Visualize Your Retirement Lifestyle

February is National Time Management Month.  We only get 1,440 minutes a day.  Are you satisfied with how you are spending yours?  Are you living your best retirement life or are you just treading water? 

Retirement is a little bit like being 18 again and just graduating from high school.  A whole new world awaits for you to decide how you want to live it.  Actually, retirement has even more open doors than being 18. You have more money, time and wisdom.  And, when you graduate from high school you may have your trajectory mapped out for you by other’s expectations.  Ah, but retirement…we get to decide.  This takes some reflection time.  Time to sit with your thoughts.  Grab a journal and start processing. 

Questions to trigger your thought process

Below are some questions to ask yourself. I have included my answers to them in hopes it will help trigger your thought process.

  • What energizes you? What makes your heart sing? What makes you feel totally alive? For me, it is being out in nature. Add yummy food and good company, or my journal and a great book and it is perfectly wonderful. I come back feeling refreshed and whole again.
  • What makes the time fly by for you? Think about something you like to do that you get so involved in you lose track of time. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi terms this state “Flow.”  (If you have not read his book, l would highly recommend it.) Flow transports you into a state of deep contentment. This experience often has the bonus of producing a sense of accomplishment. For me, it is when I am creating something: writing, sewing, decorating or designing a project with my Cricut.
  • What do you wish you had more of in your life? Think about how you can create more opportunities for that in your life. My WOTY is “awe” and so I am seeking more “awe” moments. I also notice that I want more unscheduled time in my life. Time to let the day unfold a little more and be open to spontaneous opportunities.
  • What do you wish you had less of in your life?  What time wasters or things do you want to eliminate? This could be too much time on social media, cloths that no longer fit your lifestyle, a relationship that is toxic or a schedule that is too full without enough White Space. “The first step in crafting the life want is to get rid of everything you don’t” (Joshua Becker, Real Simple). I am soooo ready to get rid of a lot of our “stuff.” It is making me feel suffocated. It seems like we spend the first half of our lives accumulating and the second half trying to get rid of it.
  • What did you do as a kid that you loved?  I have heard it said that we are most ourselves prior to about 8-10 years old.  That is when we start to become more aware of what our peers think and less of what we really want to be and do. Consider bringing something back into your life that you loved doing as a child. For me, one of those is riding my bike.
  • What would be your perfect climate? How can you find ways to spend more time in your perfect climate? Our winters are pretty cold, gray and cloudy in the PNW. That can be cozy for about… a month and then it becomes just plain dark and dreary. Mr. U and I want to spend more time in the sunshine during our long winters. Snow-birding anyone?
  • What does your ideal home/yard look like in retirement?  Do you enjoy having a yard or garden?   If so, do you want to care for it yourself, or would you hire that out?  Or would you prefer a condo with less maintenance, or a retirement community with built in activities available? Like many retirees, we are empty nesters living in a large home where we raised our family. We are preparing to downsize to a smaller house and yard in the next year or so. Stay tuned.
  • What would be your preferred environment that would support your ideal retirement lifestyle? Do you want to be close to the city so you can walk or have an easy drive to theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, a local pub or favorite gym?  Or do you prefer the quiet of a place in the suburbs or country? We have lived in the country most of our married life. This was very intentional as we wanted our children to be free to roam the woods away from social pressures. But now that we are empty nesters, we are ready to move closer to town, without a long, steep driveway to plow in the winter. Preferably somewhere with a view or near the water. (It is that need for nature again.) I would love to be able to ride my bike into town to go to a coffee shop or out to dinner.
  • How much social interaction do you want and where will it come from?  How much solitude do you need? How much time do you want to spend with your spouse, family or friends? If you need more social interaction, don’t wait for others to reach out to you.  Think about what steps can you take to make that happen. Or maybe you have too much going on socially and need to pull out of some commitments that are not enhancing your ideal retirement life. I love, love, love my people time. But I now know I need to balance that with some time for solitude. (And I am just figuring that out now???)
  • Do you want to work part-time or volunteer for a cause you believe in?   If so, how many hours per week would you be willing to devote to this?  Right now, I do not want to add this regularly scheduled commitment. It puts too many limitations on my time and freedom. I addressed this in a previous post, I Think I Have Commitment Issues.
  • What hobbies or interests do you want to make time for?  Consider some of the things that put you in a state of “flow” and figure out how to make more time for them. Do you want to start a new hobby?   It takes time, determination and a big dose of humility to start something new at this stage in life. It can also be extremely fun and rewarding. I have always loved to write and was interested in starting a blog for several years, but I just did not have the bandwidth to do it while working full-time. Once I retired, there were not any excuses. This blog has been a big, hairy, scary step out there for me. But working on it definitely puts me in a state of flow. I can be writing and look up to see that two hours have passed in a breath.
  • Will you be living with someone or by yourself? If you live with someone, you may want to answer these questions separately and then discuss them. This makes for an interesting, lively discussion over dinner or on a date night. Go into it with the intent of finding out the other person’s vision of a perfect retirement lifestyle.  After you have both shared this, work together to determine how you can meld the two. God willing, Mr. U and I plan to live out our retirement years together. We have discussed our retirement plans and dreams a lot. However, I wanted to test drive these questions, so we recently had a date night, and I brought this list along to discuss. It generated some surprising conversation as we discovered some new things.
Time spent in the great outdoors always makes me feel alive.

