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Retirement Freedom

Retirement has not turned out as I expected. I thought I would have all kinds of activities, and at first, found myself very busy. I was afraid of being bored. To me it was one of the worst scenarios I could think of. I thought I would have to be busy at all times or I'd get depressed, so I started a business and got into classes at a nearby alternative school. Now that I have taken the classes, and let the business lag, I'm finding myself with large blocks of unfilled time, on the weekends, especially. I'm in an awkward transition where my network of friends has shrunk through attrition and I haven't made new acquaintances and contacts. I worked out of my home, so didn't meet any new people that way, either.

Making the decision to change things was easy. Doing it is something else. When I was working, I used to dream that retirement would mean plenty of time for doing all the things I wanted, but didn't have time to do. I love to create monoprints and flower designs, but, only so many florals and the house is full, and I find myself not wanting to make the house messy in the construction process. So, the question is, where do I go from here?

I'm trying different strategies. My friends told me about all kinds of volunteering activities they want to do when they retire. At first, these suggestions didn't help. All I realized was, I didn't plan for this while I was still working. Once I quit feeling guilty for not planning ahead, I got some really interesting ideas from the people who have thought this out. Initially, I figured if I volunteered to work at the library there was only one activity I could do, say, shelving books. It turns out there are many jobs to do for a library. One is teaching others how to use the search engines on the computer. Another job is shelving books. There's also story time, which involves not only reading stories, but also, serving punch and cookies.

Since I've had a number of good experiences with Hospice and what they do for the dying and their families, I called when I saw its name listed in the newspaper. I discovered they have about eight different areas of volunteer activities, half of which have nothing to do with taking care of dying patients. I found that exploring the world of volunteering is like anything else, it's learning, and growing and trying new things. It's a way of having new life experiences and meeting new folk and expanding my world.

At first, I was berating myself for the empty spaces in my days. Realizing it was taking away my joy in being retired, I decided on another tactic. I decided to take some classes for seniors at the rec center nearby. So far, I'm exploring Tai Chi, Yoga, Body Toning with Weights, and Line Dancing. I find I still love dancing and am enjoying the slower pace and methods for seniors. It's just what I need. Tai Chi involves moving meditation and it's stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Yoga is all about breathing and postures that stretch and build strength, and body toning with weights is good for building endurance. For someone who couldn't lift a one pound can without straining muscles, I feel good about myself and love my new strength and conditioning. Because it's for seniors, the classes are perfect for learning to pace and exert myself appropriately.

I also renewed my membership at Bally's. They offer free yoga classes and I can do some of my weight training there. When I'm learning about new machines, I need the help of the people who already know how to use and adjust the machines, and sometimes, someone to remove really heavy weights for me. Last Wednesday, one of the men there watched me looking at the Seated/Standing Calf Raise. He asked me, "Are you trying to figure out how to use it?" I gladly said yes and he was most helpful in teaching me. Two men using a machine called a military press, took time from their workout to help me learn how to adjust it.

It's interesting to watch myself strain to build new friendships and complain because I haven't made any, yet. About half the activities I started are solitary, like yoga and Tai Chi, but I do them with other people. Unless I make sure I talk to someone and introduce myself, it's easy to just walk out at the end of class and talk to no one else. Also, I'm discovering I like to go places and do things alone. I've wanted to learn to do what a book called The Artist's Way calls "artist dates." It means I am to deliberately go places and plan activities just for me and do them alone. It's always been the main stumbling block I've had in developing my artistic side. Now that I have to do activities alone, I'm finding them very satisfying and I'm motivated to do more.

Structuring time has been a problem, too. With large amounts of unfilled time, it's easy to just let them happen and then, feel guilty or sad about wasting them. The classes give my day a basic structure for exercise and building my body. If I plan ahead so I know what I'm going to do with unfilled time, I feel a lot more satisfied at the end of the day. Using an hour for meditation and practicing my Tai Chi is a lot more fulfilling than watching TV or a movie just to fill time. I also have more time for writing and journaling, which I love. I'm finding a balance I could never achieve when I was busy all the time and teaching school. I used to take whole days just to recover and now, there's exercise to rejuvenate me when I'm losing energy, or a nap, or some Tai Chi. These luxuries are invaluable and precious parts of my days.

Lastly, I'm going to seek some part-time employment. I have the luxury of doing only jobs that I really like, and, it will feel different from anything I've done before. If I don't like it or find people too difficult to get along with, I can quit. If I do temporary work, all I have to do is tell the agency I don't want to go back.

With freedoms like these come responsibilities. When I worked, there were other people's expectations and my job requirements to structure my life. Now, that structure is all up to me. Some of my expectations are unreasonable, at times, and make retirement more difficult than work. Freedom isn't something I expected to cause me to learn and grow and change like it has. Freedom puts the reins in my hands, and makes me responsible for my own happiness. There are always outside influences, like the amount of retirement income that form the outlines of my life, but I have freedom within those lines unlike any I've experienced before. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Lyn Carr started going to movies while in her mother's womb. She's a film buff, has taken film analysis and gone to film school for a bit. Born in Dalhart, Texas during WWII, she was an Air Force brat and moved every two years. Lyn got a degree in Education and taught for 34 years until her retirement in 1998. "I've been called a renaissance woman by a number of people because of my broad interests. I love being an entrepreneur and operating my own custom floral design business out of my home. I'm a clutterer, love people, nature, flowers and anything to do with the creative process. Writing is fun, too, especially rewriting when there's an editing software program and an editor available and I have lots of time for redoing a piece."

E-mail Lyn at:

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