Wisdom

They say wisdom comes with age. I do not know if that is true. I seem to keep getting older, but I am not so sure I am getting any wiser. I would love to be able to understand myself, the world, and the world’s reaction to me with much more wisdom than I have accumulated over the past 62 years. When I was a little girl asking questions about God, faith, and life, I remember being told (probably more often than was theologically necessary) that the answer to my question was that “it” was one of the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. Maybe all these things that I struggle to understand now are also some of those great mysteries. I do not know. Nothing has happened so far to stop me trying to figure them out, though.

My birthday was the latest in this long string of “bigger thinks than my mind can manage.”  I had the most wonderful birthday ever. I did not have a lot of plans. Max and I were scheduled to go to Disney Springs for a meal at The Boathouse. We were just going to wander around, get some exercise, shop a bit, and try to score some Walt Disney World 50th anniversary merch. While this sounded like a very pleasant day, there was nothing super “birthday” about it. Our plans were similar to outings we do several times a year.

What really flipped the script, however, was the overwhelming tidal wave of affection I received from people all over the world. I am not sure what prompted such attention. Maybe it was because the last blog I published was about how I love my birthday as an opportunity to celebrate me. I had texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, cards, and presents all day long. It was not just that I received the “happy birthday” greetings. Most of the greetings were heartfelt, specific, loving, and hyperbolic in their effusiveness. I have been going through a rough patch recently, as I alluded to in my Birthdays post. I am being courageous as I navigate the crap in my cranium. I am making good progress in figuring it all out and banishing the demons… maybe for good this time. Still, it is exhausting, painful effort. The special, super-duper birthday love made such a difference. It infused me with purpose and belief in my own worth.

My peeps- including you all- are nothing short of miraculous.

I am so deeply grateful for this wonderful birthday gift, but I have to say that I am completely bewildered by it. I honestly do not understand what prompts all this emotion fixed on me. I absolutely appreciate it- maybe even need (don’t tell anybody I said that) it- but I do not understand what it is about me that motivates it. I know this positive outpouring is genuine. People wanted me to feel loved and special because they honestly believe that I am loved and special. The messages were too sincere and specific for me to think people were just being polite.

I truly believe I am nothing special, except in the way that everyone is unique and precious in God’s eyes. I feel like I have managed to fool a large number of people into believing I am something that I absolutely am not. I feel a little guilty and, also, scared. Someday, the people I have been fooling will figure out that I have duped them, no matter how inadvertently. They will remove their love, support, and respect. I will be alone with myself, exposed and ashamed. This world of love, kindness, and support that you wonderful people have created for me is an emotional Garden of Eden. Once you find out that I am not who you think I am, I will be expelled into the cruel, cold, fallen desert that is my psyche.

Yes, I am laying it on all a bit thick, but the idea is there. I wish that I had the wisdom to understand what about me is lovable. On the other hand, perhaps it is enough for now to simply believe that I am lovable. Is lovable, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? And, even if I one day find myself bereft of love and support from the world, I must remember that God’s love will always be there. Even when He removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He kept them safe in His merciful Providence.

What about you do you think people like most? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a lovable day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

See Ya Real Soon!

I cannot let another week go by without acknowledging the 50th birthday of Walt Disney World. On October 1, 2021, a baby laughed, and my happy place was born. Oh no, wait, that is what happens when fairies are born.

Well, whatever, Walt Disney World opened its gates on October 1, 1971. I was just 12 years old. Because I lived in California (Anaheim- Disneyland’s hometown- as a matter of fact,) my family saw no great need to sojourn across the country to a swamp in central Florida to visit the new House of Mouse. In fact, there was always a certain, imperceptible disdain for Disney World amongst us original Californian Mouseketeers. We had the “real thing.”  Why would we want to go to the eastern imitation?

At least, that was my parents’ take on things. I think, deep down, I really wanted to see Disney World for myself. When I was in my twenties, my New Yorker aunt and uncle bought a mobile home in central Florida and began to winter in a town about an hour from Disney World. At that time, Disney World only included two parks- Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I went to visit my aunt and my uncle and, nonchalantly (not really) also went to visit Disney World.

