What holiday spirit?

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I’ve been reading your column for years. You have always struck me as a level headed person. I always like your perspective on things. So, I wonder just how you approach the holiday season? Has it changed since you’ve aged? What do you do now that maybe you didn’t do when you were raising kids?

I ask because I feel blindsided by the holiday season this year. I retired at the end of October and I thought I’d sail into this time of year feeling refreshed, like I’d finally have enough time to do the things I always wanted. I find myself more overwhelmed than ever. And tired. Why am I so tired when I thought I’d have more energy than ever before? Isn’t that strange? I have some friends who have retired and they are busier than ever. What’s wrong with me?

My kids are so excited about how “great” this year will be. They are all coming home and I think their expectations are high because “Mom” has finally retired.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to think about all of them here. (I have a couple of little grandchildren too!) But I don’t want to disappointment them. I just can’t seem to get any enthusiasm going for everything I know I should be doing.

Any secrets you’d like to pass on for for how I can muster up a little Christmas spirit?

Not in the Spirit

Dear Reader,

My first not-so-secret suggestion for you, and any other “newly retired” folks out there is this: cut yourselves some slack! You’ve been retired for all of four weeks. My dear reader, this means that you are in full-blown retirement adjustment mode!

The period immediately following retirement can play itself out in many different ways. Some people are absolutely euphoric, others walk around full of fear, a few find themselves near zombie like as they begin to finally adjust to what it means to not have work “in the salt mine” like my mother used to say! And finally, there are those new retirees who are simply, and inexplicably, exhausted!

None of what you have described to me is “strange.” Letting go of a way of life you have lived for decades is a huge adjustment! It takes time. And, more importantly, it takes some understanding.

So here’s another suggestion: show yourself some compassion for the adjustment you are making. Retirement is not like the job you used to have, the one that: dictated forty hours of your life; offered you purpose; provided you with a strong social outlet; and hopefully eased your financial concerns.

No, retirement can pull the rug right out from under the most organized, energetic person around. Which leads me to another suggestion: please stop comparing yourself to others or telling yourself what you “should’ be doing. We all navigate retirement in our own unique way.

While you practice all of this wonderful, compassionate self-acceptance (!) you can still have a delightful Christmas! The first order of business is to talk to your children. You don’t have to be too detailed about this but please, explain how you have really let down from the demands of a lifetime of work. Ask them what would make the holiday special for them, rather than what you fear they might expect. Adjust accordingly, with the understanding that this will include help from each one of them. (My hunch? They will be far more comfortable with this than you!)

Consider scaling back back on gifts. You don’t need the pressure of shopping and really, how many people on your list need more “stuff”? You’re retired. It’s the perfect time. People will understand and you’ll be spared the demands of shopping.

If you know of local items you want to purchase, shop now, in the mornings and go in the middle of the week to avoid crowds. Or consider cyber shopping. You have plenty of time to sit comfortably in your own home and pick out the perfect gifts.

My final wish for you? Give yourself the gift of time to adjust to your new life!

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