Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

Alone at last

April 7, 2010

An e-mail this morning from a friend who said she enjoys following my blog sent me immediately to this site for a new post. Can’t imagine why I don’t do this a little more often, and hey, maybe I will now that I have no one to talk to. Cyberspace makes such a convenient substitute.

Yes, I’m living alone. For the first time in my life.

When I landed in the West Palm airport after driving to Cleveland to accompany my roommate to her new home and life, I was pretty despondent. I didn’t ask anyone to meet me inside, and that was a mistake. I felt so completely solo walking down the long, wide halls, watching all the reunions of passengers around me.

Then, for some reason, it occurred to me that it no longer made sense for my former roommate to be the ICE (or In Case of Emergency) number on my cell phone. Which she has been for years and years. The thought of removing her from that category and facing the chore of figuring out who the heck my ICE would now be did me in. I teared up, realizing how close we had become and how much we relied on each other. I was definitely dragging.

But a girlfriend from the newspaper pulled up out front a while later to run me home and we had a great visit catching up on folks I miss from the old Palm Beach Post gang, and I started to feel normal.

And honestly, it hasn’t been bad since. I do feel a giant void because I no longer know everything my roomie is up to and involved with, but we’re staying in close touch to ease those pangs. She sends me photos of unpacking and I send her pictures of the sunrise on Flagler Drive, where I live now.

But otherwise, I’m adjusting. I got home on a Monday, and though I ran a few errands and talked to sales clerks, I didn’t have any social engagements until dinner with friends on Saturday night. That’s a lot of alone time right up front. I did half a dozen phone interviews for the book however, which provided excellent therapy for my extroverted self.

The women I’ve spoken with are fascinating, forthright and funny. Getting them to talk openly about sexual desire isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. It seems we’re all hungry to pull aside the curtains and learn a little more about what makes us tick and why desire is such an ephemeral thing. I wish I could meet them all in person, they sound like such fun people on the phone, but the number of interviews this book is going to require makes that impossible.

I’m not working very fast yet. I admit that. I assume it’ll go faster when I don’t have the distraction of trying to arrange all my stuff. Speaking of my stuff, WHY am I so absorbed by it? Working a full-time job left little time for obsessions, but now I’ve happily become camp counselor to all my belongings. Music? Over here. Family letters? Here with birthday cards and the like. Photos and photo albums line up over there. Tools? Hmmm. Let’s find you guys a box that will hold the entire gang and a shelf.

Honestly, it’s The. Most. Fun. Which is not to say that as I putter around in search of the ideal locale for, say, my sports equipment or perhaps my  jigsaw puzzles, that I’m unaware of the fact that I am contributing nothing, nothing to the planet. I’m taking up space, filling the dumpster with my castoffs and adding nothing to the social and political conversation of America.

So why am I so content? Maybe it’s just a phase, but I am deeply happy. I feel profoundly grateful for the chance to direct my own activities, to be free of the 9-5 workday for now. I’m shocked at how little work I have to do before my Camp Counselor is wanting me to take a break and tackle another home project. (Gotta get some pictures on these walls sooner or later, but they’re concrete and I’m a bit intimidated!)

This is a one-bedroom place and I’m probably three-quarters of the way through organizing, so I know the puttering will wind down pretty soon. But it’s been an amazingly contented week for me, realizing I like being my own company, that it’s OK (if perhaps not admirable) to be connected to my belongings, that it’s permissible to savor this amazing freedom.

After a lifetime of sharing dorm rooms, apartments, houses and land, I’m ready to fully experience the privilege of getting settled comfortably in this precious, solitary space.


Job = life?

January 24, 2010

File this under realizations that don’t come to you when you have a job.

Quite simply — a job, especially one you like, creates your life for you; without one, you are faced with the opportunity and challenge of creating your own life.

Some people learn this sooner than others; I’m new to the party. Fortunately, I’m old enough and have enough passions, interests and ambitions to start crafting a structured life, but even so, I sometimes feel I’m working with a blank slate. I come from a workplace littered with distractions, deadlines, drama and delight. Now I’m facing the essentially solitary task of writing a book. There is no built-in start time each morning, no “first interview” of the day, no weekly deadlines — just one long project to write and a boatload of life chores that threatens to capsize my sanity some days. (I’m only 8 weeks post retirement and wondering where I previously found the time for all the busy work that sucks up my attention day after day.)