I did enjoy the trip very much. I agreed with the party line in my house that the Florida Magic Kingdom was not quite as good as Disneyland in California. Epcot, on the other hand, was so wonderful. I also loved the Lake Buena Vista shopping area. It was not a perfect trip by a longshot. My aunt and uncle were not superfans. We did not eat at any of the restaurants or stay to watch nighttime fireworks and shows. I had brought $200 worth of cash with me (remember, it was the eighties and I was poor. Two hundred dollars was a veritable fortune to me). I remember hiding it somewhere safe. Unfortunately, that was as much as I did remember. Where that something safe was did not make it to the long-term memory banks. My aunt and uncle were fine lending me whatever money I needed or wanted, but every time I drew from that loan account, my aunt made a notation in her ledger (yes, an actual ledger). As a result, I was very aware of the money issue and ended up scrimping on everything. If I did not absolutely NEED it, I did not want to impose on my aunt and uncle. Luckily, I did finally end up finding the money in the airport on the way home, hidden safely away in an eyeglass case.

So, with this background, you will understand when I say that I finished my trip to Disney World with a sense that something was missing. It was a nagging feeling that I missed something. It was not FOMO (fear of missing out.) It was COMO (certainty of missing out.)  I knew my experience, while very fun, was not the experience it could have been.

Shortly after my trip, I began the descent into darkness into my marriage and divorce. Life happened personally and professionally. Other trips, expenses, experiences took precedence over my desire to take an “all in” Disney Vacation. I visited Disneyland and, later, California Adventure at least once a year. I watched all the television specials about the expansion of the Walt Disney World experience with longing but did not do anything about that longing for many, many years.

Finally, in 2003, Max and I made our first trip to Walt Disney World. It was supposed to be our “once in a lifetime” trip. We spared no expense. If we wanted to do something extra, we did it… a character breakfast, a horse and carriage ride in Port Orleans, a hotel with a phenomenal water recreation area. We planned every detail. I obsessed about doing it “right” and not missing anything important. I think the only reason I survived that planning process was that I had a friend who had just spent a couple of weeks on Disney Property when I started the planning process. It was calming to tell her what was going through my head and validate whether my thought process would line up with reality. I made such a big deal over this trip; I became almost convinced that there was no way it could live up to all my self-induced hype.

It did. And more. I cannot describe the feelings that I experienced on that trip. It was nostalgia over a place I had never been. It was a childhood I never allowed myself to have. It was a brainstorming board of exquisite creativity. It was a glitz-a-thon beauty pageant for the senses. All of the feels I had every time I went to Disneyland came rushing over me in some super-sized fashion. The tears fell down my face. My heart expanded throughout my body, settling in an awkward yet familiar place around my appendix. I know Disney pumps in various fragrances to give guests the sense that they can smell comforting aromas like chocolate chip cookies baking. Part of my brain (the part that was not impaired by joy drunkenness) wondered if they were also pumping in some nitrous oxide variant.

After our “once in a lifetime” trip, we made four more trips from California to the Most Magical Place on Earth. On the last trip, in 2012, I bought a very special souvenir. Some people buy t-shirts. I bought a house. When I retired in 2014, Max and I pulled up stakes and moved to Florida. Mickey and his friends are now our neighbors. We visit them often with our Florida resident weekday passes. I know that Disney World has enriched me in many ways. My spirit is always rejuvenated by a day at Disney. My heart is always more hopeful. My mind is more carefree. There is nothing I do not like about going to Disney World- except maybe the trip from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom. Really, the imagineers knew enough in California not to build a huge moat around the main attraction! Ferry rides aside, Disney World has certainly enriched me. I am also certain that I have enriched Disney. The Disney Corporation leaders are no fools. They sell me a ridiculously cheap annual pass, which is in essence a license to purchase. I have way more than my share of Disney swag.

At any rate, I have to say, “Happy Birthday, Disney World!”  And many more!

Who else out there is a Disnerd? Any noteworthy experiences from the 50th birthday celebration? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Birthdays

Tomorrow, I turn 62 years old. It is my second birthday in the Land of Oblivion (otherwise known as the worldwide pandemic.)  I cannot really complain. Both birthdays have occurred in COVID “cautiously optimistic” periods. Last year, we were beginning to find ways out of lockdown and back into some semblance of life outside the home. This year, though I live in Florida, which the media portrays as a swamp of COVID infections having a rave party, the peak of the deadly delta variant cases is behind us. The numbers of new cases are still significant, but they have been declining by about 25,000 each week for the past several weeks.

