You CAN Go Home Again

I thought I would stop feeling chronically stressed and overwhelmed once I stopped working.  I realized that work issues are not the only stressors in life.  I knew that thinking I would NEVER feel stressed again was patently unrealistic.  Still, I thought the relentlessness of the condition would disappear.  I was wrong.  The stress storm that raged inside me through my work life hasn’t really blown away.  It has abated from hurricane level, but I’m not taking the storm shutters down just yet.

I think I’ve hit on a theory as to why that constant feeling of vague panic hasn’t left.  Somehow, in the rush of changes and new experiences, I’ve become less the sum of my parts and more my role in the world.  I seem to be less who I am and more what I am.  It seems “me” is no longer a compilation of my attributes, preferences, perspectives, values, and unique quirks. To the world, I am the senior citizen living in a retirement community.  To most of my former employees and colleagues, I am the retired leader who isn’t in the loop.  To my mother, I am the administrative assistant and caretaker.  To Max, I am the strategic and tactical partner in carving out our new life.  None of these roles is bad.  In fact, they all contribute to who I am.  Still, feeling that I am always the somewhat one-dimensional role and not the multi-faceted person is stressful.    Every now and again, I observe myself in a moment just being myself and reacting to others in a way that feels genuine and effortless.  It is wonderfully refreshing.  Most of the time, though, I am doing and saying things that seem right for the role I happen to be filling at the time. The living of my life seems to be a performance and a rather forced one at that.  I often feel like I am waiting to be me.  I’ve found that this can be as stressful as postponing a priority of my own when something happened at work that forced me to change my plans.

So how do I stop living in the role and allowing myself to be who I am?    I have a few ideas.

I need to notice what is happening when I observe myself just being me and do what I can to replicate those conditions.  I think those “me” moments often occur when I am talking about something or doing something that is quite apart from any of my roles.  I guess the common denominator is that I am usually focusing on a passion of my own.  For instance, I joined a book club about a year after we moved.  I have always loved books and revel in the artistry that goes into truly elegantly constructed literature.  About a million years ago, I majored in English in college.  During my career, I was not called on to discuss books.  However, many of the most satisfying aspects of my job involved analysis, discussion, and communication.  Those elements of analysis, discussion, and communication are certainly present in the book club.  I find the conversations at the book club to be fascinating and wonderfully soul-nourishing.  The club discusses a wide variety of genres and styles, which broadens my understanding of the world.  The other members’ comments enrich my understanding and enjoyment of the books.  I also love it when I can offer a perspective that the majority haven’t considered.

I also need to allow myself to speak genuinely of my interests to the people in my life.  I find that I have started to communicate in a rather sparse, functional way.  Instead of sharing my thoughts and feelings about my passions, I often edit myself and only talk about what needs to be done in the context of the role.  For instance, if my mother asks me how the book club went, I may just answer “fine” and move on to asking her about how she feels or what tasks I need to complete for her.  There is no reason to withhold my thoughts about the book club discussion.  It isn’t a secret society or anything.  In fact, my mother is interested in what I do when I am not with her and is always pleased to hear about my activities.  Maintaining relationships instead of merely fulfilling roles requires honesty and sharing ourselves generously with others.

Another strategy that will help is to protect the time I’ve set aside for doing fun things with Max and enjoy the day adventures we take.  I often find myself most relaxed and light-hearted when we are sitting watching a movie at home or spending a whole day together at a theme park or shopping mall.  Unfortunately, though, I will sometimes sacrifice that time either to do something that needs doing or compromise it by overscheduling myself and feeling rushed when I should be having fun.

I also need to make time for activities on my own.  I love doing things with Max.  I love doing things with my mom.  I love doing things with my new Florida friends.  Still, it is really fun and refreshing to sometimes just go out and have an adventure on my own without having to worry about what the other person wants or needs.  When I was working and before we moved, it was relatively easy to do something on my own because malls and events and other activities were all around us.  It was pretty easy to stop somewhere for an hour or two on my way home from work to get a little “me” time.  In our new home territory, things are more spread out, so going somewhere on my own is a little less automatic.  With a little forethought, however, I find it is possible and necessary to have Terri Time.

And, finally, I CAN go home again when I need to feel like me again.  Usually, that “going home” means a phone, text, or email conversation with a much-loved faraway friend.  However, planes do fly both ways and I certainly can travel to visit the folks who understand the real me best.

A few months ago, I made a quick trip to my home state to do just that.  I had not intended to go back so soon after moving, but there was a confluence of circumstances that motivated me.  A dear friend from another state was coming in to my home state for business.  The opportunity to see my three bestest friends in the same geographic vicinity was too good a chance to miss.

It was a whirlwind trip and very busy. I did not sleep late or loll around doing nothing.   It involved lots of planning and scheduling and visiting multiple airports.  I rushed hither, thither, and yon to spend time with the people I cherish.   I rented a car and drove about 800 miles in the four days of my visit.  I didn’t spend more than one night in any one location.  Still, I arrived home feeling re-energized, happy, and loving life.

When I thought about why the trip had been so wonderful, I realized that, to the friends I visited, I was just me.  They didn’t need me to do anything for them.   They relished in hearing me talk about our common interests and about my new life.  They had been looking forward to just being with and laughing with me.   I was not filling a role.  I was simply Terri- their sister of the soul.

So what are your thoughts?  Have you ever felt “on-you” after a major life change, like retirement or a move?  What did you do about it?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Note: Next week, I’ll be back to posting on Wednesday morning.  Thanks for your understanding…. and for reading!  You all rock.

 

Are There Crumb Buns in Heaven?

One of my mother’s fantasies about moving east involved finding tons of family-owned local bakeries.  More specifically, she was determined to hunt down crumb buns.

