Monday, September 29, 2014

This is the First Day of The Rest . . . . Oh, You know!


This clay fellow was crafted by an artist friend and given to me as a discard from a project she was working on. He's been weathering just out on our deck for years, occasionally, still, convincing me there's a real crow out there, a Trickster figure.
 I've been trying to keep up a good front here and focus on the positive aspects of my currently too busy state -- and obviously my life is rich with good stuff. But all came to a tearful head this weekend: I lost so many hours to crying and despair and discussion and argument and trying to figure out a sustainable future for my longer term that I am now perched on a Monday morning with a 10am class I feel ill-prepared for.

But together with my husband, I think I've arrived at a big life decision, one I felt instantly relieved about having made, except that within twelve hours I began second-guessing it. I haven't the emotional energy nor the time now to be less cryptic, except that it involves, as you may have guessed, a retirement date in the not-so-very-distant future (not in the next months, but we're not totting up as many years as I'd been imagining. I'm not going to be comfortable disclosing actual dates until HR has been consulted, my rights safeguarded.)

Budget constraints within the universities, particularly within the Humanities, have made a career that I was thrilled to enter (relatively late in life), that I have loved and felt privileged to pursue, increasingly stressful and difficult. The current addition to my teaching load of an event-planning, fundraising, publicity-releasing gig is the breaking point, and a weekend that involved six hours of travel, an opera date, and (lovely) visits with my children and grandchildren was ghosted by worry about what I might be forgetting to do as well as by the 30+ (short) essays I marked in whatever timecrack I could find.

Meanwhile, our family situation is changing dramatically. Three granddaughters -- and we'll have five grandchildren by the end of April. Something's gotta give. . .
The other day, I noticed that some visitor has nestled two beautifully shaped beach pebbles into the fold of the crow's neck. Who might that have been? I suspect one of my sons-in-law, but it might have been a daughter or a granddaughter. . . . 

The ripple effects of this decision, though, are many, many. . . Eventually, they mean a move to a bigger condo in the tough Vancouver housing market. Inevitably, that will mean selling this home, leaving our island lifestyle. Moving hours away from a life I've filled with friends over the past twenty-five years. The relief I felt on making the decision Saturday morning keeps being dislodged by worry and decision-rescinding even as I experience bursts of anticipation, looking forward to new possibilities.

This is a jerky, disjointed post, I know, and the photos I loaded for a post last week don't really accompany it in any logical
weekway. But the more I look at this avian with his wings and feet of clay, the more I see a connection. Weathered old creatures that he and I both are, we're watchful, we've been in a spot, observing, for some time, getting ready. . . and it's easy enough to note the possibility for flight he still holds. Perhaps I do as well.

For now, I know that if I don't post these muddled thoughts now, leave clarification and amplification for the future, I won't post at all today and I might not be able to get back to it for some time. It's a big truth in my life at the moment, this getting ready to let go, to accept what might be coming next or to make what I can of the next wave . . . So this is another one for which I'm just going to grit my teeth and click on "Publish." And say, To be continued. . .



49 comments:

  1. Oh Mater, I am happy for you! Sometimes decisions surprise us with with their determined insistence, a surprise almost, although in fact we have been fighting and building up to them for some time. The relief, and the return of second-guessing and doubts is a familiar scenario in my life, and although I cannot share your own happy expectation combined with dread for the process moments, the territory is at least partially familiar. Your post resonates with a sense of relief, and expectation, and yes, watching and waiting, filled with a good dose of caution too, capturing that sense of leaping forward while simultaneously pulling back. Your crow with his load of pebbles is a good metaphor. Peace.

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    1. Thanks, Mardel. You get it, and that is so comforting -- aren't we lucky to have found this support in our blogging community and practice.

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  2. We have been having similar conversations. I have been freelance for a long time now and am a good decade plus from retirement age, but my husband is older than me and starting to think about just how many more years he plans to work. Such a hard decision to make, especially when you don't have the leisure to really stop and concentrate on that one thing alone while deciding. I do understand how you're feeling x

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    1. That's so much part of the problem, not having the leisure to stop and sort through. The understanding from readers such as yourself really helps, though, I must say! Knowing that others are sorting similar issues or have sorted or are beginning to think about . . .

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  3. I felt a rush of relief for you even as a relative newcomer to your blog, so I hope that doesn't strike an over-familiar note.
    I have only one tiny granddaughter but already life has taken on a new timbre and unbelievably, building work is being considered and I swore there would be no more!

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    1. Not overly familiar at all -- I think we get these feelings for those we've only "met" online because they echo or articulate what we are experiencing OR are wondering about.
      The grandchildren steer us in surprising, unpredictable ways, a new adventure at a time we hardly expected one, quite wonderful, right?

