I have been intending to write this review of the perfect retirement blog that I wrote almost at the beginning of these blogs nearly five years ago but some reason haven’t got round to it – until now. I thought it would be interesting to see how well my initial thoughts on retirement, before I was even retired I think, stand up to the scrutiny based on the actual reality. Chances are that my early thoughts would prove to be impossibly naive or just downright ridiculous. Here is that early list. All the words in italics are taken directly from that blog.

The physical with the intellectual

The outdoor with the indoor

The social with isolation

Work with pleasure

The clever with the basics

The permanent with the transient

Structure with formlessness

The predictable with the surprising

The organised with the ‘wing it’

Stay at home with travel

Learning with completion or mastery

Creating the new with valuing the old

New ideas with old favourites

The past with the future

Indulgence with obligation or abstinence

Charity with selfishness

Belonging with alienation

Competence with experimentation

Certainty with insecurity

Confidence with humility

I’m not saying that each area has to be exactly 50/50. The actual balance will depend on the person. An outdoor type will want more of that side but I am saying you need a bit of both. But, I hear you say, doesn’t that defeat this concept of balance? Well, I think not. Think of a beam balanced on a fulcrum. The balance is achieved by different weightings not necessarily by having the exact same distance either side of the fulcrum although this works as well obviously.

The first thing that strikes me about the above list is that it is based on a concept that I still hold dear, the idea of balance in what we do. I liked it when I was working and I like it now. If I ever gave advice about the recipe for the perfect life, ridiculous I know, then striking a balance between activities would probably be my number one piece of advice. In the original blog I used Sir Winston Churchill (as above) not as an example of the bulldog / never give up spirit but rather as somebody who neatly summarised a balanced retirement – 1,000 bricks and 2,000 words. After being voted out of office he retired to his country house, Blenheim I think,  and built a wall, hence the bricks and wrote his memoirs – hence the words. It may have been the other way round but you get the idea.

The second thing that strikes me is that the list is long. Whether this goes down as thoroughness or simply hedging my bets I’m not sure. I admit I did try and make the list as comprehensive as possible. I also confess that it’s probably that if I have an idea then I’m going to write it down. I never was very good at self-censoring my writing. The third thing that I notice, and I suppose this may be the most important bit, is that most of the list still seem to make sense. Maybe one or two slightly weird ones – belonging with alienation, hmm, must have been getting a bit tired at that point, similarly indulgence with obligation or abstinence. I think I know what I meant but perhaps I could have put it better.

My fourth thought was that, inevitably perhaps, I have not been entirely successful in one or two areas. We’re reasonably charitable people but I don’t think we could pretend we’re charitable enough. Can you ever be charitable enough? I’ve probably got the selfish part covered though. Certainty with insecurity, I’d have to admit that these last five years have perhaps tipped more towards the uncertain than the predictable but then, if I think of this in terms of structure and formlessness, it feels about right. Our average week does tend to have some basic structure but also allows for the impromptu, as you might call it. And it’s true, as I’ve written elsewhere, that our lack of ‘proper’ travel has been a frustration (courtesy of our dogs) but we’ve done OK with the moving around from house to house and travel within  the British Isles – Wales, Scotland and Ireland, so not too shabby. And there may be the van conversion to come with more travel flexibility.

But even so, who would have the temerity, the bare face cheek, the gall (meaning bold and impudent) to try and write the recipe for perfection in retirement. Obviously not me. If you’ve read these blogs you will know that my retirement feels anything but perfect. My constant harping on about missing links mark me down as a dissatisfied retiree. That said if, on reviewing the above list, I can honestly say that I’ve ‘walked the talk’ in the majority of those areas then it would seem to mean that I have, thus far, lived my retirement life in line with what I have, elsewhere, called my values. And I have written in other past blogs about the importance of living one’s life in line with one’s values. In fact I will just take the opportunity to remind myself of one of my favourite definitions of stress. It being that which occurs when our day to day behaviour is not in line with our values. Another little mantra that has stood the test of time.

I must say that reading this blog and taking a careful look at how honest I think it is about my retirement, it makes me wonder  a bit about why I am so negative at times about my retirement. Instead of bemoaning the perceived missing link/s I should almost certainly be celebrating the successes I have had. Should be, but of course that’s not quite my style. Still never to late to change is it? Retirement it’s an interesting time isn’t it?

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