“All You Need Is Love” The Beatles

“Love is all you need”.   Turns out, those four British boys were definitely on to something.

This blog post is about that THIRD essential ingredient for a happy retirement — strong personal relationships.  Nothing new or revolutionary about that.  Erich Fromm’s book, “The Art of Loving” published more than 50 years ago, informed us that the key to a happy life is love and work.  (We’ll address the “work” part in the next post)

Fast forward to 2016.  Robert Waldinger’s excellent Ted Talk describes findings from a 75 year Harvard study on adult development.  Guess what?  Researchers discovered the most important factor in determining whether someone is happy is not fame or wealth, but the quality of their relationships.  Not only were people with strong, positive relationships happier, but they were healthier–both physically and mentally.

During the 30+ years I was in the workforce, I was lucky enough to have jobs that paid me for establishing positive relationships with other people.  (Which, of course, is very different from being paid to have relations with other people.  Not that I’m judging…)  So, when I retired, I was not only saying goodbye to my co-workers, but also to customers that, in most cases, had become friends. Unfortunately, most of them are long distance friends.  And are still working.

Although I still think of my husband as my “boyfriend”, I don’t expect him to fill all of my companionship needs.   Perhaps part of the reason we are still going strong after 4 decades together is we both understand our mutual need for other interests and for time apart. Our relationship is very much like a Venn Diagram–my interests – his interests, with a nice big intersection of OUR interests.  Surprisingly, I have encountered people that find this a bit strange.  So, when I read this  Wall Street Journal article shortly after retiring, I was pleased to find that there are others out there like us.  Why I find it gratifying to discover that we aren’t so different is probably a subject for a therapist, or at least a future post.  But I digress.   Which happens a lot.  

Anyway, I have spent the last four years figuring out how to exchange “work mates” for “play mates”, and I’m happy to share what I learned with you, my newly retired, soon to be retired, or hoping to one day be retired readers.

Here’s what’s been working for me:

  1. Meet-Ups This on-line application allows you to select by  geographic area and areas of interest.  After you make your selections, you get notifications of gatherings of like minded individuals.  You can get even more specific, narrowing it down by age or marital status.  I’ve made friends via book club, biking, and boomer dining meet-ups–and there are lots of other options.  Plus, if you are so inclined, you can start your own meet up group.
  2. The Local Y   It is indeed fun to go to the YMCA!  But don’t just  hang out on the treadmill.  Join classes, and attend regularly.  And don’t worry about being out of shape.  There are no mean girls here!  The women (and most of the class attendees ARE women) are friendly, welcoming and caring.  In many ways, the Y “family” has been a wonderful substitute for my workplace “family”.
  3. Volunteer I’ve made some incredible friends during my Global Volunteer Projects. See the world, make new friends, learn about another culture!  Check out that wonderful organization!
    If you prefer something local, AARP offers an on-line application designed to link retirees with nearby organizations in need of their skills, and aligned with their interests.
  4. The Local Library  Mine offers an array of programs, including book clubs and educational seminars.
  5. Welcome Wagon  Yes, I know, this is supposed to be for newcomers.  BUT the local contact can be a great resource for area clubs and gatherings.  It took me 32 years before I stumbled across our Neighbors and Newcomers Club, but I’m so glad I did!
  6. Reconnections  Maybe you have been too busy to stay in contact with friends from high school or college.  Why not reach out?  I attended my first college reunion five years ago, and am looking forward to the next one this spring.  It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and a chance to make new ones.  Ditto for high school.
  7. Travel  Okay, so this probably isn’t going to help you with day to day connections, but we met some fantastic, fascinating people on our trips with Road Scholar, OAT, and Grand Circle.  In 2016, our new Zealand friends will be visiting us and we will be taking a trip with friends we met in Peru and on a Global Volunteer experience.
  8. Virtual Buddies I put this one last, because a computer relationship is no substitute for face to face, hand to hand connections.  Still, email, facebook and blogging can be wonderful ways to complement your other relationships.  I loved having pen pals back in the dark ages when I was a child.  My Blog Buddies to me are the 21st century version of pen pals. The best part, however, was when I met a blog buddy when we both happened to be in San Francisco, visiting our kids.  With luck, she and I will be able to synchronize travel again.

What about YOU?  What has helped YOU make the social transition from workto retirement?

“Get On Your Feet” Gloria Estefan

No, this post isn’t about Gloria Estefan’s Broadway musical, although that may be a future post, if I make my way into NYC to see it.  Nope, this  is about that second essential ingredient for a happy retirement:  Good Health.