I was able to celebrate my birthday at the Magic Kingdom last year. It was an oddly empty Magic Kingdom because of substantial capacity limits. Still, it was even more exciting than usual because of the deprivation of the previous five months. Also, I enjoyed being able to amble and genuinely see things that I might have missed in the past because of crowds and momentum. My expectations were extremely low that day. I frequently found myself marveling and giggling in delight over the creative ways that Disney adapted to social distancing requirements so that the magic was still there. It was just quieter magic. I’m never one to complain about quiet.

This year, we are going to Disney Springs for my birthday. As it happens, Walt Disney World is also celebrating a birthday this week. Disney World will be 50 years old on October 1, 2021…the day after my birthday. I toyed with the idea of going to one of the parks but decided the magic might be a little too loud for me right in the belly of the beast. I decided instead to buy myself a 50th anniversary magic band and have a nice dinner at the Springs.

Birthdays are big for me. Typically, I never put myself first. In fact, I put myself last. I don’t say this to sound like a saint or a martyr. I am not mad about it. In fact, it is a strategy that has worked well for me, for the most part. The problem is that when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. I have some straight edge issues that tend to cut unbearably deep when my “put yourself last” strategy fails to hold them at bay. Right now, my brain is engaged in a battle royale about why this is so and what I can do about it. I do not intend to be mysterious. I am sure I will enlighten you further about the fascinating topic of the workings of my psyche in another blog post when I figure stuff out. For the time being, let us just say that I tend to put myself last in most situations and do not mind it.

My birthday is different, however. It is the one day of the year that I let it be all about me. In fact, I kind of insist it be all about me. I can be rather annoying about it. For many people, aging ceases to be a cause for celebration after retirement. I think growth is worth celebrating at any time. It has been critically important to me to continue to grow in retirement. Each year marks the completion of a twelve-month course on living life. I endeavor to read the textbooks, but also do the lab work so that I do feel like a birthday marks another year of a self-improvement. If I sometimes get a bit down over the aging process, I also celebrate my annual graduation to the next grade in the School of Life.

The other reason I value my yearly birthday celebration is even more important. Everyone is a unique person…” fearfully and wonderfully made,” as Psalm 139 tells us. If I am not celebrating another year of age, I can at least celebrate the wonder of my creation and the exquisite elegance of God’s plan. Even on the days when I do not see any wonder in my specific creation, I hold fast to the knowledge that God does. When I celebrate me on my birthday, I am celebrating, thanking, and glorifying my amazing Creator.

How do you celebrate your birthday? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a happy birthday or happy un-birthday, as the case may be!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

A Nice Cup Of Tea, Anyone?

I am not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I am a cup of tea in a coffee-drinking world. And that’s okay.

The key to appreciating my oddi-tea is the willingness to play with me. This is ironic in that I did not learn how to play until I was well into adulthood. I was always a too serious, too responsible kid. I never intentionally went out to have fun. If I had fun, it was a pleasant byproduct of doing whatever was required or routine.

It was not until after my husband separated from me that I started to intentionally play. I would go to the beach and walk. I would go to amusement parks. I would craft Christmas presents for my employees. I would think up interesting and quirky themes for classes and meetings. I sang boldly (and incredibly unharmoniously) where no person had sung before. I played Toto in a skit for work comparing the three pillars of my agency’s business goals with the Wizard Of Oz. I had a Tinker Bell inspired Bippity-Boppity-Boo makeover. I have paid rather large quantities of cash to touch sloths, giraffes, rhinos, flamingos, dolphins, sting rays, elephants, skunks, tigers, and lions. I have acquired more stuffed animals, all appropriately named, than most children will see in a lifetime. At Christmas one year, I asked my brother to dig me up a large bucket of big rocks from his backyard as his present to me. Let me also say…I engaged in all of these activities without benefit of alcohol. I think that is pretty impressive, but not everyone aspires to be a four-year-old child in an elderly woman’s body.

This aspect of my personality is a bit of a disconnect for people do not know me well or who only knew me from my work persona. I am very introverted and can present myself as stodgy, timid, and ordinary. When I break open the shell, it can be a bit jarring to people around me. It is like the first time you see your grade schoolteacher in the supermarket or the first time you see your dad cry. It is just so unexpected; it seems a little suspicious.