You can make no better investment in YOU than how you spend your retirement years. Take the time to reflect and make sure that you are living the retirement you dreamed of.  If not, why not? If you are not, it is time to take action and make the changes to ensure that you are living your ideal retirement lifestyle. Many retirees don’t have the option due to circumstances beyond their control. So be thankful if you have the opportunity to plan for and live your ideal retirement. It is a gift. Use it well.

What does your ideal retirement look like?

Sail Away With Me

We live in the PNW and it is the middle of February.  This is the time of year when I am ready to travel to sunnier weather and get some natural Vitamin D.  However, I am still trying to behave and let my body heal after a recent surgery.  So, the only traveling I am doing is in my mind.  Please join me as I “travel” back to the last couple summers when we sailed through the San Juan Islands. 

I love, love, love to be out on the water, so when my husband’s best friend offered for us to join him on his sailboat for a week, I jumped at the opportunity.   A week out on a sailboat in the San Juan Islands…hell yes!  Captain S. was Mr. U’s college roommate and the best man in our wedding.  Their friendship has withstood the test of time and distance. 

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago between Washington State and Canada.  They are located in the top northwest corner of the United States.  Basically, you cannot get much further northwest and still be in the continental US.  The area is made up of over 743 islands (only 428 at high tide) and only 60 of the islands are inhabited.  The main water thoroughfares through the islands are the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia.  

Our first instruction from the captain was to pack light, as there is not a lot of storage space on a sailboat.  For me, the trick to packing light is not taking a lot of shoes since they take up so much space.  I finally learned where the term “deck shoes” originated.  You keep a clean, scuff proof pair of shoes on the boat and they are ONLY worn on the boat.  That way you do not track mud, sand and seaweed onto the deck of the boat.  Who knew???  But I like it.  I might have to designate deck shoes for anyone that enters our home.  Or…are those already called slippers?   

Like any decent boat over 24 feet long, Captain S’s boat has a name.  She is Salaria.  Isn’t that a beautiful, calming name?   She is moored at a dock in Anacortes, Washington.  Anacortes is a charming town on the north end of the Puget Sound.  We arrived at Anacortes the day prior to setting sail.  That gives everyone a chance to move their personal items in and learn the details of the boat.  That evening we gathered the “crew” at the Rockfish Grill for a casual dinner and to plan our itinerary.  The Rockfish Grill is a popular local restaurant, and they have a great selection of beer from the Anacortes Brewery which is right next door.  I had the “original IPA” which was a perfect combination with their fresh, meaty fish & chips.   

Each person is responsible for a couple meals while at sea, so we made a collective list and did our grocery shopping just before dinner.  Planning is key because there are not any grocery stores on the island stops.  There are a few marinas that have groceries, but they have limited items and are very expensive.  So, you need to plan well and stock up ahead of time. 

We spent the first night on the boat at the dock at Anacortes.  I awoke the next morning to the sun glistening off the water and the sound of sea gulls and the occasional seal barking.  After breakfast we untied the ropes and got the boat hooks out.  It is a little tricky motoring a large sailboat out of the marina.  The “first mate” and “crew” stand on the bow and stern of the boat and use the boat hooks to push off from the dock and other boats so that you don’t bump into them.  (That is really not O.K. and the sign of a rooky crew.) Once out of the marina we motored along, skimming over the water and enjoying the magnificent views. 

We did one sail trip the end of September and the other the end of July the following year. We were fortunate to have beautiful weather for both trips, but not a lot of wind.  This makes it a little difficult to sail.  So, it was a treat on the afternoons when we were able to let up the sails, cut the engine and just glide across the water.  We observed a variety of birds and frequent dolphins playing in the water near our boat.  When you are out on the water for several days without TV, internet or sometimes cell service, you begin to unwind and live in the moment.  You begin to truly relax.  It is pure pleasure to wake up and enjoy a hot cup of coffee out on the deck while the sea world comes to life. 

