Archive for November, 2009

A dangerous precedent

November 28, 2009

It’s almost 5 pm and I’m still in my pajamas. I’m not exactly sure how it happened and yes, I do realize how pathetic it sounds. Less than a week after my official retirement and another week away from diving into book writing and I can’t even be bothered to change into actual clothes to face the day.

I yearn to point out that it’s a lazy Saturday, but honestly, can there be any excuse? I think not.

After several marathon packing expeditions, I finally cleared out the last of my belongings from my office yesterday — so today has been all about rearranging it here at the house and figuring out what stays in boxes and what comes out to use. Cleaning out my office was like an archeological dig — with layer after layer revealing itself. And it’s almost as bad here at the house. Just not enough room. Which leads me into psychological questionings about how much these physical reminders matter (very little) and how much stress I’ll incur trying to hang onto them.

Even so, it’s hard to throw stuff out. There’s the going-away page they did for me in Austin which featured my big dog Jeb or the Texas flag all my pals signed. Not to mention the collected stories, notes and knick knacks I’ve picked up during my 7 years here in West Palm Beach. What percentage is worth hanging on to . . .  and what belongs in the trash?

This question and others like it have consumed my day — and apparently rendered me unable to trade pajamas for street clothes. I’m staying in tonight, so even now I really don’t have a pressing reason to change.

So now I’m trying to remember the last time I spent a whole day in my pajamas, when I wasn’t sick I mean.

Come to think of it, I believe there have been a few pajama-clad Saturdays here and there, where I was left to my own devices and ended up puttering around the house, organizing a draw or closet, doing a small craft project or just writing letters. Days when I just kept discovering that the thing I wanted to do next didn’t require me to change clothes. Perhaps my pajama penchant isn’t the towering symbol of sloth I feared.

Nevertheless, confessing my attire to blogland has at last galvanized me into action. The second I post this, I’m dressing for the day.

Really. I promise.

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So this is retirement

November 23, 2009

I’m halfway through my first workday as a retiree and so far, it looks alot like vacation. The weekend was filled with packing and parties and feelings of turning over a new leaf. But today, with the rest of world at work and me out running errands and checking things off my list — well, it feels pretty vacation-y.

On Sunday afternoon, when I realized I still had a huge bag of books in the car that I’d hoped to deliver to the used book store, I groaned, thinking I’d have to carry it around another whole week, waiting for time NEXT weekend. But then, my newly-acquired retiree’s brain kicked in with the reminder that I could do that MONDAY — because, you know, NO WORK!

So clearly, this is all going to take some getting used to. I spent the morning doing errands, with strict instructions from my retired self to spend the afternoon at the beach, because, honestly, if I’m not going to get to the beach more often as a retired person than a working person then there’s really no reason to go on living.

But the clouds piled up while I visited the bank, the book store, the mall and the grocery store, so I’ve slid beachtime to tomorrow’s to-do list — marveling that I have a tomorrow available for this sort of thing. To know that I can sit by the ocean — and read or not, sleep or not — and not have it be a day of my vacation, is hard for me to accept. During my 7 years in Florida, I’ve occasionally stolen a day or afternoon to sneak away to the beach nearby, but my enjoyment is severely hampered by the knowledge that I’m only stealing time from myself, that once I return to the office, I’ll have twice as much work to do to make up for my truancy.

That’s just not true anymore. Now I’m off the clock, for good. And it’ll take my brain longer than a couple of days to get used to it, no doubt.

Meanwhile, I’ve granted myself 2 weeks of rest and reflection — before I dive into writing my book. A part of my brain that refuses to be silenced assures me this is shameless procrastintion, but several people I trust have assured me it’s appropriate to take a bit of time to pat myself on the back for a job well done, allow the brain to go fallow for a short while — and THEN start the next great adventure.

So that’s my plan — and part of why I want to get to the beach. Is there a better spot for absorbing the past, feeling the absolute joy of the moment you’re in and also dreaming of the future? I think not.

Change and more change

November 18, 2009

I’m two days into my final week of newspaper work and have yet to hit the wall of nostalgia. Sure, I’ve had some pangs as I clean out drawers and toss some long-saved items in the trash. But my heart doesn’t ache and I don’t spend hours feeling acutely sentimental — and believe me, I’m more than capable of the sentimental-and-then-some frame of mind.

The vast changes in my industry are surely part of the reason I’m able to contemplate leaving with such a reasonable attitude. Our staff is so diminished and the number of empty desks that have surrounded my work area for months are hardly uplifting. Morale is questionable on good days and downright dispirited on bad ones. Everyone has pulled together as best they can, but I think we all feel like we’re crashing around in the forest, searching for a path out, or at least an experienced guide who can lead us out. In today’s newspaper world, experienced guides are hard to come by.

Which isn’t a knock on the good folks who are trying. It’s just a fact.

Meanwhile, on the home front, as if there isn’t enough CHANGE in my life, our house has been selected for a “staging” event, which is Realtor-speak for “our stuff’s better than yours.” Or maybe we’re just being sensitive. Bottom line is some professionals are going to give our house the once over and by tomorrow at this time we’ll be sparkling. Furniture will be moved, books will be packed, perhaps plants will be brought in. But I have a lot of questions. If you’ve ever had your house staged or restaged, give me a hint of what to expect, OK? Will they pack up my earring tree? Raid my closets? Hang new drapes? Cook me dinner? Hey, I’m just askin’.

