November 30, 2015: Retirement Thoughts – One Year Later

Reflections, Patterns, and Shadows

Reflections, Patterns, and Shadows

On December 1st it will 13 months since I retired after 50 years of military and contractor work. I meant to write something about retirement on October 31st, the one year anniversary point, but it seemed I had too much on my mind at the time to do so. I believe I’m ready now.

It’s been an interesting 13 months. There have been good times and not so good times; sad and happy times; continuing inner growth and setbacks that made me go back to square one to understand why; gaining a new appreciation and understanding of my spouse; realizing how much I missed at home and with the family by being away all those years; spending more time, better time, with my wife and two sons; gaining insights into the seasonal cycle of the house, the yard, the holidays that my wife has known all along; finally realizing the damage and significant impact on the family, including myself, by not fully engaging when I was home during the work years; continuing with PTSD counseling; willingly entering into marriage counseling with the intent of full participation and making things better; and finding out more and more about my wife that I didn’t understand all those years.

I’ve also realized, even though I thought I had a good understanding of what retirement would be, is that retirement is a completely different way of life than the work years where there were rules, requirements, routines, the daily grind of the never ending small things, what you needed to do to survive till (hopefully) retirement, what you should consider for career growth and advancement, and a myriad of other tasks, events, personal and customer skills, audits, etc., that you assimilated over the years to be successful. Retirement has it’s own set of “rules” except they really aren’t rules, they’re more guidelines, using common sense, observing, participating, knowing what needs done and taking care of it without fanfare, becoming involved with daily life, and perhaps the most important part, paying attention to my wife – something I haven’t being the best at over the years.

Being retired is a completely different way of life that I work on every day to be truly “successful” and integrate with the family, the home cycle, as well as daily life as it’s been practiced all those years I was in the working world. At times it seems natural, at other times I struggle but, bit by bit, I’m feel myself expanding and in doing so, becoming a more natural part of the household and family rhythm.

I also find myself being more reflective, more in touch with myself and my family. I journal almost daily and find the act of writing immensely therapeutic. Slowly but surely I’m decluttering my life, both internally and externally, and find it extremely beneficial and liberating. I no longer place the same emphasis on activities that in the past I thought defined who I was, including photography. While I enjoy photography immensely, it’s no longer the driving force that kept me outside of life with my family. A friend once told me that I viewed the world through the lens of a camera while at the same time, my wife also told me that I avoided interacting with the family by hiding behind a camera. While I’ll always see scenes that will beg to be photographed, I’ll not use the camera as a defense mechanism to avoid engaging with others. As a result of this new approach, I find myself focusing on what I really like…patterns, the interplay of shadows and light, the macro around me, sunsets and sunrises, going back to the basis, re-embracing black and white, trying to capture the vision I see in my head in one or two images at most, cataloging a scene for the “right” environmental time.

I’m reading more as each day goes by, including poetry, something I’ve always avoided as it didn’t make sense to me. I find now the more poetry I read the more I realize how powerful this medium can be and that by excluding it for all these years, how much I’ve lost out on.

I do not miss work, not in the least and when I look back, I know did my best and I know I made a difference. At the same time, leaving when I did, with the full support of my wife, was the best decision of my life. I look forward to spending time with my wife and family, making a difference as each day unfolds.

The reality of Today
Built upon Yesterday’s travels
Is the path to Tomorrow

Tommy

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