The Psychology of (my) Retirement

In less than six months I will be retired. I was so excited about the possibilities when I made my decision to embark on this new phase of my life. My family and friends supported me. It was all good!

Somehow the closer I get, the harder this has been getting. Retirement has not been looking that promising. Finally, in total frustration, I sat down and wrote a blog about my current struggles. I put it all out there. (Well most of it). I hit publish and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I suddenly realized what I was really struggling with.

For the past five decades, I have been in the enviable position of being a ‘caregiver’. I have had the physical, mental, emotional and financial ability to help and support others – husbands, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, employers, co-workers, friends and the occasional stranger. Now, I am suddenly planning for a life where my main focus is caring for me. It never occurred to me that such a change in focus would be a problem for me, much less others – especially those who I have done the most for over the years.

There are probably a lot of people who come up against these mental struggles when they are planning or kicking off their retirement. I wonder why nobody talks about them. ๐Ÿ™„

Jen & Danny with friend Dave. (Almost family๐Ÿ˜‚)
My Mother and I
Grandbaby Cason
Co-worker Kori
My Husband with Maddy & Prim
Mark & Erin and Dom

Getting My Retirement Back On Track

The closer retirement gets, the more it looks like an unavoidable train wreck.

In July 2019, I decided that I would retire on my 65th birthday (July 2020). This was not a rash decision. I gave it a lot of thought and took a number of factors into account.

1. I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with my husband. With his 24/7 shift work and my 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, our together time was limited.

2. I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with my sons and daughter and my grandchildren.

3. Although I have always seemed more youthful than I actually am, and felt I could easily work for a few more years, I decided I wanted to retire when I was still felt young enough and strong enough that I would have the energy to pursue new interests.

4. There were situations within the construction industry and the construction company that I worked for that made my job stressful and frustrating. I did not want retirement to be about getting away from what I was doing but I was ready to leave it behind.

5. And, last but not least, I wanted the opportunity to start enjoying the retirement life that my older siblings were already living. ๐Ÿง˜๐Ÿงš๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ’ƒ

I discussed my decision with my husband, my children, my boss and my siblings. Everyone was on board and encouraged me to do what I felt was right. I threw myself into preparing for retirement๐Ÿฅณ

That was then, this is my now:

1) In recent weeks my husband seems to be less enthusiastic about my impending retirement. He has to work for another four years to get his full pension and he seems to resent that I will not be slogging it out with him. I get it. I really do. But I know this will be better for both of us. We will have more time to spend together. I will be able to carry more of the household workload. We will both be able to live around his schedule. I want to do this, but I do not want to go into this feeling guilty and resented.

2) I will no doubt have the opportunity to spend more time with my sons and their families. That will be nice. In August, my daughter kicked me to the curb and banned me from seeing her children. To say that I am devastated from the loss is a total understatement.

3) I am definitely not feeling youthful. I have been sick since October and I am exhausted. I look old and I feel old. ๐Ÿ‘ต Retirement, as I see it now, is the opportunity to nap – a lot.

4) Even though I was definitely ready to leave my job, I wanted to go out feeling really good about the job I did and the contribution I had made to the company I worked for.  Things get worse every day.  I do not care how I get out. I just want to get out.   That is not how I wanted to begin my retirement.  I did not want it to be about getting away from where I am.  I wanted to be excited about where I am going. 

5) Finally, my siblings and the retirements they were enjoying.  I have a sister two years older than me.  We practically grew up as twins.  We have been best friends before bff’s were even a thing.  She had a kidney transplant last March.  She still, and will always, takes a handful of pills every day.  The side effects are brutal.  She was always the bright one, the quick one, the happy one. Now her life is so hard. My oldest sister has always been large and in charge. Not do much large physically, but definitely in charge. She has always been a hoot. She has been dealing with recurring cancer for years. She has been keeping it at bay and living a good life. She has been sick since before Christmas. She has been exhausted and losing weight, confused and weak. Last week she was diagnosed with aggressive, advanced Alzheimer’s. We are all heart-broken for her, for her family and for us.

I am less than six months from retirement. I should be more excited and relieved and happy everyday that it gets closer. I should be, I want to be, but to be honest I am struggling. I definitely do not want to stay in the workforce but these days I do not know if retirement is going to be any better. ๐Ÿš‚

Sleep Deprivation

Kat Napping

Everyone sleeps. For some people (or dogs), sleep is like food. A little here, a little there, and they are functional. I am not one of those people. I need my sleep. A solid eight hours a night – at least.

