IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT

The WordPress guy asks me “if money were no object, would I work anyway?” 

Silly man. Money is definitely an object, but I don’t work. Anyway. Because I am, as is my husband, retired. I know this is a difficult concept to grasp, so allow me to explain it.

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When you get to a Certain Age, you are even more tired than you were during your earlier working years. You are more exhausted before you begin your work day as you formerly were after finishing it. You feel that way throughout the entire day until, at the close of business, you crawl to your car, drive home, wondering if you’ll make it. Gasping, wheezing, with accompanying soft moans, you crawl into your abode.

You look in the mirror.

“Self,” you say. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“I could retire,” you point out. “I could pack it in, take the money” and as you think this, a little bell ding-a-lings deep in your mental recesses … a bell labeled “What money?” Have you sat with HR to find out what kind of money there is in your retirement fund? Do you have a retirement fund? 401 K?

“And anyway,” you continue, “There is Social Security, right? I’ve worked hard my entire life. Surely there’s enough in there to sustain life?”

So begins the intricate dance by which you detach yourself from the working world — from whence all paychecks come. You slide into  a better place where long deferred pleasures await you. The satisfaction of a hobby well done. Free time that amounts to actual freedom. The joys of life without a programmed schedule.  (But alas, no paycheck.)

You get up when you like and go to bed when you choose.

Read all night till the sun come up and the cows are mooing to be milked. Watch old movies until sleep pulls you into darkness. You can blog, read, write your memoirs. Travel if money and your personal physical conditions allows. Most of us, after some initial confusion, settle down and discover that retirement is good. With its restrictions, issues, whatever … it’s very good. The best.

It is, barring ill-health (we wish we could bar ill-health!). Better than childhood because you don’t have to go to school and your parents aren’t telling you what to do. Better than your working years because you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. Better than the years of raising children because you are no long a slave to the whims of your delightful if spoiled darlings who you love more than life itself. Hopefully, l they have flown the coop and now nest elsewhere. With luck, they won’t fly back, bringing a birdie spouse and all the fledglings.

Would I work anyway? You’re kidding, right? I’d take the money because retirement and poverty, if not actually synonymous, ought to be.

But return to an office? Deadlines? Doing what I’m told or face the consequences? Schedules, on the job and off? Endless commutes? Taking ten minutes to get a sandwich, then wolfing it down while seated at the computer to the accompaniment of acid reflux?

No. I think not.

I’ve served my time, put in more than 40 years. Mr. WordPress prompt guy? Piss off.

A WILD WEST WEDNESDAY – RICH PASCHALL

Not just a Soup and Sandwich lunch for Harold, a rather well-organized man

It had already been an uncharacteristically hectic week for Harold, so he looked forward to a relaxing Wednesday. After he finished his morning breakfast, he took the newspaper to a nice spot by the window and sat down to read. He was only distracted momentarily by the library’s copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sitting on the table. It seemed to beckon to him to continue the journey of the boy wizard. There was a time set aside for that sort of reading and he imagined he would resume the fanciful tale at the library where it began.

The time idled by in a leisurely sort of way that was befitting of a man in retirement. With the completion of each article, Harold looked out the window approvingly. The sun was shining, the air was at peace and so was Harold. He continued to read right up to the noon hour when it was time to get ready for the twice weekly sojourn to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar. Harold would dress in his best sports clothes since he knew his appearance was important. All of the help and many of the patrons were well aware of the 1 PM arrival every Wednesday and Saturday of the well-organized man from the Midwest.

Harold arrived at the door of the restaurant precisely at 1. He thought he was the picture of sartorial excellence when in truth he was rather plain, but certainly clean and well-groomed. As usual, the staff greeted him with kindness and even enthusiasm as he headed to the same general area where he always sat for lunch. His seat by the window was taken but he chose another that was just as bright and allowed for a good view of a television. ESPN was playing for Harold, minus sound.

“Hello,” said a voice that startled Harold. “My name is Amber and I will be your waitress today.” The young woman had an armful of tattoos and maroon colored hair. Her jeans were a bit ripped on the backside. She did not look a thing like the sweet Tiffany who usually waited on Harold. “May I start you off with a drink? We have Summer Surprise on tap. It is a seasonal beer we have on tap for just four dollars.” Amber worked her chewing gum quite hard as she waited for a response from the average looking old guy from another one of the nearby retirement areas.