Morning coffee watching the fog lift.

The days were spent sailing and stopping to explore the islands.  The island beaches, hiking trails, docks, restrooms and tie up buoys are well maintained by the San Juan County Parks & Recreation Dept.  Most of the islands are not serviced by the ferry so the only way to get to them is by private boat.  A few have long docks that you can tie up at, and several have deep bays with buoys that you moor to.  This is another tricky process, as the novice first mate (also known as Mr. U.) stands at the bow of the boat and directs the captain to the buoy.  Then the first mate threads the mooring rope through the hook on an extended pole and leans over the rail to try to catch the ring of the buoy, without falling in the water. Once you catch it, you pull the rope through and tie the boat up to it.  After the boat is tied to the buoy you can take the dingy or kayaks to shore.

One afternoon we motored up to Roche Harbor on the far northeast end of San Juan Island.  This is a gorgeous historic harbor with a couple restaurants, unique shops, quaint cottages, lush gardens and an old lime kiln that is no longer in use.  We moored at the dock there for a night and the next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the restaurant patio overlooking the marina.  This was also a great stop to get a long, hot shower, as they have several private showers for a very small fee. 

By late afternoon it is time to find a protected bay and moor up to a buoy or dock for the night.  When we went in July it was busy and you had to get to the bay early in order to get a dock spot or buoy.  One afternoon we were unable to find an available buoy so we had to throw out an anchor. This is another tricky process, as you have to “set the anchor” and then pull it with the boat to ensure that it is secure.  You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and find you have drifted out to sea or worse yet, crashed up on shore.  When anchoring you have to be at the right depth of water and keep a good distance from other boats so that, when both boats turn through the night, they do not bump into each other.  You also have to consider the tide change so that you don’t end up aground during low tide.  Whew…a lot to think about. 

Probably my favorite experience of the entire trip was being out on the boat in the evenings moored to a buoy, BBQing dinner and eating out on the deck while you watch the sunset.  The quiet night engulfs you with just the light from the moon, island and other boats shining on the water.  Once you turn into your berth for the night your body gently rocks with the waves and lulls you to sleep.

On our final day we reluctantly motored back to the dock at Anacortes.  And just so you don’t think it is all fun and games, it takes several hours to unpack the boat, clean it, and the dingy, inside and out.  However, a small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime.  

Other ways to see the San Juan Islands

If you do not have a friend that happens to own a sailboat, I would recommend that you see the Islands via ferry.  The Washington State Ferries service four of the Islands:  San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw Islands. We have been to a few of the Islands via ferry and it is definitely a worthwhile experience. 

While sailing we planned to stop one afternoon at Orcas Island and dine at the majestic Rosario Resort, which is perched on a rock bluff overlooking the water.  Unfortunately, there were not any buoys available that day to tie up to.  But I think it would be fun to take the ferry over and spend a couple nights at the resort.  I would also recommend taking the ferry to San Juan Island.  You can explore Friday Harbor and if you take your car over, be sure to drive to beautiful Roche Harbor on the other side of the Island. 

Lopez Island is well known for its rolling farmland and quiet beaches.  It is the least hilly of the Islands, so it is a popular island to bike.  A few years ago we left our car on the mainland and just took our bikes and back packs on the ferry over to Lopez.  We stayed for three nights at a charming, private cabin with a hot tub nestled in the trees.  While it is the least hilly of the islands, it is by no means flat.  We biked 30 miles one day and were sore and exhausted by the time we got back to our cabin.  A hot tub never felt so good. 

Thanks for joining me down memory lane to nice sunny weather.  Now I think it is time for me to go plan for a trip to a sunnier climate in six weeks when I am free to travel again.  Cabo anyone? 

Talk Less Tuesday

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you have someone to share it with, this is a great time to show some gratitude for that relationship. If you do not have a valentine to share it with, be your own valentine and do something wonderful for yourself.

We do not go out on Valentine’s Day. It is too crowded and overpriced with limited menu options. Mr. U and I typically have a seafood dinner at home by the fireplace and save our dinner out for another night when it is less commercialized.

