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What retirement isn’t (01/29/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

I recently gave up my bookkeeping job down at M&M Lawn & Leisure in Rushford. It's mainly about driving on treacherous winter roads. I'm not comfortable with the notion of "retirement" yet.

I'd assumed my days would be an overload of soap operas and Dr. Phil on the boob tube. I figured I'd go stark raving mad, gorge on chocolate, trail mix, and cappuccino all day, and resort to counting the plaster dots on our sprayed bedroom ceiling, unable to sleep during daily naptime.

I wondered, would I be phoning everyone still at work out of sheer loneliness? I've often pointed out to Pat that we're the only people in Winona County who don't have a house pet. I'd prefer a cuddly, well-trained, and loyal spaniel, to bolster my sense of being needed and adored. That request was harshly denied.

I'll say one thing, retirement makes a person realize how much they did before. How did it all get done? (Oh, yaw, it didn't.) Sleeping late, not having to paint on my going-out face, or fuss with unruly hair isn't all bad.

There's no more squirming my way out of unpleasant requests by stating, "Sorry, I'm working that day." There will be no leisurely martini lunches with old friends (because they're still on the job). There doesn't even seem to be busybody neighbors to chat with over a picket fence. Where is everyone?

Being home more isn't doing less - it's just different. In fact, after only three months, I have plenty of positives to report. I've actually lost weight! Having more time to plan low-calorie meals and to prepare the time-consuming dishes which are healthier has been a great incentive.

I no longer tempt myself by keeping bad stuff in the cupboards and refrigerator. Virtually, I've given up white bread, baked goodies, high-fat foods and restaurants. I dish up smaller portions and eat more frequently. I've been successful by allowing myself comfort food. I was thrilled to find 80 calorie, fat-free pudding cups (especially chocolate).

Likewise, fat-free, fruit and yogurt cups go well with "tea time." Add a dollop of Cool Whip at only 25 calories for 2 Tbls. - and groove out. Even better, share the moment with anyone else who isn't working.

Other staples I keep on hand are Orville Redenbacher's fat-free microwave popcorn, hardboiled eggs, tangerines, salsa, and raw veggies.

Indulge me just a bit more. It's about lunch. I may be getting a tad tired of "Progresso" stews and soups. Other boring necessities include fat-free Western dressing and cooked ham on whole wheat bread, hold the mayo (100 calories and 11 grams of fat per 1 Tbls.) Mustard, catsup, and horseradish sauce are all friendly alternatives.

Retirement isn't sitting on a sandy beach in a bikini, sipping umbrella drinks. No work - no money! Besides you haven't been home to eat properly and lose that weight, to give you the nerve to slip into that skimpy little number.

No one seems to be resentful that I now appear to be a lady of leisure, especially not Pat, who still has his day job. By spring, we may have every closet, drawer, and cupboard cleaned out (a New Year's resolution long since expired).

What retirement isn't is a curse to fade idly into the background, a state that turns the mind into marshmallows, a condition rendering one useless, nor does it have to be an overload of wasted hours. It's much better to live than to recede.

You're available! Someone will be delighted to see more of you. A deserted project can come to life again. Read, go fishin', take a sabbatical, do garage sales and jigsaw puzzles, free of guilt. Don't let the sun catch you crying.

"As one door closes, another door opens." Don't lock yourself out. 


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