When my mother lived in New York, every neighborhood had at least one “real” bakery.  The bakeries were warm and crowded with happy, well-fed customers, clutching numbers and waiting for their turns to purchase freshly-made bread, cookies, cakes, and pastries.  These storefronts were fragrant with the most marvelous aromas and actually oozed charm.  And, on Sunday mornings, they baked crumb buns.  People came from all over the neighborhood to wait in line for these delectable treats, taking them straight from the oven to their brunch tables.  I was too young when we left New York to really remember the crumb bun experience.  When my mother moved to California, she mourned the loss of bakeries that weren’t located inside of supermarkets.  She was certain that, when we moved “back east,” crumb buns would abound.

We did take her to the quaint fairy tale German bakery in the woods near our house. However, she didn’t love it. More importantly, there were no crumb buns in sight.  She asked if maybe they made them on Sunday and, when she found out that the proprietor didn’t even know what a crumb bun was, she considered having him arrested for impersonating a baker.

Thus began the hunt for a real “east coast” bakery.

I searched the internet and asked folks in my community about their favorite bakeries.  Nobody knew of a real bakery. We found some good baked goods at local farmers’ markets and my mother enjoyed apple turnovers and oatmeal cookies, but there were no crumb buns to be had.  Most of the bakeries I found on the internet were no longer in business.  There was one place that looked more like an ice cream shop than a bakery to me.  Not that it made much difference.  It was in an old downtown section of a town about 20 miles away and the only parking available was parallel parking on the street.  Have you ever tried to get someone out of the passenger seat of a car parked parallel to the curb and into a wheelchair?   Well, I have.  And failed.  We finally did find a sweet little bakery in a tony town about 60 miles away (never let it be said I didn’t give my all for Team Crumb Bun).  We went for my mother’s birthday.   Still no crumb buns, but she did seem to enjoy the donut.  That’s right.  Over 120 miles round trip for a donut.

I was starting to admit defeat.  I explained to my mother that, while we had moved to the east, we had moved to the south east and I thought that probably explained why we weren’t finding New York style crumb buns. Her theory was that, with all the New Yorkers that retire to Florida, there must be some transplanted crumb bun crafters.  Personally, I think that if there are a bunch of retired bakers around, they might not want to be up at three in the morning making crumb buns.  That might actually be exactly why they are retired bakers.   I also must point out that it has been 50 years since my mother lived in New York. I doubt that even New York still has New York style crumb buns.  Family bakeries may have crumbled with the advancement of megastores.

Then, I read that one of the hotels on the Disney property opened a bakery selling something called a New Jersey crumb bun. I figured a New Jersey crumb bun couldn’t be that different from a New York crumb bun.  After all, there is only a river separating the two places.  So, Max and I took a drive down to the hotel and, lo and behold, found an actual crumb bun.  I brought it home to Mom with great fanfare.

Well, I guess New Jersey and New York are more different than I realized.  She said the crumb bun was good, but just wasn’t the same as the crumb buns of her youth.  Apparently, it was more bun than crumb.  Who knew that there was an optimum crumb to bun ratio?  There was also some sugary white icing drizzled over the crumb bun, which wasn’t necessarily bad, but did take away from the authenticity.

A few months later, Max and I took a trip to Las Vegas.  At the Venetian Hotel, there is a Carlo’s Bakery.  Carlo’s is the Hoboken, New Jersey bakery operated by Buddy Valastro and his family on the TLC television show Cake Boss.  The family branched out by opening this Las Vegas location.  I read online that they sold crumb buns.  I wanted to see for myself.  I waited in line outside the bakery and was rewarded.  I came face to face with a crumb bun!  I wouldn’t be able to get one home fresh for my mother, but I had heard that the Valastros were going to be opening a branch near Disney World in the coming months, so I wanted to sample the wares and see if it might be worth taking my mother when the new store opened.

With my first taste of the crumb bun, I understood my mother’s obsession.  This thing was a mouthful of AWESOME.  Sweet and simple, yet rich and flaky and streussely and decadent. Pixie dust for the taste buds, for sure.

The new Carlo’s opened at the beginning of December in a huge mall in central Florida.  I checked the website and couldn’t stop grinning stupidly when I saw crumb buns were on the menu.  This mall is attached to a big hotel and conference center.  It is a massive international tourist draw, with tons of stores and services.  The place is fairly overwhelming, even without holiday shoppers and tourists hoping for a glimpse of the celebrity cake maker himself at the store’s debut.  We waited it out for a few weeks.   Once we were solidly into the new year, I brought my mother to the mall, with our appetites primed in full crumb bun mode.

Well, curses!  Foiled again.

As I wheeled my mom to the display case, my heart fell.  I saw not a crumb nor a bun.  I asked the salesperson if they were out and she replied that they did not carry them anymore.  I could literally feel my face sag, my eyes droop, and my lip extend to a very sad pout.  I could tell I was breaking the salesperson’s heart.  Not. She was polite when I explained how we had driven all the way to the mall for a Carlo’s crumb bun, but I could tell she was wondering what I expected her to do about it.

Dang you, Buddy Valastro.  Another crumb bun dream crushed.  My mother was disappointed, but she did manage to down two cream puffs while I morosely ate a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Oh well, life is not perfect.  And I’ll keep searching for crumb buns.  It is good to have goals.  As Robert Browning said, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”

What food waxes nostalgic for you?  Have you ever started on a quest for some particular treat and the quest comes to mean more than the actual food?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Special programming note:  Next week, I’ll be posting on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday morning.  Please visit early and often!

Terri 🙂 

The Hoppiest Place on Earth

When I moved to Florida,

There was no one to caution

That I’d find plagues

Of Biblical proportion….

 

It wasn’t an eclipse of the sun.  Water didn’t turn to blood.  I don’t have boils.  It is frogs.

The other day, I opened the garage door.  Max came out to open the garage screening so I could go to my water aerobics class.  He took one look at what lurked outside on the driveway and, without moving the screens, he fled to retrieve a broom.