Throughout my working career, I do not think anyone would have thought of me as an “outside the box thinker.” Most people would say that I have always been the poster child for conventionality. I would go to incredible lengths to make whatever round peg I encountered fit into the carved-in-cement square hole that existed because it always had. I remember one time when I was asked to evaluate a new process on the job. The man who oversaw implementing this new process (I’m looking at you, Geoff!) met with me to explain the goals and challenges of the new program. One of the points he made was that the computer I had was not powerful enough to do all the steps of the process. I thought for a moment and produced a radical work around that likely would NOT work around. He looked at me for a moment in disbelief and then suggested quietly, “or we could just get you a new computer.”  The idea that there might be a solution beyond the status quo was so foreign to me, I never considered the easiest answer. In those days, I found it better to stick with what I knew and make it “kinda sorta” work than to build a better mousetrap.

I am risk averse and underconfident. When the stakes of looking stupid or going off-script was the potential loss of my livelihood, I was the queen of coloring inside the lines. I did not even know that I wanted to color outside the lines. Even if I had wanted to, I do not think I would have had the faintest idea of how to begin. I was lucky enough to share friendship with several people who inspired me. I began to want to think bigger, and experiment more creatively than my normal persona allowed. It was scary to try new perspectives and activities in the tight-lipped, squinting bureaucratic world in which I worked. The seed was planted in my brain, though.

Once I retired and started recrafting my life to be more in line with my genuine self, I did start practicing with innovative ideas and new activities. I started the blog. I published two books. I produced a series of Alpha dinners for people exploring the Christian faith. I converted a curriculum designed for in-person presentation to a virtual environment. When my living did not depend on me getting everything right, it was amazing how liberating it was to “play” with new ideas.

The problem happens when I invite others to come out and play with my new ideas. Once people get to know me, I think some are tolerant and forgiving of my quirkiness. They may enjoy it. Some seem to react less positively. They view my perspective of the world as suspicious, threatening, and silly. I am okay with the “silly” part, but I put my back up over the “suspicious” and “threatening.” People can see who I am and what I propose as so revolutionary, it can feel a little threatening. I have sometimes been baffled and hurt when others try to tear down my ideas and suggestions. I cannot understand the reaction. I’ve always understood that not everyone will want to play in the sandbox with me. That is fine. What I do not understand is why people feel they must pour water in my sandbox in order to justify their desire not to play in the same way I am playing. I am okay with others playing in their own way in their own sandboxes. Often, I will join them for a time just to be sociable. It dismays me when they do not reciprocate.

I confess that, since I do not see myself as revolutionary at all, I sometimes do not manage the transition from “mild-mannered ordinary person” to “outside the box thinker” in a very graceful way.

I am learning how to set the stage, anticipate reactions, and manage the responses more effectively. I am trying to be better about acknowledging my quirks upfront and empathizing about how others will likely react. In the face of pushback, I am learning to pause and live in the discomfort of disagreement rather than to rush to convince, negotiate, or manipulate others into accepting my perspective. The biggest lesson in tea-drinking I am learning is that it is healthy to live in my own way and not allow the insecure reactions from others to make me insecure. Just because someone else thinks I am wrong in pursuing a certain course of action does not automatically mean that I am wrong in pursuing that course of action. Their reaction can be speaking much louder about how they feel about themselves than about the merits of my plans.  Or maybe they just don’t like tea.  That’s okay.  Coffee is a perfectly acceptable beverage of choice. 

Have you had the experience of feeling like you must defend yourself because your ideas are just a little off the beaten path?  How do you deal with that situation?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you may email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a total-tea wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Living The Dream

I have a dream that has been recurring since I retired.  It is so vivid and realistic that I often awake in a confused, distressed state.  It takes me a minute to realize that it has been a dream and not reality.  I retired nearly seven years ago, but the dream keeps on coming several times a year.  I do not understand it.

I dream that I retired, as I did, in 2014.  However, in my dream, I decide to go back to my job shortly after retiring.  I have the sense that it is supposed to be a temporary thing.  It is not a financial decision.  I am not sure why I go back to work.  It does not feel like a completely voluntary thing.  I feel like I go back to the job because someone asked me to return “for a little while” to help with something.  The big problem is that I seem to forget that I am retired and, suddenly- months or years later- I realize I do not have to work anymore and forgot to retire again.

My feelings about the dream mystify me. Even typing these words sends a wave of terror surfing over my gut.  None of this, in the big scheme of things, is so terrible.  Say I really did go back to work for a “little while” and then kept working.  It could not have been that bad a situation because, if it was, how could I forget that I did not have to continue doing it?  All the same, the dread, grief, and fear associated with the dream are visceral.  I actually become a little sick to my stomach after the nights I dream of this scenario.

