February 11, 2019

Time for a Sabbatical

A Sabbatical usually means a period of leave granted to a worker for study or travel. Lasting from a few months to a year, these are times when a lucky person gets to step away from normal responsibilities and routines. University professors or ministers who are granted an extended break don't usually spend it on a beach in Tahiti or perfecting skiing skills. Often, they use a sabbatical to work on research or finish a work for publication. They are still working but one something different enough to be refreshing. 

That description brings me to my point: I need to take a sabbatical, a break from regular blogging. What should be fun and creative has too often taken the form of an obligation. I look at my calendar each morning and see at least four or five things blog-related that should be accomplished to maintain the standards you and I expect.

I could cut back to one post a week or two, but there would still be an expectation of completing the research and coming up with topic ideas, just less so.

No, I think my mind needs a complete break.

What will I do during my time away from blogging? I have absolutely no idea at the moment. I have a few thoughts that might involve an in-depth re-study of my college major (International Relations) that I skated through with little actual learning, or a real focus on a new-found spiritual path, very different from the lifelong one that has become unfulfilling for me.

It will mean less structure to my days, more time to take a picnic with Betty and Bailey, spend more time plunking on the guitar or listening to music. It will mean time at the gym or on my bike won't have to be squeezed into slots on a calendar. I will mean more time with my new volunteer responsibilities at the library.

One important task will be to move this blog from Blogger to WordPress. The latter is a much more professional-looking, full-featured place to produce a blog. Google has done only the bare minimum to support and improve Blogger. It is time to move. Don't worry...it will be set up so you will automatically be directed to my new home, whenever that happens.

The time away from daily blog-focused tasks will allow me to discover new ways, new topics, and new approaches to dealing with retirement and this stage of life with replowing the same ground too often.

How long will the break last? I don't know. More than a few weeks, definitely. More than a few months, probably not.

The blog will remain right here. There are always people who stumble across it and may find stuff in the archives useful. Also, I am not willing to abandon the Satisfying Retirement name to someone else who may not treat it well. 

One thing I do encourage, is to email me if you'd like: to update me on your life, ask a question, or inquire about the status on my sabbatical progress. Maybe you will have a suggestion on what I could do next if I ultimately decide to not start blogging again. The Email Bob Directly link at the top of the page will remain active.

So, for now, thank you for all your support, comments, and good thoughts. With almost 3.2 million views, there have been a lot of new friends made and information shared. We will get together again after a period of refreshment and creative stimulation.


February 7, 2019

Scaling The Heights During Retirement

Betty took this picture during one of our visits to the Grand Tetons. Even though we were there in late May, winter was still in full force on the peaks. I love this photo because of the power, majesty, and raw nature it captures.

It reminds me of my satisfying retirement goal: to scale the heights of my abilities, time, and energies as far as I can. Anything else seems like a waste of the opportunities given to me.  

Several years ago our small group at church was going through a series entitled, "If You Want to Walk On Water, You Have To Get Out Of The Boat." This refers specifically to the passage in Matthew in which Jesus asks Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water to him. The message is one of faith and trust.

For this post, I'd like to focus on the broader message implied by that title. If we want to accomplish anything of worth we have to "step out of the boat" of our own comfort zone. If we want to grow instead of stagnate we must (to use the same metaphor) risk sinking beneath the water a few times until we learn to swim.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Safe and comfortable, calm and predictable are more normal choices for human beings. But, are we built to handle more than we do? Yes. How will we know what we can do? By stepping out of our boat every now and then.

What is our personal "boat?" It can be anything: our possessions, our health limitations, our relationships, our self-image. It could be money or financial issues, control over situations or shyness with new people. It is often simply the risk of failure in whatever the subject.

I want to encourage all of us to look at that photo of the mountain not as something cold, snowy, dangerous, and a barrier to what's on the other side. Instead, see it as a challenge to you, a challenge to get out of your own "boat" of safety and scale the heights of a new experience. Decide you want to see what is on the other side.

If you take on this task you will stumble and fall, you might even embarrass yourself for awhile. But, so what? We are all old enough that what others think shouldn't always be the standard we are shooting for.

Get out of your boat and climb that mountain. The view can be spectacular. 

February 4, 2019

Attention To My Pre-Retiree Self: You Need To Know This!

Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently during the time before we retired? Maybe more importantly, does it matter? There is no "back to the future" option. The life we have built has led us to this point. 