Frogs.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.

Yes, there were literally hundreds of baby frogs lethargically hopping around outside our garage door.  They were each about the size of a watch battery and the color of raisins.  I’ve never seen a raisin-colored watch battery move before, though.  These critters were definitely moving, although pretty laconically.  I guess baby frogs don’t really have a sense of urgency.

I dealt with the lizards.  I dealt with the snakes.  I guess I can deal with the frogs.  But what’s up with them, anyway?

I hopped (with considerably more energy than the baby frogs, I might add) onto the internet to google “invasion of baby frogs.”  As an aside, doesn’t “google” just sound like something relating to frogs?  At any rate, I learned that it is actually quite common to encounter zillions of baby frogs hanging out around your property in central Florida.  Apparently, mother frogs lay sufficient eggs to result in up to a thousand baby frogs at a time. Then, the moms just hop off to greener pastures.  Our driveway was the froggy equivalent of a doorstep on which to leave a baby…. excuse me…. vast quantities of babies.  There are no baby froglet Mommy and Me classes. Apparently, there is no nurturing or rearing of any kind.  According to the Internet, few of the thousand or so baby frogs survive beyond their first week.  Go figure.  I’m sorry to say that the baby frogs born in our driveway amphibian maternity ward probably have a shorter life expectancy than most.

I didn’t really have anything against them per se.  They didn’t annoy Max as much as the lizards did.  They didn’t creep me out the way the snakes did.  They were actually kind of cute little buggers.  It was just the sheer number of them that was kind of disturbing.  There were so dang many of them; it was almost like there was an entire layer of frogginess on top of our driveway. I’d say there were more frogs in my front yard than there are people in my entire community during the summer.  We were definitely outnumbered.  It was kind of alarming.  We sprayed some stuff across the entry to the driveway and swept away as many of them as we could.  I’m sure I probably ran a few of them over as I backed my car onto the street.

As we looked around the perimeter of the house, we saw that we were kind of surrounded.  Everywhere we looked, more baby frogs.  We kept spraying and sweeping so that the baby frogs stayed “around the house” as opposed to “inside the house.”  This operation continued every time we wanted to go in or out any door to our house for the next several days.  Knowing it was a self-limiting condition made it easier.  Sure enough, after about four days, we no longer had layers of visible frogs surrounding the house.

It has been a couple of weeks now since the frog plague.  We still see the odd toddler frog around the yard.  They aren’t bothering me, so I don’t bother them.  After all, if we have to have a plague of Egypt descend upon us in central Florida, frogs aren’t the worst of the bunch.

Of course, I still have a few niggling doubts.  How do we know that the frogs are the only plague in the offing?  What bothers me most is that both Max and I are first borns…

Of all the situations I’ve encountered since moving, I think the frog invasion is the oddest!  What about you?  What is the weirdest thing that you’ve experienced in moving to a new place?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a great day and hop to it!

Terri 🙂

Get A Life

While I was working, the calendar didn’t really measure the rhythm of life.  Even in a job that isn’t “seasonal,” per se, there are seasons.  There are different times of the year when we concentrate on different types of work.  There are different events for which we prepare and execute.  There was a certain momentum that these “seasons” provided to my life.  Time didn’t just pass, it propelled towards a larger picture.

Once I retired, it seemed like I had lost that momentum.  Days just sort of floated amorphously from one to the next.  I rarely felt like I was accomplishing anything.  I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it was.  Time passed pleasantly enough, but without a sensation of rhythm.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  In fact, one of my goals in retirement was to discover what it felt like to waste time. After a full career of activity, always bolting towards the next goal, I needed to rest and let life just wash over me like the tide.   It is kind of pleasant to go through life regularly feeling as languid as you do when you lay in the sun next to the pool on vacation.

Some people are perfectly happy in retirement, savoring whatever miracles happen along their paths and not thinking too much about creating a life.  For them, it is enough to just live the life that tumbles before them randomly each day. I, on the other hand, am sort of pathologically unable to just take each day as it comes.  When I realized I was measuring the seasons of time by when Survivor came back on TV, I thought it was time to reassess.

I found that I missed momentum.  In a strange way, it felt like I didn’t have a life.  It wasn’t that I was bored, exactly.  When I looked at my days, they were filled with activity.  I was actually much busier than I expected to be.  It wasn’t even that those activities were all drudgery, either.  Yes, I did housework, errands, and caretaking.  To be fair, though, my days did include plenty of fun activities.  I was also getting regular exercise, fresh air, and relaxation.  I still had this vague feeling of disorientation. Days were passing me by without me feeling like I was engaged in that passing of time in any way.  I felt like I was watching a movie (a really, really boring one!) of someone else’s life.

In musing over what I needed to do to get back that sense of ownership over my own life, I remembered that feeling of momentum I had while I was working.  How do I get that back?

After contemplating the matter for a while, I did some experimenting and figured out a few things.  If you, too, need a bit more structure and foundation to your life in retirement, it might be helpful to consider engaging in at least one or two “powerful projects” that will serve as cornerstones for the way you organize and spend your time.  I think of these “powerful projects” as the beams that will hold up your life.  You can change a lot in your life and can decorate it with whatever activities you feel like doing on an ad hoc basis, but you might feel more like you are living instead of just spending time if you build and maintain strong beams.

After about a year of retirement, I found two such “powerful projects” to help me get into a satisfying rhythm of living…. My book club and writing this blog.

What makes something a “powerful project” rather than just a bunch of activities?  For me, there are four components that identify a set of activities as a “powerful project” in my life.