For the most part, I have always slept well. Even when my children were infants, I slept well. I would go to bed as early as possible, wake up for night feedings, and be able to fall back asleep no problem. Fortunately, my children were good sleepers as well. ๐Ÿ‘ถ

When I was building a new home with my first husband, I worked a year of nights in a donut shop to pay off the downpayment. In the day, I was a full-time homemaker with three children in elementary school. Evenings and weekends, we put a lot of sweat equity into the house. I found I could function on very little sleep if I had to. I also found that lack of sleep made me giddy – really giddy! By the time the year was up, I was able to go to part-time administrative day work and resume my regular sleep routine. ๐Ÿ˜Š

When I became a single mother of three teenagers, I once again had to cut back on my sleep. Monday through Friday, I was up at 6 a.m. and getting ready to drive teenagers to school before getting to work. My day was done at 2 or 3 a.m. the next morning. Saturday and Sunday, I could usually squeak in six hours of sleep a night. It was not nearly enough. After three and a half years, I was giddy to the point of hysterics most days. I could find hilarity in most situations, and generally did. Fortunately, we didn’t have a lot of family funerals or equally somber affairs in those years. I am pretty sure that would not have gone well. ๐Ÿ™„

Anyway, for the past twenty years, I have been able to get in some pretty solid sleep. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. This past fall I had a case of shingles – from the top of my head, through my left eye and across my face. I do not know why, but somehow this has affected my ability to sleep. I will go to bed a 10 pm and at 3 am I am staring at the ceiling thinking about anything that is guaranteed to keep me awake. I finally get a couple of hours of sleep, but it is not nearly enough. I am not giddy when I wake up. I am just exhausted. Sliding off my chair at work by 10 a.m. exhausted. ๐Ÿ˜ด

Laying awake in the middle of the night sucks. Being exhausted all day just sucks. Anybody have any fail proof ways to get to sleep? I am ready to try (almost) anything. ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ

This is awkward๐Ÿ˜‚

International Day of Hugs

Today is the International day of hugs.ย  I have to admit, I am not the most touchy feely person and I am rattled more than a little when someone spontaneously hugs me, especially if it is someone I have just met or someone I do not know very well. Occasionally, someone will ask if it would be ok to hug me. I generally agree although there have been times when I have just declined with a simple “No, I’m good”. Actually it was one time and he was a pre-plan funeral salesman. It was just wierd.

Despite my reluctance to hug willy-nilly, there have been a number of studies that have shown that hugging has potential benefits – physically and emotionally. Newborns, are known to thrive when the they are hugged, compared to those who are deprived of such physical interaction. The same theory must also be popular with seniors. I am pretty sure one of the prerequisites for working in a nursing home is the ability to pass around hugs like hard candies – which is another story of mine altogether.

I honestly do admire people who are capable of giving out spontaneous hugs to anyone in their immediate vicinity. I had a brother-in-law who gave the best bear hugs. He was an amazing man with a big heart and a total joie de vivre. Unfortunately, he died in a vehicle accident many years ago. The likes of Paul are few and far between. My kids are all good and natural huggers but they are all a little cautious about who they hug. My grandchildren hug anybody, their friends are huggers, it is somewhat of a ‘thing’ with the lot of them.

& kisses

Happy ‘International Day of Hugs’! It is only one day of the year, make the most of it.ย  Hug your mother, your friend, your sister, or your dog. Hug a stranger – but like not me. I’m good๐Ÿค—

Christmas 2.0

We had the sons over tonight for a belated Christmas. Unfortunately, Mark’s Erin couldn’t be here as she had to work and Danny’s daughter Gabby is with her mother for Christmas. Mark was here with Dominic and Danny was here with Amanda and their boys Lucas and Cason.

Lucas, Cason, Bacardi and Dominic

The boys kept busy with cars and Lego. There were a few pillow fights and a little mayhem. It’s a small house so a little mayhem goes a long way๐Ÿ˜‚

Dominic and Lucas, who are both four years old, did great having their first supper at the big kid table.
Cason loved the cardboard box๐Ÿคท
The adults were more into the chocolate

We had a good laid back visit. Spaghetti and hot wings might become our go to Christmas dinner. All in all an entertaining evening.

Dan is finally off work now for a few days so we get to relax with the dogs for a couple of hours. Nice๐Ÿ™‚

Baccardi and Cornelius

Christmas Tradition

Done๐Ÿ‘

Finished my Christmas jigsaw puzzle. Actually I got a box of eight smaller puzzles this year but with Danny and family coming tomorrow I may not get them all done before January 2nd.

Growing up, we were not wealthy by any means but all the stops came out at Christmas. There were chocolates and candy, nuts and oranges. There were endless buns and pies, cookies and squares. There was turkey and ham, cabbage rolls and tourtiere, salads and a dozen side dishes. My mother was a phenomenal and prolific cook and baker! There were stockings filled with small treats and toys, always including a new coloring book and crayons. There were dolls, and teddy bears and trucks under the tree. Last but not least, there was always a new jigsaw puzzle. After Christmas dinner, the card table was set up, the puzzle came out, and we all took turns visiting around the puzzle, doing a bit here and a bit there, until the family puzzle was complete. It is a tradition I am sure we all maintained with our children and they carry it on today. ๐ŸŽ„

Christmas Miracles

Merry Christmas From Our Home To Yours

I grew up in a French Catholic home. Religion was a part of our lives every day but even more so at Christmas. For weeks before Christmas, we were put into super drive preparing for the big day. We scrubbed our home from top to bottom, cooked and baked, shopped and wrapped, we prepared for our school Christmas concert (which centred around the Nativity story in those day), we decorated our home and of course we attended choir practice and church services six ways to Sunday. My older, married sisters would arrive with husbands and children and gifts.

