By Barton Goldsmith/Tribune News Service
Oh, how I wish I could embrace the simple life, but just the idea of retirement makes me feel like I’d somehow be disappearing from the world way too prematurely. To maintain my peace of mind, I need to keep feeling relevant and like I’m contributing something. And I do believe that if I can make a difference, it’s a compelling reason to stay here.
Ambitious people are sometimes less happy than people who are less driven. I don’t know why I need to feel that I am constantly moving forward, and I haven’t always chased the right dream, but just sitting still and being leisurely doesn’t make me feel as good as doing something creative.
I know many people who love being retired, and they all have one thing in common. They are financially secure. They came from a time when you could still get good pensions, and they saved and planned for retirement. These days, too many people just try to wing it, or they think that it’s too late to start saving, but the truth is that it’s never too late. Remember that security and luxury are two different things. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not living in a mansion. A comfortable place shared with someone who cares for you is better than living by yourself in a castle.
It’s also never too late to chase your dreams. People who have goals are usually in a better state of mind than those who just let life come to them. And while this is true at any stage, it’s especially true as you mature, when having no goals can make for a very lonely and empty life. Your goals don’t have to be earth-shattering, either. They can just be for you. Very simple goals, like daily exercise, can make a world of difference in as little as two weeks. It’s true. I’ve seen it and done it.
I continue to work hard every day, and one very simple thing that brings me joy when I come home is our family dinners. Most every night, whoever is at home (including the dogs) is somehow involved in the dinner process, from prep to cleanup. Sometimes we even eat in different rooms, but we keep the conversation going, even with the TV on.
It’s just the idea of being connected that makes this little ritual a life-enhancing experience, and I want as much of it as I can get. Of course, nothing beats sitting down at the dining-room table. Having dinner as a family is one of the most bonding and healing things you can do for everyone in the house or at the table. So I guess in this wa y, I do embrace the simple life, because it is clear to me that without the ties that bind, I would feel lost and very sad.
If you are alone, retired or not, I recommend that you find some people to share your evening meal with as often as possible. This simple act will help you feel nourished throughout your entire being.
I understand that it might be hard to reach out, but some organisations have events of this type, and so do many support groups. Time to do a little Googling and find some folks to help share in the life you want for yourself. Don’t let it just happen to you.
It doesn’t matter if you have a simple life or a more complicated one. And it may be a mixture. The compelling need here is to find the balance that is right for you and do those things that bring you even a tiny bit of joy.
* Dr Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, California, is the author of The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time. Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at [email protected]
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