Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Re-tire or re-energize?

Reflections on Retirement After Seven Whole Days

There were gatherings, lunches, parties, glasses of bubbly, cards and flowers, quiet moments, and loud cheers. And one really incredible poem (yes, it's below). My first week of retirement coincided with the start of our summer rains, both so desperately anticipated and welcomed like a cool drink to a parched throat. The rains have been fairly light at our house (torrential storms elsewhere); we've been waking up to gentle, cool winds; cloudy skies; and the smell of damp grass instead of the relentless, bone-dry weather of the last 8 months. It's been a perfect way to turn the corner from managing conference calls and meetings to suddenly empty calendars and deleted e-mail accounts. There's little opportunity to rush-rush-rush to cram every outdoor recreational sport I've envisioned into my empty days because, well, it's wet out. Cloudy, rainy mornings just beg for lingering on the back deck with my morning cuppa, for watching the hummingbirds wake up and start their territorial battles for feeder ownership, and for letting what happens....happen.

On my first Monday-is-now-just-another-Saturday, I thought what better day would there be to...wait for it... wait for it...dust the house? Why in the world would dusting be on the list for my first "Monturday"? Holy dust bunnies, Batman, I hate dusting. Take the framed pictures, the fancy glassware, and the knick-knacks off a shelf; dust the shelf; dust the stuff; replace the stuff; rinse and repeat ad nauseum. After about the third shelf I just want to burn the house down rather than ever having to deal with SO MUCH STUFF. So, naturally it gets put off (see Realities: Point Three, below).

But by the time First Monturday rolled around, I could no longer ignore the clumps of dog hair and everything becoming more opaque by the minute. I figured yes indeed, what better day to dust? It was the ultimate in celebrating "A day doing THIS is still better than a day at the office!!!" Out came the Pledge, the microfiber cloth, the Windex, and a roll of paper towels. I got to work.

Stuff. But very good stuff.
With this little bit of mental joy infused into my dreaded dusting routine, I found myself enjoying this task. Well, almost; it's still dusting, mind you, and I would rather be doing just about anything else (except be at the office!), but it wasn't so bad! Instead of picking up a knick-knack and wanting to throw it out the window, I would look at it, remembering where we got it and who may have presented this to us as a gift, and recalling fond memories the item in question represented.

More good stuff.
I would smile at every photo, remembering what, who, where, or why. I gently caressed the photo of Mom and Dad, and read through their memorial service programs that were carefully tucked behind the frame. Champagne glasses that are treasured wedding gifts brought back our wedding toast to each other. Old books we've read as youngsters stand together on one shelf so they're not lost among the forgotten paperbacks stored in the guest bedroom. I touched all the things that are always there, gracing our lives, that we don't really notice anymore until dusting must happen, and each touch brought a smile or a tear. Why, I asked myself, did I detest dusting so much?

When weekends were just two days off during a work week.
So, miracle of miracles, my first day of retirement fundamentally transformed this thing, this chore, this task I dreaded into a time of reflection, remembering, and honoring the life I've built with Bruce, friends, family, dog(s) and the home containing it all.

Check! A successful first day of retirement!!!

As the world turns and the stomach churns, so went my week. I got into a groove with pickleball, biking, reading (wow, I read a book!), knitting (I can see the light at the end of my sweater!), and a fairly consistent 4:00 p.m. happy hour. I paid more attention to both Bruce and Carly. And, I've had a few jolts of "this is my reality now!" (it is telling that I still feel the impulse to create an orderly, numbered list. Some things will take longer to let go):

1: My work accounts and e-mail inbox, calendar, and contacts were deleted. Before I left, I moved many of those contacts I wished to keep over to my personal email system. The process of who made the cut was a psychological wrestling match. With whom, really, will I keep in touch? Contact list or Facebook? Ugh, scary, a bit sad, but also freeing.

2: Things on my calendar have shifted from conference calls, meetings, and product due dates to....well....nothing. Other than Friend X Visiting this day and Husband Leaves for Fishing Trip that day, I have nothing. I'm leaving it that way for awhile before I populate it with self-inflicted responsibilities.

