Category: Retirement – Hopes! Dream! The Bucket List!
The “Bucket List” is a term that I never really liked. It seemed to connote a list of items one needed to hurry and do before one leaves this life. I think we start a bucket list of sorts from the day we start making plans for our lives. Some of those hopes, dreams, and wishes are not realized for various reasons. Some we regret while others we just table until the day comes when we will have more time. Let’s talk about some of those hopes, wishes, and dreams – when we first thought of them, what we did or did not do about them, or what we are doing about them now, and how we keep adding to the list for I truly believe that we stay excited not by seeing the list grow shorter but by seeing the list keep growing so that we can keep reaching.
In a lot of ways, our society has become comfortable with the try as being the best that we can do. How often do you hear “I will try my best” or “just try it” or, when something did not work, “I tired my best?” As we get older, trying is not enough. If you go through life just trying, it could mean that you are reluctant to make the commitment to really invest yourself in whatever you are attempting to do. You are holding back so that if you are not successful no one can say you failed because you tried – you gave it your all. The question is did you really?
A lot of times we are afraid to make a full commitment and we spend our time making a plan. You can find yourself so bogged down in the planning that you never move forward. Everything in life cannot be planned and no matter how elaborate the plan, we cannot predict the future. There are so many reasons our plans may not unfold perfectly. This fear of not being able to plan everything from beginning to end can stop us from moving forward and fully committing. Then we get stuck in just planning and trying without every really doing that which we want to accomplish. This applies to relationships, that next job, the new business, a new adventure, or just getting through the week.
As that great philosopher of our times, Yoda, said “Do. Or not do. There is no try.” Make the commitment to move forward and not stand still or hold back. Think about saying to yourself I will do this rather then I will give it a try – you may find yourself getting there faster!
I love dining outdoors in the summer! Just being outdoors in the beautiful weather, spending time with friends, eating and talking. It’s perfect! That is until the temperature soars over 100 degrees! Who wants to cook in that heat whether it is indoors or outdoors? I had planned the perfect outdoor event to welcome some new neighbors. It was supposed to be a small, intimate get together on the deck but as soon as I saw what the temperature was going to be I went to Plan B – indoors and still keeping it simple. The thought of standing over a hot grill or even using a hot oven was as oppressing as the temperature. Now, I can’t exactly call on Carla Hall or Ina Garten for suggestions but I think I had it handled.
One rule of entertaining, even though I love cooking for friends, you don’t have to always do it all yourself! The important thing is to have a good time with your guests and relax. Everyone takes a shortcut now and then.
So with my list in had, I doled out the assignments. My husband was in charge of picking up spare ribs and a rotisserie chicken – yum! My dad makes world class crab cakes so I put in my order the night before and then I only had to pick up my crab cakes a little before my guests arrived!
What did I do? Earlier in the day, I quickly crisped up some pancetta for my simple salad of arugula, spinach, diced apples, blueberries dressed with a homemade honey mustard vinaigrette. This time of year, with the fresh local seasonal fruits everywhere, I love adding berries to anything that I can.
I mixed more berries with some pineapple and red grapes then garnished with a few fresh herbs from my garden for a lovely and refreshing fruit salad. One of the best things about the summer are locally grown tomatoes! Add a little fresh basil from the garden, diced garlic and a light dressing and there is nothing better.
By the time my guests had arrived, everything was plated and ready to eat and everyone, including me, could relax and enjoy the evening and make new friends. These evenings become less about perfection and more about taking the time to truly enjoy each other and the beauty of the season – even if it is looking out from your air-conditioned living room. As long a you are among friends and family, what’s not to love!
Learning to rule the calendar and not have it rule me.
Recently I read a great article titled “The Calendar Free Retirement Life” written by Barbara Rady Kazdan. It was about the joy of being retired and not having to keep a calendar anymore. Heaven knows, before retirement I could not go to bed at night without checking my calendar for the next day nor could I leave the house in the morning before checking it yet again to be sure I knew what I was doing. Vacations were constantly interrupted by scheduled calls or meetings that had to be taken even when I was skiing in the Colorado Rockies. I would never have thought of turning off my phone after dinner for fear I would miss that important late night phone call or email from work. The thought of being disconnected on vacation actually ruined many a trip because I was so worried about not only what I was missing but also what I would be coming back to after the calls and meeting notices accumulated in my absence.
