June 16, 2013

Is Retirement a Bed of Roses?

A recent post by blogging friend, RJ Walters, caused me to pause (and that is a good thing). He was pointing out that the retirement blogs he reads, including Satisfying Retirement, seem to often paint an overly optimistic picture of life after work. He wonders if the descriptions are realistic. Don't retired people get bored, or lonely, or depressed, or unhappy? Is every day just another day on the good ship lollipop?

Nowadays by nature I am an optimist. I'll freely admit I didn't used to be that way. I could find the dark cloud in every silver lining. And, to reassure those who wonder if I am floating high above all of life's problems, the answer is certainly,"No." I do get bored on occasion. Sometimes I feel somewhat adrift in my life. Too many times, I struggle to be the type of husband I want to be to my bride of 37 years. I can be a real jerk. I have periods of self-doubt. My faith life was pretty much non-existent for way too many years and I still find myself turning to human solutions when I should be directing my thoughts elsewhere.

Certainly, there was a rough period of two or three years right after closing down my business in 2001. I have written several times about the second stage of retirement: that time when all the worries and second guessing seemed to occupy all my thoughts. I didn't know how to fill my time, except with television, endless hours of reading, and lots of naps. I was marking time.

Then, I found an interest in ham radio. I got my Federal license, joined a club, made new friends, and eventually became president of the organization for three years. I rediscovered the importance of faith in God in my life. I took a six month training program to become a lay spiritual counselor. I stopped most of my worrying about whether I had planned well enough financially. I began to see more silver linings and fewer dark clouds.

My interest in writing has been a part of my life ever since a creative writing class in high school (thank you, John Durkin). But, I had never found an appropriate outlet. The great American novel wasn't waiting to spring forth from my mind. Except for radio programming and rock music from the 1960's and 1970's, I wasn't enough of an expert in any particular field to write a textbook. So, I filled many journals and waited.

Three year ago (June 25th) I started blogging. I found my outlet and a subject I had enough experiences in to share my thoughts with others. At that time virtually all the retirement blogs available dealt just with the financial side of life after work. Except for a few notable exceptions, the blogging world lacked many voices that seemed to deal with the full range of interests and concerns of building a happy retirement. Even the phrase, satisfying retirement, turned up virtually nothing on a Google search. Try it today and see what you find!

There may be times when I appear to have all the answers. There are more times than not when my readers and those who leave comments seem to be living a stress-free, uncomplicated, "Leave it To Beaver" existence with nary a cloud on the horizon. I think a closer reading of what the comments say and what is written between the lines should show that isn't really the case.

But, no matter. The world has way too much negativity and people tearing things down instead of building them up for me to want to be part of that crowd. The world is a dangerous and scary place that really doesn't care if you succeed or fail. I see my "job" for now as describing a type of life that is available after retirement....not "the" type of life, but one example: mine.

How do I know? Because I have been walking this road for a dozen years. Will everyone find the contentment and satisfaction I have found so far? Of course not. Is my retirement without bumps and stumbles? Don't be silly. Heavens, my IRA lost 30% of its value between 2008-2010. Talk about scary. But, I'd be less than honest and certainly no help to readers if I didn't emphasize the good stuff I have uncovered.

No one needs to be reminded of how tough life can be. Read the paper, watch TV news, or simply observe the world around us for a nonstop stream of the problems we face. Do we really need another voice claiming doom and ruin are bearing down on us?

If so, you won't find it here. I have admitted my past failures and will continue to do so when appropriate. I will continue to describe how my satisfying retirement is unfolding, in both positive and negative ways. I will strive to not duck the tough issues. But, I won't dwell on them. That's not who Bob Lowry is in June of 2013.

  

31 comments:

  1. Bob --

    Happy Father's Day! What a fantastic blessing and vocation for those of us called to it.

    I'm confident your post was in no way fishing for compliments, but let me reaffirm the value I draw from your authentic sharing. Does every post resonate with me? Of course not. But on balance I find your blog highly authentic and insightful, as well as inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy Father's Day to you, Rick. My two daughters, and now three grandkids, have been central to my sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

      Thank you for your compliments, too. This post was one that just flowed out after thinking over what RJ said on his post. He made a good point that I wanted to expand on. He also caused me to think about how I present myself in public, which blogging certainly is.

