Reflections, Retirement

Ready for retirement

The past couple of weeks it has felt like the universe is conspiring to reinforce that I have made the right decision to retire.

While there have been the usual ups and downs, dramas, and irritants over the years, and there are some specific parts of my job I have disliked (union negotiations, for example) overall the past 14 years have been enjoyable and rewarding.  Maybe it’s my mindset as a “short timer” or maybe it is that lately there actually have been more instances of the things that have irritated me…but whatever the reason I am definitely less tolerant of the irritants and minutiae and definitely feeling ready to move on.

At the same time, I’ve been obsessively checking my financial planning spreadsheets and running scenarios for scenarios and I am comfortable (I should probably touch wood here!) that we have the resources to weather a stock market crash, a medical crisis, or whatever the future might bring.

And, in response to the myriad questions about “what you going to do when you retire?” I’ve been running through my long and growing list of projects I want to get done, classes I want to take, and places I want to visit, and organizations I want to support with my time…not to mention the prospect of waking up without an alarm; and having unscheduled time to garden, cook healthy meals, bake, walk or bike to do my errands, and to read….Let’s just say I’m not worried about filling my time!

In other words, I am ready!  Now I just need to make it through the next 9 weeks….

Change, Reflections, Retirement, Uncategorized

Rooted

As my retirement date nears one of the most common questions I get is “Are you moving?”  The answer is absolutely not!

It is true that we live in one of the highest cost areas of the country, and our retirement income and savings would stretch a lot further elsewhere, but there are many reasons we are staying put –

  • We love living three blocks from the beach, seeing whales spouting and dolphins frolicking on our morning walks, and our gorgeous ocean sunsets.
  • We love our home, yard, and neighbors.
  • Our family and friends are scattered around North America and the world, and we love that they want to come visit us and that our proximity to LAX makes it convenient for them to do so.
  •  We love our Mediterranean climate and have no desire to move anywhere hotter, or colder.
  • We love that pretty much everything we really need (restaurants, grocery stores, bank, shops) is in walking distance, or at most a very short drive away.

All of these things are nice, but the most important thing is that after moving 7 times over the course of our marriage, this is where we have put down roots.

We live in a home that my grandparents bought over 80 years ago.  It’s not where I grew up, but I spent many happy vacations and holidays here, and it is a place of good memories for several generations of may family.  For me, it represents home.

We’ve also established routines, found service providers that we like (doctors, dentist, tradespeople, garage…), learned which grocery stores have the best deals on which items, gotten to know the vendors at the Farmers’ Market and the morning walkers on the Esplanade, watched the trees we’ve planted grow, and most importantly, we’ve made friends.  In short, this has become our community.

Simone Weil once wrote “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

We are rooted here.

 

 

Letting Go, Reflections, Retirement, Work

Bittersweet

Today was our annual Staff Day at work – my last.  All of the libraries were closed so that we could bring the entire staff together for training and fellowship.  The staff team that volunteered to plan the day outdid themselves with a great mix of team-building and learning opportunities, not to mention excellent food and our first staff Bake Off featuring an amazing array of gourmet treats.

They had me in tears after lunch when they showed a photo montage from my 14 years at the library district, including photos of too many people who are now deceased, then presented me with an album of photos of almost every employee, Board members, and volunteers with a hand written note from each.

The day ended with the obligatory team photo –

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, tree, crowd, shoes, outdoor and nature

We have certainly had our challenges over the years, but it has been a huge privilege to work with this creative, talented, and hardworking group of people.  As much as I am looking forward to retirement I know that I will miss them very much.

Truly a bittersweet day….

Reflections, swimming

One of those days

Today was one of those days where one issue or challenge seemed to follow another and even “good” news had a dark twist.