“Tea,” Harold proclaimed. “I will have an ice tea with lemon on the side and 1 packet of sweetener.” With that Amber was off without taking Harold’s food order. Things were not exactly routine but a little out of the ordinary would be OK with Harold. Amber soon returned, took the order and things were nicely on track for a peaceful meal.

As Harold watched the television without the sound, a noise came bellowing across the room. “Harold!  Why you old son of a gun!” It was Bill, Harold’s neighbor from down the street. “What brings you here, besides the cheap lunch?” Harold did not consider the lunch cheap, but rather as economical. He also could not imagine what he did to invite Bill into his life twice in the same week. With that, Bill sat down opposite Harold.

“I just stopped in for lunch, that’s all,” Harold exclaimed. “I like the food here and the people are nice.” Bill nodded in agreement and then a brilliant idea popped into Bill’s head.

“You know, Harold, we could ride over here together on Wednesdays. You can enjoy your,” Bill paused as Amber set down Bill’s lunch, “whatever, and I can try out their other items. It will be great.” With that, Bill got up, slapped Harold on the back and said, “See ya buddy, I gotta go. I’ll call you Monday to see if you are up for our little shopping tour.”

Bill was off as quickly as he arrived. He made comments to each of the waitresses as he headed toward the door and soon the place was just a bit quieter. Harold shook his head slowly as peace returned to the table in what was his favorite spot in the room. Having Bill enter his routine once in the week was quite a lot, but twice might be more than poor, old Harold could handle. He felt he just had to limit his time with Bill. “Perhaps,” he thought, “I should switch my Wednesday lunch hour.” It was not going to make a difference.

When lunch was finished, Amber wandered over and gave a disinterested smile and left the check. She did not write her name on the back or add a smiley face as Tiffany would have done. Harold paid with his favorite bank credit card that gave cash back rewards, including 2x points for restaurants in the current month, and smiled at Amber as she brought the receipt. Harold was to hope there would be no more unscheduled adventure for the rest of the week. He had no idea what the following days would add to his otherwise perfectly planned schedule.

NOW? LATER? ALL THE SAME TO ME

Now? Later! — We all procrastinate. Website, magazine, knitting project, TV show, something else — what’s your favorite procrastination destination?


Holy moly! You made me pause to think this morning. I’m not sure I can handle that. Procrastination destination? You mean … like … what do I do when I’m not doing what I’m ‘posed to do?

What am I supposed to do? What is that?

I have no schedule. I have no professional goals, no boss, no deadlines. Other than an annual vacation, the occasional party, or doctor’s appointment …. everything is optional. I can do it. Or not.

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Do it now, later, or skip it entirely. It’s up to me. Procrastination loses its zing post-retirement. I suppose I could set myself deadlines and then stress about meeting them, but why? Haven’t I had enough stress in my life? Now, later, never. It’s all the same.

You young ones are welcome to your hyped up lives, frantic schedules, important agendas, and artificial deadlines. I wish you well. I remember living a life where running as fast as I could meant staying in the same place — with exhaustion (mental and physical) as my constant companion.

I served my time and then some. Looking back, so much of it was a waste of energy. It meant nothing in the long run. Most of it meant nothing in the short run, too. Artificial deadlines for insignificant projects which frequently came to nothing for anyone … and I was just an itsy bitsy cog in someone else’s wheel of fortune.

I don’t have to do that anymore. I knew there was an up side to oldness. Time for another cuppa. I love coffee in the morning. Don’t you?

IF THE JEANS FIT

marilyn selfieNot all bad dreams are nightmares. I have dreams which are bad because they’re too close to reality for psychic comfort.

First up in last night’s doubleheader, I dreamed I urgently needed a shower. Okay, fine, soon as I get up, I promised my unconscious. Sheesh. It’s not that bad … is it?

The next round of REM sleep informed me I couldn’t fit into my jeans. That got me so upset I vowed if it turned out to be true, I would end it all by jumping head first into the bathtub off my shower chair. If that didn’t work, I’d have to get a new pair of jeans.

