By Bill Storie
One of the words used by most people when referring to life in retirement is “stay active” (OK, two words !!). The word active is the most common expression of encouragement and support given by those who are well into retirement to those who are just entering, or those approaching retirement.
We hear about staying physically active, mentally active, sexually active (oops!!) and so forth. If we don’t stay active our brains and our bodies will turn to mush.
I can’t find fault in that advice. There is no doubt that if we do lie on the couch all day, every day and eat ice cream etc, then our bodies will eventually get used to the idea and act accordingly. We will become the famous couch potato, mashed or hard boiled.
But I submit that the real dilemma we face in the early years of retirement is not trying to figure out how to stay active but how to be productive.
We can easily understand and accept that playing golf 3 days a week or going to the gym, or ferrying the grandkids here, there and everywhere is activity. We get that. Yet still we struggle to really get to grips with the early retirement years – maybe in time we’ll settle down and get into a more routine-routine..! … but the “obsession” to remain active becomes a weight around our shoulders.
In other words we ARE active yet we aren’t happy.
The problem is that when we were working we were Productive. We made things, we sold things, we resolved problems, we helped people, we advised people, we were engaged in all sorts of chores or tasks which we deemed to be progressive. We made a difference. Yes, sometimes we complained about fellow workers, or stupid management decisions, or being too busy, but truth be told we just got on with it and accepted life as it came.
However, as we are now not making a visible and realistic difference, we are suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
We are desperate to lend a helping hand. If we get paid to do it, fine. If not, equally fine. But we just want to “do stuff”, but preferably do stuff that society deems as important. Most people couldn’t care less if you do gardening every day or not, but if we help out at a local charity, then we are classified us “useful”.
Of course, many people simply want to relax and live the good life based on the “I’ve earned it” principle. Fair enough. They want to travel endlessly and see places across the other side of the world. However, in the first year, maybe two years, of retirement, the urge to remain productive lingers on. We can’t seem to shake it off.
Certainly as we age, and the body slows down a wee bit, the urge to clean the house top-to-bottom, or build a new outside wall at the house, or drive a long-distance truck, may slowly subside, but it takes time. It is not easy to go from living at a fast and hectic pace of life one day, then suddenly overnight, find that the clock really does tick slowly. The adjustment is difficult.
So, what’s the answer?
Firstly, understand and accept there is a difference between active and productive. Secondly, try to differentiate the two issues in your daily life as best you can. But thirdly, and probably most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about not being as productive as you would like to be (or as you were). Be aware of it certainly and fix it if possible, but you are not unique, or the only one suffering the same symptoms. We all do.
It’s just a fact of life in the retirement stage of your life. This too shall pass.
Now, back to bed……….. !!!
By Bill Storie