I might have under-thought the results of multiple, rapid life changes and how they extract their toll on us retired mortals.
Since leaving the workforce and moving six hundred miles to another home within the space of two weeks, I’ve become somewhat lazy and extremely forgetful.
It stands to reason this lapse occurs.
Physically, we’re tuned up to be thoroughbred workaholics, burning the candle at both ends, injecting every possible ounce of work/life balance into a 24-hour period. Mentally, we teeter on the edge of a learning pin as we push far too much information into limited brain capacity, with no ability to purge old files.
It’s an exhausting roller-coaster ride from which the only escape is retirement or – you know – that other, less attractive alternative.
When we break – cold turkey – from decades of this excessive autopilot behavior, it stands to reason we will lose something.
In my case, I think I’ve lost my mind. It’s not only that I walk into rooms wondering why I once determined the need to be there. It’s more of a slow-drip malaise that prevents clarity.
Since retirement, I find myself awash in days bearing little difference from days that came before. Few benchmarks punctuate time.
Though busy with a hundred things on an inexhaustible “honey-do” list, nothing seems particularly celebrated if compared to the highs experienced by successful career accomplishments. There’s no discernable movement on my emotional Richter scale.
Current accomplishments aren’t measured by the exalted cheers of colleagues but with a silent high-five to myself for hanging a painting on the living room wall or knocking down the cable bill by 10 bucks a month.
It simply doesn’t seem consequential.
From the level of a sensory response, it’s like I’ve transitioned from high-powered sales professional to working the fine jewelry counter at a sluggish JC Penney location.
I’ve been marked-down!
It’s left me in a constant state of distraction, illustrated by a series of incidents that happened to occur in a single day a few weeks ago.
First, the woman working the counter at the dry-cleaning establishment I frequent asked when I’d like to pick up the clothes I was leaving behind. “Friday’s fine,” I said, cheerfully. I remembered hassled days of employment with no time to take care of personal items. Back then, I usually needed one-day service.
After peering at me for a long moment, she asked, “Do you really want to wait that long?”
As if I might not make it past the five days?
Later, while trying to squeeze my car out of a spot between two ill-parked cars, a very presentable young man got out of his vehicle and politely asked if I’d like him to finish the task.
I stared at him until he felt sure his next move was to back away.
I drove home – steaming mad. I realized, at the front door, I’d forgotten my keys – so I rang the bell. A strange woman answered and began to explain – in a voice reserved for people drooling into a cup – that all the houses in our neighborhood looked alike and I probably lived one block over.
Oh, and, did I want her to call someone to pick me up?
That evening, buying tickets to a comedy at the local movie theater, instead of rubbing salt into an exposed wound, I decided not to ask for a discounted senior ticket.
The person sitting in the cashier booth – luckily for her behind safety glass – looked thoughtfully into my eyes and asked, “Sir, wouldn’t you like to take advantage of our senior rates?”
It was The Day the Music Died.
I’m almost through the abominable transition from career to retirement. I can feel it in my bones. (Which, by the way, are not arthritic.)
I have plans. Big plans. I just need the attitude adjustment to click into gear.
Until then, I’ll watch this week’s Law and Order marathon while swearing to myself I’ve never before seen any of the episodes.
And perhaps color my hair.
What did your retirement transition feel like? Did you notice an absent-mindedness you’d never experienced before? Did you, at any point, feel like you’d lost your mind? Let’s talk about our post-retirement shock in the comments below.