October 17, 2021

Passionate About The Possibilities and Honest About The Realities

This phrase used to be the one that appeared just under the Satisfying Retirement title until a few years ago. Though I haven't used it for quite a while, Passionate About The Possibilities and Honest About the Realities is a phrase I like. This is the stage of life when we are faced with all sorts of new opportunities, challenges, and adjustments. No matter how well prepared we are, there will be hurdles we must overcome. To be less than honest about that part of the journey isn't helpful. 

If my working life was at all typical, there was little opportunity for introspection. There were few opportunities to assess where I had been or where I was headed. Family time was squeezed into little slots of open schedule between work-related necessities. The pressures of keeping my little enterprise going and growing did not have an on-off switch.
As long-time readers know my business came to a screeching halt in June 2001. Rather than pumping more resources into keeping things afloat, my wife and I decided to retire. I was 52 and she was 47....to call us early retirees would be accurate. To call us nervous, unsure retirees would fit, also.

As we began to get our footing in a world not defined by work, schedules, and regular income, we both began to grasp the amazing opportunities we had been given. Our days were wide open, open to inspiration, and possibilities.

Within the confines of a tight budget during those early years, we learned a few important facts about ourselves: our marriage must be strengthened and remain at the center of our universe, our creativity should be allowed to express itself in ways we had never considered before, and the only limitations on what happened were ones we imposed on ourselves. 

In the intervening years, some of those conclusions about life have shifted, some have been tested and found wanting, some abandoned by the side of the road of life, and others discovered and embraced.

Perhaps the most important discovery was being honest about the realities of our marriage. Since we celebrated our 45th anniversary four months ago, rest assured, we have figured things out.

Not us, but you get the idea
But, I had not understood how much my working schedule and attitude toward what happened at home while I traveled had put things at risk. Being together full time forced us (mainly me) to see beyond the public picture of contentment and domestic bliss.

Our communication was strained. Our expectations of what each of us should be doing, both separately and together, were not realistic. There were miscommunications and conflicts that tended to be swept under the rug. An artificially calm and well-ordered household was what I saw after returning from a business trip. Even so, I would criticize something, usually quite minor, that hadn't been done.

You can imagine the stress and unhappiness this caused, not only to my wife but also to the kids. Unbeknownst to me, both girls would hold their breath when Daddy came home, hoping he would not be in a bad mood.

After retirement, as my personal bubble began to burst and I was not running on all cylinders, it took several years for me to understand, accept, and change my behavior. It took a fresh appreciation of the concept of a team building a marriage together, not just two separate people who agreed to share the same space. An honest look at the realities of a long-term marriage revealed cracks and stress fractures that had to be addressed. 

Over the years I have been pleasantly surprised at the personal growth retirement has allowed me to experience. After the period of euphoria and feeling large weights gone from one's shoulders, there comes a letdown.

In the past, I referred to this as Stage Two of retirement. This is when you have no idea what you are going to do with all your free time. You no longer have much structure in your daily life; one needs to be found to prevent feeling aimless or living without much purpose.

Coming out of that period of questions and searching are discoveries of what really motivates and stimulates me, what risks I am willing to take, and what elements of daily life are really most satisfying.
Getting my ham radio license opened me up to a whole world of experiences, friendships, and a chance to use some of my leadership skills.

Prison ministry yanked me completely out of my comfort zone but proved to be life-changing. Helping others in an environment that had been alien to me opened my eyes to parts of society that I had been sheltered from as a child and young adult.

Going through the training to become a lay minister, charged with counseling others, once again put me in direct contact with the personal problems and dysfunctions of others that had not been part of my world.

Volunteer work with Junior Achievement allowed me to satisfy the teacher hiding inside me. Accepting a position on the board of directors of our library's friends' organization gave me a special thrill. Besides being a lifetime lover of books, this work let me feel directly connected to my grandfather and favorite uncle, both of whom were librarians of some fame and importance. Recently, I rejoined a steering committee for the retiree's arm of the Phoenix area United Way.

As my creative side continued to demand more attention, I found myself learning to paint. The progress has been slow; my standards are high. Importantly, though, sitting in front of a blank canvas fills me with possibilities and a positive sense of anticipation. As long as those feelings exist, I will tolerate an end product that will go no further than the walls in my office.

Importantly, as each of these commitments and hobbies was added to my week, I found I had more energy, not less. I realized that I feel tired and sluggish when I am not doing enough, not when I am trying to fit something else in.

Now, with me blogging again, the same feeling applies. Yes, sometimes it is hard to sit down in front of a blank screen and write 700 words that will express how I feel about something while remaining broad-based enough to allow others to see themselves in the words. Yet, there is a positive feeling after finishing the task and feeling good about what has been written. 

R.J. Walters is a blogger that I read on a regular basis. He has so many different blogs and topics that it is nearly impossible not to find something he has written that grabs me on a regular basis. Don't believe me? Click on his name above and settle in for a few hours of exploration.

A few weeks ago a sentence in one of his writings grabbed me with its simplicity. And, it seems to fit with this post. He said, " the future is moving into the past. I am dreaming away my future with dreams."

That is precisely what I have discovered about this time of life. If I think about doing something for too long, that idea is now part of my past. The magic moment has gone. I am spinning all sorts of wonderful ideas of "what if I did this," or "I would love to try this," even, "it is time to stop doing that." 