I do enjoy my retired life.  I feel liberated to be my most authentic self, warts and all.  Because I feel that liberty, I am free to acknowledge the weaker parts of myself (as well as to celebrate my own brand of joy in who I am).  What one can acknowledge, one can explore and change.  I believe I have grown more emotionally in the seven years since my retirement than in nearly any period of my life.  I am active physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I am gradually finding ways to express my creativity and pursue the activities that I really enjoyed in my old job.  There is certainly a deep fulfillment that I have found in retirement that I do not think I ever experienced.  It is not that I disliked my job or felt that my years of employment were wasted.  There were certainly aspects of my job that I found richly rewarding.  I believe my natural talents were well-used.  I learned a lot about nearly every aspect of life.  I met people who have been friends for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime.  I have no regrets.  Still, it is sort of like my work life was a long on-the-job training for the real work of my life- becoming the person God always intended me to be. 

I wish it had not taken so long for me to get to the place I am now, but it did.  I often think it would have been so much easier if I had been able to employ some of the skills and traits that have blossomed since retirement while I was still working.  My job was hard.  Objectively, my job was hard.  Subjectively, though, it was harder because of who I was and how I reacted to the world in which I worked.  For some reason, I never realized that I could change the way I reacted to the world in which I worked while I was working in it. Today, I think I have nurtured some of the skills that I had budding deep within me but that I never had the time or energy to cultivate while I was earning a living.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner.  Or maybe God just intended that I build my spirit and my relationship with Him at the speed that I have.  Whatever the answer, I am grateful for the building. 

So, going back to my dream… can anyone take a crack at what it means?  I think that, if I can figure out what is prompting me to have this recurring nightmare, I can get it to stop.  I have thought and thought.  Nothing I come up with quite rings the bell for me.  Maybe one of you can offer an explanation that will make sense. 

One of the principles I’ve tried to develop in my later life is to ask for help when I need it.  It occurred to me today that I can definitely use some help with this and that I have a perfect platform to ask for it.  So, I’m asking… what do you think my dream means?

Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a dreamy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Encore Presentation- A Beam Of Love

I miss my mother every single day.  Lately, she has been even more in my mind than usual.  A few months ago, a dear friend passed away.  This friend was there to provide some “pinch hit” mothering when my own mother died.  As my friend wrestled with end stage Parkinson’s Disease, it felt like my beloved mother was slipping away from me again.  My mother’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  Tomorrow, she will have been dead for four years.  My grieving for my mother is amplified.  It is eating away at my spirit more viciously than usual.  On the other hand, even after all this time, the light of her joy, laughter, and love is the coziest comfort imaginable. 

Because of that succor, I thought I would re-publish a blog piece I posted soon after her death.  Those of you who knew my mom will understand and enjoy remembering her this way.  For those of you who didn’t know my mom, perhaps this re-publication will remind you that, in the worst of times, there can always be joy and love.

A Beam Of Love

In the wee hours of the morning on September 2, my mother found her way out of this life.  After over a year of struggling on her path towards the next life, she fell asleep.  When she awoke, I am sure she found herself in God’s dwelling place instead of in the nursing home.

All my mother’s life, she lived joyously and richly. She squeezed every drop of enjoyment and meaning out of every day.  She was almost always happy.  It wasn’t that her life was always wonderful or exciting or fun.  It wasn’t even that she had a particularly exotic or interesting life.  Most people would say that her life was pretty conventional. She was a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a wife and a career woman and a mother and a friend.   What made her so special was not so much what her life was, but how she lived it. 

My mother had a gift for satisfaction.  She collected fulfillment and meaning in her every action, even the most mundane experiences. When we were out driving somewhere and got off course, she’d often say, “I never get lost; I just have adventures.”  I think that pretty much summed up how she approached life, way beyond just how she approached a road trip. Wherever she was going in life and whatever she did, she was determined to find happiness and pleasure in the process.

She was the kind of person who attracted other people. She was an interesting and interested person.  She was curious about all kinds of things and embraced opportunities to learn.  She relished good, meaty conversations.  She was an excellent listener. She knew how to make people feel safe.  She heard what you said and what you didn’t say.  She heard what was underneath your words.  I don’t believe there was ever anyone who knew her who did not love her.  She constantly sowed love and harvested relationships as she rollicked through her day-to-day existence.  She valued those relationships and nurtured them.  Even in the nursing home in her very compromised state, she radiated a kindness and joy that attracted people. 

