It Was Not Supposed to Be Like This!
by Christine McGruder
The day had finally arrived!! All the good-byes had been said, and there was nothing much left to pack, so I took one last walk through the building, and ended up in the church sanctuary to say a prayer of thanksgiving.
Yes, it was my last day at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, before my retirement adventure was to begin! I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself! I had made my plans very carefully; I just knew everything was going to be absolutely wonderful!
Fast forward to five months later -- I wake up to yet another cloudy, windy, and rainy day winter’s day. The days seemed to blend into each other, and at times, I find it most difficult to get out of bed, much less take a shower. I feel lost and alone. My companions for the day are Dr. Phil, The Golden Girls, Judge Judy, and Facebook.
This was not the plan I had in mind!
I try to explain to those closest to me how I feel. No one seems to be able to relate, and everybody tells me I need to find a hobby, and get out of the house more. They are not telling me anything that I don’t already know, but I do not seem to have the motivation to do much of anything. Out of shear desperation, I finally decide to see a therapist. I was diagnosed with Retirement Depression!!
I was totally shocked!
Retirement Depression – who in the world gets depressed about being retired?
Apparently I did, and so many people like me! Everyone has an expectation about what retirement is going to look and feel like, only to find that things do not always turn out the way we want or think that it will at all.
Now that I was challenged with this thing called Retirement Depression, what do I do? Like you, I worked many years helping corporations, and non-profit organizations grow and be successful! I had sacrificed more hours than I care to remember sitting in commuter traffic, and I had been on this career train for a long time. My stop had arrived, and it was time to get on with life in a different way, only I had hit a huge brick wall, and I found myself almost paralyzed as to what to do next.
Thankfully, I learned that I don’t just have to live with Retirement Depression, but that this exciting new chapter can be extremely rewarding, and one of the best seasons of my life. It takes work, and we all have to make a choice to find happiness in our retirement years.
Here are a few key things that have helped me to come up out of the retirement depression abyss.
1. First, ACCEPT the fact that Retirement, is our New Normal, and that you have earned
this beautiful time in your life. It is your reward for the many years of hard work, and
great sacrifices that so many of us have made. What do you want to do with this great
time in your life? Make a list and put it up where you can see it every day.
2. CHOOSE to make the Adjustment. Notice, I said CHOOSE, because it is easy to stay
stuck when we feel unmotivated, and sad. But listen, we have all had those “never
done this before” moments in life. Remember, you did not know how to do your job
when you were first hired. You had to face your first day of school, your first date and
first kiss. You had your first experience at driving, tying your shoes; and many of
us have had to learn how to be a parent for the first time, and many have had to a first
time at being married, divorced, or widowed. Heck we’ve all had to learn to deal with
disappointment, but we also learned that life is also full of celebrations and victories.
Just as we have had so many firsts, this is our first time at this thing called retirement.
It can be the best or the worst of times. It is our choice to make.
3. Ask for HELP. Do not allow the feeling of shame or pride, stop you from getting the
help that you need so that you can enjoy this wondrous adventure. I wasted an entire
year of my life feeling sorry for myself, and lonely. Seeking out professional help, for
a brief period of time, was the best thing that I have done for myself.
4. Establish a DAILY ROUTINE, and stick to it as much as possible. It
makes all the difference in the world. It is an EXCELLENT time to stop allowing
your emotions to boss you around. Have your say in what you will do with your day!
5. Plan an AGENDA for each day. Before I go to bed at night, I think about what I want
to do for the next day. Always include time for fun and hobbies. If you don’t have a
hobby, get one, or find a part-time job. Whatever you do, make sure you keep the
body and the brain moving along. What you do not use, it is for certain you will lose.
6. Make new FRIENDS. One of the areas that hit me hard was not having
friends around every day. I expected new friends to show up like magic, and that was
absolutely not going to happen! Some of us, including me, can get so angry at how
things have not turned out, that we merge over into this victim, or woe is me
mentality. There are going to be some things that you and I will have to move out of
our comfort zone in order to get what we need. This includes connecting with new
Since this was a biggie for me, and causing me to isolate, which does nothing but
increase anxiety and fuel depression, I found a Tuesday morning Bible Study that I
attend every week, and I am not a member of their church. Yep, it was scary, but I did
it and I enjoy it.
I have also fallen in love with nature photography, so I joined two online photography groups. Besides posting my photos, and learning so much about photography, I have
met incredible people from around the world. Friendships don’t have to be people we
meet with over coffee any more!
Remember, it is now your turn to enjoy life in a way that you never have before. Yes, some of us were forced into retirement, and others have entered into it by choice. But for as long as you have breath in your body, you have a divine purpose on this earth. Retirement is the end of one thing, and it is a beautiful new beginning of another. Let’s make it a joyous, happy, fun-filled, adventurous, exciting, and awesome journey – you have earned this fantastic new normal. You can do it!!
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