It occurred to me this morning that there are some similarities to our current world which requires everyone to practice social distancing and the beginning weeks of my retirement. Clearly, the magnitude of what we are experiencing globally really has no comparison, but every once in awhile I have a strong sense that I have recently experienced something similar in the past couple of years.
Upon reflection, the period of time leading up to retirement included a low grade level of fear – to be expected when we encounter a life changing experience for the first time. When I have a moment of deja vu, I recall having felt like I was stepping off a sharp cliff with no real sense of whether or not I had a parachute or where I might land. This feeling has resurfaced for me from time to time during the pandemic. No one knows when this will be over, what course it may take, and what the long term impact on our lives may be.
Now, to be clear, retirement was my choice, and was within my control. There were also many moments of excitement, and positive anticipation. However, change is anxiety provoking and as with what is occurring now, I did experience some trepidation about what the future would hold.
When I first left full time work to join my husband who had been retired for many years, it seemed we were running in a three legged race. Spending all of our time together, day in and day out, typically only happened during vacation times. So we had to adjust to this and I’m certain it was harder for my husband than for me. Definitely not the smoothest transition, a few steps forward accompanied by several steps back.
Fast forward to just prior to the pandemic and it is worth noting how far we had come. We had managed to achieve a wonderful place of balance between being able to spend much more time together doing things we had always hoped to do as well as to pursuing our own individual interests and spending time with different groups of people.
Social isolation has moved us right back to that same place. So occasionally, we find ourselves negotiating a three legged race. I suspect that because we have navigated these waters just a couple of years ago, that we will soon find ourselves back in balance. This concern is one that several people have mentioned to me recently and it takes some strategizing to find the right rhythm that works for a partnership.
The largest challenge I find at this time, is the looming sense of the unknown. I struggled with this for awhile during my transition into retirement and had moved into a place just before the pandemic of my own design. Now I find myself trying to once again find my footing as some of my current favourite activities have ceased. At times, it feels like being on a emotional seesaw and to avoid tumbling off, I am trying on different strategies to find a sense of equilibrium.
Rather than focusing on the things I am unable to continue to do, I find it helpful to ground myself by acknowledging daily all that I still have in my life. Being patient with myself and my husband, and by reaching out to those I care about, I feel more able to manage the ups and the downs. It has become a new routine for me to build in time at the start of each day to reflect on what my needs are and figure out how to meet them.
The one aspect that I have realized that is the same as my recent experience of transitioning into retirement and this new world of social distancing, is just how important it is to maintain a sense of optimism and hope. Perhaps you have found strategies that work well to keep you in balance during this time. Please feel free to share them. Stay healthy and well!