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  4. First off - congrats on having come closer to making a decision about how to live sustainably in the future. So exciting. And other congrats on having more grandchildren soon. Wow! I wonder if they'll be girls or if you'll get a little boy in this mix. Is your son going to have a kid? Is Nola getting a sibling?

    I've been wondering about how you can continue at your current pace. I mean, I'm a very busy person but I'm at a different stage of life (and I say no a lot more often than you, from what I can gather). I mean, I just say no. All the time.

    There aren't infinite resources and, I always say, you need to plan for 10 years from now. That's how long it takes to get from this stage to that one. Can't wait to hear more about how things unfold.

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    1. Nola's going to be an only, and she seems pretty content with that, loving her cousins as siblings. . . Both of the pregnant couples (yes, my son, is one of those) are not choosing to know. It would be fun to have a little boy in the mix, or two, but five granddaughters would be an amazing force as well! ;-)
      I really appreciate your emphasis on stages and on planning. I'll unfold my plans carefully here over the next while -- it won't be immediate, this retirement, but I've got it in my sights. . .

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  5. The changes is life often come in unexpected ways.I'm sure that you will shed more tears and feel more sadness in the process but you have the new little ones to bring joy to your life. You won't miss the marking, I'm sure. Take care.

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    1. Yes, it's confusing and I know there will be a huge sense of loss, grief even, but there are so many other directions that should engage me. And no, probably won't miss the marking at all.

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  6. There is a lot of pressure on you right now and I can see where you would be torn on where you need to be....being pulled in too many directions is not a great feeling. No wonder you had a few tears moments. Retirement is a big step but it sounds like you are ready. Those grand babies will fill your heart with joy and moving away might feel like a part of you has been left on the island but imagine all the fun you will have finding and decorating a new home closer to your family. Take care and enjoy your week.

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    1. Not sure I'm quite ready, but I'm getting there . . . . thanks!

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  7. Sending a hug and encouragement. You have flight left in you and that crow looks ready to take off, too.

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  8. We were at this stage 9 months ago. It is a relief once the decision is made. My husband has had surgery for cancer this year. All clear so far and both of us have changed our routines, become more active and feel so much more relaxed but busy in a good way if that makes sense. Perhaps the feeling of being on holiday will end soon but I am so glad we took the plunge. Your writing and photographs are a delight and it is a joy to share the pleasure you take from your beautiful island home, nature and of course your family. You will, I am sure, make a warm, comfortable and welcoming home wherever you and Pater decide to settle. I look forward to your next post.

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    1. Busy in a good way absolutely makes sense. That's what I'd love to get to. My husband has been there for a few years now, working on contracts, serving on boards, babysitting, cooking, ever since he retired.
      Thanks for the kind words about the blog and about moving forward.

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  9. Contemplating change takes energy, emotional and cerebral, so please go easy on yourself and know that you're being wise.

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    1. Ah, you've done this in spades, haven't you! You know whereof you speak. Part of my frustration of the moment is that there isn't room for the kindness my self craves, not the self-kindness. But I'm trying to find little pockets of it. Thanks!

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  10. Oh my dear Mater...I do feel for you. The decision to leave a job that you have loved and still love... is difficult. I felt the same way....and with less on my personal life plate than you have. I made the decision to retire one May evening after a long day of teaching followed by a 4 hour department heads/admin team meeting. I arrived home late, ate dinner prepared by Hubby and was in the den by 9 pm. for a protracted stint of marking. It was May...and the end of semester was near. Around midnight, I threw down my pen and marched into the bedroom, where my husband was in bed reading, sobbing..."I can't do this anymore. I need to make a decision tonight." So we did....for two years hence. But the decision itself felt like a huge weight off me. I mourned for a while...saying to Hubby one day "I can't believe my teaching career is over...that it's then end." And he wisely said..."Can't you look at it as a beginning?" And it was. I miss the students sometimes, but not the marking nor the educational politics. And there are so many things to do and learn...the possibilities are endless, really:)

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    1. Yes. Yes. Yes.
      and thank you. You're a good example of life beyond retirement. . . .

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  11. Oh wow, huge changes! Our conversations about "what's next" have become more frequent and more focused, though as much as I'd love to quit the "day job" I'm not there yet with replacing income or supplementing retirement through other means. Perhaps just knowing that there's a finish line will help keep the race bearable.

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    1. That's what I'm hoping about having a finish line in sight. I, too, want to sort some income issues firmly before making a definitive decision, but I'm getting much closer.