On the other hand, she followed her own heart in living her own life.  She did what she believed was right and followed the paths that brought her happiness. She used to say that she liked herself and she liked her own company.  She had a busy mind that was always tooling away happily, creating thought and considering possibilities.  I used to say she was her own occupational therapist because she could figure out alternate ways to do almost everything when her mobility started to desert her.   She owned a home computer before most people did and, even in her eighties, she embraced new technology that added interest to her life. 

She had courage of conviction.  She walked her life with God as her guide.  She held firm in her convictions and relied on her relationship with God to support her in her journey.  She believed in miracles and in prayer. 

She loved God.  She loved life. She loved other people.  She loved herself.  In short, she was a joyful beam of love, illuminating and warming everyone with whom she came in contact. 

Now this beam of love has faded into the next life, leaving this life darker and colder and considerably less sparkling.  The thought of going on with my journey without her physically by my side seems unconscionable.  Considering all the memories we shared, all the things she taught me, and all the gifts she gave me, it is inaccurate to say I will ever be traveling through this life without her.  All that she was is embedded in me and will be with me forever. I want to honor all she was and all that made her beam by carrying on her legacy of loving, joyful living.  

It seems that now I will have to grow towards the joy on my own, without her walking in tandem with me. I don’t know yet how I am going to do that.  It helps to know that she has found the greatest Joy of all. 

Madonna flowers at church on 8/22/21- would have been Mom’s 90th birthday.
Flowers from the altar on 8/22
Happy birthday in Heaven, Momma!

Retirement 2.0

I retired in 2014.  I was only 55 years old, which is young to be retired.  I somehow never connected the idea of retirement, which just sounded like a long-term “staycation,” with the idea of aging.  I know that seems irrational, but I did not feel old or dilapidated or on the downhill path of life.  Physically, I did not feel any worse than I did when while I was working.  In fact, my health improved once I left the ranks of the employed.  Mentally, I had lots of activities to keep my mind spinning around in my skull.  Some would argue I had too many activities spinning around in my skull.  At any rate, I did not feel that my brain power was becoming slower and creakier.  Emotionally, I did feel some separation anxiety over leaving my friends and the life I knew in California.  When my mother’s stroke decimated my world, I suffered more emotionally than I ever had in my life, but that suffering had nothing to do with retirement.  In fact, if I were not retired when the situation occurred, it would have been much more difficult. 

So, retirement never felt like a reflection of my aging process.  I left my job and, for the most part, I was at least as healthy, intelligent, and happy as I was while working.  I congratulated myself that I did not let my career define me.  I celebrated my ability to live vibrantly and richly even without a job.  I looked at other people in my life who retired and immediately seemed to turn from “movers and shakers” to “sitters and steadiers.”  I just did not get it.  I felt a little smug that I escaped that fate.

That is, I felt a little smug until recently. It occurs to me that some time ago- maybe as long as two years ago- I seemed to enter a new phase of retirement.  I did not want to acknowledge it, but I think it is time to draw back the curtain.

I now understand those people who seem to equate retirement with age.  I am definitely in retirement 2.0 now. I see clearly that I am old.  I seem to always be somewhere on the exhaustion spectrum.  There is something in my body that flirts between discomfort and pain just about every day.  I was never the most agile creatures, but I see that now I cannot even do the same things I used to be able to do- things as simple as sitting on the floor and getting up under my own power.  Close friends, who I think of as my contemporaries, are facing serious health challenges that will likely never get better.  Some members of my circle are dying.  There is no doubt that my brain is moving more slowly and cannot efficiently process multiple ideas at the same time.  It is not that I feel like I am leaking cognitive ability like a sprinkler leaks water, but I do notice a sort of slogging tendency in my thinking.  It is like thoughts do not flow smoothly, but get caught and hung up on clogged, corroded, and pitted places in my brain.   

None of these phenomena is very pleasant, but I am also struggling with a piece of retirement and aging that is even more scary.  I am stumbling over my place in the world, grasping to create connection.  When one has a job, especially in a leadership position, there are many connections built into your day.  Forming those connections is organic.  I did not have to try to find connections; they came to me.  Too many of them came to me if truth be told.  Managing those connections could be exhausting, but the lack of them can be soul-killing.  For many retirees, even ones like me who are not exactly alone in the world, the absence of built-in connections can be even more debilitating than physical decline. 

