IV. Finally Retired

(Wauwatosa, WI. November, 2013) Retirement is a state of mind. And my mind was far from comfortable with that concept. Though I’d quit work six month earlier, I’d been preoccupied with other issues. Divorce. Failed reconciliation. Moving. Anything but retirement. With the move completed, I was no longer isolated but in the middle of a vibrant, new community, close to family and friends.

After several weeks of unpacking and getting settled, I’d promised myself I wouldn’t fall into my usual pattern of over extending myself. There’s nothing like keeping yourself so busy you don’t have time to think. This time, I really wanted to think. So, I purposely held back, making no decisions, making no promises. I wanted to risk being bored in order to find out what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Each day was wide open and I had no idea how to manage that. There were activities in my building and people always around when I walked down to the library to read the paper. I often sat reading in a lounge area at the end of my hallway and was greeted by other residents taking their daily walk. I began to know people’s names and they knew mine. It felt good to become part of this community and when I’d had my quota of social interaction, I’d return to the peace and quiet of my apartment. This was what I’d hoped for.

I’d retired from more than thirty years of having schedules, deadlines, expectations and more to do than could be accomplished in the time available. Retirement felt like going cold turkey and I was having the expected reactions. A sort of panic. A kind of emptiness. An out of body experience. I wondered if having a short term project might help. It could be good to have some small thing on my otherwise empty schedule.

National Novel Writing Month takes place each November. It’s a program to help writers by setting up a requirement and a deadline so they can get over their writers block or solve the general procrastination that’s so common. They can make a pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. If nothing else, they have a completed first draft at the end.

Writing can be done in whatever pattern or combination that works. Write every day. Every other day. Once a week. If it’s done every day, this means a little over 1500 words a day. I’d been a hobby writer for years; it was something I did in my spare time and I’d been published in several newspapers and magazines. I enjoyed it, though I knew I’d never write the great American novel. But, writing more was one thing I’d said I wanted to do in retirement.

I wanted to write about the eight years I’d spent in Eagle River. Memoirs writers are encouraged to write while things are still fresh in their mind. Others recommend giving it time, having some emotional distance from the event. What to do. I knew the move to Eagle River had been a mistake and I was awash with thoughts and feelings about the experience. I wanted to cleanse my soul of it. Put it behind me. Transform myself beyond it. Here I was with no structure and this would give me some. And I’d have something to show for it in the end. I decided to give it a try.

The list of topics I made was enough to fill each day of the month. Each writing session, I chose a subject and wrote the required amount. This was a good idea instead of trying to write the story chronologically. Certain topics were clearer to me since I’d already thought about them and knew how I felt. I was diligent and felt accomplished each day.

About the time I hit 37,000 words, I realized I was tired of the subject. I think that means I had cleansed my soul. What I wrote that month is probably something I’ll never show anyone because it seemed all I was doing was ranting, raving, whining and whimpering. I, no doubt, needed to do that. And It certainly wasn’t a wasted effort because it gave me some closure (hate that word). And now it was time to think of other things.

Putting the past in its proper perspective is the first step in being able to move ahead. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with the rest of my life. Time to think about my future, my retirement and what to do with it. I know what the research says about change. And how long it takes to truly adjust. Buddha would say the lesson is one of patience. Now the real journey can begin.

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