I never thought a pandemic would be the way I would practice “retirement.”
First let me say that I am 63, have a job I love, and it is one I’m able to continue during this crisis. But most of my friends are older than me and have retired and so I often get asked about my timeline.
Frankly, I have no plan to retire. Maybe when I can’t sit down on the floor with children, or I lose my hearing and am unable to converse with parents, I might be forced to retire. But right now, the pace of this job and the kind of work I do is okay with this somewhat older body and current level of energy.
However, I have wondered what my life will be like when I reduce my work or don’t work anymore. This pandemic is teaching me that while I don’t mind sleeping in a bit more because I don’t have to do so much prep to get out of the house, I really miss going somewhere each day. And while I enjoy the freedom of going to the kitchen for some more coffee or to make a little snack and using my own bathroom all day long, I’m realizing those little ups and downs are more a diversion than a necessity.
The pandemic is also helping me build a routine around going outside – often! and for longer bits of time than I used to. I’ve been taking a long walk every day – usually by myself, not as a get-together time with a friend. I kind of miss having a dog, but I am loving my jaunts in the neighborhood or to my favorite trails close by.
I created this blog in 2011 and posted entries fairly regularly; my first monthly challenge with Two Writing Teachers was March of 2012. Then a few years ago I created some other blogs for anonymity and just to collect thoughts. But this blog is my baby, my favorite one to post on.
I wasn’t sure I was going to be a part of the March Slice of Life this year; I hadn’t been writing on any of my blogs for over a year and wasn’t sure how committed I felt to writing on a daily basis. I’ve been writing in a journal, but not using my blogs for writing for a long time.
Of course the COVID crisis has created a new filter on everything in my life, daily writing included. It is not that I feel compelled to “record” at this time; I’ve never felt the need to be a memoir writer. But I feel called to put words on paper the way other feel compelled to cook. They go to the pantry and select ingredients for a savory meal, and I sit with a keyboard and select thoughts to string together.
I think I’m ready to engage with my blog again. I’ll still keep up my written journal – something I wasn’t doing when I started blogging. But I do love this medium for putting my thoughts, photos, and art together.
We’ve all had them – those dreams where our daytime brain calls to the thick, subconscious slumbering one, “Wake up! Wake up!” And in a fog we attend to our own voice, the only voice we know will guide us out of the undesired reality of our dream world into wakefulness and the real world.
Every day these days, I seem to have little moments where I realize the self-of-myself before COVID calls to me with a little dream from the daytime world as if to say, “Wake up! Wake up! Remember!”
Last year I used a Vertellis journal for most of the year and really enjoyed the prompts and trying out a new structure for recording my thoughts and feelings. I was coming to the end of it just before Christmas and went looking for something new to guide me in my journaling.
What I liked about Vertellis was the consistent prompt to write about things going well, not so well, to reflect back on a week and then the series of guided questions throughout the journal. But I didn’t want to go through the same questions again – maybe soon they’ll come out with a Vertellis 2 and 3 and so on!
I decided to put together my own journal and I recorded the prompts in the front of it that I like to guide me when I’m stuck:
- I am grateful for…
- I want to let go of….
- I want to focus on…
- I am…(personal affirmation)…
Sometimes I stick to those prompts – they are quick and cover the ground of a day pretty well.
In order to support the quote/question aspect of the Vertellis journal, I found a lovely book published by National Geographic with 365 photos and quotes. They make about 5 of these books with different overarching themes. I bought the “Compassion” one for my daughter and the “Peace” one for myself. What I didn’t know until I purchased it is that each month has its own theme.
March in this book has the theme of “transition” and each day the quote has been so wonderful to read in this time of COVID. Tomorrow’s quote is: “Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.'” by Eleanor Roosevelt
April’s theme is Strength
This evening we had a family Zoom for the first time with my two sisters and my mom; my brother didn’t make it this time. I haven’t seen my sister from Minnesota in over a year. She was planning on coming out in two weeks but of course, had to cancel.
I was worried that my mom wouldn’t be able to hear us and would have trouble figuring out which one of us was speaking but she did just fine and contributed to the conversation as well. She even got my dad to pop his face in briefly.
We are going to make this a weekly thing. We had a lot of things to share today; my Minnesota sister is a physical therapist – deemed “essential” and her husband is a computer programmer – also “essential.” She spoke to the fact that her work place was supposed to cut down on people working and because she’s in a position of authority, she tried to balance those with kids and mortgages and husbands out of work, etc. Her husband goes to work and is stationed on one floor and the other people there are on totally different floors.