Last night I had dinner with a couple of my favorite valentines, my amazing sister and wonderful niece. We enjoyed a lovely New Orleans style dinner at Vieux Carre Nola Kitchen. The atmosphere, food and company were delightful.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

I Think I Have Commitment Issues

I seem to be extremely reluctant to commit lately.  Not to relationships, but to anything that requires a weekly, or even a monthly obligation of my time.  Perhaps I should call this “retirement time commitment issues.”  Need me to attend on a weekly basis?  I am out.  Need me to be there every other Monday?  Um, no thanks.  But want to get together for lunch this week?  You bet! 

I have three scheduled commitments every week that I truly enjoy and would not want to give up.  I meet with my dad and sister every Thursday afternoon to have lunch, visit and do any odds and ends that my dad might need help with.  I also meet my BFF on Friday mornings to share a cup of coffee and get caught up on life.  We call it cheap therapy.   Sunday mornings Mr. U and I usually go to church, and sometimes out to breakfast, with son #2 and his family.  All three of these get togethers are enjoyable and are the fuel that keeps our relationships strong.  I would not trade doing them for anything.

However, I do not want to add any other new regularly scheduled commitments.  Right now, I just want more time freedom.  I would love to join a walking group, play Bunco or be in a book club.  I just don’t want to commit to doing it every week, at the same time.  Every single week.  Not right now.  It leaves more time freedom when a friend or family member wants to get together on the spur of the moment, or the grands have a day off from school and want a play date with us, or Mr. U and I decide we want to go for a day trip.  Maybe this is why I am struggling with the commitment of teaching a class a few times a month, as I discussed in a previous post, Have I Failed Retirement?

I just expected that I would have more down time when I retired.  I might be fighting my own personality here, as I naturally gravitate toward piling too much on my plate.  Metaphorically speaking.  (Then again, I probably pile too much on my literal plate too.)  Or maybe busy was a badge I wore to prove that I was valued, needed and important.  After all, isn’t busy considered to be a good thing and not busy is almost equivalent to a sloth.  However, busy is NOT a badge of honor.

Last week I had an out-patient surgery that I have been putting off for over three years; pandemic and all other excuses I could conjure up finally put aside.  Everything went well, but it has forced me to stop.   Stop all activity in order to rest and allow my body to heal.  Pain aside, I was actually looking forward to the imposed inactivity.  Time to finally be a sloth and not feel guilty about wasting time.  It has given me plenty of time to reflect.  I realize that, as I age, I need more open space in my day.  I crave it.  And for some damn reason, I seem to need to give myself permission to do it.  I want more time to ponder.  To lay on my back in the grass and see what cloud formations I can dream up.  I want less push/pull on my days and more “hum, what would I really enjoy doing today?”  I know that we need some structure to our retirement life, but it needs to be loose structure. 

Maybe I am experiencing PTSD from so many years of having my time committed for me.  Working while raising four children, a spouse with a profession that was not your typical 9-5 job, lots of extended family in the area and managing a large home, left little down time to call my own.  I had to make every minute count just to keep everything from tumbling down.   Don’t get me wrong.  I loved those years and am so grateful for them.  I would not have wanted it any other way.  But now I have tasted a little schedule freedom and I want more of it.  I want open days when I let my nose lead me to what I want to do. I want retirement from schedules!   

Lately I seem to want less doing and more being.  My soul needs more White Space.  I hope this is a temporary state, but what if it is not?  What if this is a very normal part of aging: Needing more mind space to ponder.  So, with my enforced down time this week I have come to these conclusions about my time and schedule in retirement:

  • Maybe I need a little more sloth time to refuel my creative energies and restore my equilibrium. 
  • Maybe I need to give myself permission to relax a little more and not feel like I should constantly be productive.  
  • Maybe I need to “schedule” more down time into my days. 
  • Maybe sloths aren’t so bad after all. 

Going forward I want to honor my need for an open schedule with more unstructured time.  Like my My WOTY suggests, I want more “awe” moments and that takes slowing down and noticing the beauty that surrounds me. I do not want to have surgery again in order to give myself permission to waste some time.  So, as of today, I am giving myself permission to read a book in the middle of the day or take a nap in the sunshine. Maybe Keith Urban had it right in his song, Wasted Time:

“Ain’t it funny how the best days of my life was all that wasted time.”

On the home front

Speaking of commitments, we got some wonderful news on the home front.   After dating for over two years, son #3 got engaged to a lovely, smart, beautiful, talented young woman.  They make an awesome couple and we are so excited to welcome her into our family.  Fortunately, my son does not have commitment issues!   {Grin}

Excited to welcome this lovely lady into our family.

I hope you have a good week with lots of unstructured time to enjoy retirement life!