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Retirement: One size fits all? Yeah, I don’t think so

They don't call them girdles anymore. They have fancier names like Body Shapers or maybe Cellulite Compactors. But they all do the same thing, supposedly. All I can say is, beware the empty promise that “one size fits all.
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Columnist Judy Straughan says when it comes to retirement, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to how to get the most out of it. Photo supplied
They don't call them girdles anymore. They have fancier names like Body Shapers or maybe Cellulite Compactors. But they all do the same thing, supposedly.

All I can say is, beware the empty promise that “one size fits all.” It's a lie, especially in Cellulite Compactors. From the outside, it looks pretty easy: Step in and pull up with all your force. I go to the YMCA to work out, but the one-size-fits-all workout makes the Y look like child's play.

Pull ... pull ... pull ... breathe. Pull … pull ... pull ... Snap! The shock and force of the snap is enough to send a light-weight careening from the bedroom to the neighbour's kitchen. I check myself out in the mirror. My new Cellulite Compactor has smoothed out my midsection amazingly, just as my friend Nancy promised it would. I see curves. Wow. But where did that new set of chins come from? And why can't I pull my legs apart?

One size fits all is a myth, a horrible lie for the chronically naive.

One size retirement is the same. My friend Sheryl twisted the dagger one day when she asked, “When are you going to learn how to retire?”

I was shocked. Not only did no one tell me there was a formula, but also I had been too naive to know there was a question. I never did ask Sheryl for her retirement recipe, but I have the feeling I wouldn't like it anyway.

So now I have to come clean as I grope through the maze of living the F-word, Freedom. I don't know how to retire. I envy people who have found the Holy Grail without a map or GPS.

Some monologue passionately about their current favourite TV series when I haven't yet seen ‘The West Wing’ yet. Others wax on about mahjong or bridge or book clubs or cooking or curling, while I have to search the junk drawer for the rules for Go Fish or the instruction book for the new stove. And curling? I refuse to play any game where my husband yells “Sweep” at me. Each time he does so, my favourite finger starts to twinge and bad words form in my head.

There are the many amazing crafters. Cathy, my bud at the Y, joyfully shares her latest knitting project and photos of her painting and a whole raft of crafts down to egg painting. She is constantly excited about making greeting cards and playing with her grandkids. I knit one scarf in 1966. End of crafts.

My friend Two-Left-Feet George has never professed to be a mover or a groover, but he is out ballroom dancing two or three times a week. Are you kidding me? He needed an assistant to walk and chew gum at the same time 10 years ago. What has retirement done to him?

And then there's Brian and the happy mall coffee clatch that meets regularly to debate common-sense solutions to complex global problems. It's an important social part of their retirement agenda and I applaud it.

So what is my retirement? I'm none of above. Do I actually have the nerve to tell you what I do a surprising amount of time? Now remember, this is just one of the things I devote daily time to. Ready for something pathetic? I create agendas, go to meetings, write up minutes, do proposals and time lines and try to fundraise. I figure out a way around, over or through any obstacle standing between me and my goal. Arts are my passion. Work for the arts is child's play: absorbing, creative, challenging, exhilarating and frustrating.

So when someone says to me, “You don't know how to retire,” I finally have an answer. Retirement is not a one-size-fits all. It's anything I want it to be, no apologies needed.

I don't want to say checkmate, draw a curling rock into the house or earn a bridge masterpoint any more than someone else might want to go to meetings and plan events. But hours sure fly when it comes to arts business.

I love the work, and yes, it's work. Running a marathon is work, paddling a canoe is work being in a choir or orchestra is work — one of the best four-letter words there is.

One day, I'll tell you about another passion of mine that takes place like clockwork at 5:30 a.m daily. But that's another story. In the mean-time, I have to pack my bag. We’re heading to green-back country, where the Canadian dollar is a casualty, to learn more about living the F word.

In the meantime, I wonder if it's too late to return my Cellulite Compressor. Or should I use it to snap a few cannon balls at the neighbours?

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



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