Friday, February 17, 2017

Five Things Friday, Home Alone. . .

My week alone wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, but I did finish this handknit doll and sew up the tulle skirt to match her new owner's preferred style of dress. . . .

I called my bluff this week. Gave myself the potential free time that I've been claiming I want but surprisingly (considering my retired state) can't seem to consolidate. Instead of a week in Portland, Oregon, accompanying my husband who was travelling for work, I sent him off on his own. This despite the fact that I love the city, that I had a great time wandering there (with camera) last year at this time, that I was looking forward to dinners together each evening reviewing our respective days in the Foodie City's many great restaurants, pubs, even food trucks....

My decision was fairly last-minute, but I'll admit my hesitations began shortly after the presidential inauguration. Crossing the border felt much less palatable when my privilege to do so was so unpleasantly highlighted. Still, I probably could have plugged my nose and made the trip if I'd had a January of full health and if I'd felt everything was in order in our new home, and if I weren't traveling a bit, fairly locally, in the next short while. The reality, though, is that after last year's moves and travel, coupled with winter downtime due to weather and illness, I'm becoming impatient for a productive or purposeful rhythm of my own,. And I know, I know, Patience is a virtue, et cetera, et cetera.

But.

Impatience is also a good way of identifying desires, right? And for me, part of this whole retirement and moving gig is figuring out what I want to do now. Perhaps, even, who I am, or who I want to be.

And what I can see so clearly right now -- and couldn't quite have imagined when I was so busy at work that I rarely had an evening or a weekend during term that was marking-free -- what I can see now is that without work firmly in place to stake out time for me (and at least that part of my identity that was built around work), it is all too easy to spend one's time reactively. In fact, while I'm eager to see my guy again when he gets back later today, I could use another week on my own. Because as it turns out, I've only barely cleared space -- mental, emotional, and actual material, physical space in the condo -- to get started on a few projects I've identified for myself.
although she stole many hours from other creative activities I might prefer, knitting this doll was fun to make and a labour of love for a faraway 2-year-old granddaughter. Unfortunately for me, 4-year-old and 8-year-old g'daughters have already declared an interest in having one as well. . . 


More on those projects later (I do that too often, don't I, promise "more on this later," and then catch myself up in a string of obligations. . . . Hmmmm, might have to tackle that problem. . . later!)

For today's Friday Five, here are Five Things I Did in my Week to Myself

1. Baby-sat. I got to hang out with an Almost Two one morning, and I had two dinners and one overnight visit with an Eight. This was time spent happily, and time spent voluntarily (yes, the kids asked me to b-sit, but they would have readily accepted a "No"). Still, since I'm trying to see my way forward to what I want to do with the next 20-ish years, it's worth acknowledging that I gave a big chunk of time and energy to spending time with my grandkids.  At the moment, this is a choice I make joyfully, but I need to remind myself that choices generally come with consequences, and if/when I find myself complaining that I don't have enough time for, say, creative acitivities of my own. . . .

2. Yoga. Two classes. Here's another example of something I do voluntarily, even joyfully, but that takes time away from keeping my home and life as organised as I might want them to be. It's a choice, and although I believe it's a necessary choice for a healthy life, the two classes pull another five hours of "free time" out of my week.  In return, of course, they also ground me, make me stronger, and replenish my energy levels.  In terms of the immediate trade-off -- turning down a trip to Portland in favour of a week at home -- I think this investment was worthwhile. Re-establishing my fitness routine and bringing back some mobility to stiffened joints and tightened muscles boosts my confidence that I'm finally "getting it together," developing a schedule that supports a satisfying urban lifestyle.

3. Doctor's appointment. We were very relieved, in December, that our daughter's GP accepted us as patients. Physicians are in short supply in the city, and so many rely on walk-in clinics where continuity of care isn't easily established. Neither of us has needed much medical care and we've been known to miss more than a few annual check-ups, but we're aware that we've moved into a period of our life that might demand more vigilance. So last week, we finally got to the lab for the bloodwork the new clinic wanted done, and this week, I met with my new doctor. Time very well spent, and I feel as if I've advanced some of my organisation goals, ticked off a very important box in the Must-Do list. Because I stayed home this week, I was also able to grab a spot that opened up in my Physiotherapist's calendar, and between Doctor, Physio, and Yoga, I'm feeling as if I'm on the mend and striding forward....

4. Met a blogging friend for lunch and had a great time. These meet-ups are always exciting, generally (as this get-together was) fun, but let's face it, they demand a commitment of organisation, social energy, and, of course, time.  And when you travel quite a bit, it's very easy to be distracted by that novelty and to neglect putting in the time that relationships require. Staying home for the week saved me time to invest in my own social life -- even if it didn't save me enough time to do the zillion things I seem to have hoped I might do. . . . .

because for Number 5, I will have to squish together. . . .

