Monday, August 31, 2009

Small Pleasures in a Small World

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I am no expert on retirement. Yet, in spite of my new and limited experience, I have a theory that when one retires it is apt to result in either an expansion or retraction in the size of one’s world. Some retire from the workforce to expand their world—to travel and see sights abroad, or at least to explore their own continent. Maybe these people take advantage of their new leisure to participate in activities that were previously off-limits due to lack of free time. Either of these choices can result in a widening circle of friends and associates. There is another group who find themselves staying closer to home after retirement and, in some cases, reducing the number of activities. To some degree, these changes may not be choices, but the consequences of shrinking financial resources or loss of physical strength and resilience. The second route may mean a smaller world along with fewer friends and associates.

Clearly, I am in the second group. My world is infinitely smaller now than the one I inhabited a couple of years ago. I am content to spend day after day without ever getting off the ranch. (Our place isn't really a ranch, but that's our little joke between The Husband and me.) I spend so much time on photography that it leaves little opportunity for other pursuits. Whereas, in the past, I worked with dozens of people every week and my circle of associates was constantly in flux with new faces added on a regular basis, I now go a week, or more, without meeting anyone new. Previously, my work with others put me in a position where it was easy to become personally invested in other people's progress and emotional well-being. I willingly assumed that responsibility and I carried my work around with me almost every waking hour. I hadn’t realized how tiring that was, because I gave it my all by choice and took pride in my work.

Do I miss my larger and busier world? Yes, sometimes I do. Would I trade this smaller one for it? Not a chance. Everything in its own good time. As little as five years ago, life here would have driven me berserk. I am ready for it now, and that makes all the difference. The quiet, the simplicity, the opportunity to focus on tiny details have come at the perfect moment in my life for me to relish every moment of it. I didn’t always take a moment to smell those roses, or enjoy one of the last wild daisies clinging to summer. And, I confess that it took a time for me to slow the internal engine. My mother once chided me that I had only two speeds: off (for as short a period as possible) and full bore. Now, I am learning to cruise at slower speeds and even let the engine idle occasionally. With the exception of intermitent pangs of guilt for being a slacker, I am making the most of my time as I I stroll through more of my days.


  1. Since retiring about a year and half ago, I can say that in some ways my world has increased greatly. I have several volunteer activities that I work at weekly. On the other hand, I do not get out of town as often as when I was working but I have actually taken more trips out of the state during the same period than in the previous five years combined. I have also found that the worst day in retirement sure beats the best day I ever had working.

  2. It's great that you are so certain about your decision to retire. I feel quite sorry for those who find themselves lost and bored. Considering that I had always sworn I would never retire, all this has been surprising and pleasing for me. I do have to admit that it's the photography that makes the difference for me.

  3. Anita, Wonderful and thought provoking post for those of our general vintage (just guessing here as I am working getting retired).
    For now the wife and I are looking forward to being part of your first group of retirees. Finances will be an issue, but we if we take it slow, after all the largest resource we have will be time, we can visit some wonderful places we haven't been before. The adventure of seeing the new beckons.
    That may be the crux of the whole retirement thin; using the new found time for what seemed to be lacking in our former lives. Used wisely, it will be a betterment for body and soul.
    I got a taste of it this March on a week long trip with my brother to Death Valley. The people we got to talk with and the new sights and vistas we saw has me craving for more.

  4. Steve - My husband and I did some traveling the year before I retired and, as a result, I began rethinking my resolve to never give up working. What turned it around for me was when I began to see retirement as yet another life adventure, whereas previously I had somehow imagined it to be the end of life adventures. It sounds as though the travel will be your passion. By the way, we hope to get to Death Valley sometime this year or early next year.

  5. Anita, The point you made in your comment to Steve Skinner's is dead on for me also, photography has made a difference in the way I will 'retire'.
    On the job I visited many cities and work sites in the west, but it was always about business. This time around, which I plan to be as active as working, will be to spend time to get to know these areas. Photography is a great reason to get up early for the good light, maybe a bit of a hike and time spent truly taking in the sights and the local color of all kinds. This time I look forward to being on my own schedule.
    Not saying there won't be some rocking chair time, but it will for contemplating what and where is next.
    Death Valley from the 1st of Nov. until the first of March is not to be missed. Unless you suffer from vertigo make sure you hit Dante's View at dawn or sunset. The other good spots have been written about, so you probably have an idea what is out there.

  6. Ehrm... I guess I'm ready for retirement now, some twenty years ahead of time. I have always been in category two, but only ten years ago my social and work activities were immensely (with my measures) larger than there are now. Travelled a lot too, both in business and private. But, I like it this way better.