Yes, we all SAY we want good health, but what do we DO?  We overeat, and what we are stuffing into our mouths is usually the worst possible choice.  We smoke (well, I never did, but I am related to people that still do.  Yeesh.)  We act like The Cat in the Hat children.  “All we could do was sit, sit, sit, sit”.  We keep on electing NRA sponsored candidates that refuse to do anything about crazy people owning weapons of mass destruction, also known as assault weapons.  (Whoops, got carried away by current events–that too belongs in a different, possibly future, post.)

Yes, it helps to be born with the right genes, but research continues to uncover the very strong link between lifestyle and good health, which is something that we “lifestyle managers” believe and preach enthusiastically to anyone that will listen.

About those genes: If our parents’ lifespans are any indication, there is a strong probability that Mike and I have inherited “longevity genes”.  His made it into their ’90s.  Mine are close to that milestone.  But what about the quality of those later years?   I’ve seen first-hand what lack of exercise can do to a person–both mentally and physically, and it isn’t pretty.

So, why wait for the calendar to flip to do something wonderful for yourself?   Who says resolutions can only be made on New Year’s?

Full disclosure.  I hate the thought of exercising.  During my college years, I cut more of the required gym classes than I attended.  Lucky for me the gym teacher sucked at taking attendance.  So, when even an external requirement couldn’t get me into the gym in my younger days, how do I now get my sagging butt out the door?  Major psych up.  I tell myself I’m doing my part to keep Medicare costs down.  (You’re welcome, Gen X,  Y, and Millenniums).  I remind myself of the places that I want to visit and the things I want to do once I get there.  (Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet in the spring.  Yeah baby).   I look at what the total absence of exercise has done to my mother, and realize that I wouldn’t want my one child to have the responsibilities for care that are currently being shared by me and my siblings.

During my work years, I had a community of co-workers and a structured week.  By joining the YMCA, I discovered the retirement equivalent of both.  The variety of classes offered provides structure, and the friendly and welcoming  attendees (mostly women) have become part of my community.

Notice I didn’t mention six pack abs in my reasons for exercising.  Truth be told, if those three words appeared in a sentence about me, it would be this one.   “Check out her abs–looks like she drank a whole six pack in one sitting”.  No,  at my age, exercise isn’t about looking better.  It’s about staying the same.  And that’s a great goal for someone who will be 70 in 4 years!

How about you?  Wanna join me?  I’m off to zumba right after I push the publish button.

 

Ten Random Insights after Six Months of Retirement

In a few days, I will have completed a half a year as a retiree.  Although many people probably figured this stuff out long ago, these were all new insights to ME.

  1. I’ve spent decades multitasking, so I’m finding it hard to focus on just one thing for extended periods.  I need to relearn how to uni-task!
  2. After a lifetime of structure, it is slightly disorienting to suddenly be without any structure at all:  no school term, no work week, just a 24 hour day, 7 day time span.  When I wake up, it takes a while for me to figure out what day it is.
  3. Once I got used to being free form, I discovered it is quite wonderful.  Plus, I quickly realized I can create as much or as little structure as I want.
  4. During my working decades, I had fantasies of what I would do if only I had the time.  I now have the time, and I’m slowly discovering which of those things I REALLY want to do and which are, in reality,  not so appealing.
  5. It is amazing how quickly time flies when you are doing what you want to do, when you want to do it.
  6. My local Y is a wondrous place.  It is truly a community center, with all ages being served.  It is particularly inspiring to see significantly older members being active and engaged. How fortunate I am to have such a large Y nearby, with so many classes and activities.
  7. There are so many interesting, worthwhile volunteer possibilities; I need to resist over committing.  Now is the time to explore different organizations and activities to determine which ones will be my focus for the future.  (Does that count as uni-tasking?)
  8. As tempting as it is to book lots of activities, I’m finding it better to keep some time unscheduled to allow life to unfold.  By staying flexible, I’m able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, like a road trip to New Mexico with my son, starting tomorrow.
  9. Home made chicken broth IS worth the effort! Although cutting up your own chicken is cost-effective, what is equally important is that it TASTES better.  (Or at least that’s what I tell myself.)
  10. I need to find a better word for this stage of my life.  The reaction that I get when I say I’m retired leads me to believe that others view it as a stage of inactivity, stagnation, lots of TV and sleep.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Any suggestions for a more descriptive term?

Well, I said it was going to be random…what about you other retirees out there?  What insights can you share?