In our Living in Retirement blog, a recent retiree chronicles the ups and downs of her real-life retirement journey.
Since my retirement one year ago, my daily routine has changed from working five days a week to working seven days a week. I’m not the only one.
Retirees I know often claim that they are busier than ever before, and one friend remarks “that working full time was a breeze compared to the schedule I’ve set myself in early retirement.” Ditto for me. But this year the beautiful summer weather has me smelling the roses rather than searching for more work to keep me occupied - and earning more money.
I must admit to struggling with the Protestant work ethic, ingrained in me by Eastern European Jewish parents, both of whom came to Canada with nothing but a desire to escape the madness overwhelming their part of Europe in the 1920s and 30’s. They worked like dogs to build a prosperous life in Canada and they both passed away at the relatively young age of 77. I’ll never be certain if they worked – or worried – themselves to death.
Both my mother and my father can remember their parents pushing wheelbarrows of Polish zloty to the baker to fight for a loaf of bread for their starving children. Their currency was more or less worthless. Mom came down with pneumonia when she was five years old and recalls the doctor prescribing an egg or she would die. Her mother stitched the family’s jewels into her coat and walked to Pinsk to buy her only daughter an egg. Luckily, they escaped to Canada before World War II, the Holocaust and the Cold War.
A sense of getting out just in time lives on in my psyche. My daughter certainly doesn’t have this sense, nor did her father, nor does Mr. Wonderful. They take things as they come. As for me, I’m perpetually anxious about money and retirement, about my new mortgage of $200,000 and my never-ending car loan.
Is it ingrained in my genes: this propensity to worry, this feeling that I must stay on top of my finances and provide for all emergencies to come, whatever they may be? I worry about whether my daughter will find suitable employment or buy a house and if I will leave her an inheritance that can buttress her against the economic storms of the 21st century.
Given all this baggage, I promised myself that the terrific qualities my parents instilled in me: to work hard, to show up on time, to never slack or shy away from difficult tasks should take a powder, if only for a few months. My intention is to test the waters of letting go.
What if slowing down won’t cause my world to collapse? What if taking long walks, swimming and spending time with friends is not a sideline, but the focus of my summer days? I’ve come to admit that being in the know about the battles in Iraq, the teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank or any hint of a market correction in Canada will not prevent the course of these events.
These are my new rules for combatting my work ethic:
1. Spend as much time in my cabin in the woods as possible.
2. While there, do not force myself to work on my new novel more than half the time.
3. Attend every aqua fit class available so I can begin to get back in shape.
4. Invite folks to dinner so Mr. Wonderful and I can enjoy the company of our lovely friends who are better than I am at kicking back.
5. Not investigate how my novel is selling on Amazon.
6. Not check my online brokerage account more than once a day, maybe even once every other day if I can manage to turn off the computer.
7. Listen to Bach, Mozart and Copland for sustained periods of time.
8. Fall asleep while reading in the daybed on the screen porch.
9. Walk after dinner along the trails surrounding the cabin.
10. Remember that there is more to life than staying on top of everything.
Joyce Wayne has decided to take the summer off and hopes to return relaxed and rested in September.
Follow Joyce Wayne on Twitter: @JoyceWayne1951