I tried waking up, then going back to sleep. Maybe it would shake off the dreams … but it didn’t work.

Leaving me feeling grubby with unbearably tight blue jeans. Was worse yet to come?

I decided not to lie around waiting for an answer I might not like. Dragging my reluctant body from the comfortable bed, I went straight for the dresser and pulled out my jeans. Shucking my nightgown, I stepped into them and discovered — oh joy! — they fit perfectly.

I would have done a victory dance, but I first needed to give Greenies to the starving puppies, start the coffee, then hit the shower. Today, I’m going to wear those jeans. At least for a while until I remember if I’m just going to sit around the house, I might as well go for something loose and stretchy.

Vanity and fashion have lost their power over me. Instead, it’s easy-to-launder, resistant to dog hair, and comfortable. Every time. I still think about putting on a bit of make-up, just to prove I can make myself look nice if I try … except I can’t think of a reason why. I’d just have to wash it off later.

Retirement has ruined me.

GOLDEN WHAT?

Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

When you think about retirement and “the golden years,” you probably think it means free time. After decades of deadlines, you can do what you want, when you want. Time to travel, time to sleep, time to be with friends. 

It doesn’t usually work out that way. As a start, though I’m not sure why, the minute you retire, you’re incredibly busy. Nature abhors a vacuum and your days fill up. Life becomes unexpected.

You will wonder how you ever had time to work a full-time job.

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IF YOU DON’T DIE YOUNG YOU WILL GET OLD

Your friends get old and some move away. With luck, you’ve got friends and family near enough to visit easily. It’s a gift. But you can’t count on having the old gang in the neighborhood.

Enter email, Skype and social networking. I don’t care who invented the Internet. I’m just glad it exists.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN? OY.

If you are one of the lucky ones who have money and time, you may not have the energy or emotional fortitude to deal with the vicissitudes of modern travel. To put it succinctly, modern travel sucks. It’s not elegant or romantic. It’s hard work for which you pay.

On local roads ...

Travel used to be fun when I was young, but it’s been less fun with each passing year. Now, air travel’s a disgrace. Airports and security turn vacations into stress tests, nightmares in which strangers paw you and security personnel dismantle your luggage. There’s no choice if you’re want to go long distances or cross oceans; you have to fly. Good luck with that.

I love flying. If I had a private jet and could skip the airport, I’d travel. Silly me. If I had that kind of money, a lot of things would be different. Like pretty much everything. Never mind. Forget I said anything.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?

Retirement means a fixed income. Your “salary” stays the same forever, while prices don’t. It takes a while to come to grips with this. After you retire, you will never get a raise. Or a Christmas bonus.

You will never have more buying power than you do today. Time erodes the value of pensions. Younger people don’t get it, but they will someday. Their time will come and they won’t like it. No one does.

On the up side, you will find stuff to do that doesn’t cost much money. Museums and other public venues have senior rates the same as kid prices. Movie theaters have cheap afternoon rates as well as special showings of classic movies. Senior discounts are a big perk.

Never forget to take your senior discount! It’s the least they can for you do after all your years of hard work.

OH MY ACHING …

Most people don’t have as many problems as I do, but everyone has some physical issues. Old bodies wear out. Things hurt. Reflexes slow down. You aren’t as strong as you were. You tire more quickly. If you fall, you don’t bounce. You go splat.

It’s normal, but aggravating. If you’re smart, you adapt. Enjoy what your body can do and don’t waste your life fighting to be what you were — while missing the fun of being what you are.

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Buck up buckaroos. Getting older isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. Consider the alternative.

You will have fun. You will adapt, accept limitations and enjoy life differently. Keeping an open mind helps. A sense of humor helps more.

NOT WORKING IS THE POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW

The golden-est part of the golden years is not working.

Not working is absolutely, unequivocally a most excellent thing. If only they would just keep sending checks. I don’t miss working, not for a minute, but I miss getting paid.

Our skills are better than ever. Creative artists and people in any field for which mental rather than physical prowess is required, get another chance. We blog, do charity work. Write books, take pictures, sculpt, paint. Design things. Create magnificent gardens. We are treasure troves of experience and knowledge should anyone choose to ask.

