May 15, 2013

A Retired Life: A Summary In Six Words

A sermon from my pastor two Sundays ago caused me to think, not only of his Biblical message, but also how his points relate to a satisfying retirement. His message was based on the life of Paul and his conversion from a hater of Christians to the author of almost one-half of the New Testament. The pastor used two sets of three words to describe Paul's journey. 

Since thinking about blogging and post topics is an on-going process, I welcomed this burst of connectiveness. There are certainly three words that can be used to accurately describe my life before retirement, and my existence since.

Before Retirement:

* Angry - I work with men just before and after their release from prison. Usually, those guys have a lot of anger to deal with. Uncontrolled anger often was what landed them behind bars in the first place. I have seen, firsthand, what unresolved anger can do to someone's life.

In my case, I am not talking about that type of anger. During the last 15 years of my career I was angry at my feeling of being out of control. I was angry I was gone from home all the time. I was angry that clients wouldn't listen to my suggestions. I was angry that the house was never "perfect" when I returned home from a road trip.

* Ambitious - There came a point when I was rather well known in my profession. Within the narrow context of a certain type of music programming I was a national figure whose presence was sought as a speaker at conventions and group meetings. I helped write a study that changed the face of radio news. One of the major radio networks hired me to tell them how to improve. Radio stations would seek me out. I was receiving large sums of money to tell people what I thought.

With that type of adoration and financial support I was riding on a wave of hubris (a great word that doesn't get used enough!). I didn't take time to learn anything new about my industry. I was content to keep repeating the same message and following the same game plan year after year. Eventually, my ambition and pride would catch up with me in a big way and end my ride.

* Unfulfilled - Even with the travel, money, and fame I was not happy. I kept thinking that someone would discover I really had no idea what I was talking about. My life revolved around work...no, hold that, I had no life. I had a career and nothing else. There were no hobbies or interests that occupied my occasional off hours.

The family would take vacations in Hawaii or our condo in Florida, but I'd never relax because I was worried about everything under the sun. Through all this my incredible wife and two amazing daughters would stand with me and never tell me to my face I was out of control.


After Retirement:

* Calm - If you have been reading Satisfying Retirement blog for awhile you'd probably conclude I am rather happy with my lifestyle. I don't think my writing expresses much anger because I don't really feel any. My life has finally achieved some sense of balance. I have learned to keep my various activities, interests, and responsibilities in their proper place. It took me 50-some years to figure out that anger is destructive to a person, a relationship, and a future. Anger is all consuming and counter-productive. This is a work in progress, but there is progress.

* Content - Sure, there are moments when I worry a bit about our finances or our health. My daughters and grand kids and their future are never far from my thoughts. I don't have the type of financial resources I expected to have at this stage of my life. My lifestyle is simpler and less cluttered than I would have ever pictured for myself. I am happy with much less than I once was.

In a word, I am content..content with my place in society, my family, and my life. You know me well enough to know that doesn't mean static. Contentment doesn't mean an end to growth and struggle. It means an end to striving for unrealistic and undesirable goals.

* Fulfilled - I am fulfilled by the way my life has unfolded. I have a woman by my side who has given me almost 37 years of her life and means more to me than life itself. I have a family one only dreams of. I am doing what I want, how I want, and when I want. I believe I am loved by God. I have friends who I would walk over hot coals for. I even have a dog that loves me with the type of devotion only a canine can provide. In short, no matter what the future holds for me, I have a peace and sense of fulfillment that can never be taken away.

Retirement has been very, very good to me. I wish for you the same.


Note: good blogging buddy and friend, Galen Pearl, found some inspiration from this post. She blogged about it here: Transformations , and has challanged me to dig a bit deeper into why these changes occured in me.

I will do so.


15 comments:

  1. I had similar pre/post-retirement experiences to you, Bob. The main difference was that I had a frightening health problem when I was 40 that helped me reevaluate my life priorities. That was a blessing although I didn't realize it at the time.

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    1. You are so right rjack, it often takes a major bump in the road to get through our thick human skulls.

      So far I have avoided anything worse than the normal aches and pains of aging. My Dad is 89, still walks without a walker or cane, looks 15 years younger, and takes half a dozen pills a day, or about 1/3 of what his contemporaries consume. I hope to be that fit in another 25 years!

