Choices

As my mother bounced from hospital to rehab to hospital to rehab to hospital to rehab and back to hospital again, she became more and more frustrated.  As she fought one infection after another, she became weaker and weaker.  As medical professionals persisted in employing all manner of tests, procedures, and surgeries to try to extend her life, despite only a tiny possibility of success, she became more frail and more sad. She knew there was very little anyone could do to increase the time she has left.  She could also feel the quality of that remaining life spiraling downward each day.  

Most people will tell you they wouldn’t want to undergo any extraordinary or invasive measures if they were in my mother’s condition.  It isn’t as simple as that sounds.  The trick is in defining “extraordinary and invasive measures.”  By the time my mom was in the hospital for the last time, nearly everything qualified as invasive from her perspective.  And her perspective is really the only one that matters.  She didn’t want any more hospitalizations, surgeries, medical tests, or IV lines.  She didn’t want to move out of bed or do therapy.  She certainly didn’t want a feeding tube or, even, to be badgered to eat when she didn’t feel like it.  Sometimes, people feel like this because of depression and that depression can be managed with medication.  In my mother’s case, it felt more like she just wanted to be comfortable.  For whatever time she had left, she wanted to be able to decide not to put herself through anything that she found painful, uncomfortable, or annoying. 

It wasn’t easy getting to this point.  Because of the stroke, it is sometimes difficult to understand what my mom is thinking and feeling.  Her language is definitely limited and she is very hard to understand.  At times, it seems certain that she is thinking clearly, even if she cannot express herself very well.  At other times, it seems like her cognitive ability is impaired as well.  In addition, it was difficult for me to find the place in my mind and heart where I could let go of what I wanted and concentrate on figuring out what my mother wanted.  I considered what I know of my mother’s views from before she had the stroke.  We had numerous sad, cobbled conversations about life and death after the stroke. I am pretty sure I understand what she wants.  She chooses to let go of trying to get “cured” and live whatever time she has left with comfort and some modicum of control. 

As difficult as it was for me to face this crossroad and as difficult as it was for my mother to come to this choice, it is even more difficult to convince the medical system to let go of “cures.”  Fighting this battle requires clarity of mind, courage of conviction, and persistence.  Take it from someone who could barely articulate the choice without crying.  You will probably have to cry often and painfully if you are trying to help a loved one free herself of unwanted, invasive medical procedures.  This is especially true when the loved one has a disease that isn’t causing unbearable physical pain and doesn’t have a clear, common progression towards death in the immediate future.   

I don’t really blame the medical establishment.  Hospitals, rehab facilities, and most doctors are charged with curing and preventing the risk of further damage. They have legal liability if they don’t do everything possible to try to “cure.”  Their collective mindset is to look at the patient as a problem to be solved.  They will usually keep trying to think of something else to do, some other medication to try, some different procedure with which to tinker… just in case something will help.  If one thing doesn’t work, they try something else.  If you have decided to forgo the small chance of a “cure” in order to have peace in whatever time you have left, you will likely have to repeat and argue your position over and over again with the mainstream medical professionals. Working with most medical professionals in that situation is rather like employing a dance instructor when all you really want to do is buy tickets to a ballet… and the dance instructor finds it morally repugnant that you don’t want to don a tutu.   

You may think that the answer is simply to stop engaging with doctors and other medical professionals.  That might be an effective strategy but for one reality.  By the time most people are ready to stop fighting for life at any cost, they also need medical professionals to help with symptom management and assistance with activities of daily living.  

Just when I thought I could not articulate my mother’s wish to refuse any more medical intervention one more time, one of the doctors at the hospital mentioned “hospice.”  He was pretty judge-y about her choice and made me feel horrible discussing it. At least, though, he led me to the proper vehicle for implementing it.   Apparently, identifying an individual as a “hospice patient” helps to indemnify the doctors, hospitals, etc. against litigation.  It is the formal way a patient and her family to go “on record” as not expecting the medical folks to try to extend life. It gives permission to change the focus of the care from “cure” to “comfort.”   

When someone mentions “hospice,” it often feels sad and defeated and scary.  People tend to think it means the end of a life.  It certainly can.  Hearing the word “hospice” did feel like someone was prying a chunk of my heart out with a hot knife. Still, when I was able to wrap my mind around the idea, the hospice counselors were a huge help in explaining the program, giving me an idea of what to expect, and validating that the choice we were making was a morally valid option. 

Hospice care is usually available for people expected to pass within the next six months, but no one ever really knows for sure how much time anyone has left. In my mother’s case, the choice to embrace the hospice path means something quite different than a choice to let go of life.  It means a choice to stop struggling.  It means a choice to live the rest of her life on her own terms.  It means a choice to spend her time engaging with her loved ones.  It means a choice for freedom to spend the rest of her life in comfort and dignity.  It is a choice for peace.

Does anyone else have a similar experience that they would like to share?  It might help someone else who has to go through a difficult time.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Terri

A Crisis of Church

I think I may be gearing up to make another major life change. 

I don’t think I am having a crisis of faith.  I think I believe what I’ve always believed.  I believe the Bible is truth, although it may or may not be always factual.  After all, wasn’t Jesus often inclined to use stories to teach His truths? I believe in one God, in three forms- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I believe that I am a child of God and that I live within the grace of His embrace.  I believe that Jesus is my Savior.  I am committed, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, to living in a way that glorifies God and demonstrates the love of Christ.  I believe I am called to live an ordinary life with extraordinary love, in the name of Jesus. I believe that, in addition to my Christian obligation to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the secret to being my happiest, most authentic self is to model faith, hope, and love in all I do.  I believe I have often failed to live in such a way and that I will continue to fail.  I also believe that God always forgives me, because He loves me just that much.  I believe He will use all things, including my failures, to teach and strengthen me so that I may be ever better. 

So the problem isn’t really faith.  I would say it is more that I am having a crisis of church.   

I grew up Catholic.  For most of my life, I believed I would always be Catholic. The Catholic Church felt like home for my faith.  Over the past several years, my certainty that I would always be Catholic has faded.  There have been several times when my connection with Catholicism has cracked and worn very thin.  

During the priest sex abuse scandals, my loyalty wavered, almost to the point of disintegration.  In my own life, I had a connection with three different priests accused of molesting children. By their own admission many years after the fact, these men were guilty of sexual behavior that harmed children.   It was difficult to continue to believe in the goodness of my chosen church at that time.  Still, I reasoned that it might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater to leave the church over the actions of some priests and church administrators.  It also felt somehow disloyal to consider leaving my church home in its darkest days.  I knew many good, brave priests who worked hard, despite public vilification, to shepherd their people through hard times.  I reasoned that, regardless of what some individuals had done, my faith still felt fed by the liturgies and sacraments and fellowship in my parish.   