My other sister recently retired. She and her husband knew their life would slow down but not this much! She’s been attending to horse tails taking over the lawn of the home they recently moved into. I might join her this weekend in her plucking this invasive species – 6 feet away of course!
I hope my brother can be with us next week. He is the only one of us with kids still in school and I know he’s been struggling with keeping them engaged; one is thriving with online education and the younger one who is dyslexic is struggling.
I am sorry my sister had to cancel her trip but I think these weekly Zooms will actually bring us more together than seeing each other once a year, face to face.
Our work place has a little mascot – actually a couple of them. We have some little dollhouse babies that we send around the office, hiding them in drawers, pencil cups, the tampon basket, suspended from the white board. Sometimes they appear with a little affirmation note, sometimes with a note referencing something funny that happened to the recipient.
It is a fun way to remember the work we do which is working with very young children, often babies, and their families.
Our weekly meetings include regular “staffings” on the children we serve and we have made it a priority to “speak as if the parent and child were in the room.” In other words, our reports should be respectful of each family, not gossip or opinions.
When work from the office was suspended, I realized I had one of these babies at home – because I’d recently been cleaning out my mom’s basement and found one while sorting through the doll collection there. At our meeting yesterday, I brought the baby out in front of the camera for all to see to remind people that even though we are meeting in a different way, the protocol still stands.
Now I’m thinking of having some fun with this little baby. Since we can circulate it around the office, I can have the baby out in the world – ala “Good Dog Carl.” So here’s my first post: Baby At Home
Tonight I dug out some of the marbled paper I made last summer with a bunch of co-workers. It was fun to remember the gathering; we had a potluck picnic, engaged in the painting and hung out on a lovely July evening.
I was cleaning up my desk this week in anticipation of needing a space to dedicate to work rather than crafting when I found the colorful paper neatly stacked and waiting for some project that I don’t even remember. Maybe I was going to Zentangle on it. I almost threw it all away but decided to stash it in one of my fancy paper boxes.
Today I led our first Zoom team meeting. My screen was filled with 12 amazing women who have stepped up, and into the wild, blue of this “hunkering” down business. It warmed my heart to hear them share their trials, their discoveries, their ideas for what to try next.
So I pulled out that swirly painted paper and cut it into pieces to decorate some plain cards. Tomorrow I’ll look for the perfect poem and a few words of gratefulness and send them off to these lovely ladies.
Ok, I just have to say, the Fidelity Investments commercial that comes on right before PBS Newshour is driving me nuts!
Here’s a quick over view of the script titled “Change in Plans:”
Couple in late 50’s enters Fidelity office to tell their rep they have a “change in plans” because their daughter is having twins and they want to put money aside for them. In the next segment, same couple eyes an ad for a loft “close to the twins” and of course, they visit their rep again. The final segment shows daughter hanging art in the loft and saying “mom, you could sell these” so couple goes to visit rep again with “change in plans.”
I have heard many stories that contrast sharply and with completely opposite outcomes than the little vignette shared above so every time I hear those words “change in plans” I want to stick my finger in my mouth in the “gag” gesture.
I promise to share a sweeter bedtime story tomorrow.
We were on our way to a local park to do our daily fresh air COVID-ing when my husband turned to me and said, “I’m going to say something and I want you to say the first thing that pops in your head.” I agreed and he paused for a minute. I could tell he was going to do some practice runs first before he said the word he really wanted to say.
For the next mile or so he said words and I said the first thing that came to mind. Sometimes we talked about why I’d responded the way I did. It was fun.
I used to play games like this on car rides with my siblings growing up and then with my own kids. But it’s been forever! I have no idea what “the word” was that my husband wanted to hear my first response to and I don’t think I want to ask. I just want to remember the fun of the back and forth on our ride today.
I had so much energy today I felt like a balloon filled up with air and let go to fly around the room!
I was motivated to get back into my story collages. I attended a retreat in Soul Collage a year ago and have found the method a meaningful way to respond to events happening in my life. This collage is about “social distancing” and the reflection prompt to use from the Soul Collage practice is: “I am the one who…..”
Here are my reflections: (I am the one who….)
- feels disconnected from my loved ones
- is challenged to even imagine when we might be together again
- worries about children’s education being impacted by this pandemic
- feels fear about the unknown
- knows this event will permeate every bit of my life and my loved ones forever
On a lighter note – I pumped up my bike tires and took a ride!