You Can Keep Your Advice to Yourself, Thank You

If I thought advice would cease once I turned in my notice at work, I was mistaken. Everybody, it seems, has expert advice on what I should do, where I should go, how I should maximize my Social Security, etc.

Here’s some of the well-meaning advice I’ve gotten.

On my 401K: Leave it alone and let it grow; pull it out and invest in an IRA; cash it out and buy a house so you won’t have a mortgage.

On all the free time: take up a hobby; travel (did they miss the part about my Social Security being about half of what I’m currently making?); get a part-time job (what was the point of retiring?); make a bucket list and then start going down the list; take a gardening class (that works really well on my apartment balcony); spend more time cooking; take up bicycling.

On extending my money: Become a vegetarian; take the bicycle to the store to save gas money; walk to the store; give up Starbucks (not a chance); move to a cheaper apartment (already on my exploration list); get all your doctor/vision/dental appointments done before you leave work so you don’t have to use Medicare; use as little air conditioning as possible (that’s a real winner in Vegas’s 116 degree heat); read only free online books; drop everything except basic cable; pay extra on all credit card payments (I actually agree with that one); cut out the monthly family dinner (not likely since it may be the only socialization I’ll have left).

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I’m kind of tired of it. Ultimately, I’ll make the decisions that fit my personality and lifestyle and, right or wrong, I’ll either be fine or I’ll learn from the mistakes.

 

The Subconscious Speaks

It’s been two weeks since I turned in my two months’ notice at work. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve second guessed my decision and wondered if I should try and work until I’m 70 in order to maximize the Social Security I can receive. I come down firmly in the camp that I should go for it while I still have the health to do it – whatever “it” turns out to be.

That said, I’ve found myself engaging in some interesting things lately … well, two. One concerns my waking state and the other concerns my dreams.

As far back as I can remember, if I’m going to have a dream that I would recognize as showing anxiety, it has always harkened back to my dancing days. I will either be onstage in the wrong costume or I’ll be late and trying to perform the wrong routine. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a couple of those dance dreams but they seem to have some other interesting components to them. In both cases, I was trying to lead the ensemble to the stage location and we couldn’t quite get there. All the other dancers were younger than I was and I was afraid they weren’t listening to me.

Okay, should we try to analyze them? I think I’m worried that my “legacy” will be forgotten by the younger generation taking over my duties and that I’ll be seen as useless. Sound about right? The reason I find this interesting is because in my waking Yin-Yang-Woven-Dreamcatcher-8_3.jpg.optimalstate, despite the dreams, I’m aware that people at work think I’ve made some significant contributions and that we need to get someone who can continue them as is. So I find it fascinating that my subconscious says otherwise. Perhaps I need a dream catcher over my bed – at least until my actual retirement.

Then there’s my waking state. I have found myself, illogically, stocking up on things like books on CD for my car, magazine subscriptions, cases of prescription cat food, sneakers for the gym, custom-fitted trash bags for my kitchen garbage can, my favorite cologne Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-9.57.43-AMand the oversize tees I sleep in. What’s up with that? I guess I know that when those run out, I’ll probably see them as extravagances that I shouldn’t be spending my Social Security money on, so the idea is that if I stock up now, it’ll be quite some time before I have to face the music.

Who knows what other illogical things I’ll come up with in the next six weeks in preparation for retirement? Time will tell

Night Before / Day After

Last night I could’ve easily taken half a bottle of Maalox and still needed more. Even though I’ve weighed all the pros and cons – at least a bazillion times – they ran on a continual loop in my mind. Should I retire? Should I not retire? Would everything work Scared womanout for me financially or would I be as destitute as it looked on paper? Would I find lots of new hobbies to keep me busy or find myself staring out the window every day? Could I find a part-time job if I needed one or would any of my writing aspirations pan out? Could I revamp my independent business so that it would make enough money to keep me comfortably afloat? Yes, this all led to lack of sleep.

This morning, I tweaked my resignation letter for the umpteenth time to get the tone just right, the language just right, the insinuations just right. And then I forwarded them to my work email, got dressed feeling like I was headed toward the guillotine and headed in to the office.

I pulled up an email, input four relevant individuals, said something inane and slightly lame, attached the resignation letter, paused – one, two, three – and then resolutely hit “Send.” I fully expected to lunge for the keyboard, trying to retrieve the email and replay that mental loop just one more time. Didn’t happen. I actually felt totally comfortable and, dare I say it, a bit elated and relieved. I knew I’d made the right decision a few minutes later when my first problem correspondence arrived in the in-box and it didn’t bother me like it usually does.

I eventually got nice replies from all four recipients. That’s not to say that once they’ve had to time to think about it, they may change their minds and decide to boot me right away. But the truth is – – I don’t care. I’m comfortable with that one, too. I suppose what I finally realized yesterday was that I was always going to be scared whether I retired today, 2 years from now or 10 years from now. I’m always going to have to scramble for extra money to supplement the Social Security. So if that’s the case, why not get out while I still have my health? That’s exactly what I’m doing and here’s how I felt today:

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The Senior Free-Time Routine

The closer I get to retirement, the more nervous I get. I’m not quite sure why. Fear of the unknown? It occurred to me that all the people I talk to on a daily basis are at work. Yes, I talk to my cats, but conversation is sparse.

