Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Giving myself a C+ on Retirement

I wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking about things, things that seem important to me and that I wish I could write down – instead of just thinking around in circles about them – but to get up and go to the computer would probably disrupt the dogs and that would mean that John’s sleep would be disrupted so I just lie there and think and think and think. Then I wake up in the morning and I can’t remember anything that I thought about.  I suspect that those thoughts I have in the middle of the night are not as deep or relevant or worthy as I imagine them to be at 3 AM.

I am not doing as well with retirement as I am telling everyone. I tell everyone that I love retirement – and that is true, but it is not the whole story. I think I’ve been suffering from some depression – especially since the weather turned colder and I haven’t wanted to go outside as much.

 I have no desire to go back to work. Retiring was absolutely the right decision. I do not miss the anxiety, fear, and stress that were a part of my work life for the past three or four years. After B__ A___ retired as president of the college, things just went to hell-in-a-handbasket. But truthfully things had started going downhill even before that. The budgetary situation and the enrollment declines made things iffy. I never knew for certain that I would have enough students to make a full-load, and I was always anxious about what would happen if I didn’t. It always worked out, but not necessarily easily – often with a great deal of extra work for me. The lack of proper leadership on assessment was always a stressor.

My personal situation with my weight and my health (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes 2, asthma) needed more time and attention than I had to give while teaching full-time (and often overloads). It’s very hard to be properly active when your work requires 10 hours a day at a computer. Even when it didn’t require 10 hours a day, the stress was such that instead of getting up and doing something active when I took a break I just slid into Facebook and online games. I am so happy to be rid of the stress and anxiety. 

My life feels so much more peaceful and calm. During the last four years, it felt like I was angry all the time. Fear makes me react with anger. I didn’t like the person that I was becoming: someone who was hateful and suspicious and fearful and angry.

Most of that is gone, just a few anxieties now about money, but nothing really bad. I had a moment of sheer panic this morning when it seemed that my husband’s health insurance had not been properly processed for 2018. But things seem to have worked out and the knot in my stomach went away pretty quickly. Anxiety and tension are no longer my default setting like it was for the last few years. I feel so much more relaxed and comfortable and actually happy most of the time. It shows up in the photos that people have taken of me in the last six months – I’m smiling like an idiot in all of them, because well – life is pretty good on a personal level. I also find myself singing – something I did all the time when I was younger but hadn’t done in years. Of course, on a not so personal level, on the level of my community, my state, my country, my planet life is shit and getting shittier with each passing day. But that is a post for a different day.

My problem is that I’m still spending a lot of time killing time on Facebook and with computer games, and not doing all the creative things that I’ve waited years to be able to do. Yes, I did one painting – which I’m less than satisfied with, so I can’t seem to move on to a new painting. Also while the weather was still nice (in late September and October) I started doing ink sketches outdoors. But I really haven’t done any writing: a smattering of letters, little journaling, fewer blog posts, no poetry, I’ve not touched the novels, nor started any short stories, and as for the academic writing, it sits languishing unattended. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. This is my beginning on that. I have to stop waiting until I have something really significant to say and just start writing. I may never have anything significant to say, but not writing gives is like having soul constipation. I need to write to keep the spirit flowing.

Another area where my retirement is not going the way I had hoped is with exercise and activity, diet and other healthy behaviors. I was doing much better with exercise and activity, moving more, walking more, and taking yoga class – until cold weather started. I can’t even get myself to get in the car and go to the gym to walk on the track when the outside temperature never gets about 25 degrees all day. Not sure what that is about because I can make myself go outdoors to take the trash, recycling or garbage out. Of course, sitting in a car waiting for it to warm up is a little different. My eating behavior is not the worst it’s ever been, but it is far from the best I can do.

At this point, I would give myself a C+ or maybe B- on retirement activity. I know this is really weird – people don’t earn grades on life. But I’m this achievement-oriented person and I somehow feel I owe the world more than I’m giving it. That I owe myself more than I’m doing. There are so many people that need to retire but cannot afford to do so. I feel like having had a career that allowed me to save adequately for retirement means that I have responsibilities to the universe to do more with my retirement than wash dishes, feed the animals, do housework and grocery shopping, pay bills, play Candy Crush Jelly on Facebook and watch Netflix. But so far I’m having trouble getting a handle on how to do that.

My plan is to write my way out of this. Writing has always worked in the past, so here’s hoping it will help me now.