Friends

I’ve had a lot of fun recently. I’ve written stuff I like, taken pictures with which I’m pleased. Spent time with friends I love. Laughed until I cried and cried until I laughed.

Now I have to go get my heart rebuilt. Drat. It’s always something.

Other entries:

  1. Social Media has changed me | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  2. Golden Years | Icezine
  3. Counting The Scars/ Weekly Writing Challenge | standinginthestorm
  4. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Golden Years | Mirth and Motivation
  5. Fearless Youth | the intrinsickness
  6. Golden Years | mnemosynesandlethe
  7. Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years | MythRider
  8. i am always looking | y
  9. nobody has said if | y
  10. Age is Just a Number | Random Words
  11. The Age of a New Season | Mary J Melange
  12. Stories From My Mind
  13. It is OK, I am here | jessicadafoe
  14. We’re Still Aging! | theeyelife
  15. Age isn’t defined by a number (unless you’re a minor…). | …Properly Ridiculous…
  16. Working Girl | Never Stationary
  17. Golden Years (DPChallenge) | Between Madness & Euphoria
  18. “Unforgotten” | Cosmic Heroism
  19. And Here We Are, Stuck Moving Forward | A Cool Glass of Lemonade
  20. Age is Just a Number –  Ha! Age is a Bunch of Numbers! | Once Upon Your Prime. . .

SOUP AND SANDWICH

Everyone who knew Harold would agree; he was an orderly man.  Everything about his well-ordered existence was, well, “orderly.” That would perhaps be the only word to describe it.  He firmly believed in the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  That did not just include things, but it also included time.  Harold ran on a strict schedule and parceled out his time for maximum efficiency.  He was dependable, likable and predictable.

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Harold had been chief mechanical engineer at a plant that made small motors for big applications.

This work demanded designing a wide variety of parts for the many specialized applications.  Harold was up to every task.  He drew his special parts the old-fashioned way at his drafting table.

He kept copies of all his special drawings in a filing cabinet, organized by type of part.  His methodical brain could recall all the special requests to modify the little motors to power everything imaginable.  While you would have no idea all the appliances and machines and gadgets that required little motors, Harold could see them all in the depths of the storage places in his mind.

When Harold was approaching retirement, he knew instinctively that it was time to move on.  More work was being done by computer, and while Harold mastered the technique, he could not set aside his love of the drafting table itself.  A desk and computer were okay, but his computer-like mind held all the gigabytes he needed.  As for manufacturing the parts, that was now being farmed out to other places. He could no longer watch his creations made real in the machine shop.

The next phase of life brought retirement on the gulf coast of Florida.  This was not a retirement were you could just be lazy and do nothing.  Harold had imposed an orderly routine on his life.

There probably would have been no other path to happiness.  Harold’s road was clear and free from clutter.  His home was so neat and clean you would swear he had a helper.  There were few items out and on display as everything had a specific place to be put away and that is exactly what Harold did.  As for things that Harold did not think had a practical use, he threw them away, gave them away or recycled them.  He owned nothing that he could not imagine using in the near future.

For his weekly schedule, Harold chose Mondays for a walk on the beach.  A few moments admiring the Gulf was a retirement activity Harold felt worth scheduling.  If the weather was inclement, he drove into Sarasota for a little stroll through a shopping area.  He might look for items he previously recorded on a list.  Monday was the appointed day for picking up requirements, there would be no unplanned or hasty trips to the store.  Time was too valuable to spend wandering to and fro.  The only wandering of the week would be down the beach on the appropriate Monday morning hour for such things.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were spent in town at the local library.  Harold maintained a list of books he felt would be worth reading and set out to read as many as he could find.  If he did not finish the book at the library, he would check it out to make sure he had it on his next visit.  On a rare occasion he might continue reading at home when his schedule for the day was completed.  That only came when something he was reading really caught his fancy.  There certainly were a few good books on mechanical engineering and anything he discovered on the topic was a delightful find.

