Change, Reflections, Retirement, Uncategorized

Rooted

As my retirement date nears one of the most common questions I get is “Are you moving?”  The answer is absolutely not!

It is true that we live in one of the highest cost areas of the country, and our retirement income and savings would stretch a lot further elsewhere, but there are many reasons we are staying put –

  • We love living three blocks from the beach, seeing whales spouting and dolphins frolicking on our morning walks, and our gorgeous ocean sunsets.
  • We love our home, yard, and neighbors.
  • Our family and friends are scattered around North America and the world, and we love that they want to come visit us and that our proximity to LAX makes it convenient for them to do so.
  •  We love our Mediterranean climate and have no desire to move anywhere hotter, or colder.
  • We love that pretty much everything we really need (restaurants, grocery stores, bank, shops) is in walking distance, or at most a very short drive away.

All of these things are nice, but the most important thing is that after moving 7 times over the course of our marriage, this is where we have put down roots.

We live in a home that my grandparents bought over 80 years ago.  It’s not where I grew up, but I spent many happy vacations and holidays here, and it is a place of good memories for several generations of may family.  For me, it represents home.

We’ve also established routines, found service providers that we like (doctors, dentist, tradespeople, garage…), learned which grocery stores have the best deals on which items, gotten to know the vendors at the Farmers’ Market and the morning walkers on the Esplanade, watched the trees we’ve planted grow, and most importantly, we’ve made friends.  In short, this has become our community.

Simone Weil once wrote “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

We are rooted here.

 

 

Christmas, swimming, Uncategorized

Feeling like the Grinch

According to the holiday songs that are playing everywhere this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but right now it sure doesn’t  feel that way.

The warm temperatures and smoky air aren’t helping me get in the holiday spirit – a wildfire haze in 80 degree temperatures just isn’t the same as the scent of smoke drifting from chimneys on a chilly evening – and neither are the lingering colds Don and I are battling….but it is more than that.

I have an overwhelming to do list and too many holiday events with too little downtime for an introvert like me.  Add in an upcoming three day visit from my father and stepmother (and an obligatory holiday event with my stepmother’s family) that will be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons having to do with my father’s longstanding antisocial personality tendencies and the obligation  to socialize with step-relatives that we see only once a year and with whom we have  fundamental political and religious differences, and the result is a season that is more about stress and exhaustion than enjoyment.

I’m also realizing how much my regular lap swimming contributes to my emotional and mental well-being.  The pool at the gym is closed for maintenance and I have had to rely on other forms of exercise for the past few days.  I’ve been using the elliptical machine and exercise bike, but the noisy environment and proximity to other people mean that while my body is getting physical exercise, my mind is not getting the benefit of the solitude of swimming or the meditative effect of counting out the laps, which serves as a kind of mantra.

The result is that I am sleeping even worse than I usually do, am more critical and short-tempered with Don, and holiday tasks like writing our annual card that usually bring me joy have just felt like a chore.  I fell like the Grinch!

The pool reopens next week, and I can’t wait!  In the meantime I am trying to wrap up all of my holiday tasks so I can rest and relax in the remaining week before Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go, Retirement, Uncategorized

No more Sunday blues

I follow a lot of personal finance and early retirement blogs, and recently discovered Our Next Life, which is written by a couple that is quite a bit younger than me but  has been travelling a somewhat similar path to early retirement…although their’s will be much “earlier” than mine!

For the past few months I have followed Tanja and Mark’s journey as they have checked and rechecked their finances, plotted how they will spend their days, and thoughtfully planned how they will exit their careers.  I’ve empathized with their fears and uncertainty, and learned from them how I might approach my own transition in a few months time.

At the end of this week Tanja and Mark will be retiring, and today they posted about what the “last Monday” feels like:

Intellectually, we know this: the last Monday means no more Sunday blues, no more worrying that we didn’t catch up on enough sleep over the weekend and are starting  another week tired, no more of that feeling of enjoying our work and appreciating our colleagues and clients but still wondering how we’ll survive another week with all its demands.

The last few months have brought a number of things into stark relief: how much we’ll miss a lot about our work, how grateful we are to have spent our careers surrounded with people we admire and are inspired by, how lucky we’ve been to do work that makes us proud. But also what a toll doing that work has taken on our health, and the knowledge that we’ll have many of these health challenges well after we leave the work behind.”

Their comments really resonated with me, as when I retire in June I too will be leaving a job that has been more than just a job and that has allowed me “to experience something real and special with great people” and to feel that I have made a difference.  There is much that I will miss… and yet my body and my soul are crying out for a life with no more squeezing my “real life” into the rare evenings and weekends without work commitments, a life with no more Sunday blues, no more starting the week tired and wondering how I will survive whatever the week will throw at me.

