Since retiring in 2010, I marvel at the person I’ve become. I look back at my younger self and realize how much I’ve changed and evolved.
I’m gradually feeling calmer, kinder, even happier as I grow older.
The sense of calm comes from good health habits. I cook and eat nutritious whole foods, get regular exercise, and sleep 7 or 8 hours at night.
I try to live gently with others by listening to what they say and not interrupting their conversation to add my thoughts. I also try to listen to the birds in my garden and to the cat’s delightful purr.
I admit that I’m not calm about ageism, unfairness, or deception. On these fronts, I try to control my reactions.
I worry less. Most of what I’ve worried about over the years hasn’t happened. If worry comes from lack of planning, I take action.
Stuff is not as important as it used to be — especially after three months of de-cluttering and purging. I still love my clothes, my shoe collection, my fun jewelry, and the multitude of scarves acquired over the years. However, a peaceful state of mind, playful friends, and a loving family give more contentment than I ever received from ‘stuff’. It’s easier to let go of things that hold little meaning and to let go of people who rob me of precious energy without giving back.
I’ve had more experience with loss and grief. I know that there are low, crazy times when everything about the world feels unfair. I also know that these times pass and equanimity returns.
I don’t think that I was unkind before retirement but I was often abrupt. I lived a ‘too busy’ life in a fast-paced work environment. I multi-tasked to save time. I had little patience for those who were less productive than I perceived myself to be!
Having time for reflection, time for hobbies, and time for solitude has allowed my mind to relax. I try to focus fully on what is happening. With a mindset of acceptance and respect I appreciate acts of kindness that others show in daily interactions with me and with each other.
Most importantly, I’m kinder with myself. Workplace critics who fuelled insecurities are history. Yoga and mindfulness have helped me connect with my strengths. With positivity and acceptance, negative and painful feelings that plagued me for years are slowly melting away and, thus, taking less of my attention. self-respect, and confidence.
As we grow older, we become happier; I feel this happening for me as the years pass.
Researchers in the US, UK and Australia with backgrounds in economics, psychology, and sociology have shown a U curve of happiness and well-being. This U curve shows lowest levels of happiness around age 45 followed by a steady up curve. Happiness and contentment increase in later decades of life. The correlation between happiness and ageing happens despite declines in health, increases in dependence, and less social interaction.
My happiness has increased because I’ve learned to respond differently when I don’t live up to my expectations. I’m also more resilient and less affected by opinions of others. I feel younger on the inside than I look on the outside.
I hope my wisdom is increasing but it’s sometimes as imperfect ever. I do and say things that I regret but I try to repair damage done. I fall short of goals but I keep trying to improve. I am learning to live with gratitude for what I have and not continuously striving for more or better or faster.
There’s an old saying that you start where you are to get your life to where you want it to be. Some of the changes since retirement happened because of conscious choices. Many changes were serendipitous.
I like the person I’ve become. I’m sure that in a few years, who I am today will have changed again as I take risks, learn from daily life experiences, meet new people, and seek new adventures. There will be more lessons as I savour this stage of my life. In the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
I’m interested to hear reader thoughts on how life has changed for you since retiring. Has retirement brought contentment, well-being and happiness? What other changes have you experienced? I promise to respond to all comments!