Fridays were for sports.  He read about the local high school and college sports in the morning.  He watched reports on the cable news channel, Sarasota Now.  In March, Harold carefully planned which Major League Baseball spring training games he should attend.  His love of sports was not quite the same as his love of mechanical engineering, but it came close.

lunch 2

While Harold might declare Sunday to be his day of rest, it was anything but that.  He cleaned the small townhouse on Sundays and checked many of the drawers and boxes to make sure everything was put away properly.  He reviewed the contents of the closets to determine if there was anything that no longer belonged.  Cleaning and inspecting everything could take Harold most of the day, but he did not mind.  It gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

Perhaps most special of all the scheduled activities was Harold’s trip to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports bar every Wednesday and Saturday for lunch.  When Harold arrived at 1 pm sharp, cane in hand and smile on his face, every one greeted him warmly.  “Hello Harold,” the manager on duty would shout with glee, calling attention to his arrival.  At that the waitresses, would call out his name and people would turn around to see who entered.

“Hello Harold,” the bartender would say loudly so her “hello” was heard with all the others.  The broad smile on Harold’s face got even wider at all the attention.  It seemed the entire crew felt a bit sorry for Harold.  He was always alone.  He moved deliberately, carefully placing his cane down with his left hand every time his right foot took a step forward. While they considered Harold a simple, maybe even dim-witted but likable old-timer and just wanted him to feel good, Harold was well aware that he got the added attention due to his apparent simple nature.

Once Harold found his table near the window, his usual waitress, Tiffany, came over to give him a hug.  “Would you like the soup and sandwich special?” Tiffany began.  “Yes, please, and I will have the chicken noodle soup.”  There was no need to ask Harold what he wanted.  It was ham and cheese sandwich with chicken noodle soup on Wednesday and vegetable beef on Saturday.

He enjoyed a bit of ESPN, a lot of attention and a good lunch. Then Tiffany brought the bill and wrote her name and put a big smiley face next to it.  So, twice each week Harold purchased attention and friendship for the price of the soup and sandwich special.

FREE OR AT LEAST VERY CHEAP

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The best thing about retirement is not working. It may sound obvious, but not as much as you think. Not these days when many people either start a new career when they “retire,” or need to take some kind of crappy job to supplement social security which isn’t enough to live on.

There are plenty of other life changes that come with retirement. Not working is only one of them, but it’s my favorite. Pity it means giving up a steady paycheck, but if you can do it … not working is wonderful. It’s particularly wonderful for those of us who have hobbies and never had the time to pursue them while we worked.

After you stop working, you never know what you will be doing in the future, but you know what you won’t be doing.

You won’t be slaving long hours for an unappreciative boss.Getting up at the crack of dawn to scrape ice from the windshield. Driving 60 miles through bumper-to-bumper traffic to be restless and bored for 10 hours. Then getting back in the car and driving another sixty miles in the other direction in the dark when you’re already beat. You may well be perpetually short of money, but you won’t be fighting traffic or grinding your teeth wondering if you’re going to get dumped for a younger, cheaper worker. Discover your job’s been eliminated to improve someone’s bottom line.

You never have to call in sick again, not because you are really sick or if you need a day to take care of a child, business, or just a day off.

Ever learn you’ve lost your job by reading the headlines in the newspaper? I did. Twice. It takes the savor out of that morning brew.

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Retirement is the good part of being older. It’s the payoff. You get to own your life. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve been free.

When you’re a child, everyone owns you. Parents, teachers, strangers. You have to be clever, sneaky and lucky to get to do what you want. Then you go to college and work — often both at the same time — and your boss and professors own you. Deadlines, time clocks and ambition drive you  onward to goals you believe will make you happy. Maybe they will — for a while. Then again, maybe not as much as you thought or hoped.

You marry. Have children. And find yourself treading water in an ocean of obligations and responsibility. Children are a lifelong committment. Long after your legal responsibility ends, your emotional responsibility continues. You want to be there for your kids, then your grandkids. That’s the way it should be.

