When I moved to Wauwatosa, in October 2013, I was filled with angst. I’d retired, gotten divorced and moved all within a short time. Disobeying all the advice articles that said only change 8% of your life at a time, instead I’d changed 92% all at once. No wonder I was off balance.

It wasn’t as though I had a choice. I needed to get out of that small town I’d moved to in order to please a husband. And away from the memories that couldn’t fade fast enough of how I was portrayed as the supervisor from hell in my job at the county social service office. I needed to get started on my new life and leave this dead end place behind. Now!

Once I’d unpacked everything and gotten settled into my one bedroom apartment (that only took two days) I was unhinged. Each day I’d rise early as was my habit throughout my work life, shower and get dressed. Then I’d look around. It’s 8:00am and I have no place to go, no one expecting me or wanting anything from me. I was lost.

Getting to know my way around this unfamiliar town was overwhelming with its winding roads and streets that changed names without warning. So, each day I looked up an address of someplace I wanted to check out. The library. A local coffee shop. Malls and restaurants. I’d put the address into my GPS and begin my trek. The fog began to recede.

The advice articles also said to not overbook yourself so I was hesitant to volunteer though there were opportunities galore. Let’s take this one step at a time. But being used to schedules I decided to build some structure into my life and began to join things. I used my suddenly empty appointment book as a guide. My goal was to enter something, anything each day.

There was a schedule posted and many activities right here in the building; this was one of the things that had attracted me. Privacy and autonomy but also company. I started attending many of these activities with mixed results. Current events was like being on a memory impaired unit of a nursing home. Once was enough. Bingo was just not for me. Saturday night movie put me in a room with a few other residents who slept most of the time.

Each time I’d return to my apartment feeling unsettled so dropped out of most in-house activities. The catered lunches or dinners were a nice exception and perfect since I loved it when someone else did the cooking. I met a couple of like-minded women I could talk and laugh with.

I loved to read so I joined four book groups. I love to write so joined three writing groups. I’d reconnected with several old friends who lived in the area and had plenty of lunch, museum, theater and movie dates. Now after over two years I think I’ve hit my stride. I feel ucky to have so many options.

But then I began feeling frazzled in a different way. Too many opitons. Too much to do. I needed to start saying no. When I quit that first writing group, I felt some anxiety. It was someplace to go and that felt comforting though once I got there I was unsatisfied. Is quitting like failing, like not getting the job done I wondered.

I’d never been a quitter. Once I realized how good it felt there was no stopping me. I quit all but one book group. I’d found that belonging stopped me from getting to the reading I really wanted to do. And so much for my pledge to not volunteer. Once I felt settled a few things dropped into my lap.

I now volunteer at the in-house library shelving new books and sorting magazines. I’m a tutor for third grade students who visit us to read out loud twice a month. Great fun. I’m also on the board of a writing organization. And that’s’ enough.

I facilitate the in-house book discussion once a month and feel okay not usually reading the book. i go to chair yoga at the Y when I can. But mostly I like to stay home these days. I don’t often get dressed until noon unless I have someplace to go. I get up and am on the computer writing my latest post since morning is the most productive time of my day.

When I look ahead to the new week in my appointment book, I know that though it’s empty now it will be full enough soon. I actually like it when there’s nothing in the book. Letting myself quit has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

So, it’s almost noon as I write this; I think I’ll shower and get dressed so I can decide what to do or not do with the rest of my day.




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