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Archive for the ‘retirement’ Category

My new title, Professional Volunteer

I was volunteering at my neighborhood library this morning, talking with one of the staff who I hadn’t met before, and telling her about my retired life and what I do to fill my time. “Oh, so you’re a professional volunteer!” she proclaimed. And I had to thank her for giving me such a title, it really spells out who I am now – how perfect, yes, a professional volunteer.

I can see why she would say that, as my days now are pleasantly filled with helping out in a number of places. I do have Monday as a “free day”, walking in the morning with a friend and then doing whatever I please for the rest of the day. Then comes Tuesday, and I am presently helping  an older gentleman clear out all he has accumulated over his 70 years, trying to make more room in the studio apartment he now lives in. Wednesday and Thursday mornings I take a very short walk across the street to the grocery store, where I help out as a shopper for a non-profit called Store To Door, a place that provides grocery shopping service and delivery for those unable to do so. Friday is also another day of helping a senior, this time being a visitor and friendly face to an elderly woman, who just wants some company to help stave off the loneliness of growing older. Saturday is usually another free day, except for every third Saturday when I help with the neighborhood clean-up. Then I end my week by helping out on Sundays mornings at the local library. And in between all this are other one time opportunities to help here and there, for all kinds of different places and reasons.

Looking at all of that, I can see why I was bestowed with such a title; yes, it seems like it is an occupation in itself, all the volunteering I do now. But this is exactly what I have been reaching for, since I retired and even before that, when I would imagine all the wonderful ways I could help people if I just had the time. Well, now I have the time and I seem to have found some wonderful ways to help. This truly is my work now, even though I don’t get paid with a paycheck. Instead, I am able to pay forward the gift of time I have been given, when I was able to retire early at age 50 after a long but burned out at the end career in healthcare. I love my new job title, and life is very good working as a professional volunteer.

Accepting my body, with grace

I knew this day was approaching, the day when I finally had to face the truth. The truth being that I am so very uncomfortable trying to pour my 53 year old body into my cute little denim shorts. Oh, there was a time when it was acceptable to “jump out of an airplane” to fit into my jeans, and then do a series of squats to be able to breathe – but I was young and single and did not possess such a high percentage of body fat. No, it was time – time to fold them up, find a plastic bag to carry them in, and head to Goodwill where hopefully some cute young girl in her 20’s will love them like I did. And look much better in them to boot.

But how could this have happened? And it is such a slow, insidious process, this accumulation of fat in such imaginative places – knees, back, arms (lovingly called “Grandma arms”, even when one is not a Grandma) and of course the ever popular midsection bulges that we so preciously call “love handles”. I thought I had it all under control! Since moving to Portland I have started eating much healthier. I cut out soft drinks and only drink water, and I haven’t eaten ground beef for what must be years now, sticking to mostly fish or chicken. And with the great farmers markets here, my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased considerably. And talk about exercise – I sold my car, for crying out loud! That means I walk just about everywhere, only taking public transportation if absolutely necessary. So what gives?

The answer is due to three important factors – I am a woman, in my 50’s, and in the throes of menopause. That is the exact combination needed to slow one’s metabolism to a grinding halt. Yes, maybe I could become a vegan, like so many Portlanders are. But I will not give up my dairy products, in lieu of some kind of fake milk or cheese – my Midwestern roots will not hear of it! As it is I feel like my caloric intake some days is only in the triple digits, low enough to keep the weight off, one would think. And I refuse to become a prisoner to some overly exhausting exercise routine, all in the name of fashion.

No, I am happy and healthy and damn it, I think I look pretty good! So what if I have some extra rolls of fat in places that it wasn’t 30 years ago? I want to be able to dress fun and feel good about my appearance, but I am in a new era in my life, one where I don’t want to be one of those women that can’t glide gracefully into the aging process. We place too much emphasis in our society on appearance, especially for women. I have decided to place my emphasis now on how I feel; glowing with health and radiating joy.