    You will do fine in your new life on the "ranch", no doubts about it. Everything I have been reading here on your blog points in that direction. When I'm there, I'd like to have it as you have it. :-)

  7. Steve - Photography certainly does that for me—gets me out on more walks than I would take otherwise. I am still struggling a bit with taking rocking chair time, but I like to think I am a good student and will get there eventually. :)

    My husband has been to Death Valley (for an endurance ride) and has raved about it, then my brother in law was there recently and raved some more. Even though it is a little intimidating to me, since I am don't have much physical strength, I find myself more and more curious about such a unique place.

  8. Ove - It sounds as though your current life style may make retirement an easier transition. I admit that I was slow and resisted the changes in the beginning. It was a bigger shock to my system than I had imagined.

    I certainly wish for you something as peaceful and satisfying as what I am now enjoying.

  9. Anita: What a great post. I'm 47 and am really looking forward to retirement. If I had my way about it, I would be retired right now. As a matter of fact, when I was 20, that was my goal, to be semi-retired by the time I was 45. Of course, that naive young man never factored in having a family. :-) Looks like I'll be working for a 'few' more years.

    I've always been sort of a loner, preferring to spend a little bit of time with other people, but a lot of time with myself. I've never had a wide circle of friends, just a very few close ones. I'm not retired yet, but I am restarting my volunteer activities and that feels right.

    Your slow-paced life sounds great. I must admit that since I've been away for a while, I do enjoy my slower paced life style, though I feel for my wife as she is having to bear the brunt of all of the activities and requirements that Tony imposes. He'll be driving soon, so that should ease things a bit.

    I really don't know, though, what I'd do if I didn't have this great hobby, photography!

    BTW, I have 'called you out on my blog post today!'. You are mentioned twice!

  10. Paul - I have to smile at that ambition to retire as early as 20. I would say that bodes well for a smooth transition to retirement when the time does come. Isn't it amusing to look back on what we were so certain of at 20?

    The changes you and your wife are experiencing with the nest emptying must be quite a journey.

    Uh, oh. I had better get out this morning and see what going on on the web. I may be in trouble!

  11. Anita, For all intents and purposes I retired a couple of years ago but it's only been recently that I've found peace with it.

    We often come to be defined by our occupations so when we no longer have that we loose a sense of ourselves and our worth. I would never have believed that I'd feel that way but I've had to learn how to retire--still working on it.

    Perhaps my situation was worst because it wasn't planned but was a result of my accepting a sudden volunteer layoff package to spare someone else who needed a job worst then I. I went from 100 to 0 in a day. I wouldn't go back and my decision at the time was the right one. :-}

  12. Earl - Retirement certainly is a major life passage. What a shock to leave the workforce suddenly. At least it was a choice you made and one that you don't regret. As I admitted when referring to my occasional pangs of guilt, I am still finding my way toward this new version of me. Do you feel that photography has played a major part in making the necessary adjusments?

  13. Anita - I don't know if photography has played a major part in making adjustments but I'm certainly glad it was there as a major stress relief and a creative outlet/diversion.

    Is it any healthier to think yourself identified by your photography then your occupation? I'm trying not to swap one neuroses for another. ~grin~ I'm focusing on the person and core values, aside from anything I do. Don't know if that makes sense or not. :-)

  14. I am with Paul--I will be 46 in a few months and I am happily anticipating retirement :) I do not think it will bother me one bit and I anticipate I will be able to find plenty of things to keep me happy! Lol, where do I apply????

  15. Earl - Please. Don't burst my bubble. I need this neurosis. Otherwise, I will be completely lost! Seriously, I have worked since I was a teenager and I usually found a way to work when I had some time off. This business of not having a job is still relatively new territory for me. And, yes, focusing on who you truly are, rather than what you did, makes perfect sense.

  16. Mary Ann - I suppose I am a little jealous of your certainty that you will enjoy leaving your work behind. From your posts, it seems that your work is demanding, both in terms of scheduling and mental stress. It makes sense you are looking forward to getting some rest! It would appear that your adjustment period may be much smoother than mine.

  17. Anita - if you like sunsets and sunrises, there's no place on earth like Death Valley. Many of the amazing places are quite accessible, assuming you can get up very early and into a car ;)

    There are some even more wonderful places that are more arduous to get to, but much of it is available from a car and some easy walking.

  18. Gordon - This is quite encouraging. I admit that the thought of Death Valley has intimidated me with its harsh terrain. That's mostly because the bulk of the stories that I have heard about its wonders come from hale and hearty folks way outside my physical league. Now, I hope even more fervently that we can manage this before another year passes us by. Thank you for this note.


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