July 2, 2020
The Wave Theory of Retirement
"I just passed nineteen years of being away from the world of work. If there is one overriding lesson in the nearly two decades since June 2001, it is that this time of life is a series of waves, with both crests and troughs.
There are joyous periods when you feel so fully alive you wish for longer days. Your creativity is flowing, relationships feed your soul, and your health is not causing any problems worth mentioning, Your mind is full of good thoughts and new challenges.
Then, there are troughs. 2020 qualifies. Your world is rattled by things out of your control. You feel stagnant and unfulfilled, stale, and stuck in a rut. You are at a loss to see the best way forward. Then, just like the ocean, you are thrust upward onto the next crest of retirement. The bad stuff is behind you, and life is full.
My view of where we now, with all the problems we face, remains optimistic because I have seen enough crests to believe the next one isn't all that far away.
Sadly, there is no way to live with only the tops of the waves. But, I promise that the ocean is still moving, and you, along with a fresh perspective, are riding it."
This is a comment I left on Carie Risover's blog a few weeks ago in response to her post about retirement perspectives. It seems like a reasonable basis for a fresh look at retirement over time.
A point that I have made many times is that retirement isn't all that different from life when you were receiving a paycheck. Many of the same responsibilities follow you into this stage of life. There are good days and bad. There are (occasionally) things like pandemics, economic reversals, relationship struggles, a leaking roof or broken furnace. The car needs new tires and then to be replaced. TV shows keep getting crasser, social media is out of control.....whatever the part of daily life you look at, there are similarities.
And, to use the simile of the waves (or is it a metaphor?), there are times when your life during retirement is a series of highs. Everything is going well, economically, creatively, relationally, health-wise. For now, you are on the crest of the wave.
Which is a place you also found yourself while employed. For any number of reasons, you were hitting on all cylinders. You might not have been the king of the world, but you had no serious complaints. Life was good.
The big difference, the one that makes most of us look forward to the retired time of life, is the increase in freedom...freedom to decide how to spend your time, what activities or passions, volunteer work or business venture you are going to invest yourself.
Personally, as I noted in the comment for Carie, it took me a while to figure out this "wave" thing. Even now, I must remind myself of its reality every so often, particularly in times like now.
It is distressingly easy to assume we are all stuck in a trough, a deep, deep, endless down cycle. Disease, protests, crappy economic conditions for tens of millions, racism, a country like a house divided.....I cannot see the crest. It is too far away. All I see is a wall of water looming up ahead of me.
Then, I metaphorically slap myself on the head and, in very forceful terms, remind myself of the endless cycle of the waves and life.