If you don’t have to work while you do it? It’s better. Much better. Did you know half the kids in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents? Parents are busy with work or whatever — unable, unwilling or unfit — to raise their own.  There are lots worse things that can happen to a kid than being raised by gramps and gran, but many of us find ourselves reliving the parenting years just when we though we’d finished with all that. Being retired makes parenting much less stressful.  You get to stay home. You aren’t imprisoned by commuting and The Schedule. You can finally take a trip to the zoo, help with homework. Play a game, talk about life. There’s time for fun, not just work.

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If you aren’t taking care of grandchildren? You have the gift of time and it’s no small thing. Be a blogger. Be a photographer. Sleep late. Stay up till the wee hours watching movies, reading, writing the novel you always wanted to write but never had time. Rediscover music. Join a choir. Retired people are busy people. I’ve been retired for quite a while and I have yet to be bored.

Do I miss work?

I miss the salary. Every once in a while, I miss the camaraderie of a good office environment. But most offices weren’t all that great. Many were thoroughly unpleasant.

I served my time. Whatever I have left, long or short, belongs to me and mine.

YeahRight Link

OLD NUMBER 2

Old Number 2 was, once upon a time, the pride and primary workhorse of the Uxbridge Fire Department. For decades, whenever the call went out, Number 2 led the response. But the years passed and the time came to replace Number 2 with a newer engine.

Old Number 2 -1

There was no room to keep the old engine in the firehouse, but there are a few advantages to living in the country and one of the big one is lots of empty land.

Old Number 2 was moved to his retirement home, a lovely, sunny lot across from the post office. Wildflowers grow all around and there are a couple of folding chairs and a little table nearby where the fire crew eats their lunch when the weather is warm.

OLD NUMBER 2 - 2
Retired he may be, but Old Number 2 lives on in fond memory. You can visit too. He’s just across from the new post office on Route 122, just past the courthouse.

Daily Prompt: Non, je ne regrette rien … Well, not much, anyhow.

If I have any regrets — real regrets other than “gee, it would have been nice if I’d gotten around to doing that” which is not a regret, just something that got missed …. they are about money. The personal mistakes? They are part of life and although they may have been regrettable, they became a piece of who we are … and you can’t go back and fix life.

On the other hand, I wish we’d been better about money, a little more savvy. We didn’t expect to be unable to work so young. I’m not sure we ever really thought about it in a clear-headed way. It was always far off in a misty future, a “someday” that might never come. We planned to be young and healthy forever.

Sunlight through bright maple leaves by the lake's shore.

Then, one day, bang. There it was. I was disabled. Garry was retired. Where an income had been, we had a donut hole. We’d used our savings to buy the house we could no longer afford, which seemed like a good idea when we believed we had another decade of income from work. Not such a good idea without those salaries.

We had worked and paid taxes for a collective 75 years between the two of us. We worked until we couldn’t work any more. It was time to start collecting. Retirement was supposed to be the end of stress, the beginning of the rewards.

There are rewards. The freedom of time is the big one. You can go to bed and get up on your own schedule. You can do everything, more or less, on your own schedule. I don’t know what day of the week it is most of the time. If you don’t have a job, one day is very much like another. Weekends take me by surprise. If you are in a good marriage, you have time to really enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.

We worked hard, played hard, so our memories are a treasure trove. We did almost all of the things we really wanted to do and hopefully, there are still a few surprises to come. Good surprises, not the other kind.

Sadly, though, retirement has not turned out to be the end of stress. Just a different kind of stress. It’s no longer about meeting the expectations of the workplace. It’s about meeting the bills.

Our pension plans are inadequate to the world in which we find ourselves. When we planned them, they sounded good and probably were … then. But the cost of living went way up and what it takes to maintain a life that would free us from stress is probably about twice what we really have. After making huge cutbacks and eliminating many (most) things we used to do, we hang on. Barely.

So I wish we’d been smarter about money. The irony is we thought we were being smart. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. It just didn’t work out as planned. What made perfect sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. We didn’t grasp that pension amounts stay the same, though the cost of living continues to rise. The meaning of “fixed income” hadn’t really grabbed hold. It has now.

We have adapted, but life after paychecks is not what we intended. Being poor is like walking around in shoes that are just a little bit too tight. They almost fit. Sadly, with shoes and budgets, “almost fits” is surprisingly different than “fits.”