Purpose

Initially, I thought the problem was that my life lacked purpose.  However, that theory didn’t totally hold water.  Much of what I was doing did have purpose- I think taking care of my mother is a very purposeful activity.  It might actually be the most important project I undertook when I retired.  I organize my time to take care of her needs and her wants.  In addition to just making sure she is safe and comfortable, I also plan and strategize to think of activities that will be fun for the both of us, keep her feeling engaged and happy, allow her to contribute to and have an impact on life, and make memories for us together.  Still, I found that just having purpose was not quite enough to make me feel like I have a vibrant life.

Passion

Does your heart leap and your eyes light up when you talk about your “powerful project?”  Do you feel a burst of energy when you think about what actions you might take next or what you want to accomplish over time?  Can others tell that this Continue reading “Get A Life”

Smarter Than The Average Bear

The closest real shopping mall to us is about 40 miles away.  The first time I went there, I noticed a sign along the way with a silhouette of a bear on it.  A little further along, there was another such sign with the clarifying information, “Bear Crossing Next .7 Miles.”  For about 15 miles, there are similar signs along that road.  It was a novelty when I first saw it, but, passing it again today, it got me wondering about a few things.

First, how do the bears know where to cross?  Can they read the signs?  And with such precision!  I mean, bears must have a pretty finely tuned sense of direction to know they are supposed to not only cross at a certain point in the highway, but also to know that they are supposed to stop crossing the road in exactly seven-tenths of a mile. 

Secondly, what if a bear crosses the street somewhere other than the authorized bear-crossing zone?  Is there a fine?  Bear jail?  And who enforces the bear traffic laws?  Is there a bear police force somewhere?  And are the bears entitled to free legal representation?  By a bear-ister, maybe?

Finally, why do they even have signs telling me about these bear crossings zones?  I mean, what am I supposed to do if I am tooling on home from Macy’s one evening and come upon a bear meandering its way across my path?  Yield?  Of course.  After that, what do I do?  Sit still and try not to look like a marmalade sandwich?

Bears are a part of living in central Florida.  Who knew?  I assumed there might be alligators and bugs and snakes.  I wasn’t issuing any invitation to the alligators, bugs, and snakes to stop by for a bar-be-cue, but I knew it was possible that I would encounter them.  For some reason, I never thought about bears.

I like bears as much as the next person.  In fact, I probably like bears more than the next person.  I have spent hours upon hours watching bears at zoos.  I drove about 200 miles round trip recently to visit Bearadise Ranch, a private home/ranch where a family has been raising bears and training them to work in the entertainment industry for several generations.  I personally own about 35 teddy bears (yes, I know that is more than any five-or-six-year-old should own, not to mention more than a 56-year-old should own).  Max and I refer to ourselves as the “Bear Family.”

Still, I don’t think I actually want to see a bear in the wild.  Or, more precisely, in the what-used-to-be-the-wild.  Like my backyard. 

My mother said she heard on the news that there was a recent bear sighting within the confines of our town.  She thought they said it was on Mason Avenue.  Now, unless the bear needed orthodontia or treatment for a random fishing accident or to have his toenails clipped, I am not sure what he was doing on Mason Avenue.  Mason Avenue is the main medical drag for our town.  The street is literally lined with doctors and dentists and hospitals.  It is sometimes difficult even to find space to park a car, much less space to park a bear.  There are certainly no “bear crossing” signs on Mason Ave. I’m not sure how a bear even COULD wander into this area.  If he did, I am sure he found the whole experience quite disconcerting.  I think it must have been like Alice falling down the rabbit hole for the bear.  In fact, maybe that’s it.  Maybe the bear was chasing a rabbit and fell down the hole and, instead of landing in Wonderland, he landed in MasonMedicalLand. 

It turns out that the state of Florida maintains a website that reports bear sightings.  There is a listing for each sighting.  There is a map with a little red dot for each sighting.  I guess this answers the question about what you are supposed to do if you do experience a bear sighting. You are supposed to report it so the nice people at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can put another red dot on the map.  That may or may not be all that helpful.  Right now, you can’t even tell where the sightings actually are. There are so many sightings that the map is literally covered with overlapping red dots.  The individual sighting listing was more helpful in my quest for information about our native son of a bear.  Yes, there was a bear sighting just within the confines of our town, but it was on Old Mason Ave.  Old Mason Avenue is a bit more rural and extends a good distance into the far reaches of the town frontier.  If the bear actually was looking for orthodontia, I think he was probably out of luck on Old Mason Avenue. 

There is still the fact that I am sharing my zip code with at least one bear.  There goes the neighborhood.  Of course, the bear would say that the neighborhood “left” long ago when the first developer built the first housing community in the area.  Who is to say which perspective is correct?

So what are your thoughts? Anyone else have any musings about the “bear necessities?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. You can email me at:

terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a just right kind of day!

Terri 😊

 

The Next New Job

People ask me what it feels like to be retired. The closest analogy I have come up with is that it is like the experience you have when you are pursuing a new job.

At one point in my career, I was preparing myself to compete for my first job in middle management. You could say that getting the job was sort of the pinnacle of my career. I had several other jobs after holding that position, but all the subsequent positions were offshoots of that first middle management job.

Before I got the middle management position, I spent literally years developing myself for consideration. I was doing all kinds of things to build my skills and to enhance my visibility within the organization. I wanted the folks above me to recognize my name and think of me as a strong candidate. More importantly, I wanted to have the talent and experience to actually BE a strong candidate. I was a first line manager for almost twenty years and I spent all that time growing my skillset.  I learned from my experience and from my leaders.  I tried to take the best of myself and my various managers to create a quirky cocktail of a leadership style that I employed in all my first line management positions.  When I began preparing for the next level in earnest, I took classes, read books, took on extra assignments, and put myself in challenging situations to grow my abilities. I applied for, was accepted into, and graduated from a “readiness” program- which is sort of like rush week and hazing for management jobs in my agency.   In short, trying to get the middle management job became nearly as much of a job as my “real” job at the time.