Keeping track of what day it is – never a problem before!
Before I retired I used to have my retired friends ask to me constantly during a conversation “What day is this?” or “You mean today is Tuesday and not Wednesday? I can’t keep track.” I always wondered if I would come to be that unconcerned about time where I would let the days just happen rather than track them. I used to absolutely hate getting those “reminder” calls from doctors, restaurants, my hair solon, etc. I always felt that unless I call you and cancel, I intend to be there. The appointment was, after all, on my calendar. But now – well, I welcome those calls. Please call and remind me!!!! I have become one of those people – if it is not written down, it is not going to happen.
But throwing out the calendar?
Really? Being the Type A personality that I have been my entire life, I cannot release myself from keeping a calendar and I am sure there are others out there who are just like me. So for those of us who continue to calendar events in retirement – we are not obsessed or compulsive – we are just conscientious. The joy now is that we get to decide what to calendar and when to stick to it or change it. I have scheduled on my calendar the days when I will go to the gym (which I usually try to do at least 3-4 times a week). Is that rigid and fixed? No, but it does provide the extra incentive for days when I may easily choose to blow it off and makes me get up and do it. I also have two nonprofit organizations for which I volunteer and board meetings to attend. These things are important to me and I want to have those dates noted so that I can be sure to meet my commitments and not to schedule anything that may be a conflict. I schedule reminders for birthdays and other important dates.
My new approach.
The challenge is that we can over schedule ourselves without realizing it. It is called retirement after all. In the beginning I had everything scheduled but I soon learned to relax and tell myself it was just fine to have open spaces in my calendar so I could just site back and enjoy my new relaxed but not unproductive lifestyle and do things like read a good book, try a new recipe, sit on the deck, lunch with friends, enjoy the sunset or sunrise, and even – gasp – sleep in past 6:00 in the morning (after all, the gym will be there all day long).
As we continue our journey, we each figure out how to find balance in our lives and leave space to give back to others while we also find time to take care of ourselves along the way.
We all have dreams that we pursued when we were younger. You know, the dream of being President of the United States, or starting your own bakery, or playing the violin, or whatever. For whatever the reason, we made other decisions and left those dreams to follow another path. Sometimes we just lose interest or practical real life needs get in the way of following our hearts. Whatever the reason, it is never to late to go back and revisit those dreams. You may have to modify the dream but there is always a way, if there is still love in your heart for that particular dream, to bring it back into your life in a meaningful way.
Take my dream many years ago of being a professional dancer. Those practical real life issues like needing a job, wanting to be on my own supporting myself, feeling torn between a career in the arts and a career in business and law as well as physical limitations got in the way. That is, I let them get in the way and that was OK. I love the life I chose for myself. Dance still played a part in that I took lessons, spent time in classes in NYC, spent years teaching in a friend’s dance studio, and attended countless hours of dance concerts where I saw the most amazing dancers.
Take joy in seeing others do it well.
Recently, I even went to NYC to see the unbelievable Misty Copeland perform the leading role in Romeo and Juliet at the Metropolitan Opera House and just sat there with tears in my eyes through most of the performance because she is such a breathtakingly beautiful dancer. What was equally as beautiful was watching all the dancers in the crowds pouring into the Met for the performance. They were all ages but it was very clear from the poise with which they carried themselves that they, too, were coming to see something amazing and something to which they aspired. No one left disappointed.
Take advantage of the time that retirement provides you to revisit those dreams.
So now that I have retired, I decided to mix up my workouts by returning to ballet class. Now, this is not an easy feat having been away all these years but it is a class being taught by my dear friend Vanessa with whom I studied dance for years and at whose studio I taught for years. So the body does not quite work the way it did years ago. You know what I mean. After years of karate, dancing, gymnastics, tennis, skiing, climbing stairs and just walking – there are aches and pains. Where I used to be able to bend forward and touch my nose to my knees – I can at least lean forward and look at my knees. I am not kidding!