Then, a daughter of one of my best friends was getting married.  The family was Catholic. The daughter and her fiancé went to the required pre-marital counseling with a priest at their home parish. The pre-marital counseling basically consisted of the priest advising them not to marry…. solely because the parents of the fiancé were divorced.  Instead of just advising them of the possible pitfalls, helping them develop tools to create a strong marriage, and celebrating their love, the Church- in the person of this priest- discouraged the couple… from Catholicism.  The couple married outside the church.  They have now been happily married for almost ten years and have two beautiful children.  This experience bothered me, but, again, I thought of it as the actions of a particular priest and not necessarily a reflection on the policy of the larger Catholic Church. 

I began to feel even more disconnected from the Catholic Church when I found that, more and more often, preaching about social justice issues became preaching about political issues. I understand that how we behave and what we do to help others are vital issues for Christians.  I also understand, after spending a lot of time in thought, study, and prayer, that social justice and moral issues are rarely as definitive as we would like them to be.  When we act, the consequences of our actions are often wide-reaching and unexpected, in both positive and negative ways.  Moral dilemmas are called moral dilemmas because they are complicated.  I began to feel that the Church was ignoring the complications and preaching societal mandates with no consideration of the various layers of implication and how to address them.  First of all, men must change before kings must change so I’m not sure that preaching for political agendas is what Christ had in mind.  Secondly, it felt like preachers were implying that the Christianity of anyone who felt differently must be suspect.  I think a good preacher can and should challenge a Christian to ask herself if she is living as Christ would have her live, but not presume to know exactly what that life should look like.   

When we were getting ready to move, I thought it might be a good time to consider other Christian denominations instead of registering at the Catholic parish in my new town.  I did some research on the internet, but my gut objected rather strenuously.  When we moved, I did start going to the Catholic church and felt happy with that decision.  I felt fed there. The Catholic church provided me a sense of stability and home that comforted me as I navigated all the changes in my new life. 

Last Sunday, something else happened… probably the “something” that is going to send me looking for another church.  The priest started his homily by telling the congregation that he recently received an invitation to a family member’s wedding, but was adamant that he would not be going because the couple in question were both women.  I don’t think my reaction was spurred so much by the fact that the priest believed that homosexual behavior is outside God’s law.  I think a reasonable, prayerful Christian could legitimately deduce that gay marriage is morally wrong.   Personally, I see the scriptural concern with it but also think we might need to explore the issue from a wider perspective.  I think we might need to consider other scholarly interpretations.  I also think that just proclaiming homosexuality wrong does not fulfill our duty.  Even if we believe that the Church cannot legitimately bless a gay marriage, does that mean that we must deny compassion to approximately 10% of God’s family?  Are there other options, outside of proclaiming gay marriage to be scripturally acceptable, that would allow civil and legal rights for partners who are not sacramentally married?   My biggest problem with the homilist was that he was so certain that his position was correct and, however limited, sufficient. Certain to the point of smugness, it seemed to me.  Not only was he telling the congregation what his position was, he was telling us that his position represented the only truly acceptable position for a good Christian.   

You could argue that all of these incidents represented the behavior of some human beings within the Church and do not necessarily reflect the totality of the faith.  You would be right.  Also, none of these incidents except the clergy sex abuse scandals are really big deals in and of themselves.  The thing is, I always believe people should attend Christian worship services to help lift up their souls.  Even when I was working in the church initiation program for people thinking about becoming Catholic, I told them, “You should go where your soul feels fed.”  All I know is, in that moment when the homilist started rolling his eyes about the invitation he received to his family member’s wedding, I felt fed up instead of fed.  

Now the journey begins.  I don’t know if I will find the spiritual nourishment that I crave in another Christian denomination, if I will eventually find my way back to the familiar Church that has been home all my life, or if I will go my own way for a time.  I only know that God will lead me and that I will be listening for His call.  

Have any of you moved on from the church of your childhood?  What drove that decision for you and how has the change worked for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a  blessed day!

Terri 🙂

Force of Habit

We tend to think of habits as bad things, like smoking or saying “you know” incessantly.  Our new year’s resolutions often focus on these bad habits and strategies we can employ to break them.

At their most elemental level, however, habits can actually be handy tools to help us manage all the tasks and information we must navigate to live in our complex modern day world.  They act much like shortcuts on a computer desktop.  With one mental click, habits get us where we need to be.  Habits complete tasks efficiently that, without those habits, would take several more mental clicks to accomplish.  For instance, how many of us, when we come to a red light, go through the following mental process?

  • A red light means I must stop the car.
  • I must take my right foot off the accelerator pedal.
  • I must move my right foot to the brake pedal.
  • I must push the brake pedal with my right foot.
  • I must keep pressure on the brake pedal until the light turns green.

No.  I’d venture to bet that, for most of us, the concept of braking when we see a red light is so habitual, we are able to stop the car almost unconsciously when we see a red light.  This braking habit saves us mental energy and, arguably, even makes us safer drivers.

You may argue that our brains can complete the above braking analysis so quickly that not much is gained in the habit process. The fact is, though, that our habits take us on so many of these shortcuts, the cumulative benefit can certainly be significant.

Recently, something happened at my water aerobics class that reminded me of this.  Several months ago, the turbo-charged octogenarian who teaches the class broke her ankle.  She was not able to teach the class.  The usual substitute teacher also had some serious medical issues keeping her away from the pool.  Another lady, Mary, had been attending the class, doing the same routine of exercises, for more than a decade.  She generously agreed to take over the leadership responsibilities.

Everything went well until the day Mary didn’t show up for class.  All of a sudden, there were a dozen people calling out bits and pieces of direction.  Everyone seemed to be communicating a different order of the exercises.  No one was in charge and everyone was in charge.  We were all spinning about, listing around in the water, doing some version of the exercises most of us have been doing between one and three times a week for years.  We looked like an aquatic version of the keystone cops.  While I contend that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference what particular actions we do during water aerobics class as long as we are moving, the chaotic spectacle we presented that day was still a bit alarming.  To say nothing of the danger of drowning.

When I arrived at the pool for the next scheduled class, I was the only one present.  I checked the clock and saw that it was only about ten minutes before start time.  Normally, there are several people paddling about in the water by that time.  I wondered if I had somehow missed the memo that class was cancelled for some reason.  I figured, as long as I had roused myself from bed and was already there, I might as well try to go through the routine on my own.  After all, I could hardly do worse than in our previous class led by the Committee of Confusion.

