With a great deal of well-grounded trepidation in June of 2011, Hannah wondered if Dan really had enough to do to retire. She like many could easily have thought, He has what must people would think of as a cake job as a tenured professor at the University of New England. Is now the time to leave such a job? Does he have enough to do to fill his time?
Being the object of her concern (and affection) I have to say hers are quite reasonable reservations. I had a 41 year career in education that gave lots of structure to my life. Wondering myself, I knew I had to be as intentional about my retirement as I was about teaching. (By the way, at the end of this posting see Hannah’s thoughts on my transition to retirement.)
Until I retired I never realized how much energy I was putting into my job. Once retired, I had the gift of time; time to linger with friends, time to tend to Hannah after she fractured her tibia (including therapeutic massage to her ailing leg), time to travel to Virginia to see our grandson Owen whenever we want, time during the work week to play golf with our son Will. Relieved of preparing lessons and responding to student writing, I am living life without squeezing things in.
I’d give myself a B+ for dealing with retirement so far. There have been a few things that have made retirement work for me.
- I joined a gym, Coastal Fitness in Kittery. Though May to October lend themselves to outside activities like biking and hiking in Maine, the winter months do not. After 30 years of running, Hannah and I have balky knees that resist any more pounding; let alone we were never fans of skiing, snowshoeing, or other such frost bite winter activities. Since joining Coastal Fitness in Kittery, I have a purposeful two hour time, three to five days per week, to build my day around. At the gym, whether it’s riding the recumbent bicycle, rowing, or running on the treadmill, I sweat like I never can make myself do when biking. Being active is the anchor of my day.
- I write what I want to write. I played the academic game for twelve years at the university, knowing it truly was publish or perish for me. I knew the rules of the academy (i.e., university) and played by them because my family and I needed me to have a job. Now, like some big time or real columnist, I have a weekly Saturday deadline to publish/post my blog. I write about our lives; our hikes, biking trips, our travels, our daughter Molly’s wedding, our grandson Owen, our cat Sadie, etc. Knowing that a deadline awaits each Saturday, I think a week or two ahead of what I might write about that reveals something semi-interesting about what Hannah and I’ve done. I draft and redraft on the average eight to twelve times getting the wording right. The hardest part for me is getting the first draft down. But then I love the tinkering and reworking of the text to make it sing. I now include pictures in my postings and soon videos will follow. For me this kind of writing is creative and playful and is a go-to activity that helps fill my week with purpose.
- I begin each day with a 45 to 60 minute morning ritual. Stretching to keep me limber for golf, hiking, and life in general while lifting very light weights. I then write my five gratitudes. I read my affirmations aloud, which reminds me to live what I believe. Then it’s a prayer that usually starts “Thank you God for looking after Danny” and goes from there. I end with ten minutes of meditating where I focus on my breathing and being mindful (i.e., being present not focusing on some to-do list).
- I volunteer. I make my volunteering York-centric. I engage with our community and make relationships that can be easily reinforced as I go about York. I’m fortunate York is a small town. I’ve found a home at York Hospital rounding (going around to patient rooms to find out how we as a hospital are doing taking care of them. Notice the pronoun we.) I’ve been made to feel that my role matters at York Hospital. I tutor an ESL student for York Adult Education once a week. I’m a participating member of the First Parish Church Mission Committee; I also have my sign ministry on the church message board.
I read two to three times each week to my friend, Vin.
- I tend to what I’ve often done in the past. I seek out friends to go for coffee at the Crumb here in York. I bike and hike with Hannah; toast each day with a late afternoon glass of wine with her. Daily I play Lexulous (a variation of Scrabble) on the computer. I play nine holes of golf with Will from May through September. We travel for a week at a time to the Mountain West or Key West and now especially to Arlington, VA where…
- I am now Papa to Owen Daniel. There’s nothing better than holding him as I rock in a chair.
And all of this because I now have the time, or maybe it’s because I make the time.
People ask if I miss teaching. I don’t. I taught for most of 41 years. Teaching at the university was my dream job. But at 64, I ‘m seeking what’s next, not wanting to repeat what’s been.
Hannah’s comments on Dan’s retirement.
I love my job. I love my work. At times it almost doesn’t seem right that I get paid.
But, yes, I love my pay, too. It helps me feel productive (a huge need of mine, to be sure). It helps me feel like I’m contributing to the family in still another way (I know I do in other ways; something about a paycheck, though…)
But, this is about Dan. His job. His work. And that he has retired from both. Well, he’s retired from his job…but has entered into the real work of his life in a new and “reborn” sort of way. He is a writer. Not that he isn’t also a terrific Dad and husband. And son and brother. And friend. But this is about his job and lifework as a writer. And, about life with him since his retirement from the official “work force”—complete with employer, boss, consumers (his students), colleagues, etc.
Dan was ready. He may not have known exactly what to expect, but he knew he was ready to leave behind what he’s been doing for more than 40 years. Never mind, he was ready…was I ready? I didn’t know what to expect either. Much as I love spending time together, I know I always enjoyed having time to myself….those days he’d come home late, for example. How would I get that time? (This is about me, right?)
I don’t think I was so worried about whether Dan would find enough to do. He never felt he had time to do all the reading he’d like to do and all the writing he’d like to do—that didn’t pertain to his job. And, he loves to be active—go to the gym, ride his bike—and all that takes time and required energy that he didn’t always have when he was working. He’d also given thought to volunteering that he might do, professional organizations he might join, and perhaps having more time to pursue other interests and church activities he just hadn’t felt he had time or energy for while he was still working. Dan is like his daughter Molly….likes a schedule, some structure, and making meaningful connections with people.
He goes about things purposefully, methodically, diligently, and with discipline. He will make things work. But, will he leave enough “space,” or down time to help him figure out retirement in its own good time—or does he need to make it happen “right away”? He does like to “make things happen,” not necessarily let them “unfold as they will…”
There were times I was jealous of what seemed like all his free time. Yet, I chose/choose to continue working at a job I profess to love. There were times I felt a (self-imposed?) pressure from him to think about (my) retiring or working much less—so that we could “go and do” without having to worry about getting back by a certain time.
It’s been an adjustment for both of us. The times we actually talked about it (like on the way to Donna and George’s one Friday night) were the most helpful. Not always easy, but helpful, once through the “discussion.”
I feel we’re in a good place…a year+ into this retirement thing. I’m more ready to join him…not completely, but I’m open to working less. Being confined by this broken leg thing has been helpful. In spite of (and because of) its restrictions and pains, it’s forced me to experience what it might be like to be more retired. And, it feels pretty good. Perhaps I’ve come to realize that I can feel productive, still feel like I live a meaningful life, and contribute to the family–and to my world beyond–without a paycheck. In fact, perhaps I can live just as meaningful and productive and satisfying a life….without (as much?) work to take up time and energy that I could put to good use in other ways.
To be continued…..