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  12. Not surprised, mater. When I read your previous weekend's list of activities my eyebrows were up in my hairline, despite the resolutely upbeat tone. Time to go indeed. Now your decision is made, reason will return and you will see that it will all glide into place over the coming months. Time to embrace the change. Chin up!

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    1. I think you're right, thank you. It's just a question now of envisioning myself at the next stage . . .

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  13. Oh. F.! How well I understand the ambivalence and already-missing-ness when you know time in a home is limited. And hope you can also see the joy in it, the connection to all you two love, in your decision. There is great wisdom in taking the time to be close to one another, family and your community while you are still in fine fettle. After sixty there is time, but it changes-and like you I've had to decide "How do I spend it". The answer does not seem to be, to pile on more and then sink under that.

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    1. I thought of you, actually, because I know your move from your lovely To. home had to be wrenching in many ways, and yet it's obvious how much you're thriving in your new city. And obviously, you don't lack for meaningful ways to fill your time. Thanks for the understanding. . .

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  14. Oh dear, I am sorry you had to reach such a state of exhaustion and desperation! And glad for you that you are moving towards a solution. Frankly, when you listed all the things you did these last weekends I was wondering to myself how long you were going to be able to keep up that pace. It is important to know one's priorities and in a way you are lucky to be able to make a choice.
    Looking forward to retirement myself (three more years to go) I am preparing myself to say good bye to teaching. I think there will be other possibilities to do some useful work without the meetings and marking and all the stuff you are required to do by the system, not by the students's needs.
    But why do you have to leave your beautiful island? Wouldn't it be a wonderful place fou your grandchildren to visit, especially as they grow older? And won't you miss that glorious view? I'm sure you have your very good reasons, but I can't help but feel a little bit sad fou you.

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    1. I'll be teaching a while longer, but have got much closer to pinpointing a date, and I'm accepting that this will mean a smaller pension than I'd hoped. As for the island, with all our children and grandchildren living in another city, we'll be spending more and more time there, and I suspect it will become too much to maintain both places. I'll be very sad when it comes to that, but I'm expecting there may be new excitements, and we'll find other ways to entertain the grandkids (altho', yes, it was long my hope to be able to let them know this special place as they grew)

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  15. Life changing decisions are always difficult to make, but it sounds like you are making the right one for you. I believe that when one door closes another opens. I wish you many new opportunities and experiences. Also, congratulations on your growing family!

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. It's growing rapidly! And I guess knowing how small that windows is-- when the kids are small enough for us to enjoy each others' company, before they're much more interested in their friends--we want to spend more time with them. I'm a bit surprised how steadily this compulsion has crept up . . .;-)

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  16. We're at a different stage having just lost the last elderly parent, but no grandchildren on the horizon yet. Retirement officially declared within four years. The future will include closing down the parental home which is full of art and family memorabilia and a long distance move for us. Meanwhile there are students to teach and papers to grade. I wonder when or if life gives us a calm space?
    Lynn

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    1. I have almost given up that hope that there will be a calm space outside the coffin . . . and perhaps that's okay, although sometimes I think boredom might be a nice novelty.

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    2. And Lynn, I just realized what your post signifies -- you've just lost your father, after the bad fall he had. I'm so sorry! Do be gentle with yourself -- closing down the parental home will be emotionally exhausting far beyond the physical work involved. Take care.

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  17. Oh my, so much goodness and sadness all at once. What an incredibly difficult decision to make. Hang tough and hang tight, you have a beautiful life of sweet babies and exciting adventures ahead! It will all be okay!

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    1. Sweet babies and exciting adventures -- I love it! Thanks for the perspective! And you'll be off soon on your own fabulous adventure! Buon viaggio!

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  18. Sometimes seeing words on the page help you know you've made the right move. Enjoy the planning of the next exciting adventure!

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    1. I rather wondered why I'd post this now, Stacy, but I think you're right -- I'm testing the waters, looking to see what the statement looks like on the screen. . .

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  19. Exhilaration, relief, anticipation, doubt, anxiety and regret. Although I knew it was the right decision when I retired late last year, the prospect of such a big change is daunting.
    I think the hardest part has been, and still is, to let go my professional identity, perhaps partly because our generation of women had to fight so hard to achieve it.
    How delightful to have more grandchildren to look forward to while you plan for your next project, life outside the paid workforce.
    Lilibet

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    1. Yes, this will be a great deal of the difficulty for me, letting go of that professional identity, hard-earned as it was relatively late in life for me. But I tell myself that's work I'm going to have to do eventually anyway, and better to do it while I'm still active with many other possibilities for making a meaningful life. And yes, the grandchildren are a delight!