Before long, a few more people wandered onto the pool deck, but it was obvious that the last session’s debacle had motivated the majority of water babies to stay home and wait it out until they heard through the grapevine that Mary was back.  Mary still had not appeared just a few minutes before the class was scheduled to begin.  One of our few regular gentleman participants, Bob, stepped gingerly out of the locker room.  Our male attendees are, for the most part, an extremely quiet bunch.  They are faithful and disciplined in their approach to the class.  They tend to huddle together and plow ahead with each exercise, trying to ignore the din of female chattering invading towards them from the other end of the pool.  You would think, given the attention that these guys actually pay to what they are doing, one of them would be a fine candidate to take the rest of us dilettantes in hand.    Bob, however, is a pretty reserved, introverted kind of guy.  I am convinced that he has lived in fear of being pressured to lead the class ever since our go-to gal broke her ankle.  I get it because I feel the same way.   I watched Bob scan the attendance in the pool, desperately looking for Mary.  Not seeing her, he took an instinctive step back, obviously getting ready to make a break for it back into the men’s locker room where he would be safe from pursuit.

Just as I saw Bob flinch towards the locker room, Mary appeared.  We were safe from disorderly water aerobic conduct!  Bob visibly relaxed and got into the pool.  Mary started the class in the familiar way and we were off to the races.  The entire atmosphere of tension disappeared and we began to move about the pool with more dignity and grace than the previous session.  We were all doing pretty much the same thing at pretty much the same time.  Maybe we didn’t look like the Russian synchronized swimming team, but we were at least managing to do water jumping jacks without causing a five-person pile-up in the shallow end of the pool.  I smiled to myself and thought, “I’m so glad Mary is back and we have a leader to make sure we keep on track.”  After all, I am that kind of person.  I don’t exactly belong in the men’s silent, disciplined huddle of water exercisers, but I get a little anxious when the chatter and disorganization of my side of the pool teeters from “fun” to “frenetic.”

I was so sure the improvement in the general flow and organization of the class was because Mary was there to give directions.  As the class continued, however, I realized something.  Mary was saying almost nothing.   She started us off and kept pushing rhythmically through the routine, but she was, in reality, giving no directions.  Even so, we were all happily hopping and bopping our way through the exercises in reasonable unison.

How was this happening?!  How could a bunch of people who could barely dodder through twenty minutes of forty-five minutes worth of exercises without a leader a couple of days earlier now whoosh through the entire class together, supplemented only by an almost silent leader? Then I realized Mary’s true leadership quality.  By eliminating the tension we experienced because of being leaderless, she allowed us to stop thinking and analyzing about what we were supposed to do.  Her calm presence gave us permission to just relax and replace the slower, less accurate thought processes with the power of the force of habit.

It is amazing how much more capable we can be WITHOUT thinking.

Do you have any activities that you are able to accomplish on “auto-pilot?”  Do you think you are more effective when you do them from “force of habit” or when you think more deliberately about what you are doing?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Distance Lends Enchantment To The View. Or Not.

I struggled with writing this piece. The ideas seem to swirl around in my head without actually forming.  They tantalize, but, when it comes to pinning them down on paper, they morph and flit away.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it feels a bit disloyal or ungrateful to question whether or not what you did for a living for over 33 years really made a whit of difference in the general scheme of things.   

Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine who is still working.  She was feeling a bit down in the dumps because of the way things were going on the job.  She despaired because she was working as hard as she could, but there didn’t really seem to be any progress or, for that matter, any goal.  She put out fires every day.  She knew, on some level, that she was doing something important.  What she didn’t know was whether anyone in her organization knew or cared what it was that she did.  One of the points she cited as evidence was the fact that she was still called by a title that had been obsolete for over a year. 

It may seem somewhat trivial to angst over a title.  However, the title issue begged a bigger question.  To my friend, the fact that the agency did not recognize that the title was incorrect made her wonder about her duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments.  Was the time and energy she was expending being invested in the right things? What was she really supposed to be accomplishing? Did the organization recognize and value what she had simply adopted as her new role, without benefit of direction, once the job originally associated with her obsolete title was done?  How was she to get support and championship for what she believed needed to be done on an organizational level, based on what she saw from her perspective?  And the biggest question…. could her considerable efforts result in any “big picture” change for the greater good?

I tried to be supportive and the conversation made me realize that I have undergone a huge metamorphosis since leaving the world of employment.   Yes, I have navigated probably hundreds of everyday changes in my life as I’ve transitioned into the retirement world.  However, as I explained to my friend, there is actually one change that dwarfs all of the rest of them.  My perspective of my job has undergone a massive overhaul.  I think, when some people retire, they tend to see the job they left behind through rosier lenses than what reality would suggest.  In my case, it was exactly the opposite.  In my rearview mirror, the job was considerably less important than I believed it was when I was occupying it. 

It isn’t that I think what I did was unimportant.  I do believe that I helped a lot of customers and employees.  I think, because of my understanding, technical expertise, and leadership, most of the people in my limited sphere of influence had a better experience in life than they would have had if I had not been there, at least for a little while.  I can recall some of my efforts that had relatively big, tangible, positive impact on a few specific people. That is enough to make me feel great about what I accomplished in my career.

On the other hand, I think much of what I did was largely symbolic.  I am as big a believer in symbolic victory as the next person, but I do like to think that symbolic victories open the door and pave the way for more substantive triumphs.  I don’t completely dismiss the possibility that there are one or two people out there who may have truly benefited, in a very real way, from my employment.  However, I think most of my value was in listening, talking to people in a respectful way, and framing ideas so that they made sense to the other person based on his or her mindset.  I do believe all that is important in that it keeps the world turning a little smoother, but, let’s face it…. It doesn’t really change the price of tea in China.  From a big picture standpoint, I was basically irrelevant.

When I think of the tears I shed, the nights I didn’t sleep, and the harshness with which I chastised myself as I went through my career, I am now amazed.  What I have learned since retiring is…. It isn’t that big a deal.  Shocking, I know.

When I was working at my job, my brain knew that there were many more important things in life than whether I was a career star. There were more important things than having terrific office metrics.  There were more important things than getting a refund to a customer a few days faster than it would happen without my intervention.  There were more important things than supporting the career and personal growth of my employees.  It wasn’t difficult for me to name some of those more important things… faith, ethics, family, relationships.   Still, at some gut-wrenching, adrenaline-producing, crazy-making level, there was an undeniable force that drove my every action, emotion, and response during my work life.  It was that force that propelled me close to despair when I was not successful, even momentarily, in any of the “not so important” things.

