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Unfinished Business: Can We Finally Have It All in Retirement?

By Terri Edmund White September 20, 2021 Lifestyle

I announced my decision to retire just before my 65th birthday. It wasn’t my first retirement. A divorce forced the sale of my business at the crack of Covid. My emergency back-up career in real estate served me well, but reaching Medicare age gave me a nudge to step back and spend more time with my toes in the sand at the local beach.

Writing Projects by the Dozen

I’ve always been a writer, though not making my living that way past age 30. My education and the itch to write have always nagged. One important piece of unfinished business now that I’m retired is to finish “the book” – actually more than one, I hope.

Twenty-thousand-plus words of a novel follow me around in my head and the cloud. The idea of memoir intrigues me. A bestie and I have a series of five kids’ books written – one already illustrated.

In this new world of writer in retirement, I have a lot of high hopes.

A Ton of Distractions

I also have my eye out for new spots to lunch and thrift shops to sort through on rainy days. I try not to miss Marguerita Monday or the Saturday farmer’s market. And there’s Yappy Hour on Sunday at the local brewery where Lassie and I socialize with other pups and their people.

With trips to the library and practice for band rehearsals, I’m having a hard time prioritizing “the book.” Being my own task master is harder than I thought. In professional life, I had clients to serve – built-in motivation. How do I keep my ass in the chair when the sun is shining, and I can be at the beach in 15 minutes?

The “F” Word

Listening to a podcast while I was cleaning my desk drawer and waiting for the pasta timer, I was reminded of the importance of FOCUS. A real estate trainer’s description of focus as the f-word was like turning the knife. Ouch! I lifted weights while he told me the enemies of focus: 1) distraction, 2) multi-tasking and 3) drift.

It’s hard not to laugh as I look at the trash can, evidence that tidying my desk has been pure (yet productive) distraction. I’ve multi-tasked a pretty pasta salad to pair with chicken on the grill later. A phone call, “Want to grab lunch?” and afternoon drift slides into Wine Wednesday… what can I say? I’m weak. After all, I’m retired.

I had a retiree’s dream summer: chilling in the Florida Keys, camping with family to celebrate Mom’s life and a birthday trip for my boyfriend to see his beloved Buffalo Bills’ season opener in person. I Bill-ieve!

But here we are: back-to-school, a season that’s always been knuckle-down time for me. I know I can do it this year, too. I’m learning that if I turn on the focus first thing, after I’ve taken care of lingering details and the frogs I need to eat before I have too much fun, a daily routine is slowly developing.

New Beginnings

Philip Roth once said, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” I sure do not want to be on that road. Understanding that setting goals and keeping them is what sets finishers apart, I’m getting the swing of daily word counts. I’m learning the importance of finishing a draft before rewriting and leaving “space” between edits.

It’s a solitary pursuit, which is tricky for me because I am a social animal. But I’ve learned I can write anywhere – on the bus, in a coffee shop, at the beach. Concentrating in public eliminates all the distractions of home. I can’t do laundry or rearrange a closet or walk the dog.

At first, I felt uncomfortable, but now if someone asks what I’m working on, I just say, “I’m a writer,” as if that explains everything.

Since I’m new to fiction, I read about dialogue and conflict and character development. I’ve toyed with apps and writing programs and joined a writers’ community for support. After all, I’m a beginner. But I got some very good advice for us all at a real estate retreat. Stop learning. Take a break from research and learning and do the work. Begin. Get through the middle. Finish.

Play Time

We have earned the right to have fun after our years of wage earning. I remind myself that I’m not in this for the money. It’s my choice: to agonize over words on a screen and beat myself up when there aren’t enough words and celebrate when the words are published. If I quit today, no one would notice but me. But there is nothing else I do where time disappears, and I feel so good afterwards.

For you, it might be golfing, gardening, spending time with grandchildren or driving cross country. We should be doing what exhilarates us. “Core pursuits” are key to a satisfying retirement, according to Wes Moss in his book What Makes the Happiest Retirees. His research found happy retirees had more than 3.6 activities they enjoyed while unhappy retirees have less than two activities.

Nothing makes me giddier than a good 500 words, followed by a bus ride downtown and a walk to the library. I told a friend I feel reincarnated as “That Girl.” Recalling Marlo Thomas hopping off a city bus in that classic scene, she emojied me a beret. I texted back, “Let’s do lunch!”

What projects have you started in your 60s? How many have you finished? Do you get distracted easily? What’s the worst interrupter for you? How do organize your time to finish a project? Let’s have a chat!

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The Author

Terri White is a writer and a realtor on Florida’s Suncoast. A Sunshine State girl since 1990, Terri keeps her Midwestern connections with Illinois family and friends and stays in touch with people from all over the world she met as an innkeeper for 26 years on Anna Maria Island. She headquarters her business in historic downtown Bradenton, where she can walk to work from her 1930s farmhouse. Learn more at www.100thYearProject.com.

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