Ultimately, I succeeded. I competed for and got that first middle management position. There may not have been a ticker tape parade exactly, but there was celebration and rejoicing.  I seem to recall balloons being involved.  Everyone congratulated me and wished me much happiness. Colleagues and mentors who had been helping me in my development breathed a collective sigh of relief to finally be able to wash their hands of me and let me float on my own.  It was thrilling and I was quite giddy.

For the next several weeks, I became engrossed in the practicalities of getting a new job.  I finished up projects and tasks that I was doing in my current position.  I prepared the person who would be acting in that position until the agency selected a new permanent manager.  I packed my stuff and moved to the new office.  I did the administrivia necessary to get authorized on the new computer systems I would need in my new job.  I explored the lay of the land in my new office.

Once I completed all this “changing of the guard” work, I found myself in a difficult situation.  I had held the front line manager position, in one form or another, for such a long time.  I realized that I had become a master at it.  It wasn’t that it was easy for me or anything, but I certainly had developed a certain facility and confidence and momentum in executing my responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.  By the time I was selected for the target middle management position, it could even be said that I had become a master at the job of getting this job. Now that I had it and the novelty had worn off, I was back to square one. I was faced with the whole new challenge of actually having to DO the job!

All of sudden, “routine” tasks and decisions were not routine.  Instead of tumbling through a day of problem solving and getting things done, as I had for years in my front line management position, I found myself stumbling over each step because I found all the steps to be new to me.  The steps were all in unfamiliar places now, steeper, and made of different materials than I had experienced in my former job.   In my front line position, I easily contemplated the possible strategies for addressing each issue of the day and experimented with reasonable confidence that I would find a way to success.  In this new position, my mind felt tight and restricted when I tried to percolate new ideas.  The stakes were higher and I seemed to have less mental resources and agility to propel me towards success.  As certain as I had been that I would succeed as a first line manager, I was often as certain that I would fail as a middle manager.  After all, you can only use the excuse “I’m new” for a short time.  As I struggled with problem-solving and fueling effective operations, I was well aware that I couldn’t just try any strategies.  I had to try the right strategies to produce results.  I knew that, as some point, I would have to produce the results expected of me or I would have to face the fact that I had failed… no matter how hard I had worked or how many creative strategies I tried.

Retirement was kind of like that for me. I aspired to retirement for years. I thoughtfully and strategically set up my life to prepare myself to retire. When it finally happened, there was all manner of celebrating and well-wishing. For a few weeks, my life was a whirlwind of “getting set-up.” Just like when I changed jobs and had to deal with the pragmatics and tactics such as getting on necessary computer systems and arranging my office, I spent the beginning of my retirement packing and moving and making sure the processes of my new life were in place.

After that first flurry of activity, I came face to face with the same reality I did when I actually started my first middle management position. I had no real idea of how to “work” retirement on a day-to-day basis any more than I had any idea how to “work” the middle management job on a day-to-day basis.

It wasn’t that I was unhappy in either case or that I regretted my decisions to pursue the career-defining job or to retire. In both situations, I was excited and joyful. It is just that, in both situations, I was disoriented and lacked confidence that I would ultimately right my ship and sail somewhere wonderful.

In the middle management position, I may not have hung the moon and the stars, but I think I did succeed. I am proud of my little legacy.

As time passes in my retirement, I find myself experimenting with numerous strategies and approaches to craft a success of my retirement life. I think it is working. I am less disoriented and my confidence is growing all the time. I feel like I am clicking along well on all cylinders now.

I have learned that, in retirement, unlike in that next new job, the creative strategies I employ to succeed cannot fail as long as I satisfy myself.

 

So what do you think?  Did your retirement feel similar to transitioning to a new job?  Or was your experience different?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you an email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have an exciting (in a good way!) day!

Terri

 

Growing Up

My relationship with my mother has changed since we all moved. 

I knew about the phenomenon of role reversal that many adult children experience with their parents.  As the parent ages, the adult child becomes the caregiver.  The parent becomes more and more dependent on his or her child.  I have seen that happening gradually in my own relationship with my mother since my father died suddenly about twenty years ago.  The velocity of that role reversal has certainly increased since our move.  In our old home, my mother needed a lot of help with even simple physical tasks, but was very independent and competent when it came to arranging her own life and making decisions.  She always made her own medical appointments, decided on her own purchases, and even untangled problems like a glitch in her credit card billing on her own.  Up until a year before we moved, she was even preparing her own tax returns.  Since our move, she has had something of a crisis of confidence.  She is still perfectly capable of making her own decisions and arrangements, but seems reluctant to do so.  I am making her doctors’ appointments, overseeing her home improvements, monitoring her health insurance coverage, and, at her insistence, reviewing any research she does prior to making any decision. 

 At first, I was a bit disconcerted with this, as I thought it meant that her move across country had somehow triggered a decline in her general ability to cope.  After all, if she was doing all these things on her own and working full time for several months a year and doing substantial volunteer work while she was in her old home, why could she suddenly not trust herself to decide on a medical insurance plan once she moved across the country?  Then, a friend of mine suggested that it was very possible that my mother was managing all the routine tasks of her life the best she could simply because she had to do it herself.  My friend was absolutely correct.  My mother might not have been comfortable or confident in what she was doing, but didn’t feel she could ask for help because I was working fulltime at a very stressful job and lived 70 miles away from her.  Once I retired and we were living 15 miles from each other, she felt freer to show her vulnerability.  In reality, she has not declined.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  She is feeling well and her blood pressure is under control, even without medication.  She admits to feeling happier and less stressed.  Now, my challenge is finding the balance between helping her continue to feel well and making sure she retains her sense of independence and competency.

 So, the real change in the relationship is not the role reversal.  It is more related to that living 15 miles from each other thing. 

