Saturday, August 10, 2013

In year four, the Bag Lady buys dancing shoes

I've started into my fourth year of not working. It's not really retirement until October 1, when I start drawing a pension. You could say I've had a three-year running start on it.

I've found I'm best off when I'm busy and engaged. I'm not a good day-to-day drifter, even on vacation. I like having a to-do list, even if some of the items are optional.

So, in the first year I had three goals: to learn to teach English as a second language; to work on a Habitat for Humanity build in an area affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and to take training to become a mediator. I did all those things. I found out I don't want to teach English as a second language. That I don't have the stamina for Habitat builds (plus, I'm afraid of heights so can't do roofs, scaffolding or even high ladders). And that I love mediation. I took the first training in the last week of my first year of not working, then put in the 140 hours required to be certified by the state to work as a volunteer mediator for the local dispute resolution center. I work sometimes at small claims court, try to do a mediation a week, and use what I've learned in my life every day.

In year two I shifted from setting goals to identifying the values most important to me. I came up with spirituality, community, exercise, curiosity and purpose. For the most part, my life aligned with those values - but I didn't seek out activities in those areas. I just recognized them, and that was good.

In year three I realized that my values needed another look. I had hurt my back and cut back on exercise and gotten out of shape, and other areas of my life were affected by my inactivity. I redefined my values as spirituality, health, community, curiosity and purpose - in that order.

We spent last winter in Tucson at a 55-plus RV resort. I took a water aerobics class three days a week and my husband and I took line dancing lessons on Wednesday mornings. By the time I got back to the Pacific Northwest I'd developed the exercise habit. Here at home, I still do water aerobics or walk two miles almost every day, and my husband and I are continuing our line dancing lessons at the local senior center. The "health" value is something I'm acting on now, rather than just listing.

This summer I started attending a church, for the first time in 30 years. I love the spirituality and the community. And the music. And the community garden. And the small group opportunities. And the drum circle and the book club I'll join in September.

I look at the values I identified last year and see they are still valid for me. Now, in year four, I'm seeking out opportunities that express my values. That feels good, like I'm still growing.

I now "get" why I love mediation; it is spiritually satisfying, engages me within a community of like-minded people, satisfies my curiosity and gives me a sense of purpose for part of my week. I'm grateful I found mediation early in my post-work life.

We've done a lot of traveling in the last three years; I think we've taken 30 trips - some as short as three days, one as long as three weeks. Travel isn't a value of mine, but it satisfies most of them. The connections we make with other people when we're away confirms my sense that, spiritually, "we're all in this together".  We've made friends in new places. We've explored on foot. We've learned. And we see our connectedness to others and the world. That's the best part.

This week, I bought a pair of dancing shoes. I'm moving forward into year four!



14 comments:

Arkansas Patti said...

You always make me feel like a royal slacker. I do wish I had just a little--not all-- of your drive to improve.
However, I found when I retired that I was born to be a "day-to-day drifter."
I'll let you "do" and I'll be content reading about it.
Keep up the good work.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I think you sell yourself short in terms of how much you do, but I like the fact that you are using your energy to do the things that are most important to you. And of course I love that you bought dancing shoes! That feels like a real symbol of commitment, doesn't it?

Kathleen McCoy said...

Congratulations on a wonderfully evolving retirement! It's interesting, isn't it, how our retirement plans and goals change as our lives and insights evolve. I love how you are basing your choices these days on values and have kept your mind so continually open to new possibilities.

DJan said...

Dancing shoes. Somehow that resonates on so many levels, Linda. You are the third senior I know of who has taken up dancing in later years. Maybe I will join you, it beckons to me... :-)

Meryl Baer said...

I admire the way you organize and work on yearly goals. The system is interesting and motivating. I am unfortunately not nearly as focused and organized as you are...I do love the dancing shoes. Good luck and have fun!

Out on the prairie said...

Put on those sailing shoes!

Linda Reeder said...

I always feel a bit inferior when I read your posts like this one. and then I realize that I am me and you are you and we see many things the same way but we respond according to our very different personalities.
I to like to have a plan for my days, but they involve much less community. Introverts are like that. And that's OK.
I have some more away from home time coming up later this week, and then I hope to settle back into mu exercise routines. I need them for fitness and well being.

Olga said...

I am thinking a second book -- this one on active retirement.

rosaria williams said...

Smart girl!
Glad your husband shares the same values. Mine tried dancing once, and decided that was not for him. As we age and our bodies change, we need to keep doing new things to stay engaged.

Terra said...

I like the way you list your priorities and then change the order, so health moved up in position. I love water exercise too, since 1999, and being a church member, since forever :) Mediation seems to be your gift.

Retired English Teacher said...

You amaze me. I love your goals. I love how you have worked to identify what works for you and then gone forth and done them. I learn so much from you.

Dance up a storm in those new dancing shoes!

Dee said...

Dear Linda, I find your posting today so inspiring. I hope I can do the sorting you've done so that I'll feel more at home here and find more "kindred" spirits.
Thank you for sharing your three years of being retired. Peace.

Madeline Hill said...

I enjoyed this post a lot! My husband and I are on the path to retirement.He will be done work in Feb. I am retired already but studying real estate, a good friend would like me to partner with her, on a very part time basis,I thought it would be a fun "hobby" in retirement..

I also like lists and organization, with some wiggle room.I mostly enjoyed reading how you changed your priorities as you go along, as you, and life changes.. retirement is not a "straight line" from what I am seeing..I have changed my mind about things often!

Thanks for sharing.. I also need to get back to some CONSISTENT exercise..thanks for the reminder!

Madeline Hill said...

I enjoyed this post a lot! My husband and I are on the path to retirement.He will be done work in Feb. I am retired already but studying real estate, a good friend would like me to partner with her, on a very part time basis,I thought it would be a fun "hobby" in retirement..

I also like lists and organization, with some wiggle room.I mostly enjoyed reading how you changed your priorities as you go along, as you, and life changes.. retirement is not a "straight line" from what I am seeing..I have changed my mind about things often!

Thanks for sharing.. I also need to get back to some CONSISTENT exercise..thanks for the reminder!