5. Reading (not nearly as much as I hoped); Knitting (ditto, although I finished a little boy's garter-stitch hoodie, and have made progress on my own cabled poncho); Drawing (only one day, a 5-minute sketch);  Home-organising (shockingly little -- although I filled a bin with towels we no longer need, and I looked through Every Possible Drawer, Storage Bin, Nook, and Cranny for a tulle skirt I bought my g'daughter last month and intended to add to a parcel for her -- Never found it!); List-Making -- oh, so much needs to be done before we're settled here -- but top of the list, and something I was sure I'd have got done this week, Getting Tax Materials ready for the Accountant; Grocery-shopping -- almost none, preferring instead to work my way through the contents of fridge and pantry, surprisingly adequate;  Finally Getting My Good Camera Out for a City Walk -- didn't happen, will have to go on the list;  Re-establishing Italian Practise -- nope, that didn't happen either; Shopping for a Little Girl's Skirt (see Home-organising, above) to match the one I made her doll. . . .
The rockstar hair was the 4-year-old's suggestion (the 8-year-old told me last night that when I make hers, she'd prefer it NOT to have weird mixed colours) -- the hair took approximately four hours to hook in place, an interesting fact given how I think I want to spend my time. . . .

That's rather breathless, no? And it obviously indicates that I have considerable work to do prioritising what I want to do with my time and energy -- and how, once I know what I want, I'm going to safeguard enough of that time and energy to spend as I wish. Interestingly, having arrived at this point, I'm prepared to have some of that Patience I mentioned above.

I suspect that some of you, already Retired, have done much of this sorting already. I'd love to hear your thoughts, if so. Tell me you don't simply abandon all the items in your Number 5, that you've found ways to honour at least some of those hopes and intentions. I also suspect that some of you, anticipating Retirement within the next few years, will be looking at this hodge-podge either with dismay at the possibility that you might be equally challenged to protect your free time or with a certain (polite, I'm sure, nicely disguised even) scorn that someone could be so scattered.  To that scorn, might I just recite what the kids say these days, "It is what it is" -- and sigh. . . For me, it helps to pin it down so that I can see the tangled process. And then keep moving. And untangling. Perhaps forward to clarity and effective purpose? We'll see. . . .

43 comments:

  1. Ohhh, I was intrigued, and almost asked, what that pink tulle was doing lurking in the background last post. Now we know! And that rockstar hair....oh-la-la..Love it.
    Oh, I wish I knew how to knit.
    Delicious time on your own. Perfect. Maybe have a shorter list next time? Seems to me that you did plenty to move the ball forward. Time to smell the roses is often not a bad idea. Hard for those of of us who are hard-wired to achieve and accomplish. I get it;it is a curse/blessing.
    Have to smile at the eight year old who wants to reign in her wild grandmother regarding rock star hair! Luv it!
    A. in London

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    1. Thanks, A.
      Perhaps a shorter list next time, but really, sorting out the long list was perhaps the week's most important achievement, in retrospect. . . .and that same retrospect shows me that, as you say, I did do plenty to move the ball forward. It's helpful to write the post and then be able to see from a reader's perspective.

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  2. I really like the doll. At 8 years old, the big little girl is probably becoming a bit more conservative. Did you find the skirt? My organizing efforts have yielded a few treasures including a copy of The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence which I should read
    enroute to Oaxaca. I enjoyed our lunch and I looked for Le Village Français but it appears that L'Alliançe does not have it. I just watched Night Train to Lisbon on Netflix. My first husband and I travelled to Lisbon on our honeymoon in 1974, totally unaware of the political situation. We heard so much about Vietnam but...
    After 5+ years of retirement, I still am working on time management so you need not be too hard on yourself.

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    1. I did find the skirt and the package has been mailed! (and yes, she's becoming much more conservative, in her own way--doesn't like to wear anything that might be "too weird").
      I read Night Train to Lisbon quite a few years ago, when we made a couple of visits to Portugal. Amazing how long fascism persisted there, but even more amazing was that Carnation Revolution. Very inspiring. And you're so right about our spotty political awareness, how directed it was by the media's spotlight. I knew so little of this until we traveled there.

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    2. I did not know that Salazar preceded Franco and that there was political
      upheaval into the 70's. Our awareness is so focussed on US politics. It is as Pierre Trudeau said about living next door to an elephant.

