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.




31 comments:

  1. I've never heard of the wave applied metaphorically to retirement years, but its an interesting concept to think about. Guess that makes us all surfer dudes right now, facing that huge wall of water aka 2020 that could either drown us of give us all the biggest high of our lives after we've finished riding it to shore.

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    1. No matter what happens, 2020 will likely be remembered as one of the more consequential years in our nation's history. Considering 9/11, the 2008 great recession, and this year's triple whammy of events, the 21st century hasn't been all roses for us so far. Ah, the good old days of the 20th century.

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  2. I like what Jean has to say. I feel like I can ride this wave given my circumstances and for which I'm grateful. Many challenges are being faced currently. There's a line in a Leonard Cohen song about the cracks - that's how the light gets in. It is with hope that I anticipate the outcome. Even in this downsized life of pandemic response, I have choices including a conscious choice to focus on the positive vs the negative. Some days are diamond; some not so much.

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    1. Sort of like the John Denver song: "Some days are diamonds, some days are stones." Both are part of our life, but you (and I, and many others) prefer to focus on the diamonds and the wave crests. We aren't ignoring the bad stuff, but choose to focus on what is going well and the possibilities that are ahead.

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  3. Wow, thanks for this. Exactly what I needed to read today - as I am in the middle of a big, has-lasted-for-weeks-now trough. Still alternate between angry, sad, and resentful that all this has been so mishandled. Here's to better days and riding the top of the waves.

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    1. Think of the image of a surfer, riding along a perfect wave. That mental picture helps me.

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  4. As I said in response to your comments the whole analogy of riding the crests of waves really does capture the exhilarating moments of retired life. I never expected 2020 to be a trough though!

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    1. Thank you for your post that inspired this one. 2020 is the year of (make a loud raspberry sound now).

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  5. What makes this different is that we're unable to plan major things that keep us going--like trips. I had this whole summer planned as I had been focusing on my house and only went on one "big vacation" in years (I used to go often) a last minute cruise to the Panama Canal in December. It sounds spoiled but I was going to meet my birth family, go to their ancestral homeland--Ireland and England (because I love the later) and see my family and friends in NY after 3 years.
    Now I feel unmoored. I live alone and am fortunate that I have great neighbors who were my bubble--they have seen too many people for me to feel comfortable seeing them indoors and it's very hot and humid here in South Carolina. My other friends here are all sheltering in place. I'm scared that I will lose many IQ points so I keep myself occupied. But this goes against everything we have ever been taught about mental health. Solitude can be a killer and yes we have zoom plus more things but they lost their lure some time ago.
    In two weeks a few days I will be 70 and looked damn good 4 months ago. Selfishly I had planned all the above to celebrate that milestone.
    Here in trumpworld or upsidedownland as I've grown to call it many people think that wearing masks is a horrible infringement on their civil liberties. They also need refresher or first courses on the Constitution.
    I realize that when this is over I will have to move somewhere more accepting of Jewish liberals. Despite my inertia I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
    I have set my house up as a gym in hopes that will pull me out of this funk. But part of me thinks that I have every right to complain.
    This isn't just about being retired. I'm writing a book and do some ghostwriting. My best friend who lives in Atlanta is in charge of intakes for Legal Aid. Usually the number one call is about eviction. Now it's all divorce and domestic abuse. I truly understand that living alone isn't the worst thing.
    But today marks the fourth month of sheltering in place. I feel as if I've ridden many waves and was knocked down and caught in a riptide by a few. We need a president with a triple digit IQ, compassion and caring. This is our great depression, world war two and many other things all wrapped into one and it's wearing.

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    1. To borrow an overused phrase, "I feel your pain, Pia." I have gone through several periods of wondering where all this will lead and what things will look like when we virus is under control enough that we can rejoin the land of the living. I have fought some depression and lack of energy, too.

      Thinking about the waves helps. I know there is an "up" swell coming. That doesn't mean the down periods aren't any fun, but at least I believe we will be back in the sun at some point.

      You seem to be taking some good, proactive steps, like the home gym, writing, and keeping your mind active. I don't have any magical answers; I am doing much of what you are and dealing with things the best I can.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your optimism -- it helps!

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  7. Yes, it’s a stormy sea, that’s for sure! I am learning new ways to appreciate life.. I have discovered in the past few weeks (we are into our 4th month of being mostly at home..) I have begun savoring very small things..that feel of the cool water over my head as I jump underwater into the pool in the morning.Exhilarating!!! The birdsong at 6 AM, the feel of soft clean sheets as I lie down to sleep.. I now take moments to SAVOR that feeling.. I think this isolation time is changing me.. I’d love to be out there traveling,too.. but it’s just got to be on back burner for a good long time.Maybe local travel next summer? Am doing things on purpose to keep my mind sharp: Making Ken play rummecube with me, playing cards,I play words for friends with 4 people, and watching lots of documentaries on youtube,and amazon prime and PBS. I am trying some new kinds of TV shows.. I never watched COOKING SHOWS til now..wow! Fun! I don't like staying in, but this is just where we are at right now, and so it goes. I have always been a resilient person I expect I will weather this too..