      There was a blogger who had quite a following when I first started three years ago. She was very direct and pointed out what bothered her while pulling no punches.

      But, then, slowly over the course of a year or so her posts became bitter and full of anger. The comments she began to leave on other blogs, including this one, crossed the line into hateful and vitriolic responses. She has since disappeared from the regular blogging world, hopefully to find some peace and happiness.

      I made myself a promise that no matter what happened to me as my life unfolded I would steer clear of that approach. At times I have probably over-compensated and have ventured into Mr. Roger's neighborhood. But, that is more me than not.

      Again, thanks, Rick. I'll be off to a Father's Day pool party and BBQue at my daughter's home later this afternoon.

      Delete

    2. You seemed to start this blog after you had gone through most of the rough spots of adjusting. You write about many things that people wish they had- intact families, smiling travel, loving daughters, "enough money" and a growing spiritual life. When you first started writing, I thought you "walked out the door" with these attributes. I appreciate that you are slowly telling us that it has been a good journey.
      Although I like reading about early retirees who have it all, I more appreciate the idea that I, too, can get there with some time, optimism and engagement.
      Your blog does that nicely.
      As far as the negative blog? It simply changed addresses and now has more readers then ever. Some of us go through our negativity privately and others publically, that is part of retirement as well, right? I like to read both sides.

      Delete
    3. Good morning, Janette. I actually enjoyed reading the woman's blog for a time. I was so new to blogging that I was still trying to find my "voice" and what I would say. She showed me a side I wasn't comfortable pursuing but I appreciated her writing ability. I didn't realize she was back.

      Since I didn't start blogging until 2010 you are absolutely correct: the first 9 years of retirement had already passed before I began. The first few years had their challenges and struggles. Perhaps it would be useful for me to do a series of posts on those initial years after work and what I went through.

      That's an interesting idea I will think about.

      Delete
  2. Nice post Bob. It does explain much of what you write. I am happy to have been a little part of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After reading your post of a few days ago and the comments left by your readers I felt some clarification was in order. I sat down and wrote the above in about 10 minutes!

      I consider you one of the more intelligent, interesting, and on-point bloggers putting yourself out there everyday. Keep doing what you are doing, RJ. The world needs to read your take on things (which is quite often my take, too).

      Delete
  3. I think that when I focus on what is good and beautiful, my life becomes that. Life is not all roses but a person can decide for themselves what life looks like by seeing greatness in people and places.

    I agree completely that "no one needs to be reminded how tough life is". Keep going in your direction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good morning, Kelly.

      I couldn't sustain a more jaundiced view of the world for very long. I believe the cliché that you become what you think about the most is true. RJ's thoughts that prompted this post have alerted me to the need to be sure I don't gloss over the parts of retirement that aren't always pretty. But, I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't return to my core beliefs of what life can be.

      Delete
  4. It's interesting to observe how different people respond to negativity in their life. Of course life is not a bed of roses, and that includes retirement. That being said, I have always been a strong believer that we have a lot of control over how we handle what comes our way.

    When I was still working, I had contact every day with very sick, frail patients, who were hoping to improve their health a bit and extend their life for as long as they could. I loved working with these very sick, mostly elderly patients. As sad as it was, I saw my role as one of helping them to optimize their health and improve the quality of their life as much as possible. My patients would find this hard to believe, but I always felt that I received way more from my patients than I could ever give to them in return. As depressing and sad as my job could be, I focused on the small improvements I would see in their lives. And their trust in my guidance was incredibly rewarding.

    One of the things my mother is fond of saying is to "appreciate what we have". I think it is her way of saying that in spite of hardships, sorrow, death of those close to us, we still have much in our lives to be thankful for. I choose to focus on the positive, and not let the negative overtake my thinking, and hence my emotions.

    When we choose relationships in our lives, hopefully we are choosing carefully. The value of good-hearted, caring people can not be overstated in terms of the positive impact this can have on our life. These relationships can sustain and nurture us through difficult times.

    Do bad things happen, do I occasionally get depressed or bored? Of course. It is part of humanity. But how we handle these situations is key. I'm not saying it is easy. I can recall two monumental events that were personally devastating (both of which I had no control over). The support of my husband and close friends helped me through a very difficult time.

    Your blog is a good mix of optimism and realism. Our thoughts and emotions are very much influenced by our exposure. We can choose to surround ourselves with good, caring people (including blog friends!). It is insurance against too much negativity, which in turn can lead to depression and isolation.