So I decided to start early and work on a daily calendar that will fill up every day of my first month of retirement for a couple of reasons: (1) to try to get into some good habits from Day 1 so I’m not sitting around the house, either endlessly napping or stuffing food in my mouth; and (2) to make sure I do things that make me happy, keep me healthy and active, and show me that all that free time I thought I wanted was really worth it. But I’m struggling.

I made a list of all the things I would definitely do, some of the things I might do and the things I’d love to do but probably won’t be able to afford. My days look a bit dreary . . . and that makes me nervous all over again.

I even assigned them times so I could see how much of my day would be occupied. No surprise it adds up to about the amount of time I’d spend at work. And I included generous amounts of time as well in case something was so damned interesting that I got lost in it and before I knew it, an extra half hour or so had sped past. I have things like working on my novel, cooking nicer meals than I’d normally prepare, perhaps purchasing and riding a bicycle – not only as good exercise but because I loved riding a bike as a kid, marketing my company to small businesses around town, querying and submitting articles to magazines, reading, etc.

In the process of trying to find a suitable picture of what a senior’s calendar of events would look like, I found this toddler’s calendar and decided it looked dangerously close to mine. Our RoutineI know I’ve made some jokes about it, but it seriously worries me that I’ll hate the free time I’ve dreamed of, wish I could go back to work and then nobody will hire me because I’m too old. I have images in my head of lonely, bored seniors sitting at home staring out the window and I don’t want to be one of them. With any kind of luck, I’ll relish the time that’s all mine, all day – nobody to answer to, no time limitations or deadlines. That prospect excites me.

But there’s still that little negativity imp sitting on my shoulder whispering that I’m making a mistake and should work until I die. I’ll let you know who wins in a couple of months.

Desperate for Conversation

The closer I get to retirement, the more nervous I find myself and that surprises me because I’m usually pretty good with change. This one though — well this one is a huge change that will impact my life, for good or bad, until I die. That’s worth getting nervous about, right?

Up until a week or so ago, I was getting excited about the prospect of doing whatever I want, whenever I want – sleeping late with no alarm; eating better because when I have the time to prepare and cook, I like it because it doesn’t feel so much like working after work; giving my house a thorough cleaning at a leisurely pace; spending as much or as little time as I deem fit on my novel; upgrading my company, Scentsibility and putting in some quality marketing time; sitting out on my balcony at odd hours and watching the wildlife and the clouds; napping in the afternoons; etc.

But now? There’s a man who comes into the Starbucks I frequent who’s retired and he’s the garrulous type who’s looking for anyone that glances in his direction. Aaaaand he’s off. I find myself trying not to catch his eye as he sits eating his oatmeal, eyeing likely suspects in his vicinity. Is that going to be me one of these days? Can’t you just see my seventy or eighty-something shriveled face sidling up to a young, twenty-something in line and saying, “My aren’t those adorable jeans. Did you buy them around here?” How far do you think that’ll get me?

Elderly woman sadly looking out the window, a black-and-white phSo, that’s what got me got me to worrying about my retirement instead of looking forward to it. I took stock of how many people I’d be likely to talk to on a daily basis once my usual work buddies are gone. Um, maybe two. That scares me a little. I already talk to my cats but I don’t think that qualifies. I don’t fancy being the sad old lady who sits in the house and stares out the window all day.

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Then there was the little old man in Albertson’s who stood off to the side staring at me as I checked out the special on guacamole. I eventually decided not to buy it and meandered off. Very shortly, I heard, “Excuse me.” I turned to see the little old man following me over to the produce section. He wanted to know why I hadn’t gotten the guacamole. My instant impression was that he didn’t give a hoot why I hadn’t bought the guacamole; he just wanted to talk to someone. So I stopped. I told him it didn’t seem to have enough stuff in. He said, “What stuff? Guacamole is just guacamole.” I assured him they were all different and I actually liked to make my own with avocado, jalapeno, tomato, onion, cilantro and lime juice. He thought that over, nodded and sauntered back toward the display.

See, that could be me in a year or two – randomly stopping people in the grocery store just to hear a human voice. That scares me. I can hear you saying, “So get out and do something.” I’ve thought about that, too. I’m not accustomed to sitting around much. I’m very active (always have been) and typically have a to-do list a mile long of things I want to do and places I want to go. But then there’s the retirement budget. It’s going to be a game changer with a whole new set of rules (none of which I’ll know in advance). I doubt that I’ll have enough money for travel or to spend on trivial keep-myself-busy projects. Where does that leave me?

I’m still aiming for optimism but I find myself vacillating between ultra excited and secretly terrified.