 When I was living 75 miles from my mother, it was easy to seem like a supportive, compliant daughter.  I talked to my mom on the phone a couple of times a week and saw her every three weeks or so. I’m sure she thought I was pretty close to perfect.   If I made a mistake or did something of which I thought my mother would disapprove, it was easy to just not mention it.  Once we started seeing each other four or five times a week, it was more difficult to keep things from her.  She knows when I buy something she thinks is frivolous.  She knows when I give a homeless person money just because I don’t want to deal with his annoyance if I refuse.  She knows when I agree to something that Max thinks we should do just because I’m tired of arguing.  She also sees me get snappish and sarcastic when I am tired or hungry.  I am pretty sure she knows now that I am nowhere near perfect.  Even though she only voices her opinions gently and occasionally, I know her well enough to know when she disapproves.  If I basked in the sunshine of her approval for 55 years before our move, I fear I am now in danger of sinking into the mire of her disapproval.  And I care way too much about that.

 It has been an uncomfortable transition.  When I first noticed the shift, I felt sad and empty.  I mourned that, in trying to do a good thing by taking on my mother’s caretaking, I seemed to have lost my relationship with her.  I knew my mother still loved me and appreciated who I am and who I try to be.  She probably has a much better grasp than I do on the fact that it is perfectly okay that she disagrees with some of my decisions. Still, I tended to become overcome by anxiety by the fact that my mother might not always agree with me. 

If I am not the “easy” daughter who is never a cause for concern, do I cease to be lovable?

Of course not.

As more time passed, I remembered that love is a verb.  And so, in some weird non-grammatical way, is “relationship.”  It moves and changes and grows.  As I went about my regular routine of helping my mother and trying to maximize the joy in her life, I realized that I was starting to enjoy the same closeness I used to share with her.  As my mom and I “relationshiped,” we surfed through the turbulence.  While we may not always pull in absolute tandem, we do respect where each other wants to go. 

I learned that parental disagreement, even disapproval, is not a catastrophe.  Growing up should teach a child that it is safe to disconnect from a parent and live her own life without losing the love of the parent.  This education happens to everyone.  It is just that, for most people, it happens at around age 15 or 16.  It took me until I was 56.

 As my mom and I continue to come face-to-face with disagreements and no catastrophe happens, I think our relationship is becoming more authentic again.  Perhaps even more authentic than it used to be.  We are both coming to terms with the fact that we are each complicated, real people and not just our respective roles- perfect daughter and perfect mother.  Or more likely, we are just redefining what our “perfect” means. 

So what do you think?  Have you taken on additional caretaking responsibilities?  Has it changed your relationship with your loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

As a side note, we had a bit of a “power surge” of new visitors this past week.  Welcome to all! I hope you enjoy enough to continue visiting, reading, and sharing.  I have been posting every Wednesday.  If you would like to be notified when there is new content, please send me an email at terriretirrement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Trapped Inside My Own Mind

The other day, I left the house exclaiming, “I hate this house.  I just want to sell it and move.”

After the saga of the sod and related lawn issues, the demise of the clothes washer, and the snake incident which also prompted spending a lot of money getting the garage door refurbished and rebalanced, I was about at the end of my tether.  I was on my way out to go pick up a prescription and eat a well-deserved bagel.  I pushed my garage door opener button to close the garage as I pulled out of the driveway and the garage door started to do the hokey-pokey.  It was spontaneously closing partway and then reopening, over and over again.  In retrospect, it may have been user error.  Perhaps my blood sugar was low or my finger was just stuttering.  At any rate, I was done in by this garage door malfunction.  I yelled for Max and he was not able to get the door to work properly either.  There was either something wrong with the door opener or I had just given it a case of terminal confusion with my manic button-pushing. This was early afternoon on Friday. I called the garage door company, thinking they could maybe give us a hint of what to do, since they had just been out THE DAY BEFORE to finish the $1500 refurbishing job to protect us from garter snakes.  The “assistor” told me he could not give me any advice and scheduled a technician to come out on Monday morning…. Approximately 70 hours later. 

I explained that I was not happy about it, but would certainly like to see the technician as early as possible on Monday.  I also left pretty explicit feedback when I received the rather ill-timed email asking me to take a customer satisfaction survey immediately after I hung up with my oh-so-unassisting assistor. 

We closed the garage door manually to prevent unwanted reptilian callers (or should I say “crawlers?”)  Max could tell I was getting unhinged, so he sent me off to get my drugs and bagel.  As I left, in my moment of despair and defeat, I exclaimed, “I hate this house.  I just want to sell it and move.”

To be clear, I don’t really hate my house.  In fact, I love my little house and I quite enjoy living in it.  So, what prompted this temper tantrum?

I think the problem is really that the past year has been filled with so much change, both positive and negative, that the cumulative stress has been building up inside me, whispering, “Feeling this discombobulated can’t be good…. Moving was a huge mistake.”  Verbalizing the sentiment was actually a relief.

The concept has been lurking around in my brain for a few months now, but I have been pushing the whisper away whenever it got too close to the top of my brain. I was terrified that, if I allowed myself to entertain the notion that moving was a mistake, I would have to do something about it.  Now that I had actually uttered the words, “I just want to sell it and move,” the cat was out of the bag.  When nothing tragic happened when I said the words, it somehow felt safer to let myself analyze the possibility of changing course.

As I munched my bagel, I felt the carbohydrates surge through my bloodstream.  I began researching costs for buying a condo in a smaller town in my old state or in another town in the new state.  I also researched renting.  No matter how I looked at it, the economics of moving were horrible.  Even considering all the unexpected money I was spending, moving would be a bad financial decision.  At the conclusion of my analysis, I muttered, “great, I’m trapped.” 