Yes, being good at my job was very important.  It was critical that I be good enough at it to keep it and make a living.  It was also essential, from an ethical and self-respect standpoint, that I did my best.  It was important that I justify the trust my leaders put in me and the salary that the people of the United States were paying me.   However, meeting or exceeding every person’s every expectation of me truly was not that important.  First of all, it isn’t even possible to go through life without disappointing someone once in a while.  Second, sometimes people asked me for things that were not legal or ethical or reasonable.  Third, and it has taken me some time to realize this, some of those people didn’t even expect me to meet those stated expectations.  People were sometimes communicating what they wanted in an ideal world, but knew that what they were requesting was not realistic in any world in which we all live.  Somehow, I internalized all those requests as a sacred mandate.  I felt actual shame when I had to tell someone I had not achieved what they wanted.

I tried to explain this revelation to my friend, hoping that it would help her deal with her current work crisis.  She, of course, agreed with everything I was saying.  Intellectually, we all know these basic truths.  Hearing me say them didn’t make any difference to my friend.  It wouldn’t have made any difference to me when I was working, either.

Why is it that it is so hard to put things in proper perspective when we are still working?  When we are in the midst of the fray, it is as if there is some biological imperative to do what we are being asked to do that somehow overwhelms the good sense with which we were born.  We surrender our brains to the mercy of an overheated sympathetic nervous system.  Some people are able to wrangle those adrenaline responses.  They are able to balance those biological “fight or flight” reactions with the power of their innate reasoning ability.  Passion versus dispassion.  I wish I could have mastered that skill.   I might still be working today, if I had.

People often think that I am a fairly cool customer.  I come across as a logical, reasonable individual.  I think things through, probably to a fault.  I plan and strategize. I tackle things one step at a time.  I used to say “hope is not a strategy” and relied on an abundance of hard work rather than talent to succeed.  I believed I would meet my goals if I, like Dory, “just keep on swimmin’.”   I was always more of a plow horse than a race horse.  I don’t think I ever really saw myself as passionate in my career life.

As I write this, it dawns on me that maybe I was more passionate about my job than I realized.  Maybe the reason I have had trouble making this blog piece sit still is because I miss my job a little more than I thought I did.  Or maybe not.  Passion does exact a price.

What do you think?  For those of you who are retired, what do you miss about your work?  If you are considering retirement, what do you think you will miss the most?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Stepping Up To The Plate

I am step-obsessed.

It all started when I got a new cell phone a few months after moving to Florida.  My cell phone was almost five years old, which is apparently unheard of in the modern world.  I never replaced the phone for two main reasons:

a)    I understood my phone and didn’t want to learn how to operate a new one.

b)    It was pink and I love pink.

Right after we moved, the old cell phone revolted.  I could hear the other person, but they often could not hear me.  I would have to traverse the outer limits of the front yard to try to find a small cell phone sweet spot.  Then, I would have to stand very still and scream into the phone to be heard.   It was incredibly annoying and drove me to tears of frustration more than once, especially before we had the land line installed.  You try calling the electric company to figure out why the power was not on in the house (despite said electric company’s insistence that it was) when they can only hear about every fourth word you say.  I’m sure I’m not the only one reduced to tears by the experience.

Because the problem occurred right after we moved, I blamed Florida for the reception of my cell company in our new area.  Since Max was getting decent reception and could be heard just fine with his cheapy prepaid cell phone, I realized I was paying a premium for not being heard on my considerably more expensive smart phone.  I decided I had to either go visit the cell phone company or become a hermit and cease contacting the outside world.

When I went to the phone company office, they explained to me that a five-year-old cell phone is basically a paperweight with a keypad.  Apparently, after some random period of time, the battery actually fails to charge.  The battery icon on the phone will look charged, but it doesn’t ever actually hold a charge.  The result is that you are always trying to make calls with a battery that is the rough equivalent of a phone you have after being lost in the woods for a few days.  Who knew?  Those of you who knew that cell phone batteries basically stop working after a couple of years, despite all appearances to the contrary, raise your hands.  So it is just me that didn’t know?  Okay, I can live with that, but why do they even have a little battery icon that looks charged if it is going to lie like a rug?

At any rate, I ended up buying a new cell phone and the kind man at the store made it work all nice and easy.  I immediately noticed how much better the new phone was.  Besides the fact that people could, you know, HEAR me when I called them, I now actually had great internet access.  I could easily and quickly connect to websites (don’t even get me started on the day I tried to buy Sea World tickets on the old phone as we stood outside the park- I ended up paying $50 more for the tickets than I had to because the stupid phone would not stay connected long enough for me to put in a credit card).  Email was fast and I could forward pictures by text or email without having to take a nap while I waited for them to send. I could check IMBD whenever I was at a movie or watching a tv show to figure out just where I had seen that familiar-looking guy before.  Any time anyone asked a random question, I pulled out my phone and googled.  I’ve always laughed at friends who seem addicted to their phones, but I was beginning to understand the appeal.

Then, I discovered apps.  To be honest, I had access to apps on my old phone.  I just never really figured out what my password was or how to add apps.  Now, with the nice man in the phone company office to help me, I was off to the races.  That is where the step obsession started.  It all started with a pedometer app. 

I’ve tried pedometers before without much success.  I’ve either forgotten to wear them or they looked ugly or they didn’t seem to monitor the steps correctly.  I’d seen commercials for the new breed of electronic pedometers, but they were fairly pricey and I wasn’t convinced that either the pedometer or I would work consistently enough to merit the cost.  I thought that perhaps the pedometer app, which was free, was worth a try. 

I’ve read that a good goal for walking is 10,000 steps per day.  When I first started using the pedometer app, I was somewhat demoralized to discover that a good day for me was about 2,000 steps.  Fortunately, before quitting in despair, I saw an article on the internet that said most people think they walk far more than they actually do.  It turns out that 2,000 steps are pretty typical for someone who isn’t necessarily trying to hit a particular goal.  I started working purposefully each day to increase my steps.  I began hitting the 10,000 fairly regularly quite soon.  After a few weeks of that, I read that the 10,000 step goal wasn’t exactly the gold standard of walking.  Because different people have different strides, 10,000 steps isn’t really any actual measure of anything.  I found that many articles recommended 5 miles a day as the goal, as opposed to 10,000 steps. 

Now, for many people, the 10,000 steps and the 5 miles are pretty much the same thing.  I, however, have very short legs and walk mostly inside the house in front of the television set (which necessitates shorter steps than walking over a long, uninterrupted stretch of road unless I wish to bump into walls and furniture).  For me 5 miles is usually around 11,000 steps.  What a rip-off.  Here I had been walking 10,000 steps a day in good faith for weeks, but was still a fitness failure!  I did not lose heart, though.  I increased my goal to 5 miles a day and found myself successful with little extra effort.  In fact, there were days when I was walking much more.  When we were on vacation, it was not unusual for me to walk 7-10 miles a day. 

