“The bittersweet side of appreciating life’s most precious moments is the unbearable awareness that those moments are passing.” Marc Parent
Retirement is a colossal bittersweet symphony. Milestones are a fire hose of conflicting emotions.
Like the late great Amy Winehouse’s honey crack voice, sweet like honey but on the verge of cracking, the end of accomplishment is complicated.
Going to college opens up a broad universe of opportunities. Leaving your friends and family behind makes it a bit tougher to swallow. Multiply this times a gazillion when sending your kids off to school.
Leaving a job offers a higher salary and more prestige. Saying goodbye to colleagues, you went to war with not so much.
Going on vacation furnishes anticipatory joy and needs time to recharge. Getting on the plane home isn’t much fun.
My firm is taking off like a rocketship. I wouldn’t dream of working elsewhere. Sometimes I miss the days when it was more intimate.
Divorce, the death of a loved one, moving, and letting go of friendships are more examples.
All of this is normal.
Why should retirement be any different?
Brene’ Brown provides a terrific definition of the complicated term, bittersweet.”It’s not the same as ambivalence (When we’re unsure whether we’re happy or sad); it’s feeling both at the same time.”
She follows up with: “One line of research indicates that multiple emotions, such as happiness and sadness, may be rapidly vacillating below our consciousness, but our interpretation may be a more integrated emotional experience.”
Retirement parties generate tsunamis of conflicted emotions. Severing connections from a job is a web of milestones laced with sadness. Freedom, endless vacations, and other goodies fill the soul with joy. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Reality seeps in, and the four horsemen of the retirement apocalypse surface from their slumber.
Regret, anxiety, boredom, and guilt ooze through the cracks.
Is yelling at Fox News your chosen legacy???
Buyer’s remorse materializes with “Did I do the right thing?”
Anxiety crashes the party. “How can I make sure I’ll be happy with so much uncertainty.”
Boredom is an ever-present threat. “How will I structure my days.”
Finally, guilt provokes this question. “Am I reaching my retirement’s full potential?
The good news, there are many antidotes for these afflictions.
- Don’t be your own worst enemy: Give yourself a break. After working for several decades, it’s not easy planning a new life. Time solves everything, both good and bad,
- Provide structure to your days: Schedules and routines combined with flexibility are terrific stress relievers. Unoccupied time is toxic for tranquility. A sense of connection is not.
- Make more friends: Loneliness is proven to be as dangerous as smoking two packs of cigarettes daily. Make a concerted effort to engage by joining worthwhile organizations. Don’t recreate the wheel. Looking up old friends and renewing past relationships is a mondo strategy.
- Don’t fully retire: Create an encore career. Renewing an old passion is invigorating.
Now is the ideal time for establishing a renewed sense of purpose. Liberate yourself from the task of accumulating material wealth. Redirect this energy into building inner riches. Try cultivating compassion, patience, generosity, and equanimity. These are life’s most fabulous gifts. Not taking advantage of this opportunity is inexcusable. Flip on the light in a darkened room.
Permitting misinformation to determine your fate is a no-go. Tune out the nay-sayers.
Bittersweet is a taste that grows only on the willing.
You might end up enjoying its many flavors.