Resisting the Bucket List Mirage (aka More Naps Would be Good )

I talk to a lot of my clients, as well as professional colleagues, who are roughly in my age range (58). While some of them know exactly when they plan to retire (if they haven’t already), and what they plan to do; many of them are like me – unsure about whether retirement is a good idea.

We are living longer. And even if we can afford not to work for the next 30+ years, the real question is whether we will be happy if we walk away from the challenges that have engaged us for so long.  Will we be happy on the beach, on the golf course, traveling, watching television, watching the grandchildren, or volunteering in our communities?

Many feel pushed to make a decision; encouraged to “let it go.” The whole process can become stressful, filled with anxiety.  We hesitate.  And some of us simply resist.

We are confronted with the seemingly unimpeachable proposition that we must “do it now” before we’re too old and decrepit to enjoy the things “we really want to do.” Like what?  I ask.  Spend more time travelling and staying in hotels? Eating out more? Or is the plan simply to “be more involved” with your grandchildren?

I’ve had grandchildren (one of whom is pictured above) for 5+ years. Love ‘em to death – but here’s what I’ve learned:  They ain’t my kids, and raising them ain’t my business.  And I don’t want it to be.  I had my shot at parenting – gave myself a C or C-.  Maybe I could do better with a second chance – but no one is asking me to try – and in truth, I don’t have the energy or inclination.  Sure, there’s a role for grandparents – but it’s small one.

Retirement.  Bucket List.  It’s all a soul-sucking mirage.

OK.  I recognize my perspective on retirement isn’t shared by everyone – and the soul-sucking part may be overselling it.  But I’ve also come to realize that I am not alone.  Seems to me that there are a lot of people struggling with these same issues.  It’s a hard decision with big implications.  In any event, retired or not, I’ll tell you what would be good: more naps.

  • Steven Lett

    Though I have a”few” years on DOUG I have had the same thoughts about retirement. I find it difficult to imagine myself doing nothing after having spent 30+ years in a high stress very busy profession. However I also realize that I don’t have the desire to continue the same pace. I have made the move to start restricting my practice to mediation/arbitration, though I haven’t quite got there yet. I have also cut back to 4 days a week when possible and have decided to take longer vacations. I have found that this is working for me to ease into retirement.
    Steve Lett

  • Robert Bubba Miller

    Doug, thank you for your blog. I enjoy it quite a bit. In a recent discussion about this blog my brother, a retired Army Officer and a retired High School Principal, who lives in Florida wrote a poem. I though you may enjoy it. Here is his poem:

    Man retires he says, Yippee for me,
    Nothin’ but free time, with no place to be
    Heading to the beach, heading to the dance floor
    Workday’s gone for this retiree
    With no routines no more

    He wakes up in the morning with nothin’ to do
    Nothin’ on the schedule, no meetings to go to
    No bones to pick, nothin’ to account for
    Chores are done, nothin’ in the queue
    He has no routines no more

    He can stay up late an’ he can watch the whole game
    An’ he can sleep till noon, ‘cause ain’t nobody cares
    He can make his own commitments in his own time frame
    An’ his only obligation is the Veterans’ Affairs

    Who can say he’s not a happy man
    With bowlin’ an’ golfin’ as retirement plan
    But beachin’ and the bowlin’ an’ goin’ to the store
    Are the trivial pursuits of caducity quicksand
    With no routines no more

    Robert C Miller, JD, CPA, AEP®

    • Robert – very cool – your brother is a talented guy.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Paul A. Sturgul

    Thanks, Doug, for another interesting, thoughtful and insightful comment. This time about work and retirement. Your observations prompted me to think about where I am in my journey through life. I don’t plan on ever retiring. I love my work as an Elder Law attorney. I consider my career to be my spiritual path, as can we all. I view my work as service more than anything, which makes me a very happy lawyer. I am moving away from private, clinical practice (to borrow a term from medicine, which I like since much of the work we Elder Law attorneys do is a bridge into medicine). Increasingly, I am attending more conferences and meetings and giving more public presentations. I love giving lectures about Elder Law more than anything else I do in my work. I love appearing on WNMU’s “Media Meet” in Marquette, one of my favorite cities. Last week I was in DC for the annual “Voices of Medicare Summit” sponsored by the Center for Medicare Advocacy. Later this month I am traveling to Boston for NAELA’s annual conference. I am taking my able law partner Ryan. I want to introduce him to the wider world of Elder Law. In June I am part of the NAELA delegation to Israel to study Israeli Elder Law policy and practice. In July I am going to London. I will be giving a presentation at the International Alzheimer’s Conference on July 17th. I will moderate another All Elder Law “Ask the Lawyers” program on WNMU in June. I am helping to plan the annual “Elder Law for Yoopers” program in Marquette in August. I am also active in community affairs, including local history. Vital activity in old age! I am very happy with the course of my life. I have my health, which is all important, and enables me to follow my dharma here in the Lake Superior Region, and the world. I know that when I am living with intention and purpose, everything in my life lines up to help me fulfill that intention and purpose. Thanks for being the inspiration to write about my voyage through life, on the journey we all are on. All best wishes, Doug, to you and yours, and all the followers of your excellent, informative, timely, blog. ps from ps: I learned a new word here today-caudicity -the opposite of vitality! Be well, do good work, and keep in touch! May the work you do be the play you love.

    • Fred Sommer

      a church