Vanessa is very kind to us in class. This is her class for the older dancer who has been away from classes for a while. She takes her time and works very gently with us and I do so appreciate her understanding.
One thing I told her when I started in the Fall was that I do not do jumps – no impact on these knees! So I was a little surprised one day in class when she asked us to come to the middle of the room and prepare to do jumps. Jumps! Really? So I just looked behind me and there was no one there. Then I looked at the dancer beside me and she looked back at me with a very puzzled expression. Then I turned back to Vanessa and uttered the all time classic line “You talking to me?” We all had a good laugh. See at this stage of the game, if you cannot laugh at yourself, what fun is that?
Whatever your dream, make time to live it.
So maybe you are not a person to go back and revisit your inner ballerina, or take up snowboarding after 60, or start lifting weights in the gym. What is your dream? What was something you wished you had done years ago when you were younger? Just think back to whatever it was that you enjoyed many years ago and how it got lost over the years. Then go back and revisit it and find the joy all over again. On this journey, my feet may not leave the floor but on most days, I am still floating.
Just as important as paying attention to the financial aspects of being retired, you need to pay attention to the everyday what am I going to do now aspects of retirement. Several of my friends who retired around the same time as I did found themselves bored and wondering what to do next. They had made the decision to retire based solely on the fact that they were tired of working and wanted to get out. The decision also needs to include some planning so that you can be excited about what is to come. You should make a plan about activities you love or things you want to learn or do before you actually retire.
Start saving early for retirement.
I will admit that I was one of the ones who did not start saving for retirement when I was in my twenties or even my thirties but once I got into my forties, a light went off and I realized that if I was ever going to get there I had to take some responsibility and start preparing. I would pay myself first; that is, pay into my savings off the top of what I made and then plan the rest of my budget around it. It was not much money in the beginning but as my career advanced, each time I would get a pay increase or cost of living increase, I figured I was doing well enough on what I currently made so the increase could largely go to savings. As I got closer to making the decision, I also looked at what would I rather be doing than going to work every day. We all have things we never seem to have enough time to do because of work such as read a good book, spend time with family and friends, travel, volunteer in our community, learn new things, write that book, make the world a better place, etc. so much to cram into so little time.
It really is OK to retire.
I realized soon after retiring that I was letting others make me feel guilty for being able to retire. I found myself getting angry at people who kept asking me “So what do you do all day at home?” Who says retirement means sitting at home all day? And who says if I choose to sit at home all day, that is not my choice to make just as when I chose to work all day, every day and every year for over forty years? I was suddenly allowing others to make me feel as if I had to justify my existence. I felt I had to prove I was still contributing to society in a worthwhile way. One person actually said to me “You are going to give up practicing law to stay home? You are too young for that?” Being a type A personality, I could not do nothing – the challenge was not to do so much that I may as well be working every day. My days are full of volunteer activities, two board memberships, mentoring relationships, visiting my parents and friends and other activities that bring me joy and I hope spreads some joy to those around me. However, now I have learned to give myself permission to just sit on my deck and enjoy the beautiful Spring or Summer day reading a good book on my eReader without feeling guilty. I know that this is a blessing and there are many who will not be able to retire for various reasons or just make the choice not to do so. However, it is also a blessing to be able to do so and to be able to be to enjoy it.
Life is so very short – live it and enjoy every day.
A serious illness can also help you make the decision. For me, I had already been thinking about retirement but kept extending my date by six months here and six months there until I was made to reevaluate my life due to illness. When someone tells you that you have cancer, it is like the air is immediately sucked out of the room and you realize how fleeting this life can be. Everything around you fades to a blur. It all happens before you can even take your next breath, at least for me it did. You are afraid to breathe because then that would make it real. You realize that you want to do everything and enjoy everything and everyone around you because time is so very precious. I am fully recovered but it made my decision clear.
There is a wonderful expression by a woman named Vivian Greene that goes “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain.” This is what life should be. Life is not easy but we have been given a gift. We should find ways to thrive and grow in spite the obstacles in our way. For me, cancer became the storm and I chose to dance my way through to the other side and I have kept on dancing ever since – along the journey that is the rest of my life.