I guess that I must have begun to think about retirement the day I started to save in a pension scheme just after qualifying and taking up my first post. As the years progressed the dreams grew until eventually a plan emerged as described in my first post on this blog.

I began to read about retirement.
We also looked seriously at our finances and took professional advice.
We even went on a trial run or two and discussed our aspirations in circumstances where reality had dawned and we recognised that retirement is not a second adolescence, however much we might wish otherwise.
The decision to leave the world of work, however, is a daunting one and I ended up making a New Year's Resolution to do so. Much of my first year of retirement was spent implementing the other resolutions that I made: promoting health and happiness and decluttering.
Although it was in winter when I made the definite decision, I developed a yearning to retire in time to enjoy the summer months and to use them to become accustomed to my new lifestyle. A week away in mid-winter helped to confirm the plan and give me the strength to turn down an invitation to work longer.
However, the decision to end one's career is so momentous that there were inevitable moments of anxiety. Others too had doubts as to whether I would be able to see that decision through. However, I sent in my notice of resignation as planned, even if I did break out in a cold sweat.
From that point, time passed quickly as my final working days day flew by, each one bringing a bigger smile to my face. I was treated to a wonderful leaving party and the day after I retired flew out to Kefalonia for a week of recovery in the sunshine.

YEAR 1  
I have been amazed at how much better life has been without the pressures of work and also the adjustments that had to be made that I hadn't previously contemplated. These were particularly pronounced in the early days although and to begin with it felt as though I was just on one long holiday. In part I still haven't completely woken up from that feeling. Everything that I do now has an un-rushed quality about it and brings a pleasure that there is time to savour and savour
The difficulty has been in choosing what to do and the first year ended up  being a period of transition and healing coupled with a time for experimentation and adaptation as we started to figure out what works for us. Indeed it took the first 12 months to sort our priorities for the early years of retirement and we were grateful for wise advice not to commit to anything new in that initial first year period, even postponing some of the plans that naively I thought we might jump straight into.  
We were taken by surprise at how physically active retirement can be and after sedentary office work how much time is actually spent on one's feet. The need to be fit in order to enjoy retirement superseded pretty much everything else and in so far as I adopted any routine at all then it was with a mixture of fitness classes and gym workouts.  
We chose Greece as a perfect destination for relaxing and discovered that even in retirement there is still enjoyment to be derived from chilling out, possibly because we are so busy at home or when exploring in the UK (by foot, car, train or boat) and abroad (Cuba being our first long haul destination in retirement).  
Little by little we sought to simplify our life, and de-cluttering was the first major task in this connection. We were also able to structure our life around the weather and so be more cognisant of it, waiting for settled periods in order to garden or sail and travelling later in the day in the winter. With forethought (and when we remember) we can also structure road and other trips to avoid peak season and traffic.
As we established ourselves firmly in our new stage of life,  we turned to the projects we planned and had postponed for retirement, particularly the redecoration of our home. To begin with, the holiday mood prevented us from taking on a task that seemed gargantuan in nature and so needy of our time. I am not sure whether it became a case of necessity or simply recognition that time is actually plentiful but the redecoration project finally got underway although even now it remains a work in progress.

YEAR 2  
By 12 months I had begun to free myself from regular commitments that I had carried over from pre-retirement days. Flexibility in our routine is key to how we now enjoy life. My quest for fitness and well-being expanded into eating for health and learning about nutritional requirements whilst I also found myself spending more and more time in the great outdoors enjoying the natural world. At the end of  our second summer of retirement, I felt better able to commit, albeit with greater flexibility than before, becoming Parish Clerk to the Council of the village where we live  and a campaigner for Save the Children. Yes, despite my best efforts to become a bohemian spirit, I have taken on responsibilities where my well tested skills from three decades of legal practice were being put to good use. Neither position restricted the ability to travel and the autumn saw us visiting Albania, Greece, East Anglia and India.
All the effort put into regaining an element of fitness lost to years of desk work and stiffening joints, paid off when we travelled from one ski resort to another in Switzerland. Then Spring arrived and the pleasures derived from such in 2014 were mirrored if not amplified as the second year of retirement began to draw to a close.