Another really interesting thing about the pedometer app is that it measures the number of flights of stairs I climb in addition to the steps.  I don’t climb a lot of stairs.  After all, I live in a one-story house and Florida is the flattest state in the union.  I wasn’t even aware of the stair climber feature until one day, after walking around a mall for a little while, I noticed that the pedometer was showing that I had climbed a staircase.  I was shocked and suspicious.  HOW DID IT KNOW?!!!  I didn’t even remember any stairs until I carefully reviewed my actions during the day.  Although I had not ascended any significant flight of stairs, I had been up and down a few steps numerous times on my walk.  That was just freaky.

I began carrying my phone with me everywhere.  I didn’t get out of the car at the mailbox without clutching it to me, so that the few steps I had to travel to get the mail would be captured.  When I go from the front of the house to the back to go to the bathroom, the phone comes along.  I get really annoyed when I realized I have been doing housework without the phone in my pocket or stuffed in my bra.  At one meeting of the book club, I couldn’t find my phone and got panicky because I must have walked at least 50 steps without it.  I was distracted through the whole meeting.  The other day, I almost cooked my phone when it came loose from its hiding place next to my bosom while I was taking a turkey out of the oven.

People laugh at my obsession with counting the steps.  However, it is working.  After a month or so of compulsive stepping, I began to notice that my clothes were getting too big.  At first, I thought it was my imagination, but when I could feel my shorts slipping down below my hips on a regular basis, I knew it was really happening.  When I had to hitch up almost everything I wore every time I moved, I knew I was on to something.  I had not consciously changed my diet or anything, but I was definitely losing weight.  In all, I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I became step obsessed.

After a few months on my 5-mile-a-day plan, I decided to up the ante. I confess my motivation for doing so was less than pure.  Right around the same time Starbuck’s started selling their seasonal gingerbread for the holidays, I decided I had better walk more.  I decided that my new goal would be to walk over 5 miles every day and to average at least 6 miles a day on a weekly basis.  I’ve been managing an average of about 6.5 miles a day.

Now the holidays are over and more than one or two pieces of gingerbread have found their way into my tummy, but I haven’t gained any weight and my clothes actually feel a bit looser than they did in November.  It must have been a step in time.

Have you ever “stepped up to the plate” with some activity and set a goal?  Did you become compulsive about whatever the activity was?  What was the result?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

The other day, a friend of mine from work called.  She was questioning whether she wanted to keep working or retire.  Her will to work was starting to wear down, but she was concerned about the impact her leaving would have on the organization.  I encouraged her to decide based on what was best for her. I assured her that the government would find a way to soldier on without her.  She agreed and remarked bitterly, “I know all these people who seem so fond of me right now won’t give me a second thought once I’ve walked out the door.”

Her comment reminded me that one of my biggest concerns about retirement and moving cross country was that I would lose friends.

I’ve often said that I have a rather faulty emotional transmission.  It takes me a long time to connect with people.  Because I am shy, I often hang back when a new group of people is forming.  When everyone else is getting to know each other and forging relationships, I am still wrestling with my nerves and trying to calm the qualms in my gut.  It takes me even longer to disengage.  By the time I’m feeling comfortable and warmly clicking away on all cylinders with my new friends, other people are getting ready to move on.

When I started my first entry-level job with the government, I was hired with a whole group of new young college graduates.  We bonded over our new experiences and similarities.  It took me some time to weave myself into the group, but I reveled in this new comradery.  A couple of years later, I got the opportunity to take a career-enhancing job in another office.  I worked on an alternative schedule and had every other Friday off.  I hesitated about taking the new job because I couldn’t imagine leaving my friends, but a mentor told me that it was better to go away and leave everyone than to have everyone go away and leave you.  I ended up taking the job, but I didn’t really “go away and leave everyone.”  Every off Friday, I got up early and rode a freakin’ bus for over an hour round trip to visit my colleagues in my old office. I kept up my little pilgrimage for close to a year, even as other folks in my original cohort left the office.

Given my difficulty in shifting relationship gears, I could absolutely empathize with my friend’s concerns about leaving her work relationships.  I told her that I knew from my own experience that such fears don’t have to come true. 

I have always heard that some people come into our lives for a season, some people come into our lives for a reason, and some people come into our lives for a lifetime.  That is exactly what I experienced when I retired.  Retirement has shown me, quite clearly, that some people were part of my working life simply for that time in my life.  Some people were in relationship with me for a reason that was tied up with our work experience.  Retirement also teaches me, though, that there are definitely people I met through work that will grace me with their friendship throughout my lifetime.

I have had several surprises about who would fit into each category.  There are some people who I thought would be friends long after my work life ended who have actually turned out to be friends of the season or the reason.  On the other hand, there are people I expected to drift away when I retired who are still in touch and are still keeping my heart company.  There are actually more of the relationships that survived my retirement and move cross country than those that have faltered.  I am blessed with such faithful forever friends. 

I keep friends by being a friend.  I recognize that everyone is busy.  Having said that, I also realize that my time is probably more flexible than that of my still employed friends.  I bend to their schedules as much as possible. With technology that makes transcontinental communication less costly than it was when my family moved across country in 1965, it is relatively easy to stay in touch. I never mind that I am usually the one who reaches out first.  Friendship is such a valuable commodity, I guard it and grow it as much as I can. Maybe I can invest the time raising the priority and level of friendship-tending precisely because I am retired. Maybe relationships, rather than dwindling away because of retirement, can actually grow because of the increased time we have for them.

In thinking about this recent conversation I had with my friend about what retirement would do to her work relationships, another thought also occurred to me. Is there really anything intrinsically wrong with relationships that turn out to be based only on a season or a reason?  Those people that have meandered out of my life since I retired were no less valuable to me nor were the relationships less sweet because our connections were limited to my work life.  Our time together was precious.  Our relationships enriched my life and contributed to who I am today.

Also, you never know.  People who wandered out of my life may one day wander back.

What do you do to tend work-related friendships after retirement?  Have you been successful in finding your “forever friends?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terrirretirement@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

A Traditional Christmas

I think of traditions as little hooks that attach my soul to people, events, and values.  Traditions can serve as reminders of what is important to me.  Sometimes, when life starts to get routine or joyless, fulfilling a tradition can give me an infusion of happiness.  Traditions can force me to get outside the struggles of the moment and make me focus on happier times and, also, the blessings that blanket my overall life.