    (My comments are not meant to minimize the experiences of someone who is clinically depressed. Attempts to overcome deep depression occasionally need the help and support from professionals trained to do so.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the reasons I became a spiritual counselor (Stephen Minister) was my desire to give something of myself to someone else who was hurting. What I could give them was a feeling of hope in a God who loved them regardless of what was wrong in their lives. That five year experience was one of the factors that turned me around from the gray cloud person I had been up to that point.

      To be very transparent, I occasionally take small doses of what my wife calls "happy pills" when I am in a period of self-doubt or anxiety. One prescription has lasted me almost two years so you can see my use is infrequent and short-lived. But, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of help when needed.

      Thanks, Carole.

      Delete
  5. Happy Father's Day! Bob, I love your blog and your approach--I, too am an optimist. I don't think you skirt the important or tough issues, you simply do not FOCUS on them or dwell on the negatives. I like that! You mention the challenging issues in a way that makes me THINK.

    I usually make lemonade over and over when life hands me those lemons, and we all get our share.. practicing gratitude helps! And learning how to make really great lemonade! AND reading blogs like yours that point out lots of varied directions we can take in our journey towards retirement and happiness....

    Please keep on with all you offer us..and more RV blogs too!!



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a post soon on widowhood. There's a subject that is impossible to treat lightly.

      Thanks, Madeline. I try to be realistic but obviously blogging is a personal expression of a particular mindset and world view. I can't fake it, nor would I want to.

      Delete
  6. I know some bored lonely retired people. There are plenty of them out there. Sometimes they're the victim of circumstances (poor health, for example), and sometimes they bring it on themselves. But they usually don't blog (although maybe if they did, they'd be less bored and lonely). Anyway, Bob, I like your attitude. It's a good example for all of us. And happy Father's Day to you too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the F.D. wishes, Tom.

      It might be helpful if the lonely and bored retirees read some uplifting blogs! You are what you eat....and read!

      Have a great day, Tom.

      Delete
  7. I agree with RJ that there are some overly optimistic blogs out there, but I don't object to them. In fact, I love to see happy people who enjoy sharing their adventures. We all have our own reality to deal with and hopefully enough common sense to realize that we should never compare.

    I read blogs that entertain, enlighten and enrich my life in some way. If I have a choice (which I do) between reading a blog that is negative and hateful over one that is uplifting - like Satisfying Retirement - guess which one I will choose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like living "Life Out Loud." You celebrate what is good in your life, the changes you are making, and your concerns. That is why I read your blog!

      Delete
  8. Everyone has their own outlook, whether it's during their career or retirement. I am a believer that your outlook will have a direct effect on your outcome. I think that's true no matter where you are in this life. What it takes to make me happy may seem silly to someone else. Someone else's view of retirement could be the total opposite of mine, which is all good. We have to be true to our own soul.
    This was a good 'thinking' post, Bob.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never claim that others should follow my path. That would be silly. I do make an attempt to describe why I make the desisons I do and hope that provides some "thinking" opportunities to those who are looking for answers.

      My life today is radically different from what it was just 15 years ago. My "core" is the same, but how I use my time and talents is constantly unfolding in ways that surprise even me!

      Delete
  9. Bob, sounds like you and Betty are living the lives that make the most sense for you both, and loving it at the same time. You have no reason to apologize or make excuses for your positive nature - it is probably one of the top reasons why your blog is endearing for many of us. Keep tuning out the negativity; your point around the world being too full of it is spot on.

    Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are living the life that best fits us at the moment. Importantly, it isn't the same life we envisioned when we first retired and it isn't even the same life as 6 or 7 years ago. The ability to evolve how we use our resources and time is one of the true joys of retirement.

      I'm just back from a cookout and pool party at one of my daughter's home. There were 15 people having a great time in the 105 degree heat! Lots and lots of sun block.

      Delete
  10. Yes, sometimes, but why in the world would I need to write a blog post about it? To do so would require pondering whatever the negative emotion was, thus bringing it back up to the surface and reliving it all over again.

    That is not how one goes about living a joyous life. One goes about living a joyous life by moving past the negative emotion with all due haste. I do so by going for a run, a hike, picking up a good book, making something in my kitchen, writing a blog post.

