Learning to retire gracefully

This week I went to a day conference for the launch of a new research report. This sort of event has been the bread and butter of my working life and was often something I approached with much enthusiasm. Often the issues themselves were relevant to my own work and thus I would be speaking or running a workshop or challenging others. I got a buzz coming together with colleagues who I did not meet day-to-day but shared the same policy space. Networking it was called and I loved it. It gave me links and avenues to pursue, invites to other events and an increase in knowledge and ideas. It got me out of bed in the morning.

Such events are a rarity for me today and after this week I can see that that buzz is no longer there. The event went well and I got plenty of ideas from it but my energy was low. At the end of the day it does not contribute to my well being in ways it used to do. Perhaps, at last, retirement is beginning to re-focus my thinking and my actions. It was not the subject matter, something deeper I think, more of a question – did I want to be there at all? It’s less than a year since I retired so I should not be surprised but gradually getting myself up for more policy change, which has probably happened ten times previously in my working life, gets more difficult. I am happy with my involvement in the Probation Institute but I balance this with increasing attention to my personal pursuits, these are the things which matter. So if work is no longer necessary to my well being what is? I think I am beginning to get my well being in different ways and this week I have engaged in three things illustrative of the change of pace and direction. 
Firstly I started to collate the one-a-day pics I have taken since Jan 1 2014. I am preparing a yearbook for 2014 using photobox. It’s slow and rather painstaking but will give me a permanent record of this journey. I wanted to include the text which accompanies each entry as it acts as a diary of what I have done, all the ups and downs and thus the oral and pictorial history may interest someone in years to come. In fact given the thousands that are on the blipfoto website (www.blipfoto.com) there is a hidden oral and pictorial history that in some cases goes back over ten years. The rules are simple, you have to take a picture within the 24 hours of each day and post it on the site. There are some days (like today when it’s dull, rainy and there is little inspiration) that it can be hard but I began to notice the world around me in ways I have never really done before. One example below. I took this picture having spotted it walking from my office to the main building, a journey I did loads of times. I have never ‘seen’ it before. Suddenly in searching for a ‘blip’ (photo) I was noticing the world around me, this was such an unexpected joy and has led to my interest in birds, again something I was only vaguely aware of before, and an ancillary consequential intention has followed, improving my photography to capture birds in as sharp a relief as possible. I have just entered year 4 of this journey and not yet missed a day though it’s been last minute a few times. 

How could you walk past this mural…but I used to

My second motivation is a resurgence of interest in writing a novel. I started in earnest in 2012 having had this idea for a novel but had put on the back burner until retirement. Suddenly my ill health threatened my very existence and it sharpened the mind. I started writing earnestly getting 60000 words on paper in six months, not a bad start. Then the dreaded axe did not fall and treatments have extended my lifespan and I lost direction as I felt the relief. Tiredness and bouts of ill health did not help and whilst I was aware of this drift I could not get going. This week I sat down to convert the words already written into a first draft, target mid-May to complete. I put 14000 words on paper and was relieved to find what I had written four years ago was ok. So up and going again. Don’t know yet if it is just the ramblings of someone who wants to write a novel but who can’t or whether it has the slightest possibility of finding some literary merit when friends read a first draft in mid-May. I have a deadline, I will make it.

Last night I travelled to the little known culinary delights of Barton upon Humber, for a meal with my son and daughter at Elio’s Italian Restaurant. This is our sixth gathering over the past five years. Why there and what is the significance? Well today, 12 Feb 2016 is exactly five years since my consultant told me my cancer was incurable. My daughter came up from London that evening. The following day I was due to take my son to a wedding reception which happened to be near Scunthorpe. We decided to find somewhere to have some food and then pick up my son from the reception. We found Elio’s. It was a good restaurant and we sat and chatted, with quite a few tears, what might happen next. It was a difficult evening but I was determined to remain positive. I said we should mark each year with a return visit to the restaurant so we could celebrate survival for as long as it lasts. Yesterday evening marked our sixth visit and another meal was enjoyed. So we keep going as I’m Still Here (title of my blipfoto site) and there is more to do! My ‘blips’ this week follow.

Another conference

6 thoughts on “Learning to retire gracefully

  1. Dear Paul

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your weekly blog. You mix the ordinary ( daily life) with the rarified ( our, your mortality) in such a fluid,and fluent way. Lovely photos too. I
    In friendship

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul, you don’t have to retire to question wheter it’s meaningful to network! I certainly enjoy more hands on work nowadays than all that policy-making and strategy thinking I used to do. Well I guess the balance of “lagom” is the best as always 😉 Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely to hear from you Jenny. I suppose it’s just been hard for me to disengage but I am getting there. Love the word ‘Lagom’, had to look it up but agree ‘in balance’ is a good concept to strive for.


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