Then, another thought struck me.  Maybe the research wasn’t telling me that I was trapped in a bad decision.  Maybe it was actually supporting the fact that the initial move across country was a good financial decision.  Maybe if I felt trapped, I was simply trapped inside my own mind.  Yes, my new living situation has not been perfect. I do miss elements of my old home.  My psyche is fairly scrambled by the amount of stress and change I’ve experienced in the last year.   That’s all okay, though. It doesn’t mean that the decision to move was a mistake.  I did not expect all the costs and annoyances associated with my new home, but that is pretty typical of new homeowners.  Also, I have been able to afford them and my financial situation is still much better than if I had remained in my old state.  As to the other elements of my old home that I miss, distance does lend some enchantment to the view.  There are things I miss, but there were also things I hated that I just don’t think about any more. Planes do fly both east and west.  I can take one of those planes west to see the friends I miss and eat a decent pizza.   As to my scrambled psyche, maybe I just need to cut myself some slack and acknowledge that it needs some tender loving care.

When I arrived back home, Max was triumphant.  He had the garage door working.  I was skeptical, but everything operated properly throughout the whole weekend.  When the technician called on Sunday night, I explained what happened and we agreed he did not need to come out the next day. 

Things won’t be perfect, no matter where you live, but you can usually create a pretty happy life.  Especially if you maintain some perspective, let the people who love you help overcome the challenges, and eat a bagel now and again. 

So what do you think?  Have you ever struggled with whether a decision you made was the right choice?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

 

Going For The Gold

I love the Olympics.  I start looking forward to the Games a year before they start.   I glue myself to the television, load up the DVR, and go to great lengths to avoid any sports news to make sure I don’t accidentally hear any results before I see the competition on one of the plethora of Olympic broadcasts on my DVR. 

My fascination with the Olympics isn’t really about the sports, although I do find most of them pretty entertaining.  My obsession is really about the stories.  The people who aspire to compete in the Olympics amaze and humble me.  Their stories touch my heart. They expand my understanding of human nature.  I rarely make it through a single broadcast without being moved to tears. 

I’ve been watching the Olympic trials for various sports over the past few weeks. I am getting excited for the beginning of the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.  I discovered, completely by accident, that I could find one Olympic trial for some random sport and set the recorder to capture ANY new Olympic trial broadcast of any sport on any channel.  It is like magic. What a bonanza! The Olympic stories are already unfolding in front of me through the wonder of television. These are the stories of athletes who are already celebrities, the stories of the athletes who may be the next legends of sport, and the stories of the athletes who may never be household names. 

Almost everyone has heard of swimmer Michael Phelps.  He has more Olympic hardware around his neck than any other athlete in history.  He has competed for Team USA in four Olympic Games.  He was 15 years old when he went to his first Olympics.  He basically grew up in the pool… and in the fishbowl.  Because his star shone so brightly, he attracted the camera.  The media covered all his escapades.  Those escapades included stunning athletic achievements.  They also included less impressive personal conduct, as a young man tried to figure out who he wanted to be.  He struggled with questionable judgment, turbulent relationships, and substance abuse.  During the 2012 Olympics in London, he continued to achieve.  At least, he continued to achieve Olympic medals… but one sensed that he was no longer achieving personal peace and satisfaction.

In recent years, Phelps sought treatment for his substance abuse issues.  He solidified healthy relationships.  He got engaged. He became a proud father. He reaffirmed his personal and professional commitment to his long-time coach.  The Olympic swimming trials show us a man who seems to have come out of the dark place in his personal journey.  Long ago, Michael Phelps came into his own as a swimmer.  As he earned a place on his fifth Olympic team and won his last race on American soil, he seemed to show us all that he has come into his own as a person, as well. 

John Orozco did not perform as he wanted to at the London Olympics in 2012.  He had a disastrous performance that may have cost the USA men’s gymnastics team a medal.  I am sure this disappointment both haunted and motivated him as he fought his way through four more years of preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.  He worked and competed hard.  He earned the right to be considered for this year’s Olympic team, despite those people who said he couldn’t come back or couldn’t be relied on not to fold under the pressure. 

In the sixteen months prior to the Olympic team competitive selection process, his beloved mother died suddenly.  He also sustained what would have been a career-ending injury for most people.  Doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to compete until at least June.  Before the end of June, he powered his way through the Olympic selection events.  When the selection committee announced his place on the men’s gymnastics team, his face shone with the absolute joy and blessedness of the moment. Uncontrollable tears streamed down his face.  You have to believe he will banish the London demons while competing in Rio.

In women’s gymnastics, Laurie Hernandez, just sixteen years old, competed in her first senior tournament at this year’s US Championships.  She finished in third place. More importantly, she proved to the selection committee that though she be but little, she is fierce.  She fairly crackles with carefully controlled kinetic energy.  She is such a cute young lady, with her bubbly personality, huge sparkly eyes, and curls as springy as the rest of her body, that it is tempting to refer to her as a “little girl.”  This is no little girl, however.  No child could be so skilled, mature, disciplined, poised, and motivated.

In addition to her athletic ability, she demonstrated her value as a teammate.  When one gymnast had a rough performance that seemed likely to torpedo her chances of making the Olympic team, the other competitors rushed to give her quick hugs of support.  Laurie did the same.  However, I noticed her embrace lasted a fraction of a moment longer and seemed to offer connection just a layer or two deeper than the others.  Even through the television, I could feel authentic empathy- a transfer of warmth and comfort to a teammate.  Again, this is no little girl.  As Laurie Hernandez blossomed onto the international stage, the television media captured her unfurling.  I felt like I was watching a young woman discover the depth and breadth of her personal power on her road to Rio.

Vashti Cunningham is going to her first Olympics as part of the United States women’s track and field team.  She is eighteen years old and high jumps on the international stage.  She finished second in the US Olympic Trials, earning her the right to march into the Olympic stadium in Rio and compete with the world.  Her coach is her father, Randall Cunningham.  He was an NFL pro-bowl quarterback- and a high school high jumper himself.  Vashti Cunningham bookends the women’s high jump team with Chaunte Howard Lowe, who is now on her way to her fourth Olympic games.  In addition to competing as an elite athlete, Ms. Lowe has dabbled in a few other endeavors.  She has spent her time between jumps getting married, raising three children, and pursuing a graduate education.

