Six Weeks – A Progress Report

“How’s retirement treating you? You look much more relaxed…”

That’s how a neighbor greeted me at a party this weekend and I had to pause for a moment and consider what he said.  Yes. He was right.  I am more relaxed.  It’s happening slowly and subtly, but I’m starting to relax.

Today marks the beginning of week seven of My First Retirement, so I thought I’d offer up a bit of a progress report in various areas. I’ve tried to mix up the posts a bit here, alternating between broader lessons and just stories (mostly about bread, it seems). This will be a little more of the latter.

Let’s look at a few areas of retired life, shall we?

  • Sleep: I sleep much better now than I did in my last few weeks of work.  This should be rather obvious, but having a bit less on my mind just seems to make everything easier.
  • Routines: I’ve developed a definite set of routines each day, and my time is much more structured than I anticipated. I have my morning exercise block, followed by time devoted to learning, then an afternoon section where I am either shopping, cooking, or working around the house/in the yard, finishing up with preparing dinner and sitting on the porch (often with a cocktail and THE NEIGHBOR) as I wait for THE WIFE to get home.
  • Around The House: I’m shocked by how much cleaning I do.  I’ve always done the laundry in the house, and spreading it out a load at a time every few days is actually quite nice, but I just had no idea how much time I would devote to cleaning. Part of it is knowing that there isn’t a cleaning lady coming in a few days to straighten up my messes, but the other part is my own need to keep things tidy after I’ve cleaned them.  And, not to be overlooked, there’s the desire to prove to THE WIFE that I’m not slacking off all day.  Does she care if I slack off?  Not too much. But *I* care.  Yes, I’m still battling that productivity thing in my head….
  • Eating: I eat a lot less than I used to, particularly at lunch.  My diet is much better, too, as eating at home rather than Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s 3-4 days a week tends to be healthier. I’m also eating far less processed and packaged food, not because I’m some sort of a health zealot, but because I’m preparing most of the meals I eat and they consist of a few ingredients that I can identify. Given, my cooking centers around comfort food and bread, so this isn’t necessarily a path to losing weight, but at least I’m more aware of what is in my food.
  • Cooking: Speaking of cooking, I’m slowly learning how to make a few things. I’ve made a couple of successful soups (the split pea in the pressure cooker was awesome!) and a fine meatloaf, and I even saved a couple of mistakes, turning an overly-thick chicken and rice soup into a nice couple of pot pies. I haven’t repeated anything yet in six weeks, so that makes me feel good. I’m really enamored with the  pressure cooker right now as I can cook chicken dishes in a very short amount of time, but I still haven’t done any sous vide cooking yet.
  • Bread: One of the reasons I haven’t tried our sous vide cooker yet is that I’ve been spending most of my time baking bread.  I’ve progressed from a simple no-knead load to a really delicious pumpernickel in roughly three weeks. Bread is my current fascination, and I’m really enjoying the baking and the learning. As I type this, a rustic country loaf featuring white, wheat, and rye flour is rising in a bowl just a few feet away. I’m getting tremendous satisfaction out of baking and seeing a finished product that people seem to enjoy. I took the pumpernickel (which I had never made before) to a party this weekend and people were very complimentary. It was nice.  Now as for those suggestions from some that I consider starting a bakery, I’ll emphatically say “NO”. I don’t want anything to do with commercial food preparation or the public.
  • Exercise: One of the odd stressors I had in my work life was finding time to run. If I wanted to run in the morning, I often had to get up quite early in order to make it into work at a decent hour. Once the weather turned colder and the days shorter, I would shift to the afternoons, which would mean that I was racing for the door as early as possible just to get home in time to try to run in the relative safety of at least some waning light. I can’t overstate this enough – one of the things that I use to control stress and stay healthy created incredible amounts of schedule stress on me. Meeting running late? No running tonight. Early call? No run today. Slipping out he door to get home in time to run? Gee – the boss sure gave me a funny look as I walked past him. This isn’t a problem now as I have control over my schedule, but it underscores to me how important retaining this time in my schedule will be once I return to work.
  • People: As I’ve stated before, I spend a lot more time alone than I anticipated. That doesn’t mean I’m lonely, but it does make me more interested in talking to people than I used to be.  Truth be told, I’m less lonely at home with the cats than I was working in an office full of people. I definitely expected to spend more time out among others, though.
  • Learning: I’ve devoted an hour or more most days to learning something. So far it has been the basics of some higher-level programming languages like Python and Ruby, but I’m sure it will eventually move in to something else. I’m actually enjoying the coding exercises far more than I thought I would, and I’m beginning to wonder if that’s something I should explore more.
  • Music: I’ve listened to a ton of music as I’m working through the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, but I’m also working on my own music. I’ve written one new song so far, which may appear on our next RPM Challenge album in February. I’m also remixing and remastering the first two Letter Seventeen records in order to finally release them on iTunes/Amazon/Spotify, etc. And this is all while we continue to work on finishing the long-awaited-we-hope-we-can-release-this-eventually record we’ve been working on for the last few months. Truth be told, we’re down to a few drum tracks and a couple more passes at some vocals, but these things take time, and the other guys have less of that than I do.
  • Self-Improvement: I’m not sure what to say here. I’m very aware of my desire to improve, whether it be through trying to be kinder or starting to meditate again, or something else along those lines; but I don’t have anything tangible to point to. Well, except for the comment from my neighbor who said I looked relaxed.

I think the real question at this point is “Do I miss work?”  No.  Not really.  I miss a few people, but not much else. Am I thinking about going back to work?  Yes.  Definitely.  I’m starting to learn more and more about what is important to me and what I enjoy.  I’ll just need to include that in my job search. Do I think I”ll need the rest of the year to figure this out? Yep.


One comment on “Six Weeks – A Progress Report

  1. Great read, it’s good that you’re finding yourself during this time! Way back when, my dad and I had our own company, and so I would only work half the day most times, so I started to really get into cooking and making different meals. I loved it! I’m trying it again, and finally getting away from the evil Schuans food truck we became so addicted to!

    Good luck on the rest of your journey!

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