Elmo

I have been reading various books, searching for advice on how to make the most of my upcoming retirement. One gets into a routine, working five days a week – forty nine weeks of the year – for decades . Building a new routine that will keep my mind sharp, my body healthy and my emotions upbeat, in an unstructured environment, is going to take some effort.

A few days ago I started reading “The Alter Ego” by Todd Herman. The first few chapters were a bit difficult to get into. This book seemed a little clinical and academic to me and probably not what I was looking for, as motivation goes. I was also fairly dubious that Mr. Herman was going to get me to a place where I could believe I had this alter ego, super hero, in me. To be honest, I am not there yet – or to the point in the book where Mr. Herman explains how to find or create one’s own super hero.

I have however gotten to the chapter where Mr. Herman explains how to deal with negative inner dialogue. That is an issue I have struggled with for years. “I am not smart enough – strong enough – graceful enough” “what if I fail – what if, what if, what if “. I have read enough self help books to know this type of inner dialogue is not helpful. Knowing that and ridding myself of it, has been another story. But Mr. Herman offered a unique approach.

Mr. Herman identifies this negative inner dialogue as coming from ‘the enemy within’. He explains how giving this enemy a name, a personality and a physical appearance, gives you the power to vanquish it. This was an ‘aha’ moment for me. Out of the blue, I thought “Elmo, F…. off”. I’m not the type to be crude, so that was rather shocking and I have no idea why Elmo, but it worked. All of the ‘not enough’s and ‘what if’s’ vanished and I am hopeful that if, or when, they return I will have the power to silence them.

Obviously, I am going to finish this book and maybe I will even find my alter ego. Honestly I am happy just enjoying my newfound confidence and peace of mind with Elmo and his chatter gone.

If you are trying to get a handle on a situation in your life, I would recommend this book – “The Alter Ego” by Todd Herman. Actually, I would recommend Elmo, too. He’s always been a favourite with my children (when they were children) and their children.

In My Own Mind

As with anything else in life, retirement is pretty much what you make of it. Regardless of actual circumstances, there are people who enjoy it and make the most of it and those who are miserable.

People who have typically been happy and content throughout life, have little trouble adjusting to retirement. They take it upon themselves to find ways to keep active, which will in turn help to keep them healthy. They use their time on worthwhile and satisfying endeavors, they keep engaged and in touch with their family, friends and community. And finally, they take a sensible approach to their finances, ensuring that they live within their means.

On the other hand, if someone has been relatively miserable throughout their life, clinging to a victim or poverty mentality, blaming others for challenges in their life and making others responsible for their happiness and well-being, then retirement is not going to go well for them . They are on a collision course with declining health, a deteriorating mind, loneliness, boredom, depression and financial issues

If you have gotten into the habit of being pessimistic and miserable. it is never too late to change. These days, it seems that many seniors take pride in being miserable, like it is a badge of honor. It is not. It does nothing for you and nothing for those around you. It is not anyone’s responsibility but your own to make your life, at any stage, meaningful and pleasant. If you do not know how, start reading. There are numerous self-help books available. They may not be geared towards retirement and not every one may be as meaningful or as helpful as others, but if you keep reading and searching, you will find helpful advice. If you are not inclined to read, take a walk or do anything positive and pro-active. Start taking responsibility for your attitude and you will find that you ultimately have the power to improve your life.

If you are the partner of someone who tends to be miserable, you need to know that you cannot make someone else be happy if they choose not to be. You can destroy your own happiness and contentment trying and they will be no less miserable. You may believe you are making them happier by sacrificing your needs for their wants, because they are momentarily happy to have what they want, but that does not make them happy. That just encourages them to keep being miserable to get more of what they want. Couples spend a lot of time together in retirement. If your partner is the type to be miserable, you need to make it very clear that you are not responsible for their happiness so they can address their issues.

If you or your partner are typically happy and well adjusted, a sudden change in attitude could be brought on by medical issues and should be checked out by a professional, sooner than later. Even if a serious medical issue is found to be the problem, it is ultimately easier and less stressful to actually know what is causing the problem and deal with it, than to deal with the unknown. Once you regain control of your mindset, you will be back on track for the retirement you deserve.

Habits

We all have habits that we have developed over the years. Much of what we do is so routine that we do it with little thought or even much effort. This can work for us, or against us.

For those of us embarking on our retirement, it would be reasonable to take a look at our everyday habits and decide which ones to keep, which ones to lose and which ones to create.

