Is Retirement Complete Freedom?

It has often been pointed out that one of the benefits of retirement is the freedom to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want. As I continue in retirement transition and creating new lifestyle habits, I’ve been struggling with my own perception of freedom. I recently saw a play where the main character followed a “Breaking Bad” approach to freedom in middle age! Is freedom really doing whatever you want, breaking any rules you want, with no worry about societal norms and no limits?

In re-evaluating my beliefs regarding personal freedom and making more conscious choices, the first freedom images that came were both positive (kite) and negative (shackles).

  • I’ve always defined myself as a kite, tethered by a string, soaring to great heights of accomplishment. There is a feeling of being grounded in the tethering, of being connected and secure. Yet that kite, in order to soar to great heights, is controlled by someone else! When I think about letting go of the tether (untethered, complete freedom), there is a terrible fear of being out of control, swirling chaotically and crashing. Yes, for me complete freedom brings fear.

 

  • I knew in retirement that we needed to move homes. In our previous house I had a feeling of being bound by shackles and unable to breath or move. With our new home, there is a sense of those shackles being unlocked. Yet, in a recent Intuitive Session, it came out that I still feel locked in the situation. I have the key, the lock is unlocked, but I have yet to break free and completely remove the shackles. What am I unwilling to let go of? There is still something – a feeling of control, a sense of responsibility, a fear of losing something?

What are my own deeply held beliefs about freedom? What exactly is freedom for a just-past-middle-age, early-retired, upper-middle class, law-abiding, recovering-workaholic, married woman?

In exploring “what is freedom”, I thought about risk taking, rules, being the good girl, and being in control.

  • I value security and structure over adventure and risk-taking. I’m not a solo adventurer, but need the security of an adventure-companion. The kite tether! I fear unknown situations and unexpected change. And yet, mini-adventures are part of my retirement lifestyle vision.

 

  • I like boxes and rules. I color inside the lines. I believe strongly that people need to play by the rules, as opposed to believe it’s acceptable to break the rules all the time, or simply ignore the rules altogether. But, I do want to bend the rules sometimes. Maybe color outside the lines just a little bit.

 

  • I was always the good girl growing up – I did what I was supposed to do, excelled in school, & got and kept the good job; I was successful. It wasn’t a bad thing – we have our financial security because of it! I still struggle with what I think of as family and societal expectations. I am fearful of trying things for fear of failure; I rethink situations again & again when I could have done it better (if it didn’t meet those high expectations).

 

  • I need to be in control. I am the keeper of the accounts, the planner, and the responsible one. It gives me a feeling of usefulness and I often think others cannot do it as well as me. I make stuff happen; I check it off the list. If I’m not being responsible, what is the use of me?

 

“The secret to happiness is freedom… and the secret to freedom is courage.”

Thucydides

 

What will I have courage to do what expresses a sense of personal freedom? How can I allow my Wild-Woman to emerge? How can I find the courage to become the Bohemian Chick, a spontaneous mini-adventurer, or just a bit of a bad girl…. with no laws being broken and no relationships being damaged?

Freedom exploration has created some new self-awareness, and maybe a little encouragement to get over my fear of complete freedom.

What do you do that expresses your personal freedom at this life stage?

30 thoughts on “Is Retirement Complete Freedom?

  1. I see a lot of myself in your description of yourself. I’ve always been a rule follower, a straight A student, an executive in a highly-regulated industry, one who colors within the lines. I do like an adventure, but I need a buddy, and preferably one who has a little experience in whatever we’re trying or wherever we are visiting. I don’t know what freedom will look like to me once I’ve retired, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

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    1. Christie – It’s good to know I’m not the only one who needs a buddy for adventure! I was thinking it was a failure to not be comfortable with solo-adventuring. Now I’ve come to realize it is just how I am. And I need to find more adventure buddies!

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  2. Every one of your points resonates with me. I’m still in the workforce, but my husband is not – he does some volunteer work, but at 57 is retired. He needs structure, I rail against it, but at the end of the day I need to know that I have a place of safe refuge. In that way I think we complement each other perfectly: I encourage him to colour outside the lines a little, and he brings me back when I stray too far off the page…so to speak.

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    1. Jo, What a great pairing! My hubby always pushed me physically (he’s a natural athlete) and I curbed him somewhat (he can overdo athletically). He’s a easy-going homebody though and not really adventurous. But does encourage me to color outside the lines a bit (and teases me about my list making, structured, planned out life).

