A while ago, in one of these blogs, I suggested that one way of working out what would make for a fulfilling retirement was to look back at your career and, assuming it has been a satisfying career, to ask yourself what was it about your career that had made it satisfying or fulfilling. If you could determine this then it might be possible to ensure some kind of continuity of these positives into your retirement. You would have a new identity as a retired person but you would carry these positives with you into your new world. The other day I wrote in my diary the areas that had given me fulfilment in my career as an educational psychologist. It went, in no particular order, like this – having ideas, being creative, problem-solving or solutions finding, helping people solve their problems, writing training modules, having variety in what I did and having a significant amount of control over what I did. That’s quite a list and I don’t pretend I have seamlessly managed to incorporate all of these areas into my retirement. There’s continuity and then there’s being afraid to move on. I’m over-thinking again.
What I did realise, however, was that many of these, you might call them my needs in retirement, were being met by my blog-writing. Being in control of what I write (as I’ve said before, it’s my bloody blog and I’ll write what I like and like what I write), being creative, having new ideas each week for a blog or even two, hence the variety and of course the writing. I thought that the helping side of things wasn’t necessarily being addressed at least not completely. True I was writing blogs that offered advice to fellow retirees should they feel the need and applying some of my favourite psychological paradigms to the challenge of making my retirement fulfilling. But this aspect of the blog was generally falling a little short. As the first requirement of effective problem-solving is to be clear about the problem, which I felt I had done, then I should be able to find an appropriate solution to the presenting problem.
I chatted to Mrs Summerhouse on our morning walk, as we often do, about my possible idea for addressing this problem. What about writing a blog once a month about some of the more common problems retirement can bring for some of us at least. I asked Mrs Summerhouse what she thought and, as fate would have it, she had been talking to a couple of her yoga students the night before about the problem that newly retired husbands brought with them. So we identified a couple of problem areas that I might write about as, lack of preparation for retirement and the difficulties of one partner, in this case, the woman, retiring first and then the husband a couple of year’s later. The husband in question was getting into his wife’s ‘space’, he was watching day time TV, leaving his laptop on ‘her’ table and generally intruding on her developed lifestyle which, interestingly, included a lot of socialising with friends. We also talked about the problems brought about by a lack of structure when this had been provided, in the past, by work.
In the meantime I wrote down as many other retirement type problems as I could think of. This process of creating both this list and the potential blog, gave me a lot of pleasure. I felt fulfilled. The areas I have come up with so far are along the lines – lack of self-esteem; changing / puzzling self-image; loss of confidence; anger and anxiety and ‘fedupness’ (I refuse to use the word depression) when retired; not feeling valued; a lack of appropriate challenge; a lack of purpose; reduced variety of activities; feeling pulled out of shape; an inability to relax or enjoy the smaller things of retirement life and so on. There will no doubt be more as I go along. All of the above I have some experience of so I feel able to write about them both at a personal and professional level.
I thought if I set myself the task of writing say one blog a month around this area it would address both the variety issue and the feeling of being helpful. I’m staying away from the financial or health challenges of retirement. Again while I have experience of both I don’t see this as my area of expertise.
Like all good ideas there is an inevitable potential downside but I won’t know whether it’s a deal breaker until I get into writing these blogs. The potential problem is around the process of labelling. I have written a couple of times in these pages about the dislike I have for labelling problems. Some of my reluctance in engaging in this process is that it leads to the expectation, quite naturally, that having identified a specific problem then there will be a specific related solution to that labelled problem. In my experience this is rarely the case, in my world of educational psychology take ADHD and dyslexia, both have no related solution or, in the grown-up world, depression, again the treatment is generally – therapy and / or drugs, the first somewhat better than the latter but not unique to the problem. Now here am I, in an effort to be helpful, giving names to typical retirement problems. So the big question will be can I offer, relative to the identified problems, advice that relates more or less directly to the problem? Well, we shall see. If it turns out that all my advice is much the same then I will stop writing my problem page and carry on in a more generalised way. I’m really not sure how this new idea will work out and I’m reluctant to crush it by over-thinking (one of my short-comings) it without giving it a try.
So here we are again, contemplating the ups and downs of retirement and trying to take control of the whole damn nine yards, me being the control freak I am and have even more become. If it turns out to be a crap idea well at least it was an idea and I’m still having them, just like I used to and if nothing else I’ve been able to write this blog about the topic. And this has given me retirement pleasure even fulfilment.