All of that is fine and positive.  It can be difficult, however, to let go of traditions when they no longer serve.  Those hooks strain and bend and mangle before they eventually break.  Sometimes I cling to traditions long after they cease to be useful or even reasonable. 

Christmas is one of those seasons most fraught with tradition.  In my family, following certain Christmas traditions and rituals has an almost mythic quality.  The traditions are numerous, varied, and complex.  Christmas in our house was always a huge, shiny affair involving every kind of delicacy, entertainment, and a truckload of presents.  Some of our traditions would be familiar to most American families- like decorating a tree and hanging stockings.  Other traditions are more specific to our family.  For instance, we always hung the bedraggled silver tinfoil bells that first graced my parents’ wedding reception.  Other traditions would be regarded as just plain wackadoodle by most people… like eating the traditional festive Christmas dinner of warmed up Kentucky Fried Chicken. 

At any rate, getting from the middle of November to the end of the year while fulfilling all the traditional holiday responsibilities could be something of a marathon in my household.  I can remember worrying, even as a small child, that my mother would wear herself out completing all the traditional preparations.  I remember begging her to not too get too tired to fulfill the most important tradition- everyone must be happy at Christmas.

The other unwritten rule about Christmas traditions is that they should never change or the world as we know it will crumble like a gingerbread cookie.  I convinced myself to believe in Santa Claus by sheer force of will until I was eleven years old just to avoid defiling a Christmas tradition.

I’ve come to the painful conclusion that Christmas traditions can and should change over time.  In 2014, Max and I moved to Florida at the beginning of December.  He had this brilliant idea that my family could celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving when we would all be together.  We made a brave effort, but it was clear my family thought this was some form of sacrilege.  My mother had a Christmas tree at Thanksgiving and some presents.  My mother had a regular Christmas for my brother and his family on Christmas Day.  Also, because she couldn’t stand the thought of me not having Christmas on Christmas Day, she ended up mailing gifts for Max and me in our new home in Florida.  She even sent a small artificial Christmas tree.  Oddly enough, the world did not end because of the Christmas tradition violations.  Frankly, with the move and unpacking, it was kind of restful to have a quiet, spur-of-the-moment kind of Christmas.

In 2015, we were able to bring back some of the fa-la-la-de-rol.  Max and I were more settled in to our new home and my mother had moved from California.  We decorated, had Christmas presents under the tree, attended seasonal entertainments, and shared a nice time together.  Things were still not the same as in yesteryear.  They couldn’t be.  We lived 3000 miles away from some of our traditions.  My brother and his family were not with us.  Still, we found we had enough of our old tradition hooks and crafted enough new ones to make the holiday season unquestionably joyous. 

This year, with my mother’s illness, it is a challenge to find the merry and bright.  The vague notion of shopping and decorating and attending entertainments sounds tempting.  It is seductive to contemplate an escape into jolliness and frivolity.  The actual execution of that vague notion is daunting, however.  It seems easier to shut the door on the whole thing and lock myself away in the sadness.

Easier, perhaps.  But not better.  I am trying to plow through the inertia and grasp some tradition.  While it initially felt like overcoming the funk would be more effort than it was worth, I am finding that the Christmas traditions are lifting my mood a little bit.  After all, shutting the door on the shopping, decorating, entertainment, and trappings also tempts me to shut the door on another Christmas tradition.  The most important Christmas tradition.  The tradition of Joy.

“Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people for there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”                                                            Luke 2:10-11

What are your holiday traditions?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Merry Christmas!  May God bless us, everyone!

Terri 🙂

News Flash- We Interrupt our Regular Programming to Report….

Fall finally fell.

 It took its own sweet time about doing so, I have to say.  It was such a momentous occasion, I took note of the date.  Fall fell on December 9th. Until then, Fall had not so much as stumbled.  Temperatures still hovered around the 90-degree mark.  The air was still humid enough to drink.

I was starting to take it as a personal affront.  Around the time the calendar said that Fall was beginning, Max bought me a beautiful autumnal sweatshirt.  It was a gorgeous shade of rust, richly embroidered with multi-colored leaves.  When I was looking at it in the store, I sighed sadly and said, “I love this, but it is much too hot to even think about putting it on.  If I wore this, it would literally become a SWEATshirt inside of ten seconds.  It will never be cool enough to wear it.”  Max replied, “Someday it will be” and purchased the garment for me.

Since that time, lo those many weeks ago, it has hung in my closet, silently chiding me for wasting his money.  When I look for something to wear in the mornings, my eyes immediately light on its beautiful color, but, almost as immediately, I remember that it is once again a hot, humid summer day IN NOVEMBER. I have really, really wanted to wear that shirt, but the season just wouldn’t cooperate.   I wanted to stick my leg out and trip Fall.

On December 9th, however, Fall not only fell, but tumbled down so hard and fast, I’m surprised it did not break a hip.  I got up to go to water aerobics class and got halfway there before I remembered that they don’t have class when the temperature goes below 50 degrees.  It was easy to forget that fact because I seem to remember the class being called on account of cold only once all last winter.  Besides, the day before, it was in the eighties.  Can you blame me for being confused?  You might ask whether it was really necessary for there to be an actual policy cancelling class in sub-50-degree weather for me to realize that submerging myself in water when the air temperature is 46 degrees is not a great idea.  You have a valid point.  Maybe I was just a bureaucrat for way too many years.  Or maybe I’ve just forgotten what “cold” is.

The temperature was all anyone was talking about on December 9th.  Everywhere I went, I heard people remarking on what they were doing when they realized the morning started with temperatures in the forties and that the day’s high temperature was about 25 degrees less than the day before.  I half expected to turn on the news and have the anchor announce, “It is not hot.  I repeat, it is NOT hot.  Film at eleven.” 

As the day progressed, however, the “not hot” front dissipated.  Fall sort of peeped its head out of summer, but retreated just as quickly.  The temperature rose and people discarded the sweaters that were seeing the light of day for the first time since last February.   Four days later, the temperatures approached 90 degrees once more. The “Fall” seemed to have been like those falls that world class figure skaters have when attempting difficult jumps- if there is a stumble towards the beginning, the skater has the opportunity to pick herself back up quickly and gracefully and resume the routine so that, by the time the program is over, the audience is wondering if there had ever truly been a fall at all.  At any rate, my sweatshirt is still hanging in my closet in pristine condition. 

How many degrees does it take to change the season?  Only a few, but the season has to really want to change.

Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it!  Does the weather seem wacky to you?  Have you had to adjust to a new climate when you’ve moved?  What has that been like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a sunny day… both weather-wise and in every other way!

