In my case the answer seems to be, yes. Then I ask myself why would any intelligent person apparently factor in to his retirement a degree of pain, as I appear to be doing? Let me explain this possibly somewhat puzzling question. As with most people, there’s a whole section of my retirement that is determined by circumstances beyond my control – health, finances, family relationships and so on. Then there are aspects of my retirement that I have determined. I have chosen a number of activities to be a part of my retirement life through my own free will, if you believe in such a concept that is. I tend to, you may believe the whole shooting match is beyond our control and we are but straws in the wind or similar. But not me.
Assuming I’m correct in believing my retirement is based, to a significant degree, on making choices, then the three main areas of my retirement that fall into this category are – learning to play jazz, running our vineyard and writing this blog. True there are one or two others like refurbishing the van, various DIY projects, holiday planning, reading and so on, but the three named are my main go to, predictable activities, you could say they pretty much define my retirement.
So far so good, all three bring me a certain amount of pleasure, a sense of challenge and achievement. Fine, but unfortunately all three also bring me a significant amount of pain, mental that is not physical, although that too at times, in the case of the vineyard. It would be easy to retreat to the no pain, no gain cliché, to answer my original question but I don’t find that totally convincing as an explanation. I don’t believe the two necessarily go hand in hand. Add to this the idea, as constantly advanced by my daughter, you’re retired, you’re supposed to be having fun. And I think it’s true that there are retired people out there who live entirely by the pleasure principle. Whiling away their time on a sunny Spanish beach and I’m not knocking it, if it works great, but it wouldn’t for me. So why ‘choose’ the pain option?
A part of an explanation is, in the case of the three mentioned above, they make a certain degree of sense in terms of my retirement values. Hence they are in with a chance of being chosen by me, despite any pain involved. The jazz playing fits neatly into one of my key values – continued learning, keeping sharp intellectually, setting challenges without too much damage to my self-esteem. There is a lot of pain with this activity – failing to meet challenges like the ones that came as a part of this jazz improvisation weekend. Incidentally the weekend went pretty well but there was pain, of the anxiety, lack of confidence, embarrassment type but the activity fits with my values and, and here’s the thing, it makes sense that if learning is to take place then a certain amount of pain is inevitable. This I get.
So too the vineyard. This activity fits in to my ‘spend time outside’ value (along with walking the dogs) which I need to balance my indoor activities like reading which both I and Mrs Summerhouse engage in every day. It also fits with the ambition to do something different / original with my retirement. And there’s also a bit of the keeping physically active value in there for good measure. It’s true that, if you’ve read any of the vineyard-specific blogs, that there’s a lot of the vineyard business that is beyond our control – the weather, the fauna, vines that die for no apparent reason – and that’s painful, but somehow it still mostly feels like a good thing to be doing particularly at this time of the year with new growth and all.
Which brings me to this blog writing and here it all gets a bit more complicated. There’s no doubt that, for the first nearly five years of my retirement, what this blog brought me was a sense of comfort, a way of making sense of this new (now not so new) life, it was writing as therapy you might say. But now, at well over 500 blogs, I’m beginning to wonder why I’m still doing it and particularly why I’m sometimes causing myself quite some pain trying to create 2 blogs every week. It’s getting more difficult (although I have to say that, without trying, life does keep happening) and, and this is the real rub, not only are my readership figures not increasing, they’re actually getting smaller. Have blogs had their moment in the spotlight or is it just mine? And was that really a spotlight or a flickering candle?
I know I have written in these blogs before that I write for my own pleasure and that I do not need the accolades of others. But possibly I lied. Comments have always been few but, as long as the readership figures were OK, then that’s good enough, but now, after 5 years, I’m beginning to feel that the blog has met my needs and that it’s not meeting anybody else’s, so why continue? If the blog was meeting some kind of social need then the pain it gives me to think up new topics would make sense but it doesn’t.
It’s a little bit scary when you contemplate giving up something that has been a part of your life for nearly five years, almost a minor version of giving up work, but when an activity of choice generates more pain than pleasure then surely it’s time to say enough. Of course there are various options. I don’t have to make a dramatic decision to cease I could just see what happens, or make a definite plan to write just one blog a week or even a month. And then there’s the question of the blog book. I’ve hit a bit of a stumbling block in that Austin MaCauley (the self-publishing company I’ve started corresponding with), refuse to give me any idea of costs, but assuming, and this is quite a big assumption at the moment, I decide to go ahead with this project, what does this argue in terms of keeping the blog going or not. I don’t know, who the heck would have thought that retirement could be such a complicated business. Relax, ha, I nearly went to Bradford.
PS. Once I’ve got the idea I don’t find the actual writing painful at all, it usually flows quite easily it’s just having the ideas twice a week and to think I’ve always said that having ideas was my strength.