We have developed some good habits over the years, many of which would still serve us. Most of us have a morning routine that we follow – get up, make our bed, freshen up – just the basics that help us to prepare for the day ahead and to motivate us to feel ‘ready’. It worked in our working life, it will work in our retirement. There are other habits, that were good, but were tied to our work routine. These we will no doubt have to change to fit our new lifestyle. If we have a physically demanding occupation, that may have covered much of our exercise requirements. Now we will have to create a new workout routine to ensure our health and fitness. If we have a more mentally challenging career, we may have to add more mental stimulation to our daily routine, to keep our minds sharp as our home life rituals may have been more focused on the physical.

We all have habits that have never, and will never, serve us. This is an excellent time to make note of these and rid ourselves of them. These could include indulging in take-out or processed food on a regular basis, watching too much television, smoking – anything that is likewise just unhealthy and a waste of time and/or money.

Finally, this is a great time to focus on building new habits that will serve us during this phase of our lives. These might include starting a new exercise program, reading, cooking, socializing – just creating routines that are mentally. physically and emotionally stimulating and satisfying. Retirement can be some of the best years of our lives, but as always, it is up to us to make that happen.

It can be difficult making or breaking habits. I recently read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. This book was a complete game changer for me. It is an easy read full of helpful tips and advice that make sense. Personally, I believe anyone preparing to retire should read it. It was certainly worth my time and money.

All About Me

Before I decide how best I can live my retirement, I think it is a good time to review who I am and what I really want to do with my life going forward.

It would be easy enough to review my history, list my relationships and explain what I have done career wise but that doesn’t really speak to who I am or where I go from here. I feel I need to dig deeper than that.

So who am I? I am someone who is STRONG – not physically or mentally or even emotionally. I am strong on a deeper level. I have been through hell, have found the strength to do what I had to do, and I have started over stronger, wiser and better for the experience. I am someone who is INTELLIGENT -in a common sense kind of way. I have always been able to contribute by seeing what needs to be done, by finding a way to do it and by acting accordingly. I am definitely intelligent enough to learn from others and to learn from my own mistakes. I am KIND, not in a patronizing or enabling way but kind enough to offer a hand up, or compassion or support as the case may be. For the most part, I have been the caregiver as opposed to the one in need of care and I am definitely more comfortable being in the role of caregiver.

So generally speaking, I believe I am strong enough and have enough interests to anticipate an enjoyable retirement, however I will need to find ways to keep giving. That is the way I was raised – to believe that we were here to contribute more than we took away from any situation. That will, no doubt, always be a part of me.

Getting Started

With retirement mere months away, it is time to start preparing for this new phase in my life. My original plan was to start by reading a few books by the experts . It turns out that most of the experts writing books on this subject are focused on the financial aspect of retirement. No doubt this is important, but it is not my biggest priority. If I start stressing and obsessing over finances, we will never have the means to feel secure. We are not wealthy but we will keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We are in a position to manage financially .

What I want to focus on right now is building a new lifestyle, finding who I am at this point in my life, who I want to be and how I want to live this new chapter of my life. I cringe at the thought of spending the next thirty years or so in front of a television set, watching pretend people living pretend lives while my own slips away. Life is precious, life is priceless and I want to live every day of mine to the fullest – especially now that the time is mine to live as I choose.

I want to focus on how to make the most of my life. I want to work on getting into the best shape I can physically and find ways of maintaining my physical wellbeing. I want to focus on keeping my mind strong and stimulated. I want to focus on ways to keep emotionally healthy. I want to focus on finding ways to serve others, to give as long as I am able.

I am anxious to begin this new phase of my life. I know I have much to learn and much to do in order to be as ready as I hope to be. I guess that is how I start.

My Very First Blog

Here I am, starting my journey to retirement.

Over the years I have thought of retirement as that final chapter in life – the end of responsibility, the end of driving to work on icy streets in the pitch dark in the midst of a Saskatchewan winter, the end of the day to day stress of answering to employers, customers and suppliers and the end of deadlines. Retirement also brought promises of beginnings – the beginning of endless cups of tea, reading, needlework, home cooking, deep corner cleaning and of course spending more time with my husband.

As I get closer to retirement, eleven months away now, I am seeing retirement in a different light. I am noticing the things at work that I will miss, but more than that, I am looking forward with anticipation to this next chapter of my life – the opportunities it will present, the challenges that will arise and hopefully the personal growth that will occur.

I have always believed that our lives here are an opportunity to evolve, personally and as humanity in general. The most exciting aspect of preparing for retirement is focusing on all the ways that I can make the most of my retirement to facilitate my mission to evolve, to grow, and to hopefully, in some small way, leave this world a little better than I found it.

Thank you for reading – I hope you will follow my journey to and through retirement and offer feedback of your own journey.