And what did I learn this time?

Life can be a breeze here, when the dominoes fall in perfect succession. I have had that pristine line -up of  all things clicking into place, as they did when I made my plans to move here to Portland, when everything did come together as it should and the dominoes fell in a perfect wave of all I needed, all I wanted.

But now I am cleaning up all the dominoes of a recent experience, where they seemed to connect at first, but there was a piece or two out of sync that caused everything to scatter. I have found myself needing to secure a job here in the near future, so I do not blow through my retirement money and end up having to live with one of my children – not the scenario I have for my “golden years”, and not one I’m sure my children have either! So I started the job hunt a couple weeks ago, perusing Craigslist, and came upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me in so many ways. I started to line up the pieces, so sure they would all be in order.

Oh yes, this job seemed to be made just for me! A short 15 minute walk from my home, part – time hours in the morning which would leave my afternoons free, and located in a small holistic health clinic – the type of medicine that is near and dear to my heart, no longer wanting to be back in the world of Western, corporate medicine. And after my first interview with the clinic manager, I walked out of there cocky and confident, thinking about what kind of clothes I needed to buy for what I was sure was my new job.

But wait, not so fast. I was asked to come in for a second interview with one of the physicians. Well of course I was more than happy to meet with one of them and show what a great catch I was for their clinic; this was just a formality and then I could get started earning some much needed income.

But I started to realize as the interview progressed that I must have failed to line up one of those damn pieces just right, and things started to scatter everywhere. I went from a belief in myself that I could do this front desk job with ease to jumping into a defensive mode, as the physician interviewing me started asking his probing questions. I felt the energy shift palpably as he questioned my ability to handle stress; citing my reason for retiring from lab after 30 years of burnout and stress as a red flag to him, not confident that I could handle the stress of their front desk. Fair enough; I patiently explained the differences I saw between front desk stress in a clinic setting versus the stress of working in a hospital laboratory, literally dealing with life and death situations.  But when he asked me if I could handle the fact that some of their patients die, I almost had to laugh! After 30 years in healthcare, I unfortunately saw my fair share of patients die, but that did not discourage me from working in my field. I think that was when I knew my chances were oh so slim.

And then I received the response that I knew all along was coming – they hired another candidate. What have I learned? This is what I come to ask myself these days, with all experiences, good or bad. I’ve learned that there are times we think we know what is best, in our limited egocentric ways. But I know in my heart that for some very good reason, God and the Universe knew this was not my best place to work, and arranged it as such. So in that way, I learn trust, letting go of the bitterness my ego wants me to feel. I learned how to speak my truth, not making up a more pleasant reason for retirement, even though “burnout” to some may paint me as one who can’t handle the stress of work. And lastly, I learned honesty, especially with myself. Because deep inside, I knew this really wasn’t the place for me, but all the parts seemed to fit – except the part that was missing, and that was a genuine excitement to work there. And I learn that my soul really wants that, enthusiasm and joy when I do go back to work. So I patiently wait until I come upon the workplace that genuinely lights up my soul.

I took a little trip

I took a little trip the past couple of days, but not the kind where you leave your home. I went on an ego trip, the kind that literally trips you up; as my ego put the pedal to the metal, full throttle, taking me for a ride I really didn’t want to go on.

I count my spiritual awakening as one of the greatest and most significant life changes I have been through. I never want to go back to who I was before that, and I never will. I spent the majority of my life sleepwalking through it, but now I am awake and alive in a way that is so refreshing! It feels like a good stretch when you get out of  bed; this true self of mine shining through. Ah, but there can be some pitfalls with all this love if one is not careful, what I like to call “spiritual superiority”. This is when the awakened soul climbs up on a pedestal they have constructed for themselves, feeling as if they are the enlightened and exalted ones, better in so many ways than those poor creatures still dowsed in fear. These are the times I forget I have an ego. And believe you me, I have climbed up there a few times, and subsequently fallen off – thank goodness for that! The ego may be bruised and battered after falling, but the soul always says, “Thank you”.

