It has been six months since I retired, and my new lifestyle is enlightening. This is important to me because I had worried that retirement would be a difficult and painful process. It was for my Mom and one of my dearest friends. It has not been for me, but I do miss my colleagues from work a great deal. Those contacts were and will always be very important to me.
When I first retired, I had to focus on getting well, having left my position at BMCC for medical reasons. Our dog and I stayed for most of three months at our place near Wallowa Lake. I walked a lot, thought even more, read, slept and listened to the river. My partner spent weekends there, and we began to feel like true landowners in Wallowa County. I became acquainted with neighbors and workers in the stores so that we could joke and call each other by first names. Frequently I came home to Pendleton for a few days to reconnect with my life here and then returned to solitude. By June, I was better and ready to really retire like a normal person (if there is such a thing).
I now usually look at my date book no more than once a day. When I was still working, I looked at it at least once every ten minutes, reminding myself of commitments, updating it, anticipating time constraints and making new appointments. It served as my external memory, and I wanted it with me at all times. Now, if there are two appointments in a day, it is pretty busy.
It is challenging to accept time as mine to use as I wish. Most days I exercise before or after doing household chores. I might skip the chores and take a walk or sit like a slug in front of the television. These choices go against the grain of my strict upbringing that you have to work before pleasure, and if you are not working, you are lazy and you are only really worthwhile if you are earning a paycheck. However, on the days when I am primarily "lazy", nothing has happened to me as a consequence, and I don't feel like a bad person. I've decided my "work" is to make sure I am healthy. I'm not craving structure in my life, and I've found out that it doesn't take much to cramp my new freewheeling life style.
I look at the obituaries to see who died that was younger than I am. It seems gruesome, but I do it everyday. Several of my dear friends are very ill with serious diseases, and I find myself thinking about life being short and making the most of it while I can. As a response to that, I have been sorting belongings by donating usable things, and trashing worthless items. Stuff that I wanted to keep since years ago doesn't seem as important now. I am determined get rid of something every day. I have spoken with our offspring about things we don't use anymore, which they might want now. In the past, this would have felt morbid to me; in these days, it feels freeing.
Some of my life hasn't changed at all. I continue to not feel like cooking and want to eat out whenever possible. I depend on humor and write daily. I will soon begin designing jewelry again, getting ready for the holidays. My partner and I are fine. Each day I feel a little younger on the inside, even as my status says I am truly older. My life is good, retired or not. It is just like everyday is a snow day.
Editor's note: Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at email@example.com.