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    The Rookie Retiree By Renee Langmuir: Cheers to 7 Years: More Reflections on Lessons Learned In Retirement

    By Renee Langmuir


    For those nearing retirement age, one question looms large: “What will retirement be like for me?” Because we all come in “so many flavors,” and our circumstances are so distinct, there is no simple answer to that question. The first post on my own website, was What Does it Feel Like to Retire?  At that time, I tried to embrace some generalities: we can’t imagine what we have not yet experienced. We can only look to others around us who have passed through this stage.


    Leaving that threshold, one might wonder, how does retirement change as it unfolds? Recently, I shared some thoughts in an agebuzz post , 7 Years of Retirement: Invaluable Lessons Learned. I understand that this post hit home for many readers, so some elaboration might be appreciated. Please heed this significant disclaimer: Retirees are a very heterogeneous group.  Financial situations vary; marital and gender issues deviate; caretaking responsibilities for elders and children differ; and the circumstances surrounding one’s exit from the world of work also vary tremendously. My truths may not be an exact fit for you, but I’m hoping you can glean some wisdom from my seven years of experience. In the seven years I’ve been retired, my three pairs of everyday jeans have become quite threadbare! The lines on my face are also in that same category.


    What has changed (in order of importance)


    The part of my life that was the most problematic and caused the greatest suffering for me was family relations. I have come to know that this domain is vulnerable to lifelong, intractable negative emotions. The specifics of my pain are the familiar suspects: an untimely death of a spouse, divorce, too little attention from some close to me, and its emotional twin: too much attention and need for closeness from others, as well as the impact of multiple marriages and trauma on my adult children.


    In retirement, although it might sound harsh, I have found the greatest relief in this domain because most of these folks have passed on or are no longer related to me. I have also done an enormous amount of inner work in connection to these relationships, and I’ve finally “let go” of my adult children in a healthy way. Happily, they no longer populate so much real estate in my waking thoughts and nightly dreams.  I share some of my secrets to healing on the podcast Not Your Average Grandma: Why Won’t My Adult Children Listen or Talk to Me. and in the AARP Ethel Newsletter, Anyone Out There Parenting Adult Children?


    Work Identity


    The next domain to undergo a renovation is my work identity, as a teacher. It is now a hazy memory, at best. I no longer feel the urge, as I did at the beginning of retirement, to check websites for part-time teaching-related jobs. I confess I did this for about five years, feeling that my lifelong skills related to teaching little kids to read were selfishly cloistered on my shelves down the basement. I had similar feelings for those actual teaching materials down there: all the lessons, professional books, manipulative materials, etc. I think I could now easily donate them to some worthy, new teacher. At the beginning of retirement, they were too intertwined with my identity. Embracing impermanence has been hugely helpful in letting my work identity dissipate. I know it is time for a new generation to teach. I do still have nightmares in which I’m at work in compromising situations, but during the day I’m much more liberated.


    My Physical Self


    My body and appearance have dragged me kicking and screaming into older age. As a lifelong, amateur ballet dancer and the daughter of a very critical mother, body image always took center stage. I spent over 50 years looking at myself in the mirror in ballet class for three hours each week, and I felt as if I were an army recruit undergoing inspection whenever I came down the stairs as a child and teenager.


    For me, the decade of my 50s was a time of denial and grasping an old body image that was slowly changing. My 60s were a wake-up decade, but I still believed with the right workout, the effects of the passage of time on the body could be deferred.  Seven years down the road, it is impossible not to notice that I now have lip lines and age spots, despite the expensive, nightly Retinol treatments. Although I am disappointed every time I look into the mirror, it is a pleasure to let go of that incessant vigilance. I’ve researched face creams and makeup with the zeal of a laboratory scientist. I am now happy with my purchases and can move on. Loose pants and long tops are the way to go, and always have been!


    Time and Perfection


    Living for seven years without more than a few time-related appointments each week is one of the greatest gifts of retirement. As a teacher, I did have the famous “summers off,” but this recent volume of unstructured time has had the effect of making me unaware of what day it is, without looking at a calendar, and only remotely glancing at the clock, usually in connection to meal preparation. Having this gift of time is truly one of the most unexpected benefits of retirement. However, for many, it can be a burden, if there is a challenge in finding meaningful ways to use that time.


    My deeply embedded perfectionism has also taken a healthy hit in the past seven years. Unsettling world events, guiding a spouse through recurring health challenges, and adapting to my own injuries, aches, and pains have made the idea of perfection quite ludicrous. Acceptance of this stage of life, when the body is retreating from its pinnacle, is key to banishing this monster!


    Nothing is that urgent!


    When I first retired, I still had the sense of “urgency” which powered me through my productive years. I was not at all interested in restricting the flow of this life-affirming force. The passage of time and all that has unfolded in the past seven years has certainly flipped the idea that anything needs to be done “urgently.”


    At times, I hardly recognize myself, but on the other hand, those closest to me see a calmer, more peaceful, and perhaps wiser version of myself.


    Renee Langmuir was an educator for 34 years in public schools and at the university level. After an unplanned retirement, Renee chronicled her transition to retirement through a series of personal essays. As challenges arose, research was done, and essays were penned, all helping her gain perspective in this new landscape. These reflections are housed on the website, She writes from both a research and mindfulness basis. Renee is excited to receive your feedback and comments! Please contact her at [email protected].