I have worked hard since my mother’s death to find ways of building connections.  I am about as extreme an introvert as they come, but I still knew I would crumble without a small, tightly bound group of people with whom to live my new retired life.  It took a lot of energy to find ways to do this when I was not being randomly exposed to people all day every day. It is not just finding anyone with whom to connect; it is finding the right people with whom to connect and figuring out the right balance of giving and receiving.  I think I am a pretty awesome friend, actually.  I have a lot of love to give and am generous with it.  I do not want to be more trouble than I am worth, though. I know I can be a little needy and insecure.  On the other side of that self-knowledge, I also know that it feels good to give and it is selfish not to let loved ones give to me in the same way I enjoy giving to them. 

My efforts at connection have born fruit.  I know I do have a group of soul-level friends in my community, in my church, and from my past.  I am absolutely secure in that knowledge on an intellectual basis.  I still struggle daily, though, to feel it all the time.  I often feel isolated, alone, and unworthy.

I struggled the most with this feeling during the pandemic.  I took the initiative in finding strategies to advance connection and communication.  It was arduous work partly because I had to create opportunities to connect rather than just react to my everyday interactions. At times, I felt like I was trying too hard to solve a problem that didn’t exist.  I thought I was taking up this “connection flame” for other people. I worried about people who were truly isolated. I wanted to show them that someone cared.  I came to understand that my actions were not just for other people.  They were just as much for me. 

Aging is not easy and sometimes the burden of it knocks me to the floor.  On the other hand, I have learned many new skills during the aging process.  I have learned to be more accepting of myself and others.  I have learned much more about being happy.

I now understand retired people who always are tired, confused, not in good health, or lonely.  I am experiencing those feelings.  My age is catching up with me.  However, I do not intend to go gentle into that good night of aging.  I think the secret is to acknowledge that I am aging and accommodate it to the extent it serves me to do so, but not surrender to it.  When I am tired, I may decide to push through that tiredness to enjoy something I want to do and cut out something that does not sound as fun.  When I have a sore ankle or aching back, I may decide to spend a little longer in a hot shower and go a little easy on the housework so I can merrily traipse around Disney World.  When my brain is moving a little more laboriously than it used to, I may slow down and take on fewer responsibilities so I can succeed without as much multi-tasking. 

Aging is something that is happening to me, but it does not have to define who I am. 

How do you deal with the aging process?  What strategies have you found to increase your satisfaction with life without a job?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a lively day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Sounds Of Discovery

Awhile back, I made my annual pilgrimage to Discovery Cove in Orlando.  Those of you who have been journeying along with me over the past several years know that I originally visited this dolphin adventuring, sting ray swimming, lazy river flowing day resort as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I enjoyed it so much and found it so reinvigorating, I began going every year as a kind of Terri Time retreat.  I go by myself.  I use the time alone to ponder, pray, and play.  Each time I go, I learn something different. 

This trip, my attention focused on the sounds.  I often closed my eyes and let my mind wander around the world of the audio.  I heard the music of the birds.  I heard the slap of water shoes traveling along pathways.  I heard flamingos gossiping and cackling.  I heard tin drums.  I heard people laughing.  I heard the ropes of hammocks creaking as they swayed.  I heard dolphins squeaking.  I heard the fins of sting rays skim through the surface of the water. 

I think some people are more “in tune” with the audial than others.  I have musical friends who I think have long found whole universes in melodies. They say people who are blind discern more information from their sense of hearing.  I have read monks and nuns who live in relative silence can appreciate sounds that most of us never hear. When there is no talking, it is probably easier to hear what God is whispering.   

Since I was alone during my Dolphin Day retreat, I was not talking to anyone much.  I listened and spoke with the dolphin trainer who was facilitating my dolphin interaction.  I talked with a few servers.  In general, though, my day was filled with my quiet.  I wanted to discover what there was to hear besides words.  It was very peaceful. 

I discovered you can hear wind rustling through plants.  It sounds like wrapping a present.  I discovered you can hear pebbles crunch under people’s feet.  It sounds like eating popcorn. I discovered you can hear wet sand squish between your toes.  It sounds like rubbing two pieces of corduroy together.  I discovered you can hear happiness.  It sounds like laughter.  I discovered you can hear God.  He sounds like sunshine feels.

I did not completely forsake words.  As I was floating gently along a lazy river with my eyes closed, I focused on the exclamations of the people around me.  I wanted to learn what they were discovering.  One little boy was clearly exalting in his day of discovery.  As he floated near, I heard him cry, “Mom, Mom…. I see a gecko!”

