely useless until a friend, who currently rents a unit in one of the adult communities, Charlotte, NC suggested that I join her with the outreach programs and community service. The retirement communities in Charlotte are actually promoting quality and healthier life for those who have retired. Most certainly, it helped me cope up with the retirement phase with a breeze.