The Lows of Transition

So retirement is all happy, happy, happy, right?   Not so much this first year where it felt a little bit like a roller coaster.  Many happy, stress-free days but also, the low points did happen.  You try something and get negative feedback. You lean in for something and get rejected. You feel totally uncertain doing things when you used to be the expert. You make mistakes. You tell people you are retired and they look at you as if you said you have a disease – “But what do you do?”   You look at your calendar for a full week and it’s completely empty. What do I do?

All these moments have happened to me during this first year of retirement transition. It led me to wonder if I should have retired or just kept working – where I was adding value, connected to others, and appreciated for my expertise. I got stressed.  Was I failing at retirement?

So what did I do. I took a deep breath and re-grouped. OK, maybe it was with a glass of wine and a good friend to whine with. But I took a step back and re-established that I needed to continue to “let it go”. In this case, letting go of the expectations of others. Letting go of the need for perfection. Letting go of busy-ness as a sign of worth.

Then I re-looked at my vision statement – the one that states who I want to be in this next life stage. I revisited my choices, my goals and my action plans. And yes, I was glad I had spent the time on that self-reflection and writing it all down!   A few times I needed to boost my scheduling of activities – the classes, the walks, the writing time, the coffees and lunch dates.   A few times I needed to remind myself that downtime is good – you like to sit in the sun and read a book & that is OK on a lazy summer afternoon.

I have also found that my days need to be a balance between a completely filled, to-do based schedule that is overpacked, busy and stress-out about dropping balls, and a whole slew of unstructured, go-with-the-flow, waiting for spontaneity, empty days with nothing to do.  So I try and have both – some scheduled time and some unscheduled time.

I saw this phrase recently and loved it (I paraphrased a bit): Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and read some and write some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

For me, it is learning how to play, or fill the leisure time.  For years my husband has said “we just don’t know how to resort” – yes, resort is a verb that defines leisure time. So, I have learned to find the joy in the small, leisure things – a fresh cup of coffee on the porch in the morning sunshine, playing scrabble on line, or meeting a friend for happy hour.

I look back on what I have “accomplished” in this first year of transition, which I started without any plan at all.  I celebrate the small achievements – my first blog posting, and my second and third ones, too.  And the honey-do list completions, with some items that have been on the list for years! I give myself my own gold stars for taking writing classes, computer classes and starting my LLC. I created a “crazy summer fun bucket list”…and was not disappointed in doing only 14 of the 20 things – 14 is better than zero!

And I continue to transition, to find a new rhythm of life.  And when the lows do happen, I re-group and re-start.  And the roller coaster goes back up.

7 thoughts on “The Lows of Transition

  1. You are right on Pat. It is a tricky transition. I am not in permanent retirement but definitely taking this year off. One thing I noticed too…some of those things on my list, once I dabble in them, I don’t really want to do them as much as I thought I did! Cross it off! Update as you go and evolve.

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  2. When I first retired, I seemed to have had a need to just fill up my time. Over the years, I’ve become very selective. It’s okay for me to totally waste a day doing nothing. I don’t spend much time with people who don’t enhance my life anymore. I’ve become a Disaster Services Volunteer with the Red Cross and I just did my first 5K yesterday for Victory Junction Camp with my family. I have found I’m happiest with my life if I do meaningful things, rather than just time filler things.

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  3. I encourage you when getting a “better plan” to think about your interests, strengths and values when choosing actives to pursue. And I have a Possibilities List creation blog in the making…. hopefully published in a day or two! It might give you some brainstorming tools to help you identify some new activities/goals.


  4. I also wrote a retirement Vision Statement, which I have pinned to my bulletin board above my computer. Your post prompted me to look at it again and evaluate how well I’m doing. I’d say “pretty good” so far. I enjoy the balance of busy vs. leisure time I’ve been able to carve out for myself. I do find that if I commit to much time to one thing (an ongoing class for instance), I become concerned that it will box me in too much. But, I’ve also learned that I can say “no” or miss one or two events and it’s OK. It’s a journey and – so far – I’ve enjoyed the ride!

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    1. Thanks for the insight about not worrying about missing an event or two. I have found myself a few times getting too scheduled and then hating myself for missing something. Stressful expectation in retirement – ugh! I agree its a journey and most days I am also enjoying it!

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  5. Thank you so much, Pat. Your deep thinking and beautiful written expression stirs and soothes. I’m so glad our paths initially crossed, and at times now, even parallel. I’m (selfishly) happy you’ve gone first. Your observations cue me into what I need to be mindful of, to be self-indulgent about, as well as to be necessarily self-disciplined. God bless you. Onward! I’m so very impressed by all the learning you’ve pursued–not just sit in your comfy chair and teach yourself learning, but get out of the house, out-of-yourself learning. Good for you!! So glad you’ve found at least more than a dozen ways to play at what you wanted to this summer. Thank you for continuing to share your transition. Please let us know what you’ve learned. We need your teachings!

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  6. The thoughts in this post are coming at a good time. At two months into retirement I am also questioning some of the activities in which I am engaging. I need a better plan. Thanks for the encouragement and reminders.

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