Mild Cognitive Impairment, Reflections, Retirement

Retired…and ready to blog again?

When I started this blog I was full of good intentions about writing once or twice a week, but I quickly discovered that absent a strong theme for the blog it was really challenging to find topics to write about…at least ones that didn’t sound too much like my personal diary.

A few weeks ago I decided to take a break from blogging, with the idea that I would re-start once I retired in late June and my life settled down.

The past few weeks have been really intense. There were three weeks of extended visits from family, some of whom are pretty high maintenance, and a whole series of retirement parties and events.  It was gratifying to have my contributions to the library and community celebrated, but also stressful as I really don’t like being the center of attention, and just the social aspect is hard for an introvert like me.

I was also busy wrapping things up at work, and making sure everything was in place for my successor.

Leaving work also turned out to be more stressful and emotionally draining than I had anticipated.  I was ready on so many levels, but actually saying farewell to so many people that I care about was hard.

The stress of those last work weeks carried over to home, and in a familiar pattern the more stressed I was the less patient I was with Don, and the less patient I was with him the more anxious he got and the worse his cognitive issues, requiring more patience from me just when my well was depleted.

And then I went from a tearful last day at work to a party that Don and I threw for 50 of our friends the next day…fun, but it required a lot of planning and work.

Then we went on a trip to the East Coast just three days later, and while we were looking forward to it the run up to a trip has never been a good time in our marriage.  I get obsessive and stressed about getting everything ready, which makes me short-tempered and impatient, and poor Don just tries to stay out of the way, which makes me resentful that I am the once doing all of the work…and then the familiar vicious cycle described above kicks in.  It is not pretty.

The trip was worth it though, as we spent a fun couple of days sightseeing in Philadelphia, then a few days with family in New Jersey.  It was good to spend time with people we love but only get to see once a year or so, but also not easy as several are facing significant health, mental health, or other personal challenges.

We just got home last night, and between the trip and today’s 4th of July holiday it really hasn’t sunk in that I am actually retired.

It is already clear that my days and weeks will not be empty.  There are exercise classes that I want to attend several days each week, a 2x/month care partner support group that I think will be really helpful for me as we continue to face Don’s cognitive issues, our monthly “Memory Club” meeting, my women’s discussion group, social activities with friends – both solo and as a couple, my volunteer work with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and medical appointments.  Plus we have trips scheduled every few weeks for the rest of the year, and a full month of family visitors in September/October.  I’m beginning to see why my retired friends wonder how they ever had time to work!

That said, I do want to resume blogging and I think there are a couple of topics that will give me plenty of material and while they are intensely personal, I think they might also be of interest to others.

The first topic is the realities of retirement.  I have spent decades planning for this time of my life, but now that it is here I am realizing the truth of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s statement  “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”   Even less than two weeks into this new phase of my life I am learning that the reality is different than what I had planned and envisioned, and that one of my personal challenges will be to let go of control and just ride the waves as they come.  I am sure I will have more to write about this as the days and weeks unfold.

The second topic is the cognitive issues that Don is experiencing, and how they affect both of us, our relationship, and our retirement plans.  We still don’t have a diagnosis, but the issues are real.  Some days they seem to be worse, some days better and riding that roller coaster is challenging in and of itself.  I have been reading a lot about cognitive impairment and brain health, about caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other brain diseases, and books by other women whose partner’s have experienced these issues.  I plan to share what I am learning, how we are trying to manage Don’s symptoms with diet, exercise, supplements, and other strategies, and (something that has been particularly helpful and meaningful to me), our personal story of living with these issues while trying to maintain our relationship as a couple.

One of the lessons I am learning now that I am retired is to let go of expectations of what I “should” be doing and let myself do what my body, soul, or relationship tell me I need to do in any moment.  When it comes to blogging that means that I am not going to set myself an expectation of how often I will write.  My guess is that some weeks I will post several times, and sometimes weeks will go by without a post.  Some posts will be short and sweet – a photo, or a quote that I come across and find meaningful – and some will be longer and more reflective.

And I am not going to worry about whether anyone else reads what I write.  This is my journey, and this blog is my way of processing what I experience along the road.  If you find me and want to come along, welcome…but if no one but me ever reads it that is fine too!