Yet, if these thoughts remain nothing more than dreams, unacted upon,  they are missed opportunities that may not come my way again.  Being passionate about the possibilities I have while not blind to the realities is what makes a life worth living (even if  you are feeling a little silly!)


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Bob. My blog viewer count shows that people are doing as you suggested. We have been virtual friends for longer than I can remember, and seem to feed off each other with our writings. What makes that interesting is that our lives are quite different, so we get different life experiences from each other.

    I love the thought here summarizing mine, "Being passionate about the possibilities I have while not blind to the realities". Two sides of the same coin.

    On a side note, it's funny that I almost always get the first position when I comment here. Either, most of your viewers are West-Coast people or late-sleepers, I guess 😎

    1. You are a very early riser or more of a night owl to often be the first person with a comment! I don't expect this post to generate a lot of comments. The topic and my take on it is more likely to prompt some private introspection.

      Yes, we see some things quite differently. But the respect for each other always keeps our reactions civil and supportive.

    2. I guess most of it comes from time zones. I get up three hours before you do, but we both get up at about the same time. 🥸

      Yeah, we do sometimes see some things differently, but I was mainly talking about how we have experience different lives. To me, you almost had an "Ozzie and Harriet" life, whereas I never even knew something like that even existed. That makes sharing growing up stories very interesting. You knew what you wanted to be early on, whereas I didn't find that until toward the end of my work-life.

      btw. My view count for today is about four times more than usual. I thank you for that and hope some of them stick around RJsCorner as you have.

  2. I think your dedication to your work and the repercussions in your home life are somewhat common in men of my (our) generation. My DH's boys say when he arrived home, the No Fun Rule was in effect. funny/not funny. But contrary to old cliches, you can teach an old dog new tricks. :-)

    1. I believe what you say is generally true. My dad was pretty much the same way. We were so focused on the earn a living mantra, that too much else was lost in the shuffle.

      I get the sense that younger people (men and women) are doing a better job of keeping things in balance.

    2. I think part of the "dedication to work" depended on white vs blue collar. My Dad had probably a dozen jobs during his life, from foundry worker to milkman. He never had a great passion for any of them. But he was, like many of his generation, a pretty stoic person who seldom let his emotions be visible.

  3. Bob, Alan and I are recently back from an extended trip, and I've been catching up on your posts since the re-launch. The topics you've chosen to write about have all been interesting, and it's obvious from the number of comments that the community you've built simply waited for your return, welcoming you back with open arms. I hope you're happy. Seriously, I hope you're happy.

    In reference to this post, I believe you and Betty owe yourselves a big round of applause for making the effort and working hard to get your marriage back on track. I watched the marriage of someone I know well implode mostly due to the fact that one spouse was so focused on growing a business that not enough time was spent with the family. I understand that responsibility weighs heavily on a person in that situation, but life requires a balance if happiness is a goal. It's obvious that your and Betty's efforts paid off in spades - congratulations! Love the new pics of the two of you, too!

    1. Honestly, when there isn't a single focus for posts there is a bit more pressure to think about topics that might interest others. Too much naval-gazing can be fatal!!

      I believe Betty and I are at our best right now. There were definite rough patches during my working days. I must add, though, we had made a lifelong commitment to each other, so not figuring things out was never an option.

      The picture at the end of this post was taken on a boat trip up the Waimea River in Kauai on the way to the fern grotto. It was our last full day and I was feeling a little sad and not looking forward to the redeye home the next night.

  4. I like this post. I'm kind of introspective by nature, so I'm glad I'm in good company.

  5. Hi Bob (and I feel like I should include Betty too!) Not surprisingly I loved this post. So honest and true about your experiences and some of the ups and downs that most of us in longterm relationships have weathered. Thom and I are really "into" introspection and self awareness and whenever I read another post that goes there I think it helps us all. It is far to easy IMHO for us all to get caught up in our habits of routine and not consider what it is that is making us happy or unhappy in any given period of time. But how can a person change and adjust towards a better outcome unless we do. And I also tend to believe that men have a more difficult time doing that so like Mary in her comment, I applaud you both for working through things and coming out so well on the other side.

    My husband Thom and I just celebrated our 44th so we are a bit behind you but know of the incredible gift that comes from not only a longtime relationship, but one that is deeply committed. Congratulations and I'm guessing that your optimism (like ours) is a directed to how it can continue to grow and deepen in the years to come. ~Kathy

    1. I did see the reference your 44th anniversary on FB and your blog. Being married that long shows a deep commitment to each other and the vows made so many years ago. It also highlights the power of compromise and putting another's needs above your own.

      Betty gets extra credit for soldering through many of the problems during my years on the road. She made it quite clear her promise of till death do us part was non-negotiable.

  6. Good post, Bob. "Passionate about the possibilities; honest about the realities" strikes me as a great approach to life. I have often described myself as a "realistic optimist," which includes that same combination of seeing possibilities while acknowledging realities. And, although my experiences have been very different from yours, I too have found that one of the great surprises of this stage of life as been the opportunities for personal growth.

    1. The phrase reminds me to live with my eyes wide open, with both the good and not-so-good still ahead of me. How I handle each will be impoprtant.