But looking back … we had fun. I had fun. Garry had fun. We had fun together. We still have fun. We just need to fit our fun into an incredibly tight budget, taking into account our arthritic bodies and diminished energy levels.

Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most. We made some unfortunate — maybe stupid — choices, but we didn’t wimp out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland. Pity a team of Hollywood script writers isn’t in charge of our lives.

In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that:

Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.

It’s YOUR fault!

I’m not sure how this happened. I haven’t found anyone to blame yet, but I’m looking for a scapegoat and would appreciate a volunteer.

When did my blog change from a fun hobby into a do-or-die project? It has been consuming my life. Incrementally, bit by bit, it nibbles at my days, chews up my evenings and gnaws the edges of my nights.

Dutch IrisI have computers everywhere, so I can work from any room. Any place I might relax, a computer lies waiting. The proliferation of computers was a convenience, so I wouldn’t have to haul stuff around. It wasn’t supposed to be a constant reminder of tasks and assignments. I renounced that stuff years ago … or so I thought.

I started reviewing books because I love them. Now, I have more books to read than time — and I’ve got deadlines. Deadlines? Come again? I’m retired, aren’t I?

No time to read other people’s blogs or listen to an audio book just for fun. No time to read anything that isn’t on my “to-read” list. Barely time to answer personal email. Or talk on the phone, shop, cook or do anything except write, edit and read. Sleep? No time for that, either.

We don’t change as much as we think we do. Just when we think we’ve finally gotten that piano out the door, it sneaks back in the window. Old, engrained habits lurk — then when you think you’ve got it beat, pounce. Whack. HEY! Where’d you come from? Saying “yes” until I’m drowning — it’s an old song, oh so familiar. I know the music, lyrics and all 42 verses. Old habits are like old shoes. So comfy. Slide right into those babies.

Riverside gardenWhen I started doing this, I wanted to be busier than I was, but didn’t want to be tied to a schedule. Free, unscheduled time is the singular gift of retirement. We may be short of money but our time belongs to us.

Instead of letting myself enjoy the wealth of time, I’m back on a schedule. I’m not even getting paid!

So I’ve decided it’s not my fault. It’s someone else’s fault. I just need to figure out who. What about you? Has your hobby, your blog, your avocation taken over your life? I’ll bet I’m not the only one who has a problem. Maybe bad habits are contagious and I caught it from you. In which case …

It’s your fault. I can point a finger and be off the hook. No need to ponder my complicity or change my behavior.

This must be why scapegoating is so popular. It has surpassed baseball as our national pastime. If others are to blame, I can be a total screw up. If it’s not my fault, I don’t have to fix it. Cool.

So, is it your fault? You, there, sitting in front of your computer. Yes, I mean you.  Don’t try to weasel out of this. I know guilt when I see it!

In five years?

While the government diddles around with our lives, someone asked me “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

This is a bad question to ask people our age, especially right now. We are living on fixed incomes that barely allow us to survive. The future is not something we really want to talk about, look at, or think about. We have a pretty good idea what is coming for us and it isn’t pretty. We won’t get better jobs. There are no bonuses, promotions or raises in our future. Our careers have ended and we no longer work. No one is going to leave us their fortune. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to hit big on the lottery.

So what do you figure is likely to be the scenario in five years? You don’t need to be a visionary or a prophet to figure it out. It’s kind of obvious.

Old House in Hadley

We will be poorer. Hopefully we will have somehow managed to not lose the house which will be in serious need of repair and improvements for which we still won’t have money. Each year, we will have less money to work with, fewer resources. Our fixed income doesn’t stretch to cover the month now and will cover less in five years.

Most of you are younger than we are. You can’t imagine a time in your lives when you have no expectation of life getting better. For us, things are never going to get better. Our fondest hope is as our situation worsens, we survive. That’s not pessimism. It’s reality. We will fight an endless battle to make ends meet. Just like we are already doing but we will be five years older and that much tireder.

Social Security won’t go up nor will any pension money. We’ll be lucky if they don’t take it away; if they do, we are on the street. We won’t get younger or healthier. Property taxes will rise as will the cost of medical care, drugs, food, and everything else. Our income will remain the same or less. If we don’t die, we’ll be lucky to have a roof over our heads and something to eat.