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  2. Wow, you hit the nail on the head about the difference between the nagging, unfulfilled ambition that accompanies a career, and the peace beyond all understanding that you can achieve when you leave it all behind. I'll be mentioning "Living a Satisfying Retirement" when I post on my own blog later today (in a few hours, b/c I still have family visiting and my sister wants to borrow my computer!)

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    1. I never thought I could leave that career "fame" and achievement high behind me since it was all that defined me for a few decades. But, once you realize the fullness of life and all you can do to come closer to the person God made you to be, then that "15 minutes of fame" stuff seems so unimportant.

      I appreciate the new book plug, Tom. I'll look forward to it and provide a Twitter and Google+ link when it is live.

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  3. I have to say this...Let's hear it for the women who put up with all the hours, spent alone or with their children, making life comfortable for their spouse, who is consumed by his career. It seems quite thankless, a lot of the time. May we all have the contentment we deserve, in our retirement years.
    b

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    1. The same pastor that inspired this post noted last Sunday that a stay- at-home mom should be paid over $113,000 if all she does is compensated at the going rate. A working mom should get an additional $67,000.

      Seems fair to me.

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  4. The feelings you went through, and the changes you effected, are probably more commonplace than many might think. Companies are very good at motivating employees to do everything to advance their careers, oftentimes at the expense of family relationships and health. Most of us realize this and eventually wake up, but unfortunately for many it is much too late, and for some that never comes. Like yourself I realized it awhile ago and now put much less emphasis on what I get out of work, limiting it to the financial renumeration. The old adage "stop and smell the roses" rings as true today as it ever did.

    BTW, about 30% into your new book after starting it last night. Hopefully I'll finish it on the planes today and tomorrow. Interesting responses so far.

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    1. I think it somewhat depends on the type of business or the place in that company one is in. Companies are often very good at motivating a work-first mindset, especially among mid and upper level management.

      Or, as in my case, I worked for myself for most of my career so I had to be self-motivated. In one sense that is risky because there was no one to moderate my intensity.

      I hope you enjoy the book. I found the responses to the questions fascinating.

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  5. My worklife was a little different. I didn't often feel valued except by my clients. In the work culture, bad behavior was tolerated. I felt powerless. For the last few years I worked only for the money and the benefits. That did not feel good.

    Now my life is my own. I often feel valued. I don't have to be around people behaving badly unless I choose to. I can be as busy as I want. It's good!

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    1. Good counterpoint, Linda. "I don't have to be around people behaving badly unless I choose to" is so true.

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    2. I echo most of what Linda said except I really love the people I work with just don't care for the work. Hey it's a job and that's why I'm still here.

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  6. My previous situation as a teacher put me in a different place than yours, in no way as dark. I loved the creativity and research involved with teaching, as well as the wonderful exchanges of energy and enthusiasm I had with the kids. For the most part, my colleagues were wonderful and stimulating people. While I was a popular teacher, the kids had a wonderful way of keeping me grounded. When all that upbeat stuff started to fade (mainly from uber-anxious helicopter parents and astonishing administrative decisions), I decided it was time to retire earlier than planned.

    While I surprisingly don't miss teaching, I still deeply appreciate all that I had back then.

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  7. I enjoyed reading your perspectives on those three words and your career and retirement. I think unresolved ambition at the end of one's career can have something to do with the twin evil of facing one's mortality. It's like: What's next? But you know what's next. But this helps to frame the value of the time remaining.

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  8. That is a dramatic contrast. If you had to use three more words to describe how you achieved this transformation, what would they be? The fact of retiring wouldn't, by itself, trigger this sort of deep change. I think many people might recognize themselves in your first three words, and long to describe themselves with the second three. Hmm, I might be asking more than you want to take on in a response to a comment, but I think you are onto something deeply significant here, and I hope you'll write more about it. (Betty, I hope you read this post!)

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    1. Three more words? That's a good question. I'd have to give that some thought.

      I know my increased reliance on my faith has had a lot to do with the difference. Also, I have found some good friends who have enriched my life tremendously. A feeling of control over my day-to-day life is important, too.

      Yes, Betty has read the post!

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