These included –

  • A summons for jury duty…in downtown LA instead of any of the courthouses within a reasonable drive from here.
  • Being notified that I am being awarded a locally prestigious business leadership award from the Chamber of Commerce only to learn that the awards luncheon will take place at the local Trump National Golf Course, which creates both a personal issue for me and a potential political issue for my Board, some members of which had already proposed a boycott of sorts of events at the Trump golf course .  It is hard to “support” a business whose profits go to a President who has cut all federal funding for libraries from his budget proposal.
  • A voicemail from a crank who has for years called my work number monthly to demand that I resign and/or called my Board President to demand that I be fired.
  • Carving out time for a soul-restoring swim only to find the pool jammed and with a long wait time so that by the time I got in the water I had to cut my swim short.
  • Discovering that our dishwasher, which was full of dirty dishes, had detached from its mounting bracket such that the door would not close.

In other words, not much fun.

At the same time, I’ve managed to stay pretty positive and to salvage what I can from the days dramas and disasters.  I’ve postponed my jury service until December, and hopefully timed it for the week when the pool at our gym is usually closed for maintenance, and adjusted my schedule so that I can fit in a longer swim tomorrow.

I’ve reminded myself that the crank caller is really more of a nuisance than anything else, and that I am in good company since he makes similar calls to pretty much every Library Director in the greater LA area.

I’ve decided that accepting the Chamber of Commerce award even if it means attending an event that provides some small profit to Trump is better than rebuffing the many people in the Chamber of Commerce that I respect and have enjoyed working with over the years…but that I will use the opportunity as a platform to inform and educate people about Trump’s attack on libraries.

Tomorrow I will call the excellent appliance repair man that we discovered a few weeks ago when our refrigerator was leaking water, and hope that he can reinstall our dishwasher with new brackets.

And I will remember this morning’s beautiful walk along the ocean with Don, the great conversation a friend and I had when we met for coffee (tea for me!) this morning, my house that is clean and shiny after our cleaning lady came today, and the fact that I actually had a productive day at work and at home despite the challenges.

Even “one of those days” has its bright spots!

 

 

 

Acceptance, Expectations, Letting Go, Reflections

There isn’t a way things should be…

“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.” Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett was a best-selling English author who died in 2015 of early-onset Alzheimer’s, so he knew first hand about the futility of thinking that things “should” be a certain way…but it is a lesson that I am still struggling with.

Yesterday’s Valentine’s celebrations, or in our case lack thereof, demonstrated that despite lesson after lesson, I have yet to learn the futility of having unrealistic expectations that my life will somehow mimic a Hallmark commercial.

After 30 years of marriage I know full well that celebrations like Valentine’s Day have never been my husband’s strong suit, and his recent cognitive challenges have only made things harder for him in this regard as for so much else.  I also know that, despite the Hallmark commercials  and the abundance of Facebook posts and Instagram photos showcasing Valentines celebrations, there isn’t a way Valentines “should be”  and that sometimes just being together is enough.

I tried hard to remember all of this yesterday, and to focus on all of the good things in my life and my marriage, but I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of disappointment, resentment, and sadness that the holiday didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations.  It is true that there were things that Don did, and didn’t do, regarding the holiday that I was rightly sad about,  but it is also true that how I reacted that colored what could have been a nice, low-key, day of togetherness even if there weren’t hearts and flowers and Hallmark cards.

It feels as if over the past couple of years the universe has been trying to teach me what Terry Pratchett said so clearly.   I know that if I don’t learn to give up my expectations  of how things “should” be, the coming years will be so much harder than they need to be, and yet I stumble time and time again.  Yesterday was no exception.

The process is painful, but each time this happens it feels as if there is another crack in the hard shell of my expectations, opening me to greater acceptance of the reality of whatever situation I am in and a more compassionate, grounded, and accepting response.