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  20. just think of all the drawing and painting you might be able to do...

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    1. I've been thinking of just that! We should have a walk, no?

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  21. I strongly believe that this period of our lives is 'our' time and is to be cherished, and I am so sure you are doing the right thing and that now is the time to start moving in that direction and I wish you all the luck in the world with the changes that are to come. They will all fall into place in time because you will always be supported in doing what is right. There. Enjoy xx

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    1. Thanks, Marianne! It helps to hear so much unqualified support.

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  22. Ah, I've read all the comments now. And your post, which rings true. It's been just over year since I worked last. Since you are setting a date out in the future, vs. very very soon, I think your subconscious and your life will help you sort out just what this will feel like. I have found it to be a long process.

    I doubt it will be a pure substitution of grandparenting for work. I suspect you'll want to replace full-time teaching with some other activities and interests - but it would be so hard to know now what they would be. Or so, at least, I have found.

    i am glad you will be able to breathe. xoxox.

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    1. I hope I'll sort it all out, but I suspect it will be a long process. When I bump into some of my deep resistance, I generally recognize that this has to do with work that I'm going to have to do anyway, eventually -- mostly around the changed social identity or, at least, my perception of it.
      And much as I love my kids and grandkids, I am wary of letting the Mom/Nana role subsume that identity. I have always responded to family needs so compulsively or, at least, readily, and work has been a good way of drawing some clear boundaries around Me. Except that now those boundaries have squeezed in on me, and it's time for another approach. In honour of the breathing . . . ;-)
      I do think a visit to SF would be a good thing to fit in my plans somewhere. A good long chat. And then another. someday . . .

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  23. This post and then your last response to lpc's comment in particular resonate so strongly with me. It is five years now since I turned my back on my beloved job. I didn't even retire. At fifty five I was too young for that. I just stopped. I knew I needed time and energy for other parts of myself. Perhaps I wouldn't have known that had I not been seriously ill a couple of years earlier. Was it the right decision? Yes, although I didn't know when I made it that my brother would have a stroke, that my mother would die, that my father would develop motor neurone disease. I thought my time might be given to developing my creativity when it is mostly going into the care of those I love. I am aware that there is an analytical, intellectual, logical, combative side of my nature which is no longer much in use. I think it is part of the Indian (Asian) consciousness to regard the last third of ones life as for spiritual development so I am happy to say that what I am exploring now is a side of myself which I have perforce neglected when I was working. Sometimes it is difficult, sometimes, especially with the grandchildren it is wonderful,

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    1. Thanks for adding your comments, Elizabeth, based on experience. I'm not sure, in some ways, that I want to call what I'm doing "retiring" either, although I'm older than when you stopped putting your energy into your job and started shaping your life in another direction. I'm certainly not averse to future employment, but it's just so obvious that the machinery can't keep cranking this way. I hope I won't have family circumstances as difficult as yours to deal with, but I'd like to make more space for supporting my spiritual self, as you speak of, and thus perhaps having more reserves for the family. And I've never spent as much time as I'd like to on my creative energies, so who knows what might be next. An exploration, as you say, at the very least. . .

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  24. I empathize~ I had a tearful weekend too with similar distresses and decisions. Being in three places in a day nearly every day over the last three years has begun to loosen the threads of my well being. Where for you it's being near to grandchildren and spending quality time, for me it's my 89 year old mother in Parksville. To work, then to Parksville, then back to the island-too much. The last two years I rented in P-Ville to try and alleviate the commuting issue, but that's not exactly fair to the marriage. So now I also, this weekend, talked it over with my husband (one of many talks over the last few months) and have decided to retire. As you mentioned in your blog " somethings gotta give". Children grow and those moments can be lost if not witnessed. Parents grow old and will leave this world, and if we can be there for them, our grandchildren, our parents, then I think we are all imbued with an enriched life quality. And as my mother wishes to remain up island and we wish to remain here, it becomes evident what I need to let go of.

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    1. That's tough, Deb. I was fortunate, in the years when my Mom needed so much support, to have been able to rely on so many siblings. Over the last months when she needed round-the-clock care (in her own home), I stepped up my visits, and I know that's exhausting not only for the commuting, but also for the emotional processing. I also know that having been there for her means everything to me now. As will it be for you -- and I've seen photos of your mom on FB, heard anecdotes about her there -- she looks like a wonderful and inspiring elder whose care will enrich your life. But how hard for you to give up a position that suited you so well. Somehow, I suspect some transformation will come out of this move we're making into some next stage. There just aren't enough guides into it, are there?! Take care.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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