Life After Retirement

Well, that didn’t last long.  We haven’t even been home for two weeks and I’m already soul searching; trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.  All my life I have wanted to help people.  If my job didn’t allow me to do that on a daily basis, then I assumed active roles in non-profit groups that would.  For most of my life I was helping farmers to be more profitable or in many cases trying to keep them in business.  Giving them that loan or helping them to restructure to breathe life back into their operation was very rewarding work.  When I wasn’t doing that, I was helping families obtain funds to buy or build their dream home.  I wonder if my talent for writing (assuming that I have some and people aren’t just trying to be kind) comes from years of pleading others cases.  Nearly thirty years; presenting convincing written narratives of why my customers should be granted a loan so they could continue to live out their dreams of operating the family farm. 

We still own the store and I could spend all the time I want pouring over the numbers and making spreadsheets; sharpening my proverbial pencil to make it as profitable as possible.  Sure, one could say that I’m preserving the legacy that predecessors have worked so hard to build, and that’s something.  I’m providing a good hot meal at a fair price and affordable catering for those looking to feed their friends, family and co-workers.  I pay my taxes and provide employment for a handful of people; and try and treat them as fairly as I possibly can while still being the boss.  I donate when I can and our annual cutest dog contest generates a little money for the local animal shelter.  Santa and Mrs. Claus visit the store each year and that’s great fun for us too. I enjoy it, but it’s not the rewarding feeling that I am looking for.

Having retired on a Friday and moved into the hospital with Scott less than a week later, I really didn’t have time to process my retirement.  Working from home remotely meant my co-workers sent their well wishes via text or email.  No packing up or saying good-bye.  It was just over and with so much on my mind it was on to the next crisis.   Since moving down here, having the job and the store didn’t really allow any time for charity work.  I did a little writing for the local newspaper for fun but that was about it.  Unfortunately, after a life-time of always having too much on my plate, what do I want to do for fun?  Sure, I enjoy sewing and I should spend some time organizing my house and decluttering but what after that?  I don’t need a job; but I need to be busy.  Busy doing something that makes a difference.    

As difficult as it is being a caregiver and basically living on a couch in his hospital bed for the greater part of his 40-day stay, one might say I was in my element.  I had a job and I was fully committed to it.  Needless to say, it was probably the most critical job in my life.  Doing what I could when nurses weren’t around and learning to be his nurse once we headed out.  Balancing my store duties from afar, making sure bills got paid and that he had everything he needed to get through this thing that meant life would go on.  I was needed.  Now that he is feeling better and recovery is staring us in the face, I feel a little lost.  Strangely I never felt lost when my kids left the nest, I knew that I had raised them in a way that they could have successful, happy lives and I was excited for them to get out and experience that.  Having Scott start to want to get out and about is a little more nerve-racking.  A reminder of the days when we were taking the training wheels off the big bikes, or handing our children keys to the car or truck. 

Scott and I talked after my last article that alluded to the fact that we were workaholics.  His point was that it isn’t work if you love what you do.  That is certainly what farming is all about.  You love what you do; it’s all you want to do.  It can be part of you at an early age.  A fellow farmer can see it in a young person; a child farmer is born with an old soul.  When I saw that in a young person or felt it in their commitment, I would do anything I could to help them survive in farming.  Sadly, the future of America’s farmers is questionable.  It’s a lot of hard work for little money for the average farm.  The level of financial investment it requires now days is staggering.  Not to mention the need to be good at a multitude of things.  Now more than ever, a farmer must be an impeccable money manager.  Even the best farmers with the best animals or ground have faltered over the last few years of terrible prices.  Prices haven’t risen on the farm like they have at the grocery store or meat counter.  A large percent of the increases in food costs are covering wages and transportation costs at the packers and processors and not ending up on the family farm.  What little that does make it back to the farm goes out the door to cover higher feed costs, fuel costs and inputs for our fellow crop farmers.  Add to that the rising interest costs and rumors of a diesel shortage and we could really be heading into big trouble for agriculture and ultimately everyone. 

After a long wait, we are finally watching Yellowstone.  The portrayal of the passion that it takes to run a large farm is accurate.  The idea that it takes a lot of money to run a ranch like that is also true.  One shouldn’t assume that where there are big houses and shiny new pick-ups that there is a lot of money being made.  There’s a good deal of the story line I hope is just that – a story.   In my world, not many farmers and ranchers are appointing family members to the highest offices of State government and killing everyone that gets in our way.  Still, an hour or two of Kevin Costner will never be something I will say no to. 

The view from my kitchen window – the calves love to sun themselves in my rock garden at our version of Yellowstone

I’m really enjoying writing.  It’s great to create and get things off my mind.  While writing is helping me; I don’t see that it will help others to the extent I would like.  I’m considering doing some You Tube videos as a way to try and help others that are going through cancer.  This is a big step as I have always enjoyed being the one behind the camera; so being on camera would be a challenge.  Maybe my readers have some ideas for making my retirement rewarding as well as relaxing.  Feel free to leave me your ideas in the comment box.  I would love to hear your feedback.  For those that know me, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m already ready to take on something more to do.       

5 thoughts on “Life After Retirement

  1. Well, girl, you definitely have a gift for writing. And it is that, a gift. Just one of the things I am impressed with about you. The other being, your level of commitment during Scott’s illness. I know there must be hordes of “lay people” out there who simply cannot understand the “lingo” and feel overwhelmed by the whole process. It would be great if you could help some of these people understand the technicalities when their loved one is facing the same thing Scott was/is. You truly have a talent!


  2. I’m staring at Retirement at the end of this year, like you and Scott staying busy, having a project is a must for me. Being a Veteran, I feel the need to give back, so volunteering working with fellow Veterans is important to me. While I have mostly enjoyed my career, it is time for me to help my kids with their projects, pass on my knowledge and experiences. Rhonda and I sat down and made a list of projects, ideas, travel we want to do. While we are both planners, it’s time to loosen up the reins that a working life demands and give in to impulse and new adventures.


  3. Sheryl, I identify so closely with what you’ve written here, as I retired almost 11 years ago in the midst of my own husband’s illness. I just wanted to share with you some things I learned during that time.

    I learned that you won’t automatically find “it” on the first try, or the second or third or even the 10th. The real lesson: keep going out for things that look interesting, keep trying new things, and don’t hesitate to let go of what doesn’t work, or get discouraged about things that don’t work.

    I learned that it’s natural to try to outrun feelings with a lot of activity. Slow down enough to have them but not so much that they drag you backwards.

    I learned that unstructured time, while it could seem attractive after all the busyness, was not always my friend. I learned to have a routine, and to look at each day in terms of the opportunities it might provide so that I could make the best use of time.

    I learned that for me, doing things for others (service) was vital, and having something to do with my hands was the secret to giving myself some downtime (knitting).

    And I learned to forgive myself for every mistake I made along the way.

    Perhaps you’ll find some helpful nuggets in all that.

    I’ve been following your journey with a full heart and often with overflowing eyes, and I continue to pray for you and Scott every single day.


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