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How Is Retirement Different in the Age of Covid?

By Elizabeth Dunkel October 08, 2020 Mindset

Before March 2020, you might have made big plans for your retirement – travel, moving to a new home, pursuing a new business, starting new hobbies, pursuing all sorts of passions, and meeting new people. Then Covid happened. I’m here to tell you, yes, you can have it all: just not right now.

You have a choice: You can either get bitter and deflated or you can rise up to the challenge. How will you live these precious years you have planned and waited for, in the most joyful, active way you can? You’ve got to be big and think big. Be the fierce, bad-ass woman you are!

First Thing: Don’t Waste 2020!

Many people are saying they can’t wait for 2020 to be over. They want to write it off. You don’t have time to have a bad year! I say instead: “I want, I need to make 2020 be the best year of my life!”

Long and hard I thought about how I would do this. I will thank 2020 for the year I returned to physical fitness.

Back in March, I committed to a thrice weekly live yoga class via Zoom with a truly masterful teacher. I now have an active breathing practice and can do things I haven’t been able to do in years, like squat, sit cross legged on the floor, and all sorts of poses I thought had passed me by.

Then I bought a second-hand bicycle and started cycling the Lake Shore bike trail. I followed the strict social distancing and safety protocols of my apartment building’s outdoor pool and swam laps. My older body now moves with ease, grace, flexibility, and delight.

2020 has turned out to be an amazing year for me, a year whose accomplishment will determine the quality of the rest of my life.

How can you turn 2020 around? That’s your challenge! This is a moment that calls for you to be the biggest, best person you can possibly be. It calls up on your amazing reserves of compassion, fortitude, patience, and optimism that you’ve earned from decades of hard living.

You are a wise woman. You are a survivor. Make it happen.

Concentrate on What You CAN Do

Waste no time to complain. “You can either get busy living, or get busy dying,” said Morgen Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.

I can’t travel, I can’t be out in the world, so I’m greedily feeding my heart, soul, and mind in any way I can. Online classes, concerts, theatre, and tutorials on Youtube. I’ve become a master knitter. Amazing books to read. A cookbook I’m writing.

In a recent article on my blog Camp Liza, I explored what Covid quarantine taught me about the true qualities of retirement. I found true gems in this moment of profound solitude that will enhance the rest of my life. If you haven’t read it, please do.

Do You Feel That Time’s Running Out?

At our age, we feel the press of time. We don’t have decades to fantasize about bucket list trips or projects or moves. Our time horizon is much shorter. Our time is now.

Like all of you, my travel lust was totally shut down. I canceled my annual road trip to Montana, a visit East to see friends, a visit to Nashville to see my son’s first home with his new partner. Not to mention a hiking holiday along the Normandy coast. Grrr! As no one could travel, it may have lessened the sting.

I’m an optimist so got busy with Meticulous Planning. I planned an expedition cruise in the North Sea islands on Hurtigruten for Spring of 2021. I’m also planning a bucket list safari for Fall of 2021.

Yes, two big trips in the same year, to make up for time. Generous cancellation policies and no fault, refundable deposits helped me to put my faith in the future.

Be the Fierce, Fabulous Woman You Are!

Covid living is not for sissies. Rise to the challenge! Don’t waste a moment feeling sorry for yourself. Lower or change your expectations. (Expectations cause misery!) Live fully, day by day, in the moment.

Create the most joy you can in these difficult circumstances, because you don’t have a moment to spend on fear, anger, and annoyance. You can live happy or you can live miserable. I choose happy. It’s about maximizing what you CAN do and not spending time on what you can’t.

Don’t Live with Fear – Be Fierce!

Fear doesn’t exist. Fear is a waste of your precious time. A definition for fear is: False Expectations Appearing Real. Why live in fear when you can live in hope, inspiration, promise, pleasure? Live safely and wisely – but with all the joy you can muster.

The Favorite Word of the Moment: Pivot!

You can do all the things that you want to do, but in a new way.

For example, the Art Institute of Chicago finally reopened, and it was a revelation! With all the social distancing measures, hygiene protocols, and the 25% capacity, it turned my experience of visiting the museum into a beautiful, meditative experience where I wasn’t jostling with crowds and noise.

Same with a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, which is typically a noisy place with hordes of screaming school children on class trips and parents with toddlers and strollers.

I went, with the proper protocols, and had the dreamiest time there, having the place almost to myself, in silence and reverie. The fish were very happy too.

Change your expectations. Find pleasure in things you once took for granted. The huge importance of cooking and sitting down to Really Beautiful Meals. The walks you CAN take. Say yes to life. Develop your spiritual life, a core of peace and love that will serve you for your beautiful years ahead.

Yes, our lives are on hold. Everyone is having a difficult time in so many heartfelt and tragic ways. Look at all the suffering – economic, political, ecological, medical.

Now is the time to plan and plot your return to a life filled with more passion, dedication, compassion. Because yes, we don’t have a moment to waste. It makes me think of the famous line, “Home, James! And don’t spare the horses!”

How has Covid affected your retirement? Have you changed your thinking and your plans? How have you benefited from Covid? What can you share with us about your strategies for being fierce in these tough times? In what ways are you a fierce, wise woman? Let’s have a conversation!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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