I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that my impending retirement doesn’t create anxiety – about whether my financial plans are adequate to support a long life without work, whether my vision of how I will spend my days is sufficient, whether the people who think I am crazy for leaving the workforce so early are right.

I hope, and I believe, that when June 2018 rolls around I will feel what Tanja and Mark are feeling today as they walk the last few steps of their journey to a new life –

“We feel sure this is the right choice for us, we feel confident in our preparation and backup plans, and we have a vision for what’s next. And that feels kind of amazing. It makes the thousands of words here, the hours and hours of planning and replanning, and all the emotions along the way feel worthwhile.”

Congratulations Tanja and Mark…you’ve been great role models for me, and I look forward to continuing to learn from your experiences.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Getting help

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me process all of the changes that I am navigating right now – my husband’s retirement last year and its impact on our lives, my upcoming retirement, and the challenges of having an older, and aging, spouse.

My husband, Don, is physically healthy and active, but last year started to show some signs of mild cognitive impairment – not major, and seemingly pretty stable over at least the past year – but enough to worry both of us.  The cause is unknown, although we suspect a concussion that he got at work in early 2016 has played a role.  He’s also long-struggled with anxiety, so there is a bit of a vicious cycle at play as the more anxious he is the worse his short-term memory and the more disorganized his thinking, which in turn makes him more anxious.

We’ve been working on creating systems and building habits to help overcome the memory glitches, but there is no doubt this has added a level of added responsibility, stress, and complexity to my life.

This stress is on top of the fact that my job is demanding and stressful with hours that are frequently long, and I carry pretty much all of the “planning” load at home – from short term, simple things like making appointments, creating our weekly schedules,  meal planning, and making shopping lists to longer term, more complex things like managing every aspect of our personal finances, planning every aspect of our travels, and keeping track of home maintenance needs.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I am stressed and weary most of the time, which in turn makes me cranky, short-tempered, and worse.  I can hide this part of me while I am at work or with friends, but my worst self comes out at home.   I find myself nagging, pointing out every little mistake Don makes, getting upset when something is not done the way I would have done it or to my standards, and having frequent meltdowns.  The more stressed I am the more I crave order, but my behavior increases his anxiety so he gets even more disorganized….another vicious cycle.

I’ve also come to realize that I have been experiencing a kind of mourning – for the professional work life that I am ready to leave but that has been a huge part of my identity, for the things that Don used to do easily but now struggles with,  for the things he has always struggled with (depression, anxiety, disorganization, difficulty demonstrating his love in the ways that I crave) that may not get better or may even get worse, for his diminished ability to support and nurture me while I try to support and nurture him, and for long-dreamed-of retirement activities and adventures that may not be possible as he ages.  All of this creates both sadness and fear.

We need help!  After dancing around this realization for several months I finally made an appointment with a therapist.  I met with her yesterday by myself, and Don and I will be seeing her together tomorrow.

For me that is a really big deal.  I grew up in a family that was reluctant to accept the reality of mental health issues and to get help from mental health professionals.  I was raised to tough it out and power through stress and anxiety even though our family dealt with major stresses and issues and even though (with hindsight) I showed clear signs of mental health distress in my childhood and adolescence.

The first session was hard. I struggled to articulate my thoughts and feelings, we pretty quickly touched on some raw nerves, and I know that I am still scared to reveal the darkest parts of me.  I also worry about the expense given our retirement budgets – a worry that is not helped by my familial legacy belief that therapy is self-indulgent and unnecessary.

At the same time it is a relief to have someone independent to give perspective, and the therapist gave me some homework that is providing a framework for processing some of what is going on and led to one of the most open and meaningful conversations Don and I have had in a long time.

I keep reminding myself that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  I do know that we can’t keep going on this way, and am cautiously hopeful that I’ve found a way to get it…but we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Welcome to Redondo Reflections

Let me introduce myself.  I am a middle-aged woman who lives in Redondo Beach, California.  My husband of 30 years retired a year ago, and has been struggling to find a new sense of purpose and activities to fill his days.  He is more than 20 years older than I am, and is also facing some of the challenges of aging,  so the past year has been quite a journey.

I still work at a high-level, busy and stressful job, but am in the process of transitioning to early retirement next year.  I’ve crunched the numbers every way I can think of, and have made a concerted effort to make non-work friends and find activities that I can take with me into retirement, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am anxious.

My goal for this blog is to chronicle our journey through the next stage of life and reflect on my own experiences and learning along the way.  I expect to touch on matters of aging, personal finance, relationships, transitions, and probably much more.

I also hope to capture some of the joys of living in this beautiful part of the world and to capture the travels and adventures we are planning.

In other words, its mostly for me…but if someone finds it and gets some value too all the better.

Welcome!