(Photo Details: Pool at Grand Hotel D'Angkor--Siem Reap, Cambodia)
If only this one was as easy as turning off the TV.
Yesterday I posted about how it seems like we’re not allowed to be happy about good news yet. Yes, maybe it’s that bad news sells. But I also think it’s because we feel guilty about feeling happy when there are still so many people whose circumstances are not as good.
I think that’s why I get so many emails from readers who feel like they have to downplay their happiness about being retired. Since many of these folks have retired before their friends or family members have, they feel like they can’t share their excitement about being retired.
One reader told me he doesn’t really talk about trips he’s going to be taking. If it comes up in conversation he might mention that he’ll be out of town, but doesn’t volunteer any more details. Another reader told me that two years into her retirement, she still hadn’t told her parents that she’d retired. She just remained intentionally vague about her future work plans.
I know what they are going through because I felt the exact same way the first few years of my retirement. You want to share your excitement, but it feels like it’s in poor taste when all your friends are still toiling away. I understand. But now that I’ve been retired for six years, I realize people are fine with me being retired. I think they are happy that I’m enjoying myself.
Here’s what I think is really going on:
Your friends and family actually want you to be happy. When my friends used to tell me they were going to have a baby, I had mixed emotions. I realized it was going to change our relationship. They wouldn’t have as much time to spend with us anymore. They would have new priorities. They wouldn’t be able to be as spontaneous.
At the same time, I was happy for them because they were so excited. They didn’t feel badly about sharing their excitement. We threw showers for our friends. We contributed ideas for baby names. We fantasized with them about the futures of those tiny creatures.
Just because we’re not going through the exact same life event at the exact same time does not mean we can’t be happy and excited that our friends are happy and excited. Retirement is no different.
Your family is just worried about you. If you sense negativity from your family when you announce your retirement it may be because they are worried about you, not that they aren’t happy for you. My parents know me well enough to know that I’m a very good planner. They knew that if I thought I had enough money to retire, they didn’t need to worry—they could go ahead and be happy for us.
But other members of our family really were concerned about our financial wellbeing. It’s easy to take this the wrong way. Now I know to cut them some slack. They’ll get more comfortable with it as time goes on. It’s not that they aren’t happy for you—they are just worried. And actually that’s kind of sweet.
You are no different than you were before you retired. I think when I first retired, my friends thought I couldn’t relate to the struggles they were going through anymore. And that may have been a little bit true. A few years into my retirement I took on a part-time job and was reminded exactly how those struggles feel. I noticed a dramatic change in many of my relationships with friends when I went back to work. We were on the same page again. I’m not sure if it changed me, or just how my friends saw me, but somehow this improvement carried over even when I returned to full-time retirement.
Just like with that announcement of a new baby, your friends are worried about a change in your relationship. One of my best friends is a woman I worked with before I retired. We were both sad that we wouldn’t see one another every day anymore. But we’ve kept up our once-a-week lunchtime walks for six years now. Sure, it’s not exactly the same, but we didn’t really need to fear losing this friendship to retirement’s jaws.
You can use your free time to make your friends’ lives easier. In some ways, our friends’ lives got better with our retirement. We have more time to meet our friends more than half way now. Weeknights are busy for our working friends. So we bring dinner over to their house. We’ve got time to cook and they don’t. So we get to spend time together and they don’t have to cook. A win-win.
We are almost always available to dog-sit now, giving our friends the peace of mind that their canine companions will have all-day-long companionship while they are out of town--as well as saving them a few bucks at the kennel.
I’ve helped babysit in a pinch. Doug has installed drip irrigation, fixed computers, and installed stereo equipment while our friends are busy at work. When they get home from work, they have time to enjoy a glass of wine with us instead of having to squeeze in those chores.
Since we’re not working, we have time to drive an hour or two to see friends, saving them precious time they have so little of on the weekends. More win-win-win all around.
The truth is, we can’t control how other people feel, and we can’t really predict how they will feel anyway. So there’s really no point in trying to protect our friends and family from feelings they might never have in the first place. Go ahead, enjoy your retirement and eventually everyone else will be able to enjoy it with you.
Can’t keep track of my non-existent posting schedule? Subscribe—it’s free!