I would argue that knowing what we might do differently has two positive results, one for us, and one for those following in our footsteps.

For us: we are still a work in progress. Life is about change. There are ways we approach things or make choices in the future that will affect the quality of our retirement.

For those who have yet to retire: learn from our mistakes and choices. See what experience has taught us. Pick what fits your life and avoid what doesn't.

With that setup, here is a (incomplete) list of what I would tell my younger self, remind my present self, and pass along to those coming up behind me:

1) Don't fall in love with the consumer rat race

2) Save even when you think you can't

3) Good friends are worth more than you can imagine

4) Your health habits in your younger years will catch up with you

5) Work is what you do, not who you are

6) The Beatles were (mostly) right: love is all you need

7) If you lose your good name and reputation you won't get them back

8) There is no shortcut to success

9) It may not seem like it now, but life is very short and the end comes much too soon

I wondered if I should prioritize these nine things, putting them in order of importance. Try as I might, I couldn't. Every time I moved one item up the list, then I decided that the item just below it was just as critical to a happy, fulfilling life.

So, I am taking the position that all nine would be equally important to my younger self and remain vital to me today.

January 31, 2019

Tracking a Life Through Journals

Before I began blogging I kept journals. There was never any systematic approach. I'd feel the urge to keep a record of a vacation, or the start of a new year would prompt me to start daily entries and I would begin writing my thoughts into a small notebook. Most lasted only three or four months before I stopped.

Every once in awhile I look back at my notes from ten, 15 or even 25 years ago. It is amazing how consistent my feelings, reactions, fears, and goals have been over that period of time. The same things that bothers or please me today bothered and pleased me in 1992, a full nine years before retirement. I stopped journaling in 2009, and one year later began Satisfying Retirement.

There are some entries from various years and events that I thought worth sharing. They give an insight into my motivations and thought process before I stopped working, and then into the first several years of retirement.

In 1998 I wrote the following to myself after a verbal blow up at a business meeting:

*I must slow down and proceed cautiously when change is involved.
*I must not rush to do something but take the time to assess the situation completely
*I must realize that I threaten the comfort zone of some older guys, so I must proceed with caution and sensitivity.
*I don't have all the answers and have a lot to learn 

A few months later I noted:
I seem to be standing on the sidelines of my life at a time when there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be in there swinging. Possible reasons?
  • fear of failure
  • laziness
  • lack of passion or motivation
  • lack of focus
  • lack of knowledge
  • lack of coherent plan

Many of these same concerns and analysis reappearing in the journals entries of February of 2000, January 2001, and while on a vacation in Italy in 2006.

Since we just started a new year, I wanted to see what I thought at about the same point in my past. An entry in January 2000 gave me a stark reminder of how far off the path to a satisfying retirement I was 18 years ago:
2000 - a year I'd just as soon forget. The business (my radio consulting business) finally wound down to virtually nothing, we were forced to get ready to move to a smaller home, Betty had to take a job she disliked at JC Penney's because we need the money, I ended up working as a glorified waiter for a local focus group research company, one daughter wants to move away from the family to San Diego, the other is so overworked she is not happy.
On the positive side Betty had one of her better years, health wise, the rest of us avoided any major illnesses, Mom and Dad stayed relatively healthy, I became much more involved in church, I became trained as a Stephen Minister leader, after some rough patches our marriage seemed to stabilize. 

Then, a turning point. I began to notice a real difference starting in 2004. While I still had the normal rants about my failures and shortcomings in certain areas, the overall attitude was much better.

After three years of retirement I guess I had begun to figure it out. I was looking more at gaps in my life as opportunities instead of failures. The pressures of watching my business die were gone, and a realization that time could be a friend and not an enemy was apparent in my entries. This one from 2005 seems to be a good place to close:
Make and cultivate a few close friends, stay in touch with people, give of myself, read widely, exercise regularly, turn off the TV, fight the rut of routine. leave time for leisure, have more fun, take up a hobby or pastime that gets me outdoors. Eat less, laugh more, quit fussing, encourage at least one person per day. Plant a garden, put real plants in the house, Trust God for something that seems impossible, Loosen up on the intensity. Stop taking myself so seriously.
Start today.

Guess what, that list works just as well today as it did over 14 years ago. Retirement and living well is a process. I am glad you and I are taking the trip together. 

By the way, if journaling, goal-setting, and to-do lists interest you, check out a new Internet favorite: Bullet Journals. Be the first on your block to have one!