Where does the time go?

Four months ago I re-retired.  I am enjoying the time, and feel that I have a better handle on this life phase today than when I retired the first time for six months in 2012.

My primary goal is to have a happy, no-regrets retirement.  I am really committed to that goal.  I hope to have at least 15-20 happy, healthy years ahead of me.  With a timeframe on my mind, it seems natural to look back over my life.

How can it be that I started college 46 years ago, that I got my first graduate degree 39 years ago, and my last nearly 24 years ago?

How can it be that I learned to quilt 33 years ago, and had my first quilt book published 20 years ago and the second 18  years ago?

How can it be that my life has already been long enough to include three significant non-profit career paths with 10 different professional position  – as librarian, teacher, museum professional, and administrator – in eight cities located in five different states?

How can it be that my mother has been gone for nearly 29 years, and my father 13 years last month?

Time passes so quickly, so this is my new thing:  At the end of every day I will take a minute to think deliberately about what I enjoyed about the day, and I will more consciously remember the moment.

The Need to feel productive in retirement

When I was sixteen, I got my first job as a waitress in a family restaurant and I have worked pretty much ever since.  There is something about work that makes you feel productive, even if the job could be described as menial.

In chronological order over the past nearly 50 years (how can that be???), my jobs have included:

High school:  waitress, poultry processor, and assembly line worker

Undergrad:  nanny and library aide

Grad student:  research assistant and teaching assistant

Professional:  public library director, technical services librarian, public library system assistant director, public library system director, public library director, assistant professor, exhibition developer, lecturer, public library director, museum assistant director, grant compliance officer, and instructor

After all those years of work (and education), I continue to feel the need to be productive even though I have retired from full-time employment (for the second time.)  I love days when I can stay home and read for hours.  I love that I no longer catch the bus at 7 AM and get home after 5 PM.  I love having time to do whatever I want to do.

But all that freedom is challenging.  I don’t want to waste these good years, so I find that I still need to feel that I have accomplish something most days.  Really, I need a new understanding — perhaps, a new non-work measure — of what it means to use time productively and still be retired.

When are we old?

As I enter my mid-60s I think about what it means to be old.  I wonder – when will I be old?  Like many people my age, I think others would describe me as younger, more active, and healthier than one expects of a 63+ year old woman.

The February/March issue of AARP Magazine featured an article entitled “You’re Old, I’m Not: How Americans Really Feel About Aging.”  This short article tells us that the older we are, the older we think old is.  That is, people in their 40s think that 63 is old while people in their 60s think that 73 is old.  Women think that women are old at age 75, compared to men who think what a 68 year old woman is old.  (Men are wrong on this one!)

I am very happy to read that as we get older we are less likely to feel that our aging bodies hamper us.  In fact only 24% of people in their 40s felt that they had more energy than they expected for their age, compared to 64% of people in their 70s who were asked the same question.  According to the article, the majority of us find that getting older is easier than we thought it would be, and that our health does not prevent us from doing what we want to do.

So, it would appear that I am pretty normal in my perceptions about myself as I age.  It was a relief to learn that I am not old – and won’t be for quite a few years!  Now I just need to continue to use that time well.  I don’t want to waste it.

Winter…not so much!

I was born and raised in Minnesota and spent more than half of my life there.  You would think I would be OK with winter, since  I have experienced a lot of it.  The reality is that I really, really, really dislike cold, wind, snow, and ice.

I don’t like to be cold.  I don’t like to be house bound because I don’t want to go out in the cold or drive in snow or ice.  I don’t like worrying about the power going out in 50 mile an hour winds.  I don’t like worrying about my 24 year old electric furnace, even though the HVAC guys say it’s in good shape.

I think of myself as a generally positive person.  But winter does not bring out the best in me.  This winter really hasn’t been too bad, except for several 7-10 day stretches of really cold (for Nebraska) temperatures.  The forecast if for three inches of snow tonight and highs in the single digits on Sunday.  Thankfully, after this last blast of winter, spring is supposed to come.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

Why do people say things that are…

What do people say things that are stupid?

I spend time in public places, so I hear conversations going on around me.  Sometimes I bite my tongue so I don’t comment.  And sometimes I cannot help myself.  I just have to say something.

Last week I was volunteering at a library where AARP members prepare tax returns for free on a first-come basis.  A man and a woman, who met each other for the first time that afternoon, sat near each other and carried on a conversation we could all hear.  At first they complained about various aspects of life in general, attributing their problems to the ex-spouse, the government, and so on.

I guess the man ran out of tidbits to share, because he decided to report the news.  He prefaced his report with the phrase “Now, I don’t know if this is true, but…”  Then he said, “Obama sent all of the country’s gold to China and that’s why there are no longer tours of Fort Knox.”

I could no longer control myself.  I said, “You know that’s not true!”  He looked a little embarrassed and discontinued his report.  But why did he feel the need to share this fantasy at all???  Surely he knew that it wasn’t true.

The next day I found my supply of disposable ear plugs and put them in my coat pocket.  Now, when I ride the bus or sit in a waiting room, I have the option of closing out this type of conversation.  Today it occurred to me that I am my father’s daughter.  In his later years, he used headphones to keep out this type of noise.

“Live with intention”

Author and artist Mary Anne Radmacher writes about living a life that is full, creative, and balanced.  Her advice that we “live with intention” speaks to me as I strive for a rich and fulfilling retirement.  Actually, I wish I had always lived more deliberately, but it is more important now to focus on the future than to regret the past.

After six months of retirement, I accepted a full-time, temporary position that filled my days until it ended on December 11, 2013.  While I worked for nearly twelve months, it felt more like twelve weeks. The time passed so very quickly and made me realize that the rest of my life will likely pass with equal speed.

I don’t want to waste any of the time that is left to me on earth.  So I am trying to live each day with intention, to have goals, and to feel content with the way I spend (almost) every day.

Bucket List vs. To-Do List

In preparation for my first retirement in June 2012, I spent time making what I thought was a Bucket List. I shared the list with one of my sisters and she said, “That’s not a Bucket List, it’s a To-Do List.” She was right. So I did some research about these types of lists, and this is what I discovered:

  • A To-Do List is a collection of tasks that you feel you need to do and that you actually intend to accomplish.
  • A “Life Led” list is an enumeration of your already accomplished goals, dreams, and accomplishments.
  • A Bucket List is a collection of goals, dreams, and accomplishments you want to achieve yet in your lifetime. For an item to make it onto the Bucket List, it needs to be something that you would feel very sad not to have accomplished by the end of your life.

It is very easy for me to make the first two types of lists, but I still have not been successful in creating my authentic Bucket List.  Perhaps that is because I have not found an individual item that seems important enough or specific enough to make the list. For example, I want to continue to have new experiences, but I have an open mind about what those experiences are, and there is no special new experience I am yearning to have.

Now that I am entering my second retirement, I need to decide if I really need to have a Bucket List after all.