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. πŸ™„

Jen & Danny with friend Dave. (Almost familyπŸ˜‚)
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. πŸ§˜πŸ§šπŸ„πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦πŸ’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 retirementπŸ₯³

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. πŸ‘΅ 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. πŸš‚

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I know that in its worst form it destroys lives. I have struggled to deal with anxiety issues throughout my life and a lot of them are much improved. It is only recently – last December actually – that I realized that my worst anxiety issues now are a result of a mild form of PTSD.

The month of December has been difficult for me since 1993. That is the year my father passed away on December 17th. I was very close to him and it broke my heart, which would be expected. But it was so much more than that. My father had been dealing with cancer of the sinuses for five years – it was a horrid ordeal. Despite working and raising three pre-teen to teenage children at the time, I did everything I could to help my parents through these years. I was the youngest of the family, I was living the closest to my parents, and much of my dad’s medical attention and treatment was done in Regina, where I live. I have five other siblings, all of who did everything they could for our parents, but a lot of it fell on me. It was incredibly hard.

But, there was so much more. I was married to my first husband at the time. The first eleven years of my first marriage were dysfunctional. The last seven years were violent, abusive and traumatizing for me and our children. There was seldom a day when there was not a violent or hateful outburst. To say that he was not supportive of what I was dealing with was an understatement. I had decided that I had to remove my children and myself from the situation a couple of weeks before my father’s diagnosis. After that, I felt compelled to stay until he was gone. My husband felt compelled to take advantage of the situation and make our lives a living hell.

Five months after my father passed away, I told my husband I was done. A few weeks later we moved out.

I was worn out. We moved into a small three bedroom basement apartment. I slept in our kitchen/livingroom so the kids could each have their own bedroom. I worked eighty hours a week and spent the rest of my working hours being a full-time home maker. It sounds rough, but we were really happy and starting to heal. Things got better, we got a better car, we moved to a nice little duplex. I met my current husband and my kids grew up, moved out and started their own families. Life still has its ups and downs but I am okay.

And then there is another December. The decorations go up, the carols start playing and my heart breaks. This week we had an incident at work. One of my co-workers had a violent outburst. He slammed through the shop, swearing, kicking things, having a man size tantrum. I have been shaking ever since.

The thing is, it’s okay. I get that my physical and emotional and mental reactions are about my past, not my present. I know I am in a safe place now. I also know I am stronger for having been through my past. In December, I have a really deep compassion for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one or any of the other heartbreaks that are worse in December. When I see someone being a bully, having a man size tantrum, I am reminded how very fortunate I am to be with my with my current husband. I have the courage to stand up for those who are being bullied and I am proud that my sons and my daughter do as well.

As difficult as these episodes of PTSD are, I know they make me a better person. As long as good can come out of the worst times of my life, I am okay with that.