 

Reflections, Retirement, Work

What I will not miss

It might have been the effect of last week’s full/blue/super/red moon but that past 10 days or so have been full of the kind of issues and activities that make me very glad I will be retiring in a few months…which made me think about things I  definitely will not miss:

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Customer complaints.  I’m not sure which is worse – the ones that are unfounded, the ones where we actually screwed up, or the ones where the complaint is about a situation that we just can’t do anything about…and we had all of those over the past couple of weeks.
  • Sticky (or as I sometimes call them, stinky) personnel issues.  Had one of those last week too.
  • Unstable/belligerent/intoxicated customers.  Last week we made several calls to law enforcement about a couple of these…one of which resulted in an arrest.
  • Board members who do things you really wish they wouldn’t but have to be handled with kid gloves because they are public officials…and your boss(es) to boot.
  • Entitled people of all kinds – and my work community has more than its share.  This includes community members who feel that their career/educational/financial success makes them “special,” employees sometimes who seem to forget what a great place this is to work or how well they are compensated relative to the “market” for their jobs, and volunteers (fortunately not many of them!) who feel that their volunteer service entitles them to special privileges.
  • Union contract negotiations – fortunately those won’t come up again until next year, after I am long gone, but I have done way too many of them in my career and will not miss the tension and divisiveness that they create.  Actually I won’t miss dealing with unions generally.  I believe in their value philosophically and know they offer important workplace protections in some environments, but in practice my experience is that the presence of a union creates an unhelpful sense of “us and them” and makes it more difficult to create a culture where all employees feel part of the same team.
  • Mandatory social events.  Even when I know the people, making small talk is exhausting for an introvert like me….and I absolutely hate dressing up!

Reading this list it is apparent that most of the things I will not miss have to do with people!

At the same time, people are also what I will miss the most.  Community members who really value what the library provides, volunteers and donors who give generously of their time and treasure, employees who are creative and innovative, and who stretch beyond the strict boundaries of their job descriptions  to create innovative programs and provide great service to our customers, professional colleagues who are always willing to share advice and give support. So many of these people have become friends, and I hope those bonds do not fray once I am retired.

It’s a cliche for sure, but at the end of the day, for better or worse, it really is all about the people.

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness, Gratitude, Love, Reflections

Second chances

Despite my resolve to be more patient with Don, yesterday again started with me being rushed to get to work on time, and him being slow….and unfortunately we again fell into the spiral of my anger and his distress.  I left for work upset and agitated, and although we talked by phone and apologized to one another shortly after I got to work, it was not a good start to the day.

But it got worse.

I was eating lunch at my desk at work when my cell phone rang, and a friend’s name flashed on the screen.  This friend attends the same exercise class as Don, which would have ended just before she called me, so I had a feeling it wasn’t good news…and it wasn’t.

She told me that they were doing stretches on their mats at the end of class and when they all started to get up Don could not get up, and was weak and disoriented.  The health club called 911, and when my friend called me the paramedics were on their way.

I spoke with the club manager, and with the paramedics when they arrived, and they said they were taking Don to the emergency room.  I dashed out of work and drove to the hospital fearing that something dire had happened – like a stroke or a heart attack – and feeling immense guilt about my behavior in the morning.

 

At the ER I learned to my great relief that Don was still on a gurney waiting for a bed to be freed up, which indicated that whatever had happened was not life-threatening.  His exercise class instructor met me at the hospital, and when they let us back to briefly seem him we asked if he needed anything.  His response was “a whisky sour” so we knew he was probably alright.

Four hours later he got a bed in the E.R. where they did a chest x-ray, took his blood pressure and temperature (which was over 100), and swabbed his nose.  A couple of hours after that a young and very harried doctor stopped by to say the EKG, bloodwork, and other tests done in the ambulance were all normal and their best guess was flu.  A few minutes later that diagnosis was confirmed (despite the fact that we had both gotten the flu shot!) and we were sent home with a prescription for Tamiflu and a cough suppressant.

After a stop at the pharmacy and at our favorite ice cream place next door we were home, and by 7:30 Don was tucking into a plate of pasta.

Flu is nothing to take lightly, but the diagnosis was a huge relief.  For me the whole episode was also a warning that life’s apple cart can get overturned in a heartbeat and I won’t always have the chance to make amends when I get crosswise with someone.

The universe has been sending me all kinds of signs from blog posts to horoscopes that I need to change how I respond to Don’s lapses and yet I haven’t been able to change.  yesterday the universe decided to hit me over the head with a baseball bat. to get my attention.

I am lucky to have more chances to respond with love rather than anger…and I hope I don’t squander them, because the next sign from the universe might be the last.