3: Things I Can Do During The Week: Sunday, I had the usual (weekly) realization that I didn't get some of my weekend tasks done. My first thought was "crap, they'll have to wait until next weekend," because that's what I usually think, as a typical Employed One who generally kicks more and more cans down the road because that's life. But then it hit me that I could just pick them up the next day! No longer do I have to wait 5 more days to wash the throw rugs or run vinegar through my Keurig. I could do that stuff on...a Tuesday!

4: Running to the bank on a Monday afternoon when the bank is wide open instead of frantically trying to get there before they close was one of those little things that made me realize that barely-bothersome-but-still-there stresses are falling by the wayside.

And then there's The Poem. Writer, artist, videographer, photographer, and most importantly dear friend Barb pulled this magic out of her creative gray matter for both myself and friend Ann, both of us retiring within a week of each other. Presented to us at a lovely luncheon hosted by Barb and fourth Musketeer Julie, we read it aloud. The quiet contemplation afterwards was a testimony to the power of the words that encapsulated what both Ann and I were blindly grasping for:

Free Range Living by Barbara L. Davis

Adventures abound for those who dare
To live life fully without a care.
It takes deep courage to choose a time
To leave behind that extra dime.

You are superb at what you do,
And your boss will feel the loss of you.
But the hour has arrived to claim your life
Free Range Living is without the strife.

Money be damned. Freedom is here.
You are all you need. Let go of career.
Live a life that takes you where you want to go
With plenty of time to make it so.

But - don't rush to the next thing without some thought.
Give yourself time to form a new plot.
A time to be without major choices
Will allow you to hear new inner voices.

There's much to consider as you move on
Like who you are now without the song
Of your past identity with allegiance to others.
It's time to play with your sisters and brothers.

Who you are now, is what the world needs.
Simply being yourself grows the seeds
Of ongoing life on this beautiful earth.
We're all better off because of your worth.

Thank you for your special career
Your work was beneficial far and near.
Congratulations to you. Retirement is your reward
For a life of work that truly soared.

You've given much to the world at large.
And stepped up to every charge.
It's time to relax into the gift of time,
And finally say, "This life is mine."

Got more Facebook likes on this photo than any other I've ever posted.
I still want to develop Sue's Retirement Lifestyle, a plan to stay healthy and active. I want to take this amorphous blob of a "build my jewelry business" goal and piecemeal it out to have concrete things I can check off a list. I want to blah, blah, blah, and so on and so forth. But for now, I'm OK sitting on the back deck, petting Carly, knitting a bit, watching hummingbirds fight and other birds sing, and spending time actually listening to what the world around me is trying to say.

Many, many thanks to many, many friends, family, colleagues, and co-workers who helped me celebrate, who understood what this change might mean, and who gave me support and cheers when I needed it.

Thanks, Sharon and John!

Thanks, Cathy and Jim!
Thanks to my husband who took this giant leap of faith for me and for us.

And from an extremely grateful and appreciative daughter, thank you to Mom and Dad; without your love, this happy life would not be possible.

Nicely dusted as of July 9, 2018


  1. Beautiful,Trach! Karl says send this blog and poem to AARP magazine. They will probably buy it - AMD hire you to write!

  2. fantastic! i'm so happy for you sue!♡

  3. Beautiful, just inspiring. Sending you lots of love and creative juices. Watching and learning, the other sue si...

  4. I loved Barb's poem! Once again you so fully described your experiences. The picture pairing brought a tear and smile. And you've only just begun on this retirement thing! Welcome, dear friend!

  5. Sue, is that a Moscow or Kentucky Mule in that copper happy-hour cup? Enjoy!

  6. Beautiful sentiments here, Sue. Retirement is just another phase of life, full of opportunities, and the time to do more what you enjoy!!! Can't wait to see everyone in September!!!

  7. Wow Sue -- you are not only a talented artist and crafts person, you also know how to craft your thoughts and words! That's a beautiful account of your foray into Free Range Living. Looking forward to spending some of it with you!