The ease of retirement

Learning to enjoy personal freedom is a process.

I came home from our grand November adventure with a lingering cold, which, helped along by our flight home, produced a stopped-up ear (une oreille bouchée, in French). For the first week I only left the apartment for French lessons, and I’m still mostly stayiing home, resting, and taking prescription meds. So I’ve had a lot of time for contemplation.

Having worked full-time for 48 years, traveling weekly, and being “on call” 24/7 (along with raising a family and being a person), I never had a lot of contemplative time, so this is a fairly new experience for me. The sheer luxury of not HAVING to do anything is something I’m still not used to, after almost two years of retirement. And now that the newness of living in France has worn off a bit (although we still occasionally pinch ourselves that this is our life!), I can relax into a slower, more measured pace.

I’m learning, for the first time, to pace myself, to say no occasionally, and to fight my FOMO. I enjoy Thursday coffee with friends, but life goes on if I miss it now and then. Instead of venturing out in the cold with a cold to buy a Christmas tree, I ordered our tree and trimmings online. And you know what? It turned out fine, and it was fun to assemble.

Smallest Christmas tree we’ve ever had, but it’s the right size for our apartment!

We did manage to go out one evening with friends (to see the fabulous Callas Paris 1958 film), where we saw the giant Christmas tree in the Place de la Comedie, but as of December 9 we have not yet ventured out to see the Illuminations or to visit les Hivenales (the outdoor Christmas market). Normally I would have dragged Phil out for both on the first day, but now I realize there will be plenty of time to see everything–and it might be less crowded by the time we go.

Holiday lights on l’Opera de la Comédie

Phil and I enjoy our loose schedule. I usually wake up first, have coffee, and catch up on emails, while he sleeps in. Late mornings are spent in parallel play, me reading or playing on my phone, Phil watching videos and enjoying his coffee and breakfast smoothie. We have French lessons and/or homework most days, and we run errands, do laundry, and chat, before Phil goes to his studio to paint while I read, work on administrative tasks, chat with my daughter, etc. Between 5 and 6 p.m. we reconvene for a cocktail while I make dinner, and we usually watch a movie over dinner. And several times a week we get together with friends.

I’ve recently begun learning to sleep late. For many years my internal alarm has gone off around 6:43 a.m., but since we got home I’ve slept until after 9:00 several times. I do occasionally have sleepless nights (apparently one of the lovely aspects of aging!), but when that happens I can take an afternoon nap!

The view from our apartment this morning, after a night of little sleep. Lovely!

I’m still learning how to do retirement, and figuring out the ideal pace and routine will take time. I will admit to still having occasional work anxiety dreams (workmares, I call them). But the past couple of weeks of quiet have helped me realize how fortunate I am to be in this stage of life, and I plan to take advantage of every sweet moment of freedom!

15 thoughts on “Ease of Retirement

  1. Always lovely to read your posts, Sandy. Best of health and happiness to you and Phil.

    Having known you briefly in a previous life, your adventures bring me joy. Continue!

  2. Dear San and Phil… your narratives and travels read like a wonderful calming cocktail for those of us reading your post.

    I retired in April 2022, as part of a whirlwind romance and getting married at 68 years old. Up until December 2021 I had no intention of retiring and had no vision for what my life would be and how radically it would change. I have immensely enjoyed the time to reinvent myself, as a retired executive, and as a new bride!
    After the first year, I realized there was something missing. I knew I wanted to do volunteer work, but couldn’t find anything that compelled me or excited me with a passion. In May, our best friend’s daughter had her first child. The child was born with a severe form of muscular dystrophy. Wanting to help our friends and baby Tucker, I explored opportunities to volunteer with MDA. My passion is now creating educational programs and new revenues to accelerate early diagnosis of devastating, muscular dystrophy disorders.

    Being able to give back and pay it forward has given me joy and satisfaction as I use my skills ( like you- acquired over a lifetime) , and allows me to integrate my expertise in a brand new way!

    We are very active and highly motivated to become experts at being retired…. We’ll follow your lead!!!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • Oh, Sharyn, how wonderful! I didn’t find volunteer work was a draw for me, probably because the first years of my career were in non-profit work and education, so I felt I’d been there, done that. I love that you’re putting your skills to work for MD; such a deserving cause. And of course I’ve loved following your romance on social media, and we do hope you guys will reschedule your trip to France at some point. Meanwhile, all the best to you and Jim!

  3. I’m so glad you shared the link on LinkedIn. My missing you is outweighed by hearing how content you and Phil sound. You’ve worked hard for this adventure; embrace it.

    • Norm, that’s so kind of you! We miss you too, and we often talk about our lovely meal in the trees behind your house, and how we managed to safely have so much fun with great people despite the pandemic. If you and Marie plan a trip to France (or elsewhere in Europe), please let me know; perhaps we could meet up for a day or two!

  4. Patricia Taylor says:

    Isn’t retiring from careers awesome?! Here in Houston, my days are just PACKED with reading, napping, games on my phone (gotta keep the little gray cells working), more reading, movies on the television, keeping up with those grandson maniacs, and lying around, lying to myself about cleaning out a closet. Never knew life could be so spectacularly wonderful. Glad you are now along for the ride, BFF. 😘

  5. I love this for you!

    Hypothesis: It also sounds like you’ve started to adopt the slower culture in general of your adopted culture. One of the things I love so much about French culture is the appreciation for savoring life and moments and relaxing a bit more, not feeling like everything needs to be rushed and to happen all at once, as though everything’s an emergency.

    That aspect of US life is one of the things I found so jarring when I moved back for a few years, and the second time I moved back, it was one of the many things that guided me to leave again.

    Not saying rush-rush-rush doesn’t have a place, but it’s not when it doesn’t have ALL the place!

    • I think you’re onto something with your hypothesis! Along with readings and insight from my daughter, I’ve been working on truly being in the moment, noticing things, and taking the time to enjoy the ride–even if the “ride” is simply a walk to the doctor’s office!

  6. Hi there,

    Oh I envy you…sleep till 9!! Granted I retired in May, but my internal clock still wakes me up at 5…right now it is 5:53 AM, and I have been up almost an hour. Coffee, fed the animals and raised my blood pressure by reading the headline. I worked ….and I count the time home with kids as work…since I was 17 and not having structure to the day has been very hard. I am doing some volunteer work, mentoring 2 librarians and emptying the house of stuff….the yard always needs tending as well. It is a huge change but also one that was needed….love you and love your thoughtful posts.

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