Friday, January 5, 2018

The Third Chapter, Year 1

So, you would think, "Hey, lucky you. You are retired!"  And, that is no doubt so true, absolutely and 100%.  I feel blessed.  I feel grateful.  I feel lucky.  My husband and I are healthy, happy and have enough money to actually stop full-time work in our early 60s.  But I have also experienced a few challenges coming to terms with no longer working full-time.  My good friend, a still hard-working, overworked school administrator, frequently tells me, half joking but sort of seriously, as she listens to my stream of consciousness, sometimes garbled ramblings as I figure this out, "Champagne problems."  And, I would agree with her, wholeheartedly.  I always reflect anew after sitting with her over giant lattes in a cute local cafe or after a long conversation on the phone, I reflect on how lucky I am to be where I am at (not that I didn't work hard to get here!) but nonetheless and to my genuine surprise,  it has been a complex transition.

I am currently re-reading a book that has provided some insight to me during these last 6 months entitled, The Third Chapter - Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.  I would edit the title, by the way, Passion, Risk, and Adventure Until you Die; what do you stop living at 75?    Last winter as we wintered in Florida, our first retirement winter, I was off and on fairly convinced that I was losing my mind, or at the very least suffering from a brain tumor which caused massive headaches that encompassed my entire head and neck area and felt as though an odd head-shaped device had been custom-made and was randomly tightened throughout the day.  As my husband happily read volumes of books under the porch by the pool or played golf (we all enter retirement with different mindsets!), I spent 1/2 the time managing a mind-numbing headache and/or debating the value of life and thinking about, reading about, and ruminating on the mysteries of illness and death.  To be fair, during the previous Fall 3-month trip around the country, over 9,000 happy and wonderful miles trailing a 21 foot trailer and sharing a truck cab with my husband and yellow lab, I was way too busy navigating and gazing out the window to even think, I am not longer a full-time working person, now what?  Up and down, that's how I would describe my third chapter, first year after retirement.

But, as winter sets in in New England, with a supposed cyclone bomb (ridiculous) forecasted for yesterday, with high winds and snow (big deal, it snowed, we dug out and let's move on) I am once again faced with what to do?  The house is organized better than ever, bills are all up-to-date and filed in the right folders, I have my times for working out and seeing friends/family but there is a lot to the day beyond that.  We do have a lot of work to do on the house, re-finish the floors, get the downstairs studio set up so I can actually do my art down there, paint the upstairs room so I want to write in there and do my morning yoga.  Again, I hear, "Champagne problems."  But it has been a time for me to really look at what I want to do and I now see, although I never would have imagined, why some people take a part-time job.  Ms. Lightfoot would encourage me in these endeavors and even calms my nerves as I waffle, feeling not a little bi-polar swinging between elation at being retired and a bit in a panic over what's next.  I am comforted in what she writes, that during the 3rd act of life, we reconsider our origins, sometimes healing ourselves as we review and even reimagine the entirety of our life reflecting on oh so long ago and then moving forward with that.

The joy, absolutely, of retirement for me is that I no longer feel compelled to listen to anybody I don't want to.  Nor in retirement do I have to do very many things I completely disagree with.   I no longer feel a need to keep anybody happy (well, this is more or less true).  My life and time is pretty much up to me.  And that is amazing and so wonderful, freeing and exhilarating (on the days when I don't have a headache - well hasn't happened since Florida!).  Fortunately my husband and I get along well even joined-at-the-hip as we pretty much are these days.  I let him believe he's the boss and he does the same for me.

So today as I stood in the kitchen and really thought about what I wanted to do with my time,  my time I so value and have gratitude for now and going forward, I remembered again what I have always known.  I love creating art, jewelry, rugs, clothing, painting furniture and floors and walls crazy colors and writing about my life and my thoughts about what I see, know and experience to be true.  I enjoy travel, meeting new people, seeing new ways of being.  I love health and fitness, yoga and weight lifting among my new favorites.  Strong and flexible, not what you imagine in older age and yet that is one of my goals.

And as I considered my interest in writing, in particular, on this chilly afternoon (predicted high of 5 and low of -7 tomorrow) I recalled and then reviewed a couple of blogs I have created and posted in throughout the years, this one,  Joyful Artist and Tilly's Joyful Travels.  And with that, I was inspired to fiddle around with my Christmas present, a really fine digital camera (thank you dear husband) figuring out how to take shots (which aperture, what exposure, which button!) and then upload them to my computer (via cable, wifi, card file) so that I could "insert" them into the blog.  Notice the fuzzy shot of the book up above?  I have a ways to go.  All good thinking things, however, to ward off Alzheimer's, right?

We leave in about 3 weeks, headed south.   My camera and blog are coming along.

Third Chapter, Year Two, let's see what she brings.

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