75-BricksBoston

A look into the future fills us with trepidation. We live with constant gnawing dread as our resources shrink and our government continues to marginalize us, as if all the contributions made throughout our working lives count for nothing, as if our lives count for nothing.

I’m not inherently pessimistic, but reality bites and I’ve got a big hole in my ass to prove it. You can run, but eventually, you hit a wall. This is reality for most senior citizens. Grandma and grandpa live in or at the edge of poverty. They live in fear. They know nothing good is coming down the pipeline. Relief is not on the way. The vast majority of us worked hard and now we can barely make ends meet. It’s humiliating and depressing. What the government calls “entitlements” is actually our money. We invested in programs we were assured would provide a dignified retirement. The money we paid into these retirement programs and social security were supposed to prevent exactly what is happening. It was supposed to keep the wolf from the door, make sure that we didn’t end up in poverty. It was supposed to guarantee we would have a decent quality of life and be able to live in dignity.

For those of you who think we are just being negative, your turn will come. It will be a lot worse by the time you are our age. Everyone thinks they are going to dodge this bullet, that this is a scenario that can never happen to them. But it will. Unless you are very good with your money (never too early to start), exceedingly lucky, or already wealthy, this is your future too. There’s no “Get out of old-age free” card on the Monopoly board of life.

Not long ago, we believed something good was bound to happen. This could not be our fate. The economy and the housing market would go back up. We could sell the house and find a place we could live better. But it didn’t happen. With each passing month, as the months roll into years, we know there’s not going to be a last-minute save. Not this time.

The overall economy and real estate market — even in this depressed area — will ultimately recover, but it will be too late for us.

The Backstretch – Life in the Slow Lane

It’s the backstretch of the year. My endless project will be over, good or ill, at the end of the month. So will Christmas. As for the insanity with which I live, that, I fear, will accompany me into the glad New Year and quite possibly to the end of time, or at least … MY time.

I thought retirement might be dull. I thought it would be … maybe … slower-paced than working was. I was certainly convinced I would have much more time to do stuff, all kinds of stuff, that I didn’t get to do when I was working. Hah!

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...

Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848.

A year ago last August, I was at a retirement party for a friend. Early retirement, I should add. In a rare act of sanity, he hit 60, his pension vested, and he said “Lemme outta here!!!!” and due to actually having at some point done some financial planning, plus a bit of good luck, he could. And did.

So I said, this being a very good friend of many long years standing (and sitting, and falling over, laughing, eating, and whatevering), let’s see if we can fit some time to actually visit a bit more often.

He said, and this is a quote: “Now that I’m retiring, I’ll have plenty of time.” He didn’t know yet, but he sure found out fast enough.

I didn’t stop laughing for days. He hasn’t had a moment to breathe since he quit working. Neither he nor I can figure out how he managed to fit a fulltime job into his life.

Retirement Ceremony

Retirement Ceremony (Photo credit: born1945)

Retirement … a misnomer if ever I heard one … is like jumping into a pool of still water. For a brief few moment, you will see the rings spreading out from where your body went under. Then, the surface will again flatten out into a mirror of smoothness. Life, the waters thereof, have taken you in.

Beneath that silken surface is a roiling mass of tasks, catastrophes, obligations, incomplete projects and Lord only knows what else … much of which has been waiting for your arrival for many long years. As you slide under the surface, hands begin to grab at you, voices come in every direction. Your parents need your help. Your children, grandchildren, the house, the cars, volunteer projects all bang you over the head.

When did I volunteer for that? you ask … but you won’t remember. Don’t bother trying. “You’re making that up,” you mumble, convinced that everyone has lost their minds, that you have slipped down a rabbit hole or through wormhole into an alternate universe. No, just retirement. It’s like that.

You don’t have spare time. You don’t have any time. You’re lucky if you have the time to get a little nap now and then.

Analyze the word and it will make more sense. Re (to repeat); tire (exhaustion and lack of sleep); ment (whatever). You are becoming tired again. Just when you thought you were going to have all that free time, leisure, naps in the warm summer afternoons … hah!

Getting old is definitely not for the faint of heart.