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  3. I retired 12 days ago, and I’m wandering around like someone who is lost in a foreign country. I don’t even speak the language of freedom, let alone know what it is! I hope to get more comfortable with my new ‘lifestyle’ as I adjust. For now, I’ll probably need to focus on recovering from being a workaholic. Even though I had dropped to part time status the last year I worked, there was rarely an idle moment for me. I thought I had this thing when I took eight weeks off to recover from a concussion this summer, but that was a forced rest – following doctor’s orders. And even that was hard to do. Wish me luck! I’ll keep reading about your progress, too! #MSTL

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    1. Molly, Give yourself time. As a recovering workaholic, it took me years (yes, years) to drop some old habits and learn to slow down and enjoy an empty calendar. For at least one or 2 days…then I need something planned!

      I’ve been blogging for over 2 years now…some of my earlier posts might resonate with you. Things like the highs & lows of those first few months, how to go about dealing with the losses (work might have provided sense of identity, the primary source of daily/weekly connections, feelings of accomplishment, affiliation, status, even your daily schedule). I found it helpful to connect with other bloggers who were going through same thing, which I only discovered after being retired a year. I do wish you luck in your transition… let me know if I can help in any way.

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  4. Security, boxes, good girl, control – tick tick tick tick – every single one of them – I could have written it word for word Pat. Also that underlying desire to be the bohemian, free spirited, caftan wearing, multi-bangled woman who glides through life with a peaceful expression and without a worry in the world. How to get there is beyond me – I am trying to unclench my tight hold on life and to relinquish some of my need to have everying in its place – but the wild woman is still a long way in the distance for me (unfortunately). So reassuring to know that there are others dealing with the same unspoken yearnings.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

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    1. Ooh… caftans and bangles. OK, a caftan would make me look like I’m wearing a tent and hubby made me swear off buying more bracelets. Because I buy them and never wear them. But I get it. I have found that I am living more in the moment…maybe not with that peaceful expression, but with more positivity and mindfulness. It’s a start. Maybe I need to pull out some bracelets!

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  5. Pat, you certainly are being thought provoking! It’s good as it makes us think of our responses to your questions and where we fit into things. I love this “What are my own deeply held beliefs about freedom? What exactly is freedom for a just-past-middle-age, early-retired, upper-middle class, law-abiding, recovering-workaholic, married woman?” – because it made stop and think!! That could be me you’re talking about and just what do I want and how do I see freedom. I’ve been retired now since December 2016, nearly two years and have had some amazing adventures – highs and lows during this time. My retirement has taught me to not over think things, relax a little and try to enjoy being me – self acceptance is still a work in progress but I’m enjoying the process. All the best! #mlstl

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    1. Debbie – I had to laugh that my multi-hypenated description matched you too. Yes, this self-acceptance thing is definitely a work in progress! I can also say that since retirement (4 years for me), there have been some highs and lows as well. I’m learning more about myself along the way; blog topics like this definitely help! Have a great weekend.

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  6. Hi Pat! I agree with some of the others–this is definitely a thought-provoking post 🙂 And thank you for your honesty too…that in itself is one of the most authentic things a person can do. I am also a pretty structured person but maybe because I am also a Gemini I have a “twin” inside me that can take me in that opposite direction. I’m also married to a guy who is a Scorpio (if you get into the Astrology thing at all) so he keeps things fluid in most ways. So I do my best to honor both sides of me–the one that loves to plan and color inside the box, and the one who can be pretty wild and crazy at times. And fortunately, the older i get the more I appreciate both sides of me. I am also doing my best not to find the need to ever apologize for being myself. Of course, that also requires that I accept that not everyone is going to appreciate and like me. But the truer I am with myself the more I know that those who want to hang out with me really appreciate me as well–not the “actress” I can be when I’m just trying to do the acceptable thing. And the best news of all? What else do we have to do for the rest of our lives except enjoy the journey of self-discovery and hopefully offer the same freedom to others? ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy – as I’ve mentioned before… I love when I’m thought provoking. 🙂 I love when others are as well.

      “Enjoy the journey of self-discovery”. Love that phrase. Accept the me I am – structure loving, planning, not-too-adventuresome. I tend to be quite accommodating to others and need to start just being more myself versus the person they need me to be.

      Hmm, I’m also married to a Scorpio. No I’m not a follower of astrology, although I’ve been doing new-moon rituals this year. The “keeps things fluid” comment however is very appropriate for my Scorpio as well!

      Thanks for giving me some new things to think about!

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  7. This statement is on my fridge – Being comfortable with yourself is the ultimate freedom. The older I get, the closer to center I’m getting. I aim to be like Willie Nelson who was described as someone who doesn’t give a s#*% in the best sense of don’t give a s#*%. And it’s not about not caring; it’s about making your way in a manner that serves you without giving in to all the conventions that have been imposed upon you by some “authority”.

