Retirement Blahs: How to NOT Have the Same Day Over and Over


Retirement sounds like a dream goal, but for many it's a ticket to depression, boredom, and even substance abuse. Perhaps it is the way we look at retirement as a culture - the ceasing of work. 

The first weeks or even months of retirement, a routine begins to set in. The clock can be ignored more or less when one wakes automatically at 6 a.m. and looks over and realizes they don't even know what day of the week it is and waking early for work is no longer necessary.

You know it's set in when you have to ask people "What's the date?" "What day is it?"  or "Is it too early to eat supper?" 

Humans are born to do ritual-without-thought days. When working, there is a pattern of alarm, shower, coffee, breakfast, car, traffic, office, catch-up emails.... When retired, it's more like wake whenever, make coffee, have breakfast, sit down and lose yourself in the daily news or online chatter.

The home, over time, becomes a boxed cell that seems smaller and smaller each day. The routine wears in so mindlessly as the retiree tries to find a daily purpose.

We are taught as a culture to contribute and to work. The concept of anti-working is a foreign one and can lead to depression when one doesn't feel he/she is contributing.

For some, retirement is about finally having vacations, traveling, being a tourist or a snowbird who heads south each winter time. But, not a lot of people in retirement can afford to galavant around living out dreams long ago forgotten.

With the COVID epidemic, one thing we have seen is that working couples who hardly spent alone time together are now getting on each other's nerves. Sharing a space 24/7 is something most have not done since they were preschool kids. 

Relationships can be stressed. The newly home-bound partner might have enough time on his/her hands to start looking around and wanting to change the house up, while the other partner resents incringing on his/her territory if the house decor was a matter of exclusive rights.

Here's some tips for beating the routine and the blah's - 

JUMP ONBOARD THE WAY-BACK MACHINE:  We gave up a lot of things we loved at various times in our lives, maybe we loved shooting baskets, but we ended up taking AP classes and studying instead. Maybe it was music that gave you big dreams of being in a band, but mom really hated having drums in the house. Here's some possible ways to pick up the past and run with it again - 

Girls who loved Barbie dolls, fashion, paper dolls, going to the mall and trying on clothes. 

Today, the updated version of this is to get thrift store finds and make them your own. Thrifting is the female's new "mall" experience.

Girls who crafted when they were younger might want to take up macrame again (it's the hottest rage) or painting birdhouse gourds, painting river rocks with flowers or faces, rock stacking in the yard, painting, crocheting, etc.

Boys who enjoyed go-carts, model building, fishing, playing guitar might want to reunite with those interests. If you don't feel confident playing an instrument and annoying your spouse or neighbors, you might consider a headset or use computer music composition programs to create music for potential YouTube videos of your fishing or hiking treks. 

CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT:  From a road trip to a walk in the woods - from redecorating and renovating to visiting museums. Novel experiences help make and keep pathways in your brain.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW:  You know that foreign language you wanted to master but never got around to? Remember that 6-string collecting dust in the closet? What about sewing? If there is something you never had time to learn, make this the new job. Part of your sense of purpose each day should focus on learning something new, whether it's researching geneaology, fixing a kitchen sink, learning the tango... do it!

You may not be doing the "job" any longer, but your new job is to get out of life everything you never got around to or made a priority before. You are now a professional bucket-list participant.

TIE THINGS UP: Whether it's finishing the family albums, writing your memoirs, downsizing, making out a will, or hitting the bucket list, it feels good to simplify and complete stuff. 

Freeing up your heirs from unnecessary decisions and red tape is nice, but the real pleasure comes from feeling you freed yourself. When things are wrapped up and clarified, you don't have to worry about what might be left undone.

VISIT THE HOMETOWN: Sometimes, the best way to see where you've gone and what you are at the core of your soul, is to go back home. Maybe it's not the same, maybe everyone there is a stranger now, but the old school, hangouts, house might all still be in place where you realize how much you have grown up and away and yet the things you valued began in this humble location. When you come to your adult home again, things begin to make sense. Pick up the music of that time period, maybe some of the hobbies, maybe get another muscle car to work on or start curling your hair and wearing nail polish again. Whatever it is about your past that remains, keep it alive. 

My visit to my childhood summer home location on the Chesapeake, reminded me of my core self - a girl who loved the outdoors, water, endless sky, blues and white, seagulls and seashells, and a beach girl attitude. I came back and introduced sea colors to my wardrobe and hemp surfer jewelry to my wrist and neck, and painted sea scenes. Even though I live in a desert now, that beach girl is a HUGE part of who I am. After all, Gidget and Beach Boys were my faves!

Ultimately, after decades of discipline and work ethic, it's time to turn the clock around at the bedside, try to eliminate schedules and routines as they soon become groundhog days when you don't have "work" to answer to. It's time to find the hippie inside again and get caught up in dreams and ideals, bucket lists, and spirituality versus earning and obeying. 

You may feel adrift for a while.

It's a hard transition without the usual landmarks of the working world's constructs. But, you aren't searching for the shore anymore as a point of reference. That reference dissolved

You're looking for the horizon that is the endless sea and all its possibilities. Out there. Where your mind can conjure up what you might encounter. The great unknown. 

This is where the power of your mind and spirit can help you transcend everything you ever thought you knew about what it means to live. Life didn't end with retirement. The voyage just began. Now!