I’ve been retired about three and a half years now and I wondered the other day how I was doing. I searched for a word or a phrase that would sum up, somehow encapsulate, how this whole retirement business was going so far. The word I came up with surprised me a bit. The word was ‘fragmented’. In other words I see my retirement life as a bit bitty and bobby. So many different terms I could use to elaborate on the word. For example, neither one thing nor the other, dabbling, the infamous jack of all trades and master of none. What I seem to have done is engage in busyness, I’ve probably elected quantity of activities rather than quality.
What I mean is there’s nothing pure or simple about my retirement and I’d say the same goes for Mrs Summerhouse. In other words our retirement is made up of a lot of different stuff. I don’t think this is how I planned it but then again, I’m not sure I planned it at all, at least not beyond a vague idea of becoming a writer of some kind and perhaps making our own wine and Mrs SH would create her art. That’s about it, so everything else – having the dogs, running the gardening business now with a garden design element (courtesy of Mrs SH), renovating my late mother’s house and so ‘running’ four properties, trying to learn and play jazz (more of which in a later blog) and / or some other musical genre (again more of later) and of course writing this blog, all appeared in our retirement lives accidentally.
I remember when I was working as an educational psychologist I would run what you might vaguely call problem-solving meetings to develop strategies for students with whom both we and the school were stuck. Because it had a brain-storming element to it, the process used something called a diamond structure. Imagine a kind of trapezium shape (I think that’s the right geometrical, rectangle shape). At the top point you have the definition of the problem, nice and simple, which widens out to the middle of the shape where there are as many ideas as the participants can possibly come up with, no judgement passed at this early stage. Then in the bottom half of the shape you begin to narrow down (on the grounds of practicality for instance) all the possibilities down until you have one (not many more) which will be tried with the student in question.
And why you ask am I telling you this? Well, because what I think I have done is engage in the first part of the process, the opening up, as far as my retirement is concerned but not followed on to the second part, the narrowing down of the options. As a result we are probably trying to do too much in an effort, at least on my part (Mrs SH has a different approach), in order to make my retirement as fulfilling as possible. As I say I’ve gone for quantity over quality. And no sign of this approach slowing down. It may be no more than a ‘making every day count’ philosophy. If we needed a gee up with this ‘life style’ the fact that three people of no great age that we know (not close friends or family but close enough) have died recently. So for us this is fuel on the fire of our already burning bonfire of using life to the full.
Of course I know there’s a big flaw in this plan in that doing more doesn’t necessarily meaning doing better. But I struggle with doing better, not sure what it means in reality, but doing more, oh yes, I can do that. No better example of my flibberty gibberty approach to retirement cropped up this week when passing a garage on the way to the barn / vineyard, I happened to notice a car that I thought I would buy. I have a perfectly sensible number of vehicles (unlike houses some might say and indeed have said), a van for the gardening firm, a Land Rover for the country work and a small, economical Kia for the round town stuff. And now I want another one with no intention of selling any of the existing three. I’m not going to tell you what I want to buy, I’m sure you have no interest and I’d be embarrassed to go into detail. Suffice it to say I justify the possible purchase (and it may never happen) by telling myself we’re at a stage in our lives when we think it, bugger it, what’s the point of having money in the bank where it earns zero interest? Why not spend it and have fun? And, as a bonus, make our lives even more complicated than they already are.
I could justify the possible purchase by pointing out that some friends of ours are planning on spending £10,000 on a two-week holiday. I don’t want to go where they’re going and I’d rather have something other than memories to show for my outlay. I can definitely justify it, at least in my own head, by saying at our stage in life, assuming we’re not going to live to 100 as I mentioned in a recent blog, and we’re not thinking we should leave every penny to our beloved children, why not get the bloody money spent? But maybe I’m just being selfish and we should be leaving it all to charity. But before you write me off as a complete bastard just let me say that we donate every month to three charities – the Red Cross, Children in Need and Cancer Research. Sorry 4 charities I forgot Mrs SH signed us up to support two doggies via The Dog’s Trust. Of course one can always give more but my conscience is reasonably clear on this front.
So here we are, both of us 68, children largely provided for, 20 guitars and not in need of any more, what’s one more vehicle between friends? I realise that if this blog had had a topic I would have strayed from it but that’s the price you pay for a retirement full of options and a head full of thoughts only some of which are actually of any use. Retirement goes on.