Terri 🙂

Hopping the Holly Jolly Express

As we pulled into the parking lot for our tour to Gaylord Palms and Celebration, it looked like we stumbled into an Ugly Christmas Sweater convention. There was an army of seniors dressed in all manner of holiday attire. There were festive t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters galore. Some even jingled and lit up. I was not immune, although I like to think my white and gray sweater with the penguin on it and gray jeans were a tad more sophisticated. I’d like to think that, but I’d probably be wrong.

Even the bus was tricked out in Christmas regalia. There was a small, fully decorated Christmas tree seat belted into the first passenger seat on the driver’s side. A stuffed Santa Claus the size of a very hefty toddler sat beside the tree, also belted in. Safety first. Multi-colored twinkle lights graced the overhead storage compartments all the way down both aisles of the bus. The sound system blared “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

Yes, I was sitting in a 40 foot, 55 seat pimpmobile on my way to see ice sculptures and children playing in the snow. In Florida. Who’d of thunk it?  Can anyone tell me exactly when I turned 80 years old?  Last thing I remembered, I was a perfectly middle-aged woman of 57 who was tastefully decorating a gold, silver, and white Christmas tree.  Now, I have turned overnight into a woman way beyond a certain age, trapped in a bus that looks like the North Pole threw up in it.

Years ago, I saw a tv show that visited the most “Christmassy” places in the country.  Strangely, this bus did not make the list.  Gaylord Palms in Tennessee, however, did.  I was fascinated to see the elaborate Christmas decorations in the lobby and the amazing rooms full of Christmas-themed ice sculptures.  The resort boasted ice slides, a bar completely furnished with ice furniture, and a crèche room with a larger-than-life rendition of the Nativity story carved out of crystal clear ice.  When I heard that there was a Gaylord Palms in central Florida with the same Noel-y type notions, I knew I had to visit.

When I saw that there was a bus tour that supplemented a trip to Gaylord Palms with a stop at Celebration afterwards, I took the bait.  Celebration is “the town that Disney built.”  The Disney Corporation, flushed with the success of the Disney theme parks and hotels, decided to create a whole themed town as an experiment in urban planning.   The concept was that Celebration would be a modern version of Marceline, Mo, the town Walt used as a model for the theme park Main Street, USA.   They built a variety of housing options, all quaint and cute.  They established a town center with adorable little boutiques and restaurants.  They even make autumn leaves fall in October and November and deliver snow at the Christmas season.  At some point, Disney decided it was much harder to manage a real community than a fake one and sold the project.

At any rate, an evening of snow and beautiful decorations and cute, Christmassy shops after our Gaylord Palms experience sounded good to me, especially since it would relieve me of the need to find parking at Celebration.  Thus, we booked our seats on the Holly Jolly Express in early December.

The trip to Gaylord Palms was uneventful.  I began to wonder if I really needed the Christmas pimpmobile for this trip.  Especially when the tour guide, with no apparent embarrassment, confided that she HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE!

Still, now that I was committed to being one of the merry band of Christmasphiles, I was bound and determined to put my heart into it.  I allowed myself to be herded, along with 3 or 4 thousand other elderly elves (well maybe not quite that many, but A LOT!) into the foyer of ICE! – the great Christmas ice sculpture extravaganza.  As we entered into the exhibit area, friendly smurfs greeted us.  Actually, they may have been plain old garden variety Gaylord Palms employees who had just turned blue due to the sub-zero temperatures required to keep ICE!, well, ice. Or maybe they were just wearing huge blue parkas.

The smurfs explained that the temperature in the ice rooms was 5 degrees below zero and offered us parkas.  I thought they were concerned that our ancient blood might freeze over or that our already compromised circulation might collapse in the cold, but it seems they bundle all the guests into parkas.

As we turned the corner to enter the exhibit, I noticed that there was a mountain of ice off to one side.  Individual lanes descended down the mountain, allowing for several thrill-seeking riders as a time to whoosh down the ice to their probable death, for a separate admission.  No takers.  If you ask me, this mountain was proof that hell had, indeed, frozen over.

The ICE! exhibit was pretty amazing.  We walked through room after room of towering colorful ice sculptures, each meant to portray a section of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.   In one room, the scene shows a “little” (by giant standards, I guess) boy and girl, each poised at the top of their own bannister as they prepare to make a break for it.  Speaking of breaks, the bannisters contained 20-foot ice slides instead of stairs.  These slides were the milder version of the extremely high, extremely slick, and extremely steep slides in the other room. Two of our party decided to try them out. Luckily, no lives were lost, but there was still no way I was going to scoot my ample rear end down a sheet of ice.

There was a pop-up gift store at the exit of ICE!  It sold ICE!-related items, but also featured about 5000 square feet of Christmas decorations available for purchase.  So I did.  Purchase, I mean.

Then, outside the pop-up store, we spotted a small kiosk selling GINGERBREAD!  I gave up any wild thoughts I might have had of eating lunch and bought that spicy, delectable, melt-in-the-mouth Christmas treat that I crave all through the year but can only get at the holidays.  Max and I tucked into those cookies like ravenous, sugar-deprived wolves.

Then, the first of the downsides of a bus tour kicked in.  We were really pretty much finished doing everything we really cared about doing at Gaylord Palms, but the bus wasn’t going to be moving on to Celebration for another couple of hours.  Some people were having lunch at one of the regular sit-down restaurants, but Max and I had already decided we would eat a big meal in Celebration. The infusion of gingerbread made it pretty impossible to change our plan and eat a large lunch at Gaylord Palms.  Since our tour guide HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE, she had not provided any helpful hints on what to see or how to fill the time.  Max and I went rogue and explored the hotel on our own.  We actually saw a few interesting things, like a pen of baby alligators.

Finally, we were back on the bus and on our way to Celebration.  We reached Celebration just as it was getting dark and the Christmas lights were beginning to illuminate.  The little shop windows sparkled with holiday decorations.  There was a man-made ice rink set up for skating.  Workers were blowing snow onto a section of the street, designated for kids to play in a winter wonderland.  It was pretty charming, I have to say.  The whole thing reminded me at bit of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I wasn’t sure what we were going to do there for over two hours.  Our tour guide informed us, ONCE AGAIN, that she had never been to Celebration.  I am really not sure what value this lady added to the trip.  She was nice and everything, but isn’t a tour guide supposed to guide?

By this time, the gingerbread had worn off. Max and I went to a diner and had a yummy dinner.  As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we saw horses and carriages pull up across the street.  We noticed children riding in a little train.  This gave us some ideas on how to fill our remaining time in The Town That Disney Built.

