As well as reaching the dizzy anniversary of five months' retirement, I am also conscious that it was last November that I began this blog with a statement that retirement was no longer a vague notion. In the early days I was filled with all kinds of concerns but once I actually took the plunge and embraced retirement, everything has been going more or less swimmingly.
In the first four months, however, we were blessed with dry, warm weather and trips away. The last month has been a little different. Yes we have made short trips to Edinburgh and London but we haven't been away for any significant period.
I am someone who has always been accustomed to dashing around, a little like a plate spinner in a circus, running from one stick to another in an effort to keep the plates on the top revolving. Whilst I never intended retirement to become quite the same hive of activity, I am also determined that it should turn its back on the humdrum of repetitiveness.
Having stripped work out of the schedule, for the last few months I have replaced it with the jobs I never had the opportunity to do, people I had rarely found the time to see, a fitness schedule and various trips that I have wanted to make. Whilst neither the eldest or youngest has been at home for the last two months, there are other plates that I still keep spinning, so I have set and marked exam papers; continued with my activities as a school governor and charity trustee; pursued various hobbies and interests. I have felt so busy that I have even deferred the start of an interior design course that I want to be one of my main pursuits, certainly in early retirement,
Whilst I have resisted getting into any kind of proper routine, I am conscious that it has been pilates on Monday, yoga on Wednesday, trustees' meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, governors' meetings on the second Tuesday etc.. Immediately it lends a different perspective to my life as a retiree. Days are so varied that there is no doubt time seems to move slower than at any time since I was at university and life is full, enjoyable and almost hedonistic.
Sometimes, however, there have been opportunities to sit and ponder.
Perhaps its the meditative element of the yoga I have taken up or maybe the start of a crushing lull after the high of a summer of activity and the euphoria of leaving work, but I've even been thinking about that old nugget: the meaning of life.
I am aware that without a job, people can find that in retirement they lose a sense of identity and self-worth. I feel no loss in that respect and do not accept that it is work that gives life a purpose, or at least not in my case, for I am still a mother, wife and daughter. They are all far more important roles than that I ever held as a professional and I can also now give more to my other roles as a school governor and charity trustee.
No the pondering goes much deeper. Is it actually permissible to be spending my time doing what I want to do, and, save for periods devoted to voluntary causes or family needs, essentially simply enjoy myself? Is it right that self-fulfilment can be reached by enjoyment rather than struggling in a hair shirt? Is it acceptable not to be on a permanent mission to alleviate the ills in society? Does it depend on one's religious and spiritual perspective as to whether I am in a good place or heading for eternal damnation?
Is it time to head to the library for a philosophy book or even see a therapist?
I firmly believe that there is nothing at all wrong with enjoying life in whatever way you please so long, of course, as you cause no harm to others in doing so. However, in the transition that I am still making there appears to be a sense of guilt for being able to spend all day considering a crossword clue should I so wish (no I haven't actually done that) or reading the paper from cover to cover (being totally honest, it doesn't, of course take me that long) when previously there were always other priorities.
It feels alien to live so much in the present that I can do whatever I feel like doing, making my selection based for the most part on what gives me the greatest pleasure. Finally in month five I have met the demon that could destroy my feelings of well-being in retirement: my conscience and, after more than three decades of prioritising other people's problems, it's asking if it's right that I am no longer doing that.
This is a demon that I am, of course, well on the way to conquering because deep down I know that, however strange it may feel, there really isn't anything wrong with enjoying life. I no longer buy chocolate as a treat to eat at my office desk, having such a great time I don't need the cocoa buzz. When the conscience pricks, however, I tell it the same as I did when I devoured that chocolate: I deserve it!