Christmas, swimming, Uncategorized

Feeling like the Grinch

According to the holiday songs that are playing everywhere this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but right now it sure doesn’t  feel that way.

The warm temperatures and smoky air aren’t helping me get in the holiday spirit – a wildfire haze in 80 degree temperatures just isn’t the same as the scent of smoke drifting from chimneys on a chilly evening – and neither are the lingering colds Don and I are battling….but it is more than that.

I have an overwhelming to do list and too many holiday events with too little downtime for an introvert like me.  Add in an upcoming three day visit from my father and stepmother (and an obligatory holiday event with my stepmother’s family) that will be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons having to do with my father’s longstanding antisocial personality tendencies and the obligation  to socialize with step-relatives that we see only once a year and with whom we have  fundamental political and religious differences, and the result is a season that is more about stress and exhaustion than enjoyment.

I’m also realizing how much my regular lap swimming contributes to my emotional and mental well-being.  The pool at the gym is closed for maintenance and I have had to rely on other forms of exercise for the past few days.  I’ve been using the elliptical machine and exercise bike, but the noisy environment and proximity to other people mean that while my body is getting physical exercise, my mind is not getting the benefit of the solitude of swimming or the meditative effect of counting out the laps, which serves as a kind of mantra.

The result is that I am sleeping even worse than I usually do, am more critical and short-tempered with Don, and holiday tasks like writing our annual card that usually bring me joy have just felt like a chore.  I fell like the Grinch!

The pool reopens next week, and I can’t wait!  In the meantime I am trying to wrap up all of my holiday tasks so I can rest and relax in the remaining week before Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go, Retirement, Uncategorized

No more Sunday blues

I follow a lot of personal finance and early retirement blogs, and recently discovered Our Next Life, which is written by a couple that is quite a bit younger than me but  has been travelling a somewhat similar path to early retirement…although their’s will be much “earlier” than mine!

For the past few months I have followed Tanja and Mark’s journey as they have checked and rechecked their finances, plotted how they will spend their days, and thoughtfully planned how they will exit their careers.  I’ve empathized with their fears and uncertainty, and learned from them how I might approach my own transition in a few months time.

At the end of this week Tanja and Mark will be retiring, and today they posted about what the “last Monday” feels like:

Intellectually, we know this: the last Monday means no more Sunday blues, no more worrying that we didn’t catch up on enough sleep over the weekend and are starting  another week tired, no more of that feeling of enjoying our work and appreciating our colleagues and clients but still wondering how we’ll survive another week with all its demands.

The last few months have brought a number of things into stark relief: how much we’ll miss a lot about our work, how grateful we are to have spent our careers surrounded with people we admire and are inspired by, how lucky we’ve been to do work that makes us proud. But also what a toll doing that work has taken on our health, and the knowledge that we’ll have many of these health challenges well after we leave the work behind.”

Their comments really resonated with me, as when I retire in June I too will be leaving a job that has been more than just a job and that has allowed me “to experience something real and special with great people” and to feel that I have made a difference.  There is much that I will miss… and yet my body and my soul are crying out for a life with no more squeezing my “real life” into the rare evenings and weekends without work commitments, a life with no more Sunday blues, no more starting the week tired and wondering how I will survive whatever the week will throw at me.

I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that my impending retirement doesn’t create anxiety – about whether my financial plans are adequate to support a long life without work, whether my vision of how I will spend my days is sufficient, whether the people who think I am crazy for leaving the workforce so early are right.

I hope, and I believe, that when June 2018 rolls around I will feel what Tanja and Mark are feeling today as they walk the last few steps of their journey to a new life –

“We feel sure this is the right choice for us, we feel confident in our preparation and backup plans, and we have a vision for what’s next. And that feels kind of amazing. It makes the thousands of words here, the hours and hours of planning and replanning, and all the emotions along the way feel worthwhile.”

Congratulations Tanja and Mark…you’ve been great role models for me, and I look forward to continuing to learn from your experiences.

 

 

 

Change, Retirement

Wanting better

Last August I announced that I will be retiring when my current employment contract ends on June 30, 2018.  Late last month our Board hired a recruiter, so the process of finding my replacement is well underway.

I am definitely ready to move on to the next phase of my life, but I also know that the prospect of a new leader and the inevitable change to come is causing some anxiety for our staff and volunteers which leaves me feeling a bit guilty.  And if I am honest, even though I am excited about what my future holds and looking forward to a happy retirement, the prospect of change makes me a bit anxious too.

On Friday night one of our long-time volunteers (who has also become a friend) hosted her annual holiday potluck for the staff and volunteers at the branch where she volunteers, and we had a funny conversation about the changes to come. She asked if I would come to the party next year, and I told her that I probably would not as I don’t want to usurp the new Director, but it would depend on who the Director was and my relationship with that person.  She then said she wished the Board would just promote our current Deputy Director because everyone likes her and that would result in the least amount of change.  I explained that as public officials the Board has an obligation to conduct a thorough and transparent search for my replacement, and said that things will probably be even better with someone new at the helm.  Her response  – “I don’t like change, and I don’t want better.”

At the time I thought her comment was funny, but the more I think about it the more it  makes me sad.  I wonder how many people are so anxious about change that they don’t want it at all, even when it is for the better?  I see many people who are unwilling to leave or change situations that are clearly making them unhappy, even when they have opportunities to do something better, so I think that it is probably a lot.