Analysing the first 30 months or so I realised that I moved through overlapping phases of healing and recovery, letting go and then seeking to give back and make a difference. This continued in Year 3 when travel too remained important and (for the first time since I was a student) we enjoyed an extensive 4 week trip, on that occasion to the USA

In Year 4, everything moved up a gear.  There was more energy, drive and passion especially as I embraced on a mission to reduce whether it was dependence on plastic, extraneous stuff, previously perceived comforters or even my own weight. An understanding had crept in that once liberated from mental and physical clutter accumulated over decades, we would be able to enjoy and concentrate on the important things in life. We also began to appreciate what really is important and to try to live life accordingly and in the knowledge that it is finite. We travelled frequently including a long trip to New Zealand and shorter ones to Madeira, Italy and Norway as well as road trips closer to home. We stepped up the work on our house and garden and, together with a number of personal challenges, took on a new project, restoring an old 32 foot yacht to replace the X37 we had sailed for the previous decade.

Entering Year 5 there was a feeling of vitality and exuberance coupled with the beginning of a force that felt calmer and wiser. It finally seemed as if we were beginning to get the hang of retirement and were learning how best to mould our lifestyle to suit.
I was flattered to be asked to speak to  a new retirement network in Bristol about the joys of retirement and as well as repeated trips to Crinan to work on the boat restoration project, slipped in trips to the Adriatic, Madrid and back to New Zealand via Dubai. In the meantime we continued to raise produce on a vegetable patch, undertake home decoration, exercise, spend two separate weeks walking in the Lake District, socialise with friends and family and I finally got to go on an art workshop and take up painting once more.
The main frustration was that there just never seemed to be enough time to fit in everything that we wanted to do and then, transitioning into Year 6, the penny dropped: there is sufficient time, you just can't do it all at once.
During Year 6 I really felt that I began to master the art of contentment and living in the present. I'm not one to go mad on all the mindfulness trends but deep breathing, quietness and appreciation especially of the natural world certainly seem to make up a bigger part of my life. Relaxation and enjoyment, creativity and phyical exercise dominate. The first mini health incident (I guess they will always chequer retirement, however fit we think we are) occurred and an increasing consciousness of potential frailties. Our far flung travelling was curtailed as pleasure was extracted instead from familiar destinations and activities although we did add the Isle of Man, Cyprus and Corfu (a last minute holiday of the type that I hadn't really equated with needing in retirement) to our travel journal. It had actually been our intention to try to visit all of the EU countries for a final farewell pending expiration of our free right of passage as a consequence of Brexit but, of course, COVID 19 intervened and we enjoyed an enforced and lengthy staycation instead, slowing down whether we were ready for it or not.
Ongoing COVID restrictions tested our powers of resilience and one of my closest family members passed away although not of coronavirus. I appreciate now, if I didn't before, just how important family are to me as a result. There were more health scares with both Mr E and I having 14 day referrals to specialists. We threw ourselves into our hobbies and activities snatching trips away within the UK and days out when we could, embracing our playful side by way of distraction. Everything out of the normal routine and everybody became special. Good health and life are precious.
In Year 8 I began to realise that retirement is an opportunity to rediscover what life is about; to be optimistic; to revel in the simple stuff by simplifying; to know that I am enough. Normality has been slowly returning but as Van Gogh wrote "Normality is a paved road; it's comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it" and I became determined not to revel in the gutter but to find those blooms which this year included my son's wedding. I had what is regarded as major surgery but which was dwarfed by an emergency admission to hospital only 3 days later with a heart issue. I vowed to overcome both and returned to the gym after 7 weeks; a few months later I was amazed to discover how much more energy I had, probably feeling my fittest since retirement. It still wasn't sufficient to prevent Mister E and I returning to the emergency department at the hospital on a number of occasions albeit as a result of our own stupidity rather than for serious health issues.

My 9th year of retirement started with a feeling of being overwhelmed by all that I have taken on and a determination to counter it by finding the perfect balance and fulfilment without overstretching myself. It was a continuing period of discovery as I wavered between over-exertion and horizontal karma. Staying healthy (if not always succeeding) was very important. The resumption of travel reignited a curiosity dampened by Covid whilst acceptance (rather than age) made me realise that I certainly don’t suffer from the modern malaise described as a fear of missing out. Best of all, and retirement shifted up another gear here, we became grandparents for the first time, necessitating many trips to London where our son and family live in order to enjoy baby to the full.

The start of Year 10 coincided with the day we returned from a trip around the Baltic. The weather was glorious and so many more adventures beckoned. Unfortunately disaster struck almost immediately when a leak from our heating oil supply permeated our water supply pipe, meaning that we have had to be very much available and on hand for all the expert and contractor visits which remain ongoing. Fortunately, retirement has brought me to a place of acceptance and, coupled with resilience and optimism, "it is what it is"became the phrase of the year.


Unknown said…
I have to say your blog is great and I'm not a man who usually says such things. Envious of the travel!

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