    Sorry, but what you see is precisely what you get with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so looking forward to meeting you and Mike in Oregon in August. Your can-do attitude is one of the reasons I find your blog so inspiring. I can't emulate the physical nature of all that you and Mike do. But, I can take your thoughts and find ways to adapt them to my situation.

      Delete
  11. Happy belated Father's Day and I for one am grateful for your blog just the way it is and for your readers chiming in! I am not retired, might not ever retire who knows?I am the woman who sees the glass half full even in my darkest times and recently have had it put to the test(Mom died 8/12 after battling lung cancer,hubby TIA 2009 and 2 blood clots this year etc etc). I could look at life differently and on dark days I go to a place in my brain that protects me and then God and the universe protect me for awhile.I love the way you write! it's smart, practical and fun.I learn and get enjoyment for your topics and your readers responses.I also enjoy that you share your past, your family stories,your opinion and handle opposing views in a nice manner.Everyone will not always get along, we will disagree in my opinion it's how we handle it.....keep up the good work, most of us are enjoying the heck out of the blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RJ reads this blog on a regular basis and has it listed on his blog roll so his gentle jibes are just that. I appreciate his prompting me to think abit about this subject. The result will be a four part series about the earliest stages of my retirement so newer readers will understand I have had my share of struggles, too.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. And, yes, I had a great Father's Day pool party and cookout at my daughter's house.

      Delete
  12. Bob,

    Since I'm in the Benefits business I've been thinking about retirement since I was in my 20s (I'm now in my mid-5os). Once when I was in my 30s I mentioned my retirement plans to a new hire, and she said, "You want to retire? Aren't you afraid you'll get bored?" I said, "What makes you think I'm not bored now?" To me that's the real key to how I imagine retirement will be for me -- having the time to devote to my hobbies and interests that get so little of my focus now. My job is fine, it's a good match for my skills, and it pays me enough. I'm not complaining, truly. But even though I like my job, I wouldn't do it if I didn't get paid. The things that I do for no pay are a lot less boring to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved my career for most of the 35 years I spent in radio, but the last few years I felt I was only in it because I had to keep bringing in the checks.

      Now, I have some fond memories but don't miss the daily grind one single bit. I don't miss all the extra money at all because it came at such a cost. I love my life now and see it satisfying me for years to come.

      Delete
  13. I have been writing about retirement since 2007. During that period of time I have posted over 900 article. A few of those were good and right on the mark. But I will say that I think that those of us that write about this time in our life want to inspire and encourage those looking at all their options.

    Bob, you are a realistic writer and I know you have so many followers because you always hit the target. I appreciate that.

    b+

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 900 articles? That is a lot! Thanks, Barb for being a supporter since the very beginning on this blog.

      Delete
  14. Comment #2 as I try something on for size. I'm considering ending my blog after our upcoming Pacific Northwest trip. The reason? Our transition into retirement feels complete, our lives are incredibly full, and I'm not sure what more I can offer other than an ongoing travel and sporting event monologue, which I don't think would be that interesting.

    Today, as an example, we visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with our Lifelong Learning group. I got inspired during our visit to pull out a DVD series we have, that I never completed, on The History of European Art. I was inspired to join the group that organizes these outings in order to give back a little. I also then decided to start a neighborhood gathering to potluck various wines and enjoy a series on The Art of Wine we haven't yet watched. Clearly I won't have time to do all of them, but I love that they are out there for consideration. And that really is what every day is like - one thing leads to so many more.

    The retirement transition bumps are so minor now, they aren't even worth a moment of my time. Life just keeps feeling richer by the day, and as I've said, I feel like there is nothing left to share or pass along, at least for the next few years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If this comes to pass I know I will miss your posts tremendously. Your energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Besides, you help me find great RV spots!

      But, I understand completely. You feel you have closed the circle that prompted you to blog in the first place. To continue when it no longer feeds you would be a mistake. Blogging is so personal that only you know when to stop.

      As long as Betty and I get to meet you and Mike in Oregon and maybe when we RV in California in October I'll get my Tamara fix.

      BTW, I am thinking of taking a blogging break when we are in Oregon in August. I want to focus on friends and experiences and not worry about post deadlines. But, I still have things to say so it will only be a break.

      Delete
    2. Absolutely! I've made several 'real' friends out of blogging friends, and am all the richer for it.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted