Who Is That Person in the Mirror

The two things we do most in our adult life are sleep and work.  It should come as no surprise that when you retire a big part of your identity is suddenly in question.

Cartoon of Man Looking at Yourself in Mirror and Unsure About Yourself

Yesterday, you were a worker bee who folks depended on to turn up and make a contribution.    You had some kind of job title no matter what kind of job.   You were a cog in the wheel of some kind of grander scheme of the workforce.

When you retire suddenly you are just you again.  You look in the mirror and you don’t see the same person you saw before.   No one notices if you sleep in late.   No one misses you because you don’t show up.   You have no guidance from your employer on what you are expected to accomplish each day.   You make all the rules for your time, who you interact with, and even in some cases what you wear.

RangerSir is making the transition into retirement living.   He is a little lost and feeling his way around.   He is exploring who else is retired and has time to “play” with him.   He is remembering things he liked to do when he was younger and once again trying his hand at them.  He is checking out things that folks have been telling him about to see if he is interested.  He is dragging his feet on somethings and embracing others.

He watches me get up and buzz around with deliberate purpose each morning.  It is a bit mystifying to him.  Having retired before him I have already made my transition into managing my life for me.   I have a list of daily chores I need to do.   I did this because I never want to spend a single day of my retirement cleaning house, doing bills, laundry or any other mundane chore.   I have it set up so even on my worst day I never spend more than 40 minutes doing my chores.  Once my chores are done I am free for the day.   I can read.   I can spend it with my arty friends.   I can spend time in my studio sewing, painting or anything else that moves me.   I try to get 250 steps in 10 hours of every day.   If my Fitbit tells me that I am in danger of not getting it done.   I hop up and head to the treadmill or outside to get 5 minutes of activity to meet my goal.   He thinks that is plain crazy.   I do yoga in the early morning 4 days a week.   I don’t think he yet knows about that.    It is what I have discovered works for my household, my mental health, and my physical health for me in retirement.

Even though we have been married nearly 40 years and are philosophically and our moral compass is the same, we are different in many other ways.  I am a morning person and like a clean house, but hate to clean.   He, on the other hand, is a night owl and would rather spend a single day—all day–doing things I think of as chores and drudgery.  He likes TV, and I like to read.   I have several hobbies I enjoy but hate exercise.   He likes physical activity but does not have many hobbies.   We are very much opposites in many ways.    He has to figure out what works for him, and what he wants to do. No rush.  He needs to try things.  Explore.   As he finds his groove we will then have to figure out how to mesh our wishes and needs to make both of us happy.

We are already working this out.   I am doing some of my Fitbit time walking with him, a sort of exercise together.  I go meet with my “Art Ladies” when he goes to the gym.   We are making our way through this all.

It is a time of discovery for both of us.  It is a time of change for both us.   It is another season of life and all the changes that come with it.

Acts of Kindness

This last week RangerSir had surgery and has since been laid up.   We have been confined to home while he is healing.    It has been difficult for him to be limited  in activity while he is in recovery.   As anyone who has had a loved one in the household sick or in recovery mode  it not only impacts the patient, but everyone in the household.

We were bless by many acts of kindness.  Our friends and families called and check on us.   It was topped off this week when a friend and her family stopped by with cookies.   RangerSir has a sweet tooth and he was thrilled with the gift of food.   He was a little tired of the healthy fare I was feeding him.    It was wonderful to have someone other than one another to talk to.   It came at just the right time as we were both getting a little stir crazy.

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Thanks for the peanut butter and oatmeal scotchie cookies. 

It was a reminder to us that simple acts can mean so much to others.   Sometimes it is a kind word.   It can be taking time out of your day or weekend to visit with a friend who you have not seen in awhile or a shut-in.   It can be a call to check on and listen to a friend who needs your ear.   If you made a batch of cookies for your family, put a dozen on a plate and share it.   They are all simple acts of kindness that will likely mean more to another person than you can know.    Let’s all pass on a little kindness.

 

What’s Your Number?

I just finished an entry for a creative challenge.   The challenge required me to complete a project that included one number.   I pulled together a little mixed media effort for this. While I was working on this, I was thinking about what numbers to include and what they meant to me.   This became more than a challenge of paper, paint and ink, it represented questions and things going on in my life.

IMAG3441_1RangerSir and I are approaching retirement.  We constantly find ourselves thinking about what age is the right age for us to move from the current phase of our lives to the next and close the door on this one.    We constantly find ourselves playing with the numbers.  Age.  Health. Life Expectancy. Family History.  Money.  In each of these there are so many numbers to extrapolate and hypothesize with.  We are constantly playing with our numbers and yet we don’t have a single one that is the answer.