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  8. I think as we get older, we know the ramifications of what we will or won’t do. Experience teaches like that, it does. Once retired, it’s harder to make a comeback from our mistakes. We remember the adventurous free spirit we used to be and the special people in our lives who saved our souls (i.e.butts) when things went seriously wrong. Those people are long gone now.
    Best to be safe than waiting on the bankruptcy lines.
    Tried and true will due.

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    1. I don’t think I’ve ever been very adventurous and perhaps thought it would happen when I got older. That “I’ll wear purple” poem. And yes, I do think understanding the ramifications is part of why I stay well within my comfort zone most of the time!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement Ann. I think it’s a combination of little things and acknowledgment that it’s OK to not be a solo-adventurer. I’m cultivating some new retired women friends for those adventures; it just takes time.

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  9. Hi Pat,
    What’s wrong with being who you are? When did a Wild Woman become the only acceptable thing to aspire to? That is just as conforming and staying within the lines as anything else. You be you. I think of these elderly women fashionistas on the internet who dress like attention-seeking circus performers. Can make you feel that you are sub-standard, non-creative or inhibited if you don’t dress that way. There is no one way to be retired, or to dress fashionably (or outrageously, if you like) as you get older. This is the time of life to be who we really are, and if you are a kite on a tether and that suits you, that is fantastic!

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    1. Deb, Self acceptance….totally working on that. I’ve actually envisioned myself more as a Bohemian Chick but Wild Woman had such a nice ring. (My maiden hame was West…”wild wild west”?) And yet my daily style remains mid-west-casual. Jeans and a polar-tech pullover once again. Sub-standard and non-creative is exactly how it feels. And comfortable. Either I accept that comfort outweighs my vision of Bohemian style, or I do something about it. And yes, accept that being tethered is me, and solo-adventure is not. Self-Acceptance…totally working on it! 🙂

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  10. Hey Pat — great, thought-provoking post – AGAIN! One thing that helped me break out of the fear of freedom when I first left the convent and lived on my own (at 30 years old) was to imagine what was the worst that could happen. Even before leaving a quite strict convent, I began to push boundaries but when the total freedom came, I didn’t know what to do. I had to begin with leaving a cup on the coffee table or a dish in the sink type baby steps. I remember intentionally scribbling all over a coloring book page — just to prove that I could and the world wouldn’t fall apart. We don’t have to break laws to push our freedom boundaries – thank goodness!

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    1. Janet – I love when I am thought -provoking. 🙂
      Unfortunately, my brain will create lots of worst case scenarios if I ask what is the worst that could happen! But the concept of baby steps is helpful. I wonder if I could scribble outside the lines in my Mandala coloring book? Hah. That’s gonna be a hard one!

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  11. Hi Pat, I’m a girl like you and lately I’ve been re-evaluating my life. I’m getting a feeling that perhaps I don’t need to be a Wild Woman or Fierce I just need to be ‘me’. That is certainly a liberating feeling. When I don’t feel the need to be someone I’m not, trying to fit in with what the social media norms say I should be. I’ve learned from many women in my Over 50 & Thriving Series, including yourself, and I am grateful for these wonderful women who share their thoughts. To me, courage is being able to be authentic, be who you are and not comparing myself to others. We are all unique and need to find our freedom in our own ways. Thank you for making me think and reflect. I always take away a positive or something to ponder from your posts. Have a beautiful week, Pat. xx

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    1. Sue – I love the “courage is being able to be authentic, be who you are”. I also saw today “you cannot fail at being yourself”. I’m thinking my word of the year next year might need to be something about “just be me”! Self-acceptance. The courage to stand up and say “accept me as I am”. Yeah, that’s something to work on. Have a great week!

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  12. I like all of your coloring, lines, boxes, allusions, and metaphors here; and I also see quite a bit of myself in your own self-analysis. I too have always stayed within the rules and boundaries set by either convention or some authority. I was always too nervous to get too far out there and make up things myself. I work better with a map and a set of procedures. So far in retirement, other than my part-time job, I haven’t really expressed a desire for complete “freedom” yet. I notice that I still need the structure of a routine, and my days seem to reflect that. Once a creature of habit, always one? – Marty

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    1. Marty, For me becoming more aware of who I am and what I need is allowing me to realize that when I compare to others, it’s just not for me. I like structure! Someone also told me, in order to color outside the lines, you need to know where the lines actually are. So I’m learning where my lines are…and in some cases pushing just beyond them. Might not be somebody else’s definition of free-living, but being comfortable at this stage if life is OK for me.

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