Monday, November 26, 2012

The Other Side of Retirement

The Other Side of Retirement

One year, two years, three years and then you can leave your job and begin a new, exciting phase of life… retirement.  This is the aspect of retirement we see advertised in commercials offered by financial planning organizations,  insurance companies and even pharmaceutical companies,  to mention a few.  We can do a reality check.  What really happens in retirement and are we ready?  For the good times, of course we are. For the less than good?  Well, that takes some reflection.  The time after retirement can also be a time of loss.  Big losses like the death of a parent, the poor return on investments, the loss of our home, our health.  Rather than becoming depressed about what might happen and surrendering our normally positive outlook to morbid preoccupation we can take inventory of the personal (not financial) resources we have acquired over the years. They can get us through the hard times.

Viktor Frankl, a psychotherapist who experienced the horrors of a concentration camp during WWII in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, tells us the last free choice we have is that of choosing our attitude in any given situation.  He used his therapeutic skills to encourage fellow prisoners in finding a reason for living.  For Frankl it was the memory of his wife. We recently saw many  New Yorkers, perhaps ourselves among them, exemplify  the decisive choice of getting up, brushing themselves off with courageous determination  to rebuild a home,  get to a job or extend themselves to less fortunate neighbors during Hurricane Sandy.  Because life makes no promises, we can only be ready by schooling ourselves in ways of thinking that support us in even the most trying event. 

Another resource we can bring to life in retirement is our energy whether it be great or lessening.  It may be that after a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast our energy is at its peak.  That’s a good time to plan activities, make phone calls or tackle an unpleasant task.  A nap after lunch followed by 20 minutes of moderate exercise can be just the thing to bring us through the rest of the day with energy. 

Thirdly, staying connected to family and friends keeps us in touch with those we love.  We don’t need to wait for a return phone call or feel it necessary to plan a movie or lunch date.  It feels great just to have a long conversation without ending it with, “We must get together”.  In times like these when those we care about may live far away we’ll be happier knowing what’s happening with our children and grandchildren.  They will be grateful for this sign of affection even across the miles and we will be making use of our most powerful resource, our love for one another.

Image credit: Alamy/