Numbers play factors in so many people’s lives young or old when you think about it.   Here are some of the easy ones I came up in just a few minutes.   Each of them is based on  a number.

  • I want to graduate from college by #
  • I want to live somewhere where it never gets colder than #
  • I want to only borrow # to pay for school.
  • My prescription costs this month were #
  • If I could save # I could buy a car, house, vacation…..
  • I’d like to earn #.
  • I’d like to pay off  on my credit card in # months.
  • I change the oil in my car every # miles.
  • I’d like # kids.
  • I would like to marry by #.
  • I am trying to save #.
  • I have # dogs and # cats
  • I would like to get # when I sell my…
  • I live # miles from work.
  • Daycare costs #.
  • My wife, mother, child, spouse/partner, father, brother, sister is # old this year.
  • My health insurance costs #,
  • I run # miles a week.
  • I have lived in my home # years.
  • I want to loose # pounds.
  • My coffee splurge costs #
  • I have worked for my employer # years.

What’s your number?

 

Free Time – Life Balance

One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day.  I am not special in this loss of personal time.   It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed.  It is time the working person can never get back.

I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day.   When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time.   I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home.     I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again.    When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock  I am guard my private time preciously.   It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.

When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this.   We discussed what the realistic expectations were.   We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.

I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur.    I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I  found I was falling in that pattern.    In January  I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity.   With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself.   It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found  time for other things as well.   I  have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily.   I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project.  I felt I had no time.    Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.

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I had never imagined I would find the time to make a baby quilt, though I really wanted this special baby boy to have one.   Now suddenly it is well on its way. 

Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time?    Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work  preventing you from finding enjoyment in life?   If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you.  You are worth it.   Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it.   Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.

It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.

Unexpected Goodbye

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A page from my art journal that I created when looking for answers this last week.

Most people spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family.   Your co-workers become an extended family.   If you are really lucky some of your co-workers become your friends. I had a co-worker who was one-of-kind guy.   Our careers ran parallel paths in so many ways that made us click and become more than co-workers.   We were friends. Unfortunately last week I lost my friend to suicide.

Montana has a rampant problem with suicide. We are often number one or two in the nation per capita when looking at our suicide rates. It is a sad reality to know so many families personally affected by suicide. For RangerSir and I it is not people we know second or third hand that have been impacted by this crisis.     It is people who we know as a member of our inner circle.   In January we attended two funerals for victims of suicide.     It has left us stunned and reeling seeking to understand.      Something we may never do.

Suicide affects young and old alike.   If reaches across gender and economics. It is a problem in rural and our cities.   Suicide leaves behind family and friends who wonder what more they could have or should have done.   There are no answers. Only holes in lives about what was possible that will not be.

I beg of you if it is a moment of great despair or if it is a long battle with mental health, please seek help.   It may not feel like there is anyone out there who cares, but there is.   It may not feel like there is anyone you can share your burden with, but there is.   It may feel like there is no way out, but there is.   Call out for help.   Ask for help.   Accept the offer of help.   The world is a better place because you are in it.

Another Day

Today is another day.   It is the day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.   For me is not some magical special day that I make resolutions, promises or goals tied to the new year.   It is a just day.  It is another 24 hours to be spent by me, if I am lucky followed by another   It is a day in my life.  Each one special and one of kind.

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Each morning somewhere between the time when I wake up and when I actually  start my day I reflect how do I want to use this day.  During the time when I do the routine morning tasks of cleaning up, eating and getting dressed I start to think about what this day holds.   I begin to organize my thoughts  recognizing what things I have to do today and the things I  want to do.   I want to fully experience life  each day, but I don’t want to get lost in all the externals that I don’t actively be me.    I don’t want to feel like at the end of the day  my existence did not make a difference. It is a balancing act.   What I plan for each day isn’t the same every day.  Many things influence my plan for the day, if I work or not, is there a commitment I need to fulfill or a deadline approaching, how do I feel, what my family needs, my friends,  and so much more.    Some days I have a simple wish, to walk more steps than I did yesterday or eat a healthy lunch.   Recently my goal was to  pray for a family who has lost a son and that I learn more about compassion and empathy because I can not imagine their pain. Some days it is to accomplish something at work, something that won’t likely change much of anything in the world.  While other days it is do a random act of kindness for someone who I don’t know.

Most days I pick several things for my daily goals and other days I just aspire to accomplish one thing.   I try to make it a mix of for tasks but sometimes  I when I feel spent  I just wish for a day for me.   This weekend  I gave myself the gift of nothing.   Nothing for me is to allow myself the luxury of doing what is calling me at the moment.   For me nothing can  be to read, sew, write, play in my studio, talk to my life-time friend, pull my camera out or take a walk.   My wish for the day can be a grand task impacting everyone I meet or just a single movement toward a lifetime quest that only I recognize.   It changes for me each day.

It is not about a resolution I make on the first day of the year.   Instead it is about my life list.   All those things I want to see, do and change.   My life list does include places I want to see and things that are personal goals, but it contains bigger unreachable items as well.   Those big things, like world peace,  I don’t serious believe I can change all by myself, nor will even see in my lifetime, but I want to be a drop in the water  that sends out waves or a butterfly wing that contributed to a distant tornado that is part of that change.    I want to waste one less minute than I did yesterday.   Today I want  to make better use of  the time allotted to me than I did  the previous day I was given.    I fully embrace each day no matter what day of the year it is.  I wish the same for each of you.

Persistence

This last couple of weeks I have had surgery and been on the mend.   One of the things that I did with my spare time besides sleep a lot I also got caught up on some videos that go with a class I am taking.   One of the videos was a round table of women who were economically successful in creative fields talking about their successes and failures.    When I say economically successful I mean they are able to support themselves or make significant contribution to their household’s bottom line in their creative pursuit. I clarify this success  because I think it is what we all want to make a living and what we love doing.    We want to explore and do something we love, but most of us if we are lucky never get much beyond the break even point if we are lucky.  These women  were writers, painters, stampers and mixed media artists.

One of the things they talked about is other women often ask them how do they break into their field.  It was so interesting in that they said you don’t have a “aha moment” and suddenly you are successful.   They all said over and over, that innate talent is always helpful, but more important is persistence.

On my desk and in my planner I have this quote by Calvin Coolidge. It has been a driving philosophy in my life. It hasn’t always made my life easy but it has allowed more success and opportunities that one can imagine.

imag2744_1.jpgA divider I made that is in my daily planner.

Long ago, in an almost different lifetime, I was in a session  at the Fortune 500 company I worked for at the time.   It was for managers they were  grooming and developing for the next level of management.   During the session it came out that I was the only person  who had not graduated from college in the group of managers and directors.   One of the gentlemen in the session pointed out to the group that I was an  oxymoron being a manager without a degree.  I on the other hand thought, I don’t think his college degree helped him in his word choice when selecting oxymoron to describe me, though everyone knew what he meant. It took me a few more years to get to achieve my position, because I had started at the bottom and had persisted in proving that I had the ability to learn and the talent to do the job I wanted.

Persistence has served me well since I have become self-employed.   People always say to me it must be nice to have the flexibility you have.   It is nice, but it is also somewhat scary.   If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.   It is not like when I was an employee and if I was having an off day, I could show up to work and get paid, even if I wasn’t hugely productive.    Now I am always on the hustle, looking for my next gig.   If you don’t ask you won’t get  job, so I find myself telling folks I am looking for work, and I might help them.    It isn’t like you hang your shingle out there and suddenly there are six people out there begging to hire you at a livable wage.   Self-employment isn’t that easy.   You have to be persistence in your flexibility to try new things and take risks that sometimes don’t quite make sense or aren’t easy.

That all said, like thousands of you I am not making a living at things I love doing.   I’d love to be a writer.   I have a small box of reject letters from the days before self-publishing for the e-read.   I have a finished book, that needs to be re-worked, polished and edited. I spend several lunch hours each week with a sandwich in my truck reading and marking up changes.    I love to be on a design team where I was mailed supplies for my artistic endeavors to try out and make things that inspired others.    I have studio space full of paper, pens, ink, canvas, fabric and sewing machines.  I have tried lots of things and these are the mediums I enjoy working with, and they make me feel most creative. Here is is where my persistence comes back into play.   I spend time in my studio every day.   I don’t skip.   Some days after work,   it may only be 20 minutes.   Other days like today, I have carved out hours working  on a gift journal I am making and  writing my blog post.   People say they don’t have time to do….you fill in the blank…..   You do.   It may not be a lot of time, but you have time.   You choose where and how you spend your free time.   You have to be persistent because only you can make it happen.  More than that persistence of your passion, those things you enjoy, even if it is only 20 minutes, will make the day feel better for you and that is not bad.   Not bad at all.