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Here’s the best thing I’ve learned about retirement…

If you really pucker up and lay one on the Blarney Stone, it kisses you back. Trust me, I know.
There's nothing quite like the power of having free time. Supplied photo.

If you really pucker up and lay one on the Blarney Stone, it kisses you back.

Trust me, I know. It must have been the stone’s passionate response to my kiss that unsettled my stomach, not the fact that I had climbed 127 steps to the top of Ireland’s Blarney Castle and was gripping two railings while lying my back hanging upside down, looking at the distant ground beneath.

That’s the most work I’ve ever done for a kiss. But, as the stone whispered to me, I will be eloquent for the next seven years. I’ve been promised more in my day.

Living the F-word (Freedom) has opened the door to more travel — hence Scotland and Ireland in June. Authentic haggis is truly not that bad and imbibing Guinness at the pinnacle of the Guinness building in Ireland is not to be sneezed at.

One of my secret goals is to find things that take me out of my comfort zone, small victories so to speak.

I honestly thought I would never have the nerve to hang upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone, far less ride horseback in Ireland. Every cell in my brain screamed to stay off that horse and not risk a third visit to the ER in the past five years.

Adrenaline won over reason, and I had a truly memorable trail ride on a beautiful palomino. Retirement presents opportunities for these mini-miracles and I am resolved to embrace more of them as I move forward.

Give me a high five for finally getting on a bike in Toronto a few days ago after breaking my wrist on my last ride. I was scared. It was as stomach-turning as the top of Blarney Castle.

I confess my sky-diving retired friend, Linda, and European tour-biking friend, Colleen, put my mini-accomplishments to shame, but I still own mine with pride. You’ll be the first to know if I deep sea dive or jump out of a plane.

One thing I appreciate most about retirement is something completely free, zero cost.

I was so worried about what I would do to keep life interesting, enjoyable and challenging, I overlooked the obvious — the power of time.

I now have more of it to devote to others, as well as more for solitary reflection. What a gift. I have found the Holy Grail — time: Time to be a better family member, friend and citizen.

That is the true gold of retirement and I love it. This has been my biggest discovery so far, that I have time to simply be present.

Here’s one thing I hate about my retirement so far. Five months into this phase of life, my bathroom scale has malfunctioned and is reading 10 pounds heavier than when I was working and all my clothes have started to shrink.

I’m sure there is some logical explanation, but I am in shock. Those who are on the brink of retirement, beware. Ninjas sneak in at night, playing havoc with both your scale and clothes.

I am asked repeatedly, “How do you like retirement?” My chubby self answers that I really don’t know even yet. I am still in the honeymoon phase, under summer sunshine.

When Jack Frost nips at my heels and the spaces on my calendar look bleak, I will face the realities of retirement and dig deep. For now, if you need someone to hang upside down at the top of a castle and kiss you, you know who to call.

I promise I’ll look you straight in the eye and be 100-per-cent present. You can count on it.

Judi Straughan is the former education co-ordinator at Sudbury Theatre Centre. In this series, she explores the challenge of being newly retired.