Ted left to play golf this morning, assuring me of 4-5 hours of solitude. When he’s away for any length of time, I usually turn the TV to the music stations and click through until something appeals to me. Some days it’s soft rock; on others it may be old country tunes; and occasionally I’ll settle on a classical station. But today the sound of the clothes tumbling in the dryer and the birds’ songs heard through the open windows of the sunporch were music enough.
It’s funny. When I retired several years ago, all I could think about was the release from the stress of an 8 -5 workday sandwiched between two 45-minute commutes. After six years as Public Information Director of a 16,000+ student school system where I dealt with publication deadlines, TV cameras, and the myriad of problems that go along with education today – while projecting nothing but a positive image – retirement to me meant putting that all down and walking away blissfully into my retirement years. I envisioned long, lazy afternoons curled up with books, time spent experimenting with different flowers under the shade of our crabapple tree in the backyard, collecting recipes and cooking up surprises for Ted, long walks with the dogs, and peaceful evenings sipping a glass of wine out on the deck, as I watched the sun go down and the moon come up.
The image I envisioned was mine for a short time, and then the reality of life after retirement happened. Days of reading left me feeling intellectually fulfilled, but physically lacking. Every flower planted under that old tree proved to be a delicacy for the neighborhood armadillos. I put all my time-honored recipes into a 3-ring binder, but Ted still insisted on doing most of the cooking. Walking the dogs became a chore, and those evenings on the deck just reminded me how much I dislike wine, unless it’s magically turned into a spritzer with half a can of Sprite Zero.
I’d been retired six months when we bought our condo on Mackinac Island. It couldn’t have come at a better time because I’d had about as much “retirement” as I could stand. Suddenly there was plenty to do – pack up for the summer, arrange for the lake house to be taken care of, move to Michigan for five months and furnish a home there, get outside on the endless island summer days and walk and bike and hike and try my hand at photography. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I decided to blog!
When we returned to Georgia for our winters, the blogging and photography continued, and then the decision to become Pet Partners with Bear and do therapy work with him became a big part of our lives. A few health issues popped up – nothing serious, just the annoying little things that come with age and fill some days with trips into Albany for doctors’ appointments and pharmacy visits. The peaceful vision of retirement had turned into jam-packed days filled with blog deadlines and volunteer jobs – sandwiched between trying to keep in shape by walking, biking, and occasional weightlifting.
It’s been coming for a few weeks now, as it has a few other times since 2008 – the feeling of having too much to do again, the feeling that every day is filled – awaking each morning and instantly thinking “What do I have to do today?” Upon checking the calendar that hangs inside the cabinet where we store the cereal, there seems to always be something penciled in. And along with that “too busy” feeling comes the thought that when you’re spread so thin, how can you possibly be benefiting anyone?
And then this morning I rose, brushed my teeth, and walked into the kitchen. Glancing at the calendar, I slowly lowered the cereal box to the countertop, not quite believing what I was seeing. February 28- March 6. Not a single notation. Every day screamingly blank. A whole week of “nothingness”. I admit to a grin so big that Ted questioned if I had found a big prize in the box of Fiber One.
Ovid, the Roman poet, wrote, “Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” So for the next few days, I plan to capture once again the first vision of my retirement. I’ll start a new book, cook a surprise meal for Ted, walk the dogs just because I want to, ride in the golf cart with Ted for a round of golf, and take my spritzer out to the deck every night to enjoy the beautiful, spring-like weather we are having. And, knowing me, a week will be enough.
For what I have discovered about myself in my retirement years is that “rest” is not something I seek very often. The thought of years spent sitting on the porch, book in hand, sounded like a wonderful thing at one time. Now, an occasional hour of that is enough. Retirement, for me, has come to mean time to do the things I’ve put off all my life – writing, volunteering, working with dogs, photography, enjoying our homes, spending time with our friends, visiting our children and grandchildren – and sometimes, like this week, going on vacation.
Yep – every once in a while we all need a vacation – even when we’re retired.