I’ve also discovered that once you say no to full-time work, you can actually say yes to just about everything else. For example, I now have the capability of traveling to China to teach English as a second language, training to be a vet tech, moving to Australia to become a jillaroo or doing manual labor at a garden shop. I could work at a gym, move back to Texas, hire onto a boat bound for anywhere, become a carpenter’s apprentice, beg my former employers to take me back or bum off various family members. See what I mean? When one door closes, every window in the place is suddenly open wide. I now have to choose exactly what I want to do because the job is no longer eliminating every other possibility.

Which is why I find myself creating a brand-new life — right here, right now — and it’s as exciting, daunting and fascinating as you’d expect. And despite all the tempting roads I travel in my mind’s eye, leading to various scenarios and lives I could lead, for now, the path I’ll travel is the one I chose before I even left my career. One that hopefully leads to me being a published author.

So — for the foreseeable future — find me (still) at my desk!

An agent weighs in

January 19, 2010

People much more experienced in the book world than myself assure me that one needs a good literary agent in order to get a good book deal.

Since my fondest wish is to get a good book deal, I have taken heed of the wise counsel of the published writers I know and have been seeking out names of literary agents to approach with my book proposal. I say ‘my’ proposal, but my partner in the book, a local gynecologist and sex therapist, is hardly silent. Her clients are providing the surveys that will provide the research base for our book. But I’m doing the actual writing, which is why I keep saying ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ So forgive me; I’m not trying to diss my worthy partner. I just feel solitary in the writing process a lot and thus gravitate to the singular pronoun.

Anyway, I’ve already sent my proposal to three established agents willing to read it, and one of them quickly sent back wonderful, smart comments on how to sharpen it up. She told me exactly what’s missing that a publisher will surely want included.

Is this great, or what? Every time I turn around, I’m receiving amazing help from generous folks.

A well-known writer friend at the newspaper read my initial stab at a book proposal as early as the middle of last year and helped me get it ready to even submit to agents. For instance, he clued me in to the fact that I’d need a sample chapter. I had no idea; that’s how little I knew.

Now with this agent’s help, I have more excellent suggestions to incorporate, which will take some time, but won’t be a problem because my doctor friend has now collected 950 surveys! Our goal was to have 1,200, so we’re gaining ground. I’ve been working with just 450 of the surveys, but now, with all the additional data, should be able to draw some conclusions for the book proposal that will whet publishers’ appetites.

Lots to do, so thankfully, my workspace is finally ready! The painting project from last weekend was a huge success, and though the yellow was a bit brighter than I’d imagined, its cheerfulness is undeniable. I met the cable guy on Friday and have wireless capability throughout the condo—not that the place is large, mind you. Check the picture above if you don’t believe me!

Coming soon! War stories of organizing the reams of surveys we’ve collected!

A space . . . created

January 9, 2010

So it’s been a while between postings, but there was the whole Texas, Christmas, snow, family, New Year’s, friends, airport thing to tend to.

I had many adventures during my 16 days away, some of which I may blog about later, but for right now, I have actual progress to report. Yes, I realize it’s about time. But it’s big news!  I have located and rented a place to write. This has become necessary because our house is for sale and will not tolerate the persistent mess I am required to make as I dig through the surveys we’ve gathered for the book, spread research books around me and just generally take up a whole room with creative artist’s sprawl.

Sure, I’ve read dozens of stories of fabulous people writing fabulous books with no sprawl space and no computer and little food and whatever other hardships can be conjured. I’m fully aware that good prose doesn’t require a big desk or a bit of solitude.

But a wonderful couple I know recently moved from a third-floor condo into their first home, and the condo has been empty for several months. We struck a deal for me to hang out there days, making a fine mess, finding a bit of solitude and getting comfortable with my writerly self. It’s close to the water, so it’ll be great for walks, and even has a porch area out back where I could carry my laptop. Naturally, it’s unfurnished, and while I have a book shelf and an excellent, recently-purchased office chair, the one thing I really needed was a desk of some kind. I knew the place was right for me when my friends, just before leading me into the condo, reluctantly told me that the one piece of furniture left behind (because they just couldn’t find a place for it at the new house) was a big desk. Was that a problem?

Well no it isn’t! Where do I sign?

I’m up late tonight because I have a bit of excess energy I won’t be able to burn off till tomorrow. See, in a few hours Paint Day begins, and I’m pathetically eager to show up with rollers and masking tape and grubby clothes. We’re going to turn the walls pale yellow—I got to choose!—and I’ll finally be doing something to bring the book closer. Having a physical task that will help create the space I’m longing for has me chomping at the bit.

By tomorrow night I’ll undoubtedly be exhausted and sore, but believe me, it’s gonna be that happy-tired feeling, the one that makes you sleep deep and peaceful.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

November 12, 2009


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.