By the big day, we were ready for the MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ†

And then, my mother would crash and burn. The exhaustion and the stress of weeks of preparation, topped off with a couple of hours at midnight mass, would finally get the best of her. By noon, Mother would be in full meltdown, babies would start to cry, men would start to drink, sisters would start to fight. No Christmas miracles in our home, just bitter disappointment and the obligatory Christmas pictures to prove that we had the happiest of times๐Ÿ™„. By supper, we had all thrown in the towel and spent the evening working at jigsaw puzzles and playing cards.

Once I had my own family, I pretty much carried on the same tradition with a few extra perks thrown in. Christmas in our home was never done until someone had the flu or a case of pneumonia. The epitome had to be the year Danny puked on the Christmas tree. That was a classic. The year my Dad died days before Christmas was memorable. I was almost ready to give up on the MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS by 2003. That was the year our precious Genie was born. We left the hospital at 3:30pm on Christmas Eve with love and joy in our hearts. We were so close. We got home to find that my Mother had decided to place a box of chocolates under the Christmas tree, inspite of our asking her repeatedly not to do that, inspite of our moving them sixteen times. She had no idea our dog would eat them. Good grief! What dog wouldn’t eat them? Really hard to hold onto the Christmas spirit, when you are sitting in the vet’s office on Christmas Eve. ๐Ÿคฆ

My family grew up, in spite of our annual Christmas debacles. They all have children of their own and their own Christmas stories to tell. For many years we have been going to my daughter’s for Christmas. I have powered through shopping for gifts and food, while my husband kept a running total of the cost. I went to Christmas concerts, which always seem to be held on December 17th ๐Ÿ˜ข. My daughter would bake and clean. We were always ready for a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE that never quite made it. There was tears, disappointment, arguments, melt downs, way to much noise and just downright unChristmassy behaviour – but we kept powering through and I kept doing my damnedest to aim for a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

This year my sons are with their in-laws, my husband is at work, my daughter is at her home with her family and we are not there because she has shut me out of her life and banned me from seeing my grandchildren. My father and mother are both gone. I am alone for Christmas Day. I went into this season with no expectations or hope of making this the year of the CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

Honestly, I am having the best Christmas ever. My sister and her husband were here for an overnight visit a few days ago. We sent out for pizza and had wine. So nice. My sons are coming with their families on the weekend. I have done a bit of baking – some good, some not so much, but whatever. It was Christmassy. Genie’s stepfather dropped her off for a quick visit on the 23rd. She brought us some gifts she had made for us. There were a lot of tears but it was all good. I cooked a ham last night, destroyed the scalloped potatoes but the broccoli was great. After supper, we opened presents. We cried over Genie’s. They were so special. She painted us a picture and wrote a book for Grandpa, telling him how much he meant to her. She gave me a sparkling elephant pin. Today I made myself Pillsbury cinnamon buns for breakfast. I have a turkey in the oven for when Dan gets home from work. I am relaxing by my new fireplace, ready to start doing a jigsaw puzzle. I am happy, at peace, and full of love and good wishes for my family – all of my family. I feel really good. This is is the year of my CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

The thing is, you can’t make miracles happen. You can’t force them or fake them. Miracles just happen when you let them๐Ÿ•Š๏ธ

Peace on Earth – Good Will Towards Men ๐Ÿ•Š๏ธ

This year, for the first time in 42 years, my nest will be empty for Christmas. I somehow thought this would be a time to dread but to be honest, I am quite enjoying it.

I am sorry that my husband has to work all Christmas Day, but I will spend much of the day making us a beautiful turkey supper. We will have time together in the days before Christmas and over New Years. My sister and her husband will be here this weekend and my sons will be here with their families after Christmas.

We will have wine & treats

I have done some baking and set out minimal decorations. I am picking up a couple of gifts for my husband. The kids are getting cards with enough cash to take their families on a special outting.

My Christmas Tree

For the most part, this will just be a nice relaxing time off from work. This year I will have time to enjoy the winter wonderland outside our door – without actually going outside of our door. This year there will be no fussy babies, fighting siblings or arguing couples. There will be no whining, complaining, or crying. And there will definitely be nobody getting the flu and throwing up on the Christmas tree.

Little bits of Christmas

This year there will just be peace and goodwill! The way Christmas should be๐Ÿ•Š๏ธ

National Ambrosia Day

Danny & Lucas

Today is National Ambrosia Day. I can’t believe that of all the salads that could score their own day, that the honor would go to Ambrosia Salad.

Ambrosia Salad is a mix of fruit (typically orange sections as the base), creamy milk product (yogurt, whipped cream or sour cream) and mini marshmallows. It is not my favourite food – so not my favorite since it is a combination of my three least favourite foods. In the eighties it was super popular, particularly with my mother in law who served it with disturbing regularity.

My son Danny loves food – eating it, preparing it, discussing it. A couple of times a year we travel across the province to visit Danny and his family and a couple of times a year they come home. Every trip is preceded by a discussion on the food that will be served. Danny threatens me with Ambrosia salad. I threaten him with tomato aspic (which probably does not get it’s own national holiday๐Ÿ™).