Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Retirement, by any name, is suppose to be a little more relaxed, less stress and lots of “me” time. Right?  As I thought about where my life was at the end of 2017 and as I looked at my ever growing to do/want to do list, I realized there is still lots of stress in my life. Not like it was in my work life, but it is there. Maybe it is a case of taking on too much, after all I used to regularly work 10+ hour days, I am in good shape, relatively, I have made good progress on eating right, I think, so why not take on more? A bit of background on me, sorry if this is a repeat. I left, was helped to leave, my career as an executive with one of the big Canadian banks over 3 years ago. Overall I enjoyed my career and was blessed by the skills I acquired and with the life it afforded me and my family. The last 3 years of my career were not fun and proved the old adage “you are hired to be fired” for most of us. That saying has probably never been more truer than today. If you are 45+ you really need to be thinking about the possibility and hopefully you have been making plans for what if. I was aware and was as ready as one can be.

The first couple of years of retirement were as I imagined, travel, time to read, improve my health, exercise, take a few courses and generally adjust. What I learned in the first couple of years was that I was still carrying around “work stress”. As I mentioned the last three years of my career were not positive, probably enough said on the topic. Anyone who has had a bad work situation for an extended period of time knows of what I speak. It is tough and can eat away at you.  My first words of advice, give yourself time to cleanse away the stress, we recommend 6 months, in our soon to be (spring of 2018) guide. It may be a few months, a year, or more, but take your time.  You may have bottled up your stress as a mechanism to help get you through the work day and now you need to let it go. Don’t be surprised if it takes a while to find your new normal and put the “work stress” behind you.

So after my first year my wife retired and a new dynamic occurred, now we had two people adapting to major life changes. My wife had a far better ending to her career and brought little stress into her retirement, a much better way to enter retirement. So the past year has been one where individually and as a couple we were adapting to our lifestyle change. Just to make things interesting we sold our lovely little cottage and built a lovely second home near my wife’s childhood home. Anyone who has been involved with real estate knows it comes with stress.

It has been over a year I have been working with Mike building a new business. It is great to be around Mike’s enthusiasm and helping him help people but it is not without stress. Weekly blogs, presentations, meetings, reading, proofreading, letter writing, website monitoring, social media, etc. and yes, stress.

Then there is my ever growing “to do” list. Some things have been on the list since I walked out the door with the Bank. Other items I have added along the way and other like reading more, I had stroked off the list, only to add it back on. Am I making any progress? I thought I got rid of that item? I need to make time to volunteer more, but I just volunteered for 15 hours this weekend. I am suppose to see our friends more, but the skiing is great today, so there goes the stress back up.

Both my 20 something children, who I love dearly, are trying to make it in this brave new world. They are talented, smart, capable and passionate human beings looking to create their own path. As parents we want them to have more than us, more success, more joy, more adventure/experiences. What success means today is far different than  what our parents wanted for us where success was probably measured by owning a house, having a good paying career, getting married and having a family. For our children they may never (want to) own a house especially if they live in any big city in Canada, they will as all the stats tell us have numerous jobs, they will probably have a very different type/definition of family or relationship and may never marry, and that is ok. I know I want my children to have more life experiences, and more joy in their working life, making money while feeding a personal passion, that would be wonderful. It is difficult to watch them grow and adapt in a world so different from the one we grew up and worked in. Still we can support them, love them, guide them and be there for them, but we can’t do it for them so, there goes the stress back up. Do we ever get rid of our children related stress?

One of my “to do” list items was to run another marathon. I thought it would be the Big Sur marathon in California. It is known as one of the most beautiful runs in the world, and one I have used for positive visualization for many years. Instead my sister and I will be running the Berlin Marathon in the fall. My sister is also an avid runner and when she mentioned she was going to enter the lottery to run the race I thought why not throw my name and we got picked so I figure it is a sign! So now the training, and the mostly positive stress that goes with it begins. I have run 25 marathons in my life and have run several half marathons since I retired but can I still run a marathon? This is a good type of stress and the type of stress that will motivate me and get me healthier. I know when I cross the finish line with my sister it will be worth it, but until then stress.

Retirement is not going to be stress free, life never is, even if you have no financial issues and a solid lifestyle plan. Sadly as I was reminded by 2 friends this week  funerals will be a lot more frequent at this stage in life,  reinforcing how precious time is. The greatest gift we get in retirement is time, your time. It is a wonderful opportunity, and maybe a little overwhelming, but make sure you give yourself time to read, or meditate or paint or do whatever brings you joy.  Make sure you enjoy the time you have been given, use it to manage the stress, give yourself time to breathe. As my mum used to say “Don’t bite off more than you can chew”, take some time to chew.


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2 thoughts on “Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

  1. Kathi Reply

    I just want to thank y’all for all the wonderful articles you write. It seems that every time I am going through something you hit on it and give me great options to ponder. These are words I needed to hear. Stress is always going to be in our lives and sometimes it can even be exciting.

    • Gerry O'Toole Post authorReply

      You are welcome and thanks for your comment. Life is different in retirement but it can be wonderful, like all phases of life there are always challenges, it is how we respond that defines us and impacts our memories.

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