 

Fashion Backward

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There was a time, in my youth to be sure, when what you wore meant everything. You had to be wearing similar duds to everyone in your age group or you were ridiculed and sniggered at. That didn’t really improve after grade school. The methods of ridicule just got a little more sophisticated but were recognizable as ridicule nonetheless. Instead of outright laughter and pointing, the peer “in” group would make snarky little comments in a tone of voice that clearly indicated you weren’t up to snuff – things like, “Isn’t that adorable? My mom has one similar to that” or “I don’t suppose they carry that at Neiman Marcus, do they?”

I never had much of a fashion sense. I couldn’t (and don’t) understand perusing a magazine to see if the summer color is ecru or eggshell, if the jeans touch the tops of the shoes or meander to the middle of the heel, or if a neckline is bateau or V. If I want to wear it, I’m going to buy it and I don’t care whether it’s the season’s color or not.

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Even so, I would join in the laughter at the elderly women I’d see in support hose and sandals or flowery mumus or pearl-buttoned sweaters in the summer. Give me a break; I was young and stupid! But now? Let it be known that I plan to be one of those fashion backward elderly women . . . very shortly.

I used to wonder why anyone would “let themselves go” like those elderly women and not give a damn what they wore or who saw them in it. Now I get it. When we’re younger, the whole game is about attraction, whether attraction means a mate, a job to help climb the corporate success ladder or the approval of peers, and you only accomplish that by looking good. So, like most, I conformed as far as I was able. I wore the pointy-toed high heels that eventually caused me to have foot surgery on a permanently pinched nerve, the form-fitting jeans that required sucking in my nonexistent stomach at every meal and ending up with perfectly etched replicas of snaps or buttons on my waistline when I could finally get out of them, the seasonal shade of lipstick and gloss so I’d have those come-hither lips at all hours of the day because you just never knew when your makeup would garner the attention of someone who had clout and, of course, the perfect perky bra so it appeared that I had more than I did or ever would.

As we age, we come to realize that no one is looking at us as a potential date or new employee, we’re not likely to get the next Vogue cover and, in fact, regardless of whether we’re fashionable or sloppy, the generation currently running things often looks right through us as they maneuver those “moving up” decades. So we not only realize that it doesn’t matter what we wear, but we also realize (or at least I have) that if that’s the case, then I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks and I’m going to opt for comfort every time. If that means a T-shirt that’s two sizes too big over an unmatched pair of comfy sweats and well-worn tennies, then get ready — here I come.

Truthfully, it feels good to know that I don’t need to conform to any of those unspoken but ever-present rules about what’s acceptable and who might notice. I guess if I’d ever really cared, I’d have spent more time trying to be a fashion statement every time I left the house but I’ve always been more interested in people’s lives than their fashion sense. I’m finding it liberating to not only not care what anyone thinks of my fashion sense but to know that I don’t even need to make the attempt any more. In any case, I can’t wait to start my new chapter. I think I’ll call it Bet You Secretly Wish You Were Me.

 

Time – Fast and Slow

Time

Don’t you find that time is a fickle thing – snail’s pace one moment and warp speed the next? I love reading the theories about time and how it’s a manmade thing but at times, my own life teaches me how stupid the idea is that we can measure it accurately.

I remember a time when I had to audition to become a majorette in high school and the few hours I sat in the room watching everyone else’s routines almost ground to a halt. The few hours I was there in the afternoon felt like days had gone past.

Then there was the time I had my debut performance in my first Vegas show and although I wanted the experience to last forever so I could remember every detail, the show flew by in the space of a blink and I was left wishing it had lasted longer.

So why is that? And why can’t I harness it so I can slow my life? The thing is, it also applies to smaller events, I’ve noticed. I can arrive at work and if I’m not swamped with work, it feels like it goes on well beyond my shift. That scares me a little when it comes to applying it to retirement. It would seem that the trick is managing the mind but damned if I’ve figured out how to do that. I don’t want my retirement to slow to a halt to the point where I feel like I’m perpetually bored and hate it, but I also don’t want it to zoom by so I wish I’d retired sooner and had even more time to pursue interesting places and ideas and hobbies and “stuff.”

As I get closer, time is speeding up and although I want retirement and lazy days of my own making, I grow a bit more frightened of the unknown each day. Does being “off the clock” make the clock stop?

What I’m afraid I’ll do is cram everything I’ve ever wanted to do into my life in the first few months, end up crossing most of them off the list as things that aren’t really my cup of tea and that I know I’ll never finish or continue with and then end up sitting around staring out the window wishing I had someone to talk to. I often wonder if I’m the only one who feels that way but I doubt it. I think it’s probably pretty common. But it’s funny how I’ve been excited about the prospect, literally marking days off a makeshift calendar on the wall until things are getting down to the wire and suddenly not having a schedule scares me. I find myself wondering if maybe I should just keep going one more year.

No, I won’t. But the closer I get, the more anxiety I’m feeling about it. There’s that old time speeding up again, only this time, I’m not sure if I want it to slow down or keep going at the current breakneck speed.