Both of these women are incredible athletes with incredible stories, but I think what moves me most about them is how they represent eternal cycles of excellence.  The legacy of achievement passes from father to daughter, from veteran to newcomer.  In return, the father and the veteran grow and build even richer lives because of their interaction with the daughter and newcomer.  These cycles of excellence prove to me that mediocrity truly is not the measuring stick for our world.  It gives me hope for the future.

I think my favorite story of the Olympic trials, though, is one about a man who will not be competing in Rio.  Troy Dumais has been part of USA Diving for 20 years and competed in three Olympic games. During the diving Trials, he fell just short of making the 2016 team.  As he stood on the springboard for his last dive of the Trials, he knew that it was mathematically impossible for him to secure an Olympic berth.  As he readied himself for that last dive of his long career, the crowd acknowledged his substantial contribution to the sport. The diving community and fans stood and applauded, in appreciation for his skill, inspiration, and mentorship.  His eyes welled up as he took in this moment of love, admiration, and awe.  It was obvious that this outpouring of emotion genuinely surprised, humbled, and moved him.  He steadied himself, took a breath, and finished the competition.  He didn’t succeed in getting a place on this Olympic team, but I think he achieved something much greater without even knowing he was trying for it. 

The Olympics start on August 5th.  I can’t wait to hear the other stories- the stories of American athletes I haven’t heard yet and the stories from the rest of the world.  I will be rooting for the Team USA athletes to go for the gold, but I will be rooting even harder for all the people behind the stories. 

What are you looking forward to most about the Rio Olympics?  We’ve read so many stories about the operational difficulties, it is easy to worry.  Let’s hope for a smooth, inspirational Games.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have a gold-medal winning day!

Terri 🙂

 

And the Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down

Summer in the American southeast!   The snowbirds have gone home and I don’t have to arrive at church half an hour early to get a seat.  I don’t have to plan on eating dinner at 4:00pm in order to avoid waiting in a restaurant for several hours. 

 On the other hand, the summer weather has hit.  The temperature and the humidity are the same number on an almost daily basis.  And that number starts with a “9.”  As Max says, we live in God’s hot tub.  You don’t so much breathe the air as drink it.  They say ladies don’t sweat.  Horses sweat.  Men perspire.  Ladies glow.  If that is so, I believe I glow brightly enough to be seen from space. 

 We eat dinner to the dulcet tones of the weather alarm radio, squawking dire warnings at us about the damage that can be done by winds over 50 miles per hour.  I wondered if there would be lightning bugs in this area.  I haven’t seen any lightning bugs, but I have certainly seen lightning.  In fact, the thunder and lightning regularly convince me that someone finally invented the Way-Back Machine and we’ve landed in World War I France. 

 As someone who grew up in a place where we barely knew what rain was, it is interesting to live in a place where rain- in fact an abundance of rain- is just the way things are.  No one seems to have an ark in the driveway, but it certainly feels like one will be necessary at any time.  The thing about this state is that it CAN rain any time and, sometimes, it does. 

 Now that the summer is here, those “sometimes” are much more frequent.  We have a thunderstorm or two in our general vicinity almost every day.  They last from five minutes to an hour or so.  The other day, I went out to get my nails done.  As I left the nail shop, I got caught in a cloudburst.  In the time it took me to get to the car, I was so soaked that the dye from my blue suede shoes had steeped into my feet.  Not only did this deluge ruin my shoes, I looked like a smurf from the ankles down for the next two days.  I remember the first time I was out when I actually felt unsafe driving because of the weather.  I would have pulled over, except I couldn’t see anything in any direction.  I felt it was only slightly less likely I would run into something directly ahead of me than that I would run into something if I moved to the side.  When it isn’t actually raining, I often think of the weather as “oozing.”  The air can’t hold all the moisture and dampness seems to be literally seeping from the atmosphere. 

 Where I came from, people called in absent from work at the first sign of a raindrop.  Here, people do arduous outdoor work, soaked in rain and sweat.  If they stopped for weather, nothing would ever get done.  When there is lightning, the workers cover what they are doing, sit in their vehicles for a while, and are back at it immediately as soon as the sky is quiet again.  Supermarkets keep a supply of loaner umbrellas so people won’t get wet if a shower starts while they are in the store.  I believe the region’s economy would come to a standstill if rain stopped anyone from buying groceries at any time.

 When it rains, people don disposable ponchos and continue whatever recreational activity they are doing.  They consider it an imposition to get out of the pool or off a lake, despite the desperate warnings of that weather alarm radio screeching about lightning strikes.  Here are some famous potentially last words I heard at the pool earlier this week- “That isn’t really thunder.  It isn’t loud enough.”  I was listening to the news one day and the weather guy cautioned that there was going to be thunderstorms on the Fourth of July.  He went on to inform us that the rain might be over by fireworks time, so people should go ahead with their plans and just bring an umbrella.  Great…. A bunch of people sitting in a central Florida storm holding their own personal lightning rods. Fireworks might not be the only thing lighting up those displays.

 We are in “hurricane season” (not the most comforting of monikers, admittedly).  We live pretty far from any coast, so actual hurricanes are rather rare in our community.  However, whether you call it a hurricane, tropical storm, thunder warning, or just precipitation, it is more rain than I’ve seen in forever. 

 I have to admit the thunder is a bit unnerving.  It can actually rattle our very solid little house, even without a hurricane.  I remember parents telling frightened children that the thunder and lightning were “just the angels having a party up in heaven.” 

 I beg to differ.

 Those angels are pissed off. 

What do you think?  Is summer where you live a nightly light show?  Or do you have other impressions of the seasons?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a great day.  Stay dry!

Terri 🙂