And it’s funny, because I could see events leading up to my fall; I watched myself climb up to that pedestal where the ego likes to hang out. I had lunch with a couple of friends one bright, sunny day, and as we sat talking about one friend’s cute haircut she had just gotten, I found myself wanting to say, “Enough about her hair, what about mine? Isn’t mine pretty too?” Then the conversation turned to talk radio, which I don’t care to listen to, and I could feel myself pouting inside like a child, left out of all the attention. Then the next day the crabby side of me came out; the side that is short tempered with strangers who are just doing their job. I went to the Farmer’s Market in my neighborhood, and was stopped by a very nice young lady from the local electric company, wanting to explain a new program they have. As she was patiently going through her talk, I could feel my blood boil at what I felt was her pushiness, and it was all I could do to not say, “Leave me the hell alone, would you?!” But I held my tongue and just walked away, seething.

Then it all came to a head as I met with my financial adviser the other day, to look at my dwindling retirement account I have been living off of, trying to come up with a solution to save that money for the future and find some money for me now to live on. Well, I knew the answer – I am going to have to find a job, after being retired for three years. And bless his heart, this man had worked so hard to put together all of the data and numbers, showing me the reality of things in a very kind and patient manner. I was not upset with him for showing me the light. But after I got home, it was then that my ego dragged me into full meltdown mode; telling me I was a failure, a fool, an idiot for thinking I could play the retirement game before age 59, when I can use that money without any penalty. I felt angry and betrayed; having to work again was not part of the plan for my life now. My ego did not like it one bit, having to finally accept the fact that this really is part of the plan. But now I can see it as such, and accept that going back to the world of work is a path I am to go on, and the reasons will be revealed to me when I am ready.

I know that we can dream our dreams, and create what we feel is best for us by focusing on and ultimately manifesting those intentions. But then there are the times that it is not to be, and that’s when we have to let go and trust in God and the Universe, as we are guided and led to places and events that may seem unpleasant at the time, but afford us much growth and are exactly what we need. I want to enjoy my time here, not go through it kicking and screaming because what I thought was best for me did not transpire. I learn time and time again that God always brings what is for my highest good and the good of others, and I find that trust once more.

Re-inventing myself, midlife

What do I want to be when I grow up? This is not a question that a 53 year old woman usually asks of herself, but I keep asking myself that question as of late. I feel as if I am at a crossroads, like the train has stalled on the tracks, like I’m in a holding pattern waiting to land, or any other clever cliche you can come up with to say “I don’t know what I want to do with my life!” I walked the path of convention for many years; go to college, go to work, get married, raise a family. Then I opened the can of worms called awakening, and said hello to my soul. My soul doesn’t much care for conventional ways any longer. So many things in my life are so perfect; living in Portland, not working in healthcare any longer, even not owning a car any longer is a dream come true. But as I watch my IRA balance go down instead of up, my little scheme of living off of that until I die may not work any longer. So now what? I feel a pull in my soul to do some type of work, some type of soulful work, but I hear no clear cut answers. This morning as I melted down into frustration and impatience and fear about my future, I started to wonder if this time of non-doing is the lesson, a lesson in trust. Waking up to the fullness of my soul has revealed so many positive aspects of self, but there is also the shadow side. I learn I am impetuous when it is not appropriate, I am impatient and want things now, and I am controlling, thinking I know what is best for me. Maybe I have stalled so I can learn to let go, to let the flow of the Universe touch my life, and trust in that. So I work on those nasty attributes that make me feel like a child at times, and instead turn to the strength of my ever maturing soul to find out what I will be when I grow up, in this phase of my life.

Free time

I love being retired! And with it comes a welcome and refreshing amount of free time; time to do the things I had always dreamed about doing, and sometimes not really doing much at all. Either way, it is my choice, what I decide to do with all my time – my treasure chest of free time.