‘Cause I find I’m feeling kind of sentimental about the home front, now that I’m shutting down the work office for good.

 

Regrets, I’ve had a few

November 12, 2009

Appalling.

The list of stuff I need to get done to transition into retirement/writing a book is getting ridiculously long. Am I missing something? I’ve envied (OK, hated) retired people for the past 2 years at least, noting their slothful ways with disdain (OK, jealousy). And yet the closer I get, the more chores I see that need to be accomplished. Shouldn’t retirement be more restful than this?

Today I finished the second to last story I’ll write for my newspaper, and so I took an hour to begin deleting old computer files, which thank goodness I started early because this task inevitably led me down memory lane, as I began scanning old files before trashing them. Naturally, I occasionally came upon a file I want to keep, but making the call on whether to clog up my home computer by transferring said nostalgic trivia gets old quick. I’m starting a new chapter, right? How much of this dated stuff do I really need? OK, none. But how much of it do I want? What if I purge too much and start to regret it?

I really want to be past this stage — onto my new playing field. But the only way to get there is step by step, whether it’s transferring digital photos and files to taking down the beloved Texas flag from my office wall. I’ve got old correspondence, stacks of newspapers and a whole bulletin board’s worth of memorabilia yet to deal with. And when the last shred of evidence of my presence is finally cleared out of my office, I’ll need to find somewhere here in this already-full house to store it all, while simultaneously arranging some sort of small work space here at home for my future book work. (Unless, I decide to write it propped on my knees in bed, which is pretty dang comfortable, thank you very much.)

Meanwhile, I’m resolutely squelching the bleak feeling that steals in when I contemplate how much I’ll miss my beloved daily lunch table at work, my podmates and a few other co-workers I’m close to. Not to mention my loyal readers!

I know, I know. After all this whining, you’re wondering why the heck I made this choice.

At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer, trust me. And frankly, I’m guessing that about 2 weeks into my book project, I’m going to be so psyched about the new territory ahead that today’s apprehensions will be forgotten.

But we’ll see, won’t we? That’s why I’m blogging. To see how it all turns out.

The long goodbye

November 11, 2009

AAproductpanel mugSo today I proofread the newspaper page that features my farewell column. It doesn’t run for two days, so I have that long to adjust.

I wonder if I will. Adjust, I mean.

There’s so much unknown in front of me. And such warm memories behind. As I read over the blurbs describing some of the women I highlighted, I was struck with the collected wisdom, courage, compassion and friendship they’d shown me. And they’re the tip of the iceberg. For every woman I featured, 10 others stand behind, just as staunch, just as memorable. I think of the women’s clubs and networks that invited me to speak and how much fun it was to meet an entire roomful of warm, smart, accepting women. How easily we could all connect, how eager we are to meet one another at this time of life, when the intertwined nature of our friendships and support systems is becoming both stronger and more apparent.

On the drive home, I realized that the women I’ve met, who generously shared their stories and wisdom, have shaped me into a woman who’s finally strong enough and bold enough to step out into a new role, try something different, take a plunge. Yes, I’m leaving my readers in one sense, forfeiting my newspaper space each week that was once devoted to our conversations. But I’m taking them with me.

I learned the lessons I was meant to learn. Can’t ask for more than that.

Turn the page.

Hello everyone — and ugh

November 9, 2009

So I wanted to make my first blog about something incredibly universal that us women of a certain age all have in common, but I woke up with a migraine, which makes it hard to be smart and creative. Actually, this is the third day in a row for this particular migraine. And though I’m not in pain now, the meds really give me cotton head, so, you know, ugh.

The headache gave me a slow start to the day and I was late getting to work but wasn’t too worried because I had a 4 pm interview and knew I’d be working fairly late. Besides, the cool thing about being in a career for 30+ years is that the people around you give you the benefit of the doubt. They trust you to do your job because you’ve been competent at it year after year. Remember early in your career when you were an agony of nerves all the time, terrified to make a false step or do something foolish and be revealed in all your ignorance? Yeah, me too. Only too well. Those years lasted a looong time.

But they’re over now. In fact, my whole journalism career (with the good years and bad years) is about over — although I still plan to write and have even started a book. Yes, yes, we all have one in us but I’m actually going to try to get mine OUT of me. We’ll see. And I’ll let you know how it goes. When I wrap up my newspaper work I’ll keep a presence here so I don’t lose touch with all my peeps, aka midlife women and maybe a few stray guys.

But ye gods, I just realized that since I’m leaving the only career I know anything about, I’m doomed to repeat that whole novice phase I so airily described just two short paragraphs ago. I’ve been telling myself I’m entering a new phase and all, but I never actually equated it with that whole beginners’ phase where you feel untested, foolish and nervous. I thought it’d just be exciting, challenging, different — all that stuff. Now I’ve flipped over the coin.

Gulp.

Is retirement always going to be this scary?