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    1. I know you will come out on the other side both happy and with a whole bunch of new creative urges. BTW, by two granddaughters ( ages 10 and 12) are taking a watercolor painting class on Great Courses. I thought of you when they told me.

      Cooking shows are a natural for you. British baking and cooking shows seem to be more fun to watch than their American counterparts.

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    2. Good tips Bob! I will check into some of the British cooking shows.. there is a British baking one I think I have seen in the lineup..I’ve been obsessed with Chopped and Also the Barefoot Contessa. “How easy is that???” Love her!! Except she makes me hungry....

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  8. Thank you Bob. We're definitely riding the waves!
    Best, Joe Casey

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  9. You are welcome, Joe. Not bad for a guy who has lived in the desert for 35 years!

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  10. I really like the analogy of retirement being a series of waves. But when you think about it...isn't that all of life? I've been associated with real estate for over 35 years and our economy has always been that way. We have up cycles and down cycles.

    I think a big part of the problem is that we have short memories! Far better to ride those waves as best we can and learn to find value in the low spots as well as the high. Thanks for the imaging! ~Kathy Gottberg

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    1. You are welcome, Kathy. As another desert dweller, you probably agree we both need some water images in our life every now and then.

      Our economy is really built around regular periods of ups and downs. People forget that or miss obvious signs of a change coming.

      Today, it is obvious that those ups and downs happen in more than just economic situations.

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  11. I have not suffered a bit. The only bit of sadness was when I realized the first plague in the 1300s lasted three years. Even though I thought this pandemic would not be over for two years, I was still a bit sad that three years might be how long this would last. Since I will be 74 at the end of summer, I felt that my life might end on a low note. Well, I got over that in about ten minutes. So, now I feel buoyed again. Trump winning will make me even happier.

    A simile is a metaphor. A metaphor is not a simile.

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    1. Glad you emerged from your funk! Three years? Gee, I hope not.

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    2. Well, that does make a difference!

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  12. Anyone who has sat quietly on an ocean beach, soaking up the restorative blessings that nature provides, knows that the incoming waves are constant. Some are just tiny splashes on the sand; others come roaring in full of power and froth. This was an excellent analogy, Bob, and your comment at the top of your post describes life's ups and downs just perfectly. I applaud your vision, and I have no doubt that it will impress and impact many of your other readers as positively as it did me. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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  13. Hit the bottom of my waves at about six weeks in. We had been masked for about two weeks already, no visits from grands and my husband was going to turn 70. Canceled his party, mom's 90th party and son in law went back into treatment for cancer ---and I could do Nothing. Our highway patrol was stopping anyone entering our small state to tell us we had to stay inside for 14 days. It felt selfish.
    I drove to West Virginia just to take off my mask and scream in the woods. Then i put my mask back in the car and drove home. That was what it took. That scream.
    Off to the races again. My home plans are firming for Idaho, a driving trip with the grands is on for November and got my mom a Facebook Portal. Now I am in calm waters again and it feels good.
    Good analogy Bob. Life is a series of waves, isn't it?

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    1. I am a Delaware resident and Janette 's take on what happened re DE State Police is not quite accurate. Delaware residents could come and go between neighboring states without any restrictions--no 14 day quarantine. For a very short period, non Delaware residents who planned to go to Delaware beach resort areas were told a 14 day quarantine upon arrival would be required. And for one weekend, police were stopping non residents who were coming right over the border to shop at a liquor discount store. In Delaware, just minor inconveniences and it beats the alternative.

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    2. Hi Walter, I don't know who you are or where you live as a Delaware resident. Personally, I encountered two different road blocks coming in from Maryland on two different days. My daughter (MD plates) knew that she could encounter one- and when stopped, she explained she was coming to see us. She was told to be careful- but if she was staying or planning on going out, that the quarantine was 14 days.
      There were other neighbors who encountered the same thing.
      Maybe our county's vigilance was why we had the lowest counts in the state?
      I put that I felt selfish, because I just always think of land being open- but I felt protected that it was closed. It was a weird feeling- like I was selfish with the area.
      Sorry you did not experience the same safety net. Maybe the governor chose when and where to enforce things? I have no idea. I really don't appreciate that you state that I was inaccurate. Maybe a better way would have been, "I did not experience the same sort of thing as Janette?"

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  14. I like your wave metaphor, but I think retirement is completely different from life when we're receiving a paycheck. And I have my lower blood pressure and lack of back pain to prove it. (I retired one year after you did.)

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    1. In some aspects I agree. Add to your list I am not racking up frequent flyer miles anymore, either. Frankly, I was so sick of flying that is a good thing. Of course, today it may be "sick from flying" but that is an entirely different post.

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  15. The thing about being down in the trough is that it doesn’t feel temporary while you’re there; it feels like the true state of life and as if it will never change. That’s why analogies like your wave can be helpful for getting through the trough. It also helps to force yourself to do things that help, like get out in nature, physical exercise, social interaction, and following a regular sleep schedule, even if you don’t feel like doing them.

    Jude

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    1. Since all of life is a continuing flow, we do need a reminder, now and then, that this too shall pass and today isn't necessarily tomorrow.

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