In the midst of swimming with sting rays, playing with dolphins, and parading with flamingoes, this little boy decided his big discovery for the day was a gecko. This probably was not the kind of discovery Mom had in mind when she plunked down several hundreds of dollars for a day at Discovery Cove.  If it were, I could make millions selling day passes to my backyard.  But good for him!  Discovering joy sounds different for each of us. 

Have a joyful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

What sounds bring you joy and why?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Thank You, MyKayla Skinner

Last week, I was bemoaning the lack of inspirational stories associated with this season of Olympic games. Everything seemed to be depressing. From the opening ceremonies with their emphasis on the pandemic to the lack of spectators in stands seemed to scream “joy void” and I was not having it. I was missing the infusion of powerful human spirit that the Olympics usually provides. I, like the rest of the world, have been hopefully waiting through the past year, for the Olympics to finally begin. I felt a little cheated. I am sure one could say that I have no cause to feel cheated when I have no real skin in the game. The athletes, their families, the economy of Japan, and many other stakeholders have much more standing to complain. You will get no dispute from me. That does not mean that I will not complain… because it all makes me sad.

I asked you all to help me out last week with some inspirational Olympic stories you were hearing. Some of you came through and told me about special moments I missed. That helped. What really turned me around the corner, though, is the story of silver medalist MyKayla Skinner. MyKayla’s story reminds me to never give up on joy, even when it seems that it is long past time to give up on joy.

This is especially important to me, as we seem to be losing ground in our return to pre-COVID normalcy. I have been feeling like I’m done hoping and waiting. I feel like this strange, disconnected world is going to go on forever. I am tired of mourning. I am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of refraining from hugging people. I am tired of navigating the etiquette of COVID. I just feel deflated. It feels long past the time to give up on joy.

MyKayla Skinner’s story would refute that hypothesis, however.

I remember the Olympic trials for the 2016 USA women’s gymnastics team. I remember pulling for MyKayla Skinner, as the decisions about the team were being made. There was something coming through the television screen that connected me to her energy. There was such a longing and such a powerful hope. When she was named “only” the alternate on the most dominating women’s gymnastic team of all time, my heart broke for her. I was sitting in my living room, crying for a young woman I had never met.

I am sure MyKayla cried, as well. I know, based on what I have read, that the road that took her away from the world of elite athletics was difficult for her. How could it not be? However, while I was thinking that it must be the worst feeling to be so close, yet so far away, from an Olympic experience, MyKayla was not giving up the dream. She ultimately decided to try for the 2020 Olympics. Then, the 2020 Olympics were postponed a year. Then she sustained what could have been a career-ending injury. Then she battled COVID. She made it onto the USA gymnastics Olympic team, however. Then, once she got to the Olympics, she was excluded from the event finals because only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete for medals and she had the third highest score of the US women on the vault.

Stuff can always happen, though. I might have given up on joy, but MyKayla did not. She was booked to fly home when she learned that her teammate Simone Biles was withdrawing from the vault competition. MyKayla ended up competing in the vault final and coming home with the silver medal.

Let’s hear it for MyKayla Skinner, generator of joy and poster child for hope!

Have a spirited day!

Terri/Dorry

What reminds you that there is power and joy in the world when times seem dark? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

The Anti-Post

I’m sorry. I did not have time to write a new blog post this week. I have been far too busy watching Olympics and ugly crying.

I am crying sentimental tears for the athletes who are realizing their brightest dreams.

I am crying for the shattered hearts of the athletes who compete, but disappoint themselves and wonder what might have been.

I am crying for the proud parents, spouses, siblings, children, and everyone who should have been at Tokyo in the stands watching their loved ones compete because they can only send support from the other side of a television screen.

I am crying for those athletes who are sitting home, missing their Olympic opportunity because their golden moment would have been a year ago.

I am crying because the opening ceremonies, though stunning, reminded me of the isolation and brokeness the worldwide pandemic continues to force down our collective throats, even now.

I am crying for the people who have suffered and died too soon.

I am crying because I am tired of grief, after seventeen months of mourning.

I am crying for the beauty of the spirit- challenge, endurance, selflessness, love, creativity, inspiration.

I am crying because I feel my own spirit eroding. The Olympics usually fill me with warmth and hope and belief in miracles. I was looking forward to these games as an infusion of positivity at a time when the rock of COVID seems to be sliding down the hill again, negating all the strides we were making towards getting back to our communal life. It isn’t working.

Have an inspiring day, even if I am not!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Okay, throw a girl a bone, please! What Olympic moments have touched your heart with joy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.