I hope that I do not become one of those people.  If I am unhappy with a situation or circumstance I want to be open to making the changes, whether in my attitude and approach or in the situation itself, that will make things better.  And when change is thrust upon me, I want to be the kind of person who is open to the lessons and opportunities that it brings.  I don’t always like change, but I do “want better.”

 

Friendship

Friends

This past weekend was spent with long-time friends from when we lived in Australia.  Beryl was a colleague of mine – one of two women on the management team of an aluminum smelter, which in itself was enough to create an instant bond of solidarity as we navigated some challenging times together.  The fact that Don and I really liked Beryl and her partner Joe and shared many interests was icing on the cake, and we were soon enjoying many happy times with them and their two children at one of our homes, or at their rustic holiday property in the beautiful Eungella National Park.

We moved home from Australia in 1998, which was the last time we saw Beryl.  Joe and their daughter visited us once, but even that was more than 10 years ago.  We’ve stayed in touch over all of the intervening years, more recently via Facebook, but we were a bit nervous about how spending several days together would go after so much time had passed.

We shouldn’t have worried.  They stepped off the plane, we started talking, and we pretty much didn’t stop for the entire three days they were with us.  It was like we had seen each other yesterday.  We ate lots of good food (they are now vegan, so that was interesting for us!) and lingered at the table drinking copious amounts of wine.  Just like when we were last together no topic was off limits, and we covered health, diet , religion, politics, social issues, climate change and much more.

We have an active social life and enjoy seeing our local friends, but Beryl and Joe’s visit was a reminder of the value of long-time friendships and shared experiences.  Now we are looking forward to seeing them again soon as they spend the next year travelling North America in their Earth Cruiser, and maybe in Australia after that.

That old saying that friendships are like wine and get better with age really is true!

Gratitude

Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays.  I love the time with family, the fact that it is a secular rather than a religious holiday that all Americans are able to celebrate no matter our backgrounds or beliefs, I love the turkey and stuffing, and most of all I love the reminder to stop and reflect on all there is to be thankful for.

The past year has been a rough one in many respects – the challenging political environment, Don’s struggles to adjust to retirement and both of our struggles to adjust to the realities of his aging, the deaths of family members and friends…

But there is also so much to be grateful for.  Despite the age-related issues that Don faces overall our health is actually really good.  We love our home and our beach lifestyle.  We’ve enjoyed some fabulous trips, and good visits from and with family and friends.  While we are not fabulously wealthy, we are financially secure enough that we will be able to sustain our current lifestyle after I retire next year.  We have family that we love, and a wide network of friends.  In short, life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone reading this!

 

 

 

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Love, Reflections

Love Is An Act of Endless Forgiveness

Last week ended on a rough note as, after several really good weeks, Don and I found ourselves at odds and slipping into old behavior patterns.  The details aren’t important.  He did a couple of things that angered and upset me.  As I too often do, I let my anger become vitriolic which, as it usually does, made him shut down and withdraw.  In turn I got even more vitriolic in my efforts to break through, and he shut down even more.  A vicious cycle that has repeated itself throughout our marriage.

I’ve been working hard on not letting things go without getting angry, and on not letting my anger, no matter how justified I feel I am to be angry, turn to vitriol but last week was a major fail.

Friday night, after a tense day and evening, I came across these words in a novel that I was reading – “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.”  

Those words, which were incidental to the story, literally took my breath away.  They motivated me to get out of bed to go find Don and make amends, and they’ve been at the forefront of my mind ever since.

Today I googled the quote and learned that the phrase is part of a longer quote from Peter Ustinov, but to me it is those seven words that are so powerful.

As we head into the holidays, which are always a time of stress and anxiety for me and therefore a time when I am at risk of having my worst responses and behaviors come to the forefront, those words will become my mantra.  I need to remember them when I am about to get upset with Don about something that invariably won’t be that important anyway, and I need to remember them when I let myself get triggered and feel that I have let both myself and Don down.

This Thanksgiving week I am grateful that that a lesson I needed to learn found me just when I needed to learn it.

Love is an act of endless forgiveness.  Words to live by, for sure.

 

 

 

 

Aging, Grief, Reflections

Life Itself Is Grace

It has been a season of losses for me at work and personally as each month has brought news of the death of a family member or a member of my library/work family.

August was marked by the memorial service for my Aunt Lydia, who died in May.  September saw the death of a former Library Trustee.  In October we lost my cousin as well as a longtime library volunteer.  The month before that a former Library Trustee.  .

This past weekend we lost one of our long-time library volunteers, someone who celebrated her 80th birthday in August but was still vibrant, engaged, and working at a part-time job that she loved until felled by illness just a few short weeks ago.   Someone I considered a friend.

None of these people have been “young” and in that sense their deaths are simply part of life, but the steady drumbeat of loss after loss has been hard.  It’s also made me more aware of impending losses as I witness the aging and/or illnesses of family members and friends, and recognize the losses (of relationships, community and professional stature, and of the structure that has governed my days) that will come with my retirement next year.

Against the backdrop of so much loss I have been working on living more in the present and less in the future, and on letting go of my perfectionism and need for order in favor of accepting the people and situations in my life with love and gratitude even when they do not meet my “standards.”  It is a journey for sure, and some days I am more successful than others.

A couple of weeks ago Michael Wade posted the following quote from Frederik Buechner on his Execupundit blog, and the final sentence has lived with me since I read it –

If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

“…in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  

I am holding these words close as I reflect on the lives that have been lost, and the losses that are certain to come.