After dinner, we chatted with the fellows who were creating the “snowfield.”  It turns out that the “snow” is a laundry soap based concoction that is the consistency of gritty shaving cream.  They had a sort of reverse vacuum device that filled the area with about a six-inch layer of the stuff, which resulted in a wide expanse of area for kids to make snow angels, have snowball fights, and, in general, get the experience of snow without the cold and the wet.  How sensible!

Next, we went to inspect the horse and carriage brigade.  There was a horse and wagon, horse and Victorian-type carriage, and a horse and Cinderella coach.  We talked with the vendors and learned that we could take a 15-minute ride around Celebration in any of these conveyances, for a variety of prices, depending on which vehicle we took. We climbed onto the wagon, going with the cheapest option.  It was delightful.

After bidding adieu to our horse, we strolled around the little boutiques and purchased yet more Christmas paraphernalia.  A little before 7:00pm, a disembodied voice announced that the snowfall would commence in a few minutes.  We stood next to the skating rink to wait for the planned and scheduled weather.  Children with helmets and knee pads slithered around the ice.  Some even used a walker-like device to keep them upright while approximating skating.  I really thought the children playing in the snowfield were way more likely to incur injury.  Judging by the force and intensity with which they were throwing their small bodies on asphalt covered in a few inches of soapsuds to make snow angels, I am amazed no skulls were cracked.  I think they should have a concussion protocol for this snow angel sport.

The snow fell tidily, keeping to its assigned area, for about five minutes and then stopped until the next hourly demonstration of fake nature.  We got back on the Holly Jolly Express, expecting a quiet trip back to our car.

It was not to be.

We discovered the tour guide’s only added value was to encourage forced gaiety.  No sooner were we on our way when she insisted upon playing the Christmas movie, Deck the Halls, on the bus’s DVD monitor.  Deck the Halls may be the worst Christmas movie of all time.  This is not just my opinion.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 6%.  Any self-respecting Christmas movie should at least get into the double digits, if only for the schmaltz factor.

After the movie, our tour guide passed out the lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas, assigning us each specific parts.  Max pretended to be asleep.  I checked to make sure he was still breathing because Deck the Halls might have been just enough for him to end it all.  His chest was moving up and down, so I concentrated on mumbling my assigned lyrics each time “six geese a-laying” came around.  I hated those geese.  A few people had obviously done more than a little liquid celebrating in Celebration and they were having a boisterously awesome time.

When the twelve drummers finished drumming, I thought we were finished.  No such luck.  The next DVD was a Honeymooners’ Christmas Special.  I ask you, in what decade was gambling away you and your best friend’s life savings and threatening violence against your wife and mother-in-law considered uproariously funny?  I think that must have been before my time.  You see, I really am not 80.

We finally, blessedly, returned to where we left our car. We were happy to leave the Holly Jolly Express that had been so cruelly hijacked by the demented Christmas purveyor of hilarity.

Would we do it again?  Probably.

It’s your turn.  Do you engage in any wacky, over-the-top Christmas activities?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have a ho-ho-ho holiday season!

Terri 🙂

Programming note:  I’ll  be back to posting on Wednesday next week.  Since this post is a bit super-sized, you’ll have an extra day to read it before the next new post. :-0.

Momentum: The Superpower of Success

Alert the media! Stop the presses!  Something went right today.

After multiple home improvement debacles, my gut is firmly trained to seize up and revolt at any mention of the word “handyman.”  I actually expend quite a bit of energy trying to ignore situations that might require the services of a home repair professional.

Today, however, we actually accomplished something with minimal time, hassle, and expense.

Some time ago, the fluorescent light tubes over Max’s bathroom sink burned out.  We replaced them.  This involved climbing on stepladders, kneeling on the counter, and holding things above my head.  There is no question that Max is the one who did the bulk of the heavy lifting.  Even in my very limited capacity, I was graceless and ineffectual.  However, we did finally get both the light tubes replaced. 

A few weeks ago, Max again complained that the lights were flickering on and off.  When he flipped the switch to illuminate the bathroom, the lights took his request under advisement.  However, they were as likely to stay stubbornly unlit or to tease him with a hopeful flicker as they were to emit actual sustained light.  When they did cooperate, Max would leave them on for hours just to avoid another confrontation later.  While this strategy had marginal success for a little while, the lights eventually breathed their last.

Max mentioned the situation to me.  He diagnosed the problem as a need to replace the ballast.  He suggested that we call the electrician company we used a few other times.  I agreed, in an absent-minded kind of way.  I put it on my mental “to-do” list, but didn’t “do.”

For a couple of weeks, Max employed various workarounds for light in the bathroom.  Like the trooper he is, he found ways to take care of his daily ablutions without benefit of overhead lighting while he patiently waited for the “call electrician” item to work its way up on the “to-do” list.

I finally decided to do something before Max became the victim of a self-inflicted shaving fatality.  On Saturday, I called the electrical company we’ve used in the past.  The dispatcher told me that he wasn’t sure the company still covered our area.  He told me he’d check and call back.  Amazingly, he did.  But only to tell me that he was still checking and would call back in a little while.  Come Monday, we still had not heard back.  “Here we go again,” I thought. 

I went trawling the internet for another highly-rated electrician.  I thought I found one and called, only to have the dispatcher tell me their company didn’t handle our area for small jobs.  Fortunately, she did give me a referral to another vendor, though.

I called electrician #3.  Jackpot!  He answered the phone immediately.  He quoted an acceptable price.  He stopped at the supply warehouse and appeared on our doorstep inside half an hour.  Twenty minutes later, he was gone and we had light.

It is amazing how this event changed my metabolism.  For weeks now, I’ve been dragging around barely getting through each day doing what I absolutely had to do.  Today, after the light came on in Max’s bathroom, I was a whirlwind.  I finally drove a couple of nails in the Florida room wall to hang a wreath that had repeatedly fallen to the floor after its suction cup hook stopped adhering to either the wall or window.  I swept the Florida room.  I stopped to get my mother a milkshake on my way to the rehab facility.  I had an emotionally-charged conversation with a doctor at the rehab and then visited with my mother for a couple of hours.  Then, I went to her mobile home and packed up stuff for an hour.  On my way back home, I stopped at UPS to send back her satellite TV box.

It’s crazy that we tend to focus on what goes wrong when concentrating on what goes right generates such a power surge. It seems there is no more effective fuel for activity than success.

At any rate, I am all a-flush with victory.  I am ridiculously happy about the completion of a simple household repair.  But I’ll take it!

How about you?  Do you find that even small successes can motivate you to keep trying?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

I hope many things go right for you today!

Terri 🙂

Special programming note:  Next week, I may be posting on Tuesday instead of Wednesday morning.  I’m sorry I can’t be more definitive, but such is life.  Thanks for your understanding!