My answer to a question

 

The question was asked of me

“What do you do with all your time?”

 

Well, today I journeyed to the park

I packed a bag full of books and filled my water bottle

And after I grew weary of reading

I lay down on the carpet of lush green grass

Closing my eyes, I saw my surroundings with my ears

There were cars driving by, and buses loudly humming

The bicycle man drove by shouting out “ice cream!”

Wind enticed the leaves into conversation

I heard flashing lights of red and blue from the frantic fire truck

Then I opened my eyes

I saw the trees waving hello to me

Their long branches heavy with abundant leaves

Creating a canopy over me, gently shading the sunlight

And I saw people like me, in the park

Doing what they will do with their time

 

Once more I was asked

“What do you do with all your time?”

Well, today I journeyed to the river

I sauntered along the river walk for a time

Then I grew weary and retired to a bench

And I watched a yellow kayak float by

It reminded me of a banana floating on the water

I listened to the gulls

Complaining to one another

About the lack of food the tourists feed them nowadays

And I noticed the bridges

Lined up like stiffened arms reaching across the water

The one made of dark black steel beckoned to me

So I accepted its invitation of safe passage

And crossed from west to east

My view of places is altered

I see where I was; downtown buildings dot the landscape

The esplanade I walk down shifts and floats with the river

And I see people walking along, just like me

Doing what they will with their time

 

The persistent questioning continues

“What do you do with all your time?”

Well, today I grabbed some money and a credit card (just in case)

And I journeyed to the mecca of quaint shops, eateries and other delights

That make up my neighborhood

I zig zag in and out of stores

Some offer such pretty summer clothes

But look! I found a new hat!

The tea shop up the wooden stairs has the most delicious teas

But today was hot, and I had a cold beer instead

Sitting at a sidewalk table

And one more stop before I go home

The bakery – with the macaroon cookies – their specialty

I wait in line behind all the people

Doing what they will with their time

 

So now I have a question for you

What do you do with all your time?

 

 

 

 

 

Peering inside of ourselves

One of my favorite quotes comes from Socrates – “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  For many years I lived an unexamined life, caught up in the time consuming world of a career, family and everything else that prevented me from really stepping back into some quiet moments and trying to figure out, what is life really all about? When I did find those quiet moments, I discovered I had buried so many wonderful treasures of my inner self that were now dying to come out. I found I needed to do some housecleaning in my life, in the manner of ending my marriage, ending my career, and living life on my own terms that I had pushed aside for so long. Not everyone needs to go through such drastic life changes to examine their lives, but it is important that we not only focus on our loved ones, but also on ourselves, in an unselfish act of love.

Wonderers and Wanderers

 

These are my kind of people!

A bit off center, off the mark

Unconventional

Defined as “eccentric”

The wonderers

The wanderers

Peering through our telescopes and periscopes and kaleidoscopes and other aides that enhance our vision

Perusing

Pondering

Perplexing and flexing ideas

Pushing forward – land ho!

We know about the mole people

In their tunnels of well dug mediocrity

They come above, at times, to dwell in our world of idiosyncrasies

But they are much happier in their circuitous mazes and labyrinths of shaded and sheltered existence

The scary safety of society

But wonderers and wanderers require much more than the daily special to thrive

Not blindly accepting society’s tape loop of conventional ways

We find our way out of the mazes and labyrinths they construct to try and fool us

We are much wiser than those simplistic paths

We can navigate our way out of them blindfolded!

We are explorers!

Visionaries

Philosophers of ancient days tap me on the shoulder

Wanderlust fills up my dance card

Life is full of uncharted territory and never ending questions

With a horn of plenty that spills out a bounty of answers, all of them the right ones

Travels and treks and excursions to new places

Gallivanting and gathering

I boldly declare

That I shall spend my remaining days on this earth

In the very pleasant company

Of those like myself

Who seem to wonder in ambivalence

And wander in ambiguity

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