Noilly Prattle: Out to pasture

Friday, May 30, 2014

Out to pasture

     An old and valued friend recently asked me how I was “looking at retirement.” Perhaps that old friend considers me an authority (or at least more experienced) being several years older and deeper into grazing in the meadow. Facing retirement for me was like facing death—fear of the unknown. Essentially, retirement for men means a loss of purpose and breaking of comfortable though sometimes onerous routines. For many men, the workplace also means social relationships that don't carry over outside the work milieu. So the prospect of retirement can look bleak: long hours and isolation.

three irises
       Let me wax philosophical for a moment here. You are going to die. The closer you get to the check-out counter the less daunting it seems to me that that inevitability is. It's just another crossroads in life you are going to have to deal with when your time is up. No need to waste what time you have left dwelling on something you have no control over. The only control you do have is what to do with the time you have left.

       I had a satisfying job as an Art teacher for 20 years in a private elementary school. I developed and taught the program that included children from 7 to 12-years of age. I was fortunate enough to have complete control over the program without administrative interference. I taught the classes from age 51 to 71-years of age. In a way, I set up my own retirement so that I could ease into it. For my last two working years I had an arrangement with the school director to work only two terms out of three for a cut in salary. In the third term my wife and I traveled in Europe. After two years on these terms my employment was finally terminated and I took full-time retirement at age 71.  

       I have found that three things are important in retirement: health, purpose and peace of mind. The three are interrelated.

       Your health is paramount and a reasonable measure of financial security is essential. By reasonable financial security I mean that you have enough to do the things necessary to your individual quality of life. That will vary enormously according to the individual. I have heard of some bloggers who believe that it is absolutely necessary to have saved some $2,500,000 to retire comfortably. I, however, don't know anyone personally who has that kind of nest egg. Unless you must drive a Cadillac and your woman must have new Diors and Guccis every year, I can't imagine why you must have that much to live comfortably. If that were the case, most of us would be doomed to the poor farm of yesteryear.

Dammit! Fell off the wagon--again.
       The question of how you fill your days without the 9 to 5 grind is an important one. We humans seem to need some purpose in life and for most men that means having the means to provide food and shelter for a family. Ideally, the food and shelter issues are already taken care of when you reach retirement, but you still need something to do with your time, if for no other reason than to stay out of your partner's hair. Both of you had become accustomed to prospering in your own, separated spheres for eight or nine hours a day. Now, you are thrown together 24/7. For even the best-adjusted couples this can be a trying issue. You absolutely must learn to respect each others' space and privacy needs. It also helps to have things in common and an ability to keep the channels of communication open. A sense of humor is indispensable for coping with the bumps in the road.

at Theater of the Estates, Prague -
Mozart premiered Don Giovanni here
supper on the veranda in
Noumea, New Caledonia
       Both us have made health and physical fitness an important part of our daily activities. I have made keeping my body fit and healthy my new job, or purpose, in life. That includes a daily routine of walking and exercising and swimming one day a week. I am also fortunate to be able to do some part-time work outside the home. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to children a couple evenings a week—work that isn't physically stressful, and is fun and rewarding. Finally, being of wanderlust natures, we like to travel for a part of the year. We enjoy combining our love of travel with out love of music by scheduling concerts and operas as part of our travel itinerary.

       In conclusion, I have learned to enjoy having long leisurely waking hours with coffee in bed and no thought of an abhorred alarm clock jangling me awake at the crack of dawn, to drag myself into the shower and into my work clothes, swallow some food that I am not even hungry for and head off for the 9 to 5 routine still not really awake. Now, it's leisurely coffee, leisurely bath, really hungry for breakfast and then, depending on the day, chores for the upkeep of the house, workout, artistic interests and pursuits, walking, pool, evening class, cocktail hour....


       All in all, not a bad life, retirement.  

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