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  3. Oh, that little doll reminds me of the projects my mother used to surprise me with. How sweet!
    More unsolicited advice: Take your time in the beginning to decide what is the most important to you by trying many things. Figure out what brings the most joy to you. You've earned the right to get rid of "shoulds" and be happy with "I like."
    A philosophy/movement in art education is Teaching for Artistic Behaviors. Rather than teaching the same lesson for all students to complete all the same, we offer mini-lessons in materials use, art history, or a technique and allow the students to drive their artistic pursuits. Some students bounce around until they find what engages them, some repeat past lessons that hey are familiar and comfortable with and some know right away what they want to work on. Maybe this idea will let you give yourself permission to let things happen naturally for a while. You've been on quite the journey this past year!

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    1. Thanks very much for this advice, Carol. I think this is what I've been doing lately, but instead of feeling that it's a positive period of exploration, I've been feeling frustrated that I'm not buckling down with enough focus. Your comment does give me permission, and I'll do a bit of research in the movement you refer to. Very helpful (was it you who reminded me of The Artist's Way recently? just got the book from the library)

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  4. After 9 years of semi-retirement from paid employment (actually leaving full time+ very busy job and working part time at the most amusing parts of it) I have now made a decision to un-hitch from even the part time paid work. So I'm re-pondering some of these same questions you are. One thing I can see on reflection is that the time spent with only grandchild was such a treasure - I always knew it was but now that such opportunities are scarcer I can see that I was wise to do as much of that as possible when possible -Just me, no intended implications for you. Also can see that the hours spent in yoga practice have paid huge dividends; I too have to push back the lurking feeling that I "should" be doing something else with those hours.

    I'll be looking for more info on the Teaching for Artistic Behaviors mentioned above.....

    ceci

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    1. It's so fleeting, that time with the grandchildren, isn't it? Already at eight, our oldest is getting really busy with her own social life and her own interests. When I remind myself that a big chunk of time right now goes to the little ones, it's not that I'm counselling myself to regroup and budget that time for other purposes. I'm just reminding myself that I made a conscious choice for very good reasons. That time, and the time devoted to health and fitness, aren't available for other activities -- they're priorities. So that I need to be patient with myself and see how much, and how, I can schedule for other items on the list. Triage, right?
      And congrats on making the decision to let the part-time go as well. Was that tough to make?

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  5. That doll is art! It was a great way to spend your time, IMO - even the 4 hours of hair :-)

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    1. Thank you! I'm still sorting through why I thought it was worth making her. Certainly a very different use of my time than when my "hobby" was going back to school and doing a B.A., then M.A., then PhD. . . . During those years I put aside almost all the leisure pursuits that used to sustain me.
      Have to laugh -- folks like you and me, we do think about everything, don't we?!

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  6. As retirement is looming larger for me, I'm always interested in reading how one navigates the extra time, the balance between social and solitary activities and spending time with the next generation or two.
    The doll is adorable and I can understand where there are requests for more. The 8-year-old is developing her own tastes!

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    1. I suspect you'll get it very right, Lorrie. You've managed to juggle work and family and leisure pursuits so well -- at least in the last few years that I've "known" you via the blog.

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  7. Sounds like your plan to ditch the trip was a good one. Lots of good things seem to be coming together especially getting back to running this week. I envy you your time with grandchildren. Hopefully something for us in the future. That's what happens when you have your own children later in life. Will probably be ninety before our boys have their own families. B x

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    1. Good fun in your nineties then -- you can have pre-schoolers pushing your wheelchair ;-)

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  8. The transitions from working woman and mother of children to Yourself is a journey of being catapulted from earth to Arcturus. You never come back. After 3 downsizes, post-30-year-old children and 10 years on from 58, I have some pithy advice: PUT YOURSELF FIRST.
    After years serving as mother, wife, spouse friend, professional, you don't know what you want any longer. Constructing a life of cooperation, compromise and nurturing others (children & students) has not prepared you for the time 'retirement' hits (and, make no mistake, it really does deliver a 'hit'). You don't remember who you ever wanted to be. The first time you try doing as you please, the outcry will be deafening from family/friends. The question will be "oh dear, what's wrong with Francis?"
    To see the pictures of your countenance while on your own in Europe were the most telling. For years your expression had not revealed such joy as were in those shots. A day or two prior to the return to Van, the spirit in the pictures shifted dramatically.
    I don't exaggerate to claim the most wrenching steps for us are from what we are to where we want to be.
    When you start to truly PUT YOURSELF FIRST, all hell will break loose, husband, children friends will be in shock, perhaps ire. It takes being steadfast in determination, actually ruthless, to honour self FIRST with everyone/everything next, after. Already I hear the chorus of "but I love them, I want to be with them, I'm happy to b-sit". Oh....PL-EEEESE...stop.
    Guilt will be an accompaniment to the first few fledgling 'try s' at complete autonomy. Saying 'no' to everyone who expects you to act like the old you is hard. Getting yourSELF to recalibrate lifelong habits is eminently more difficult.
    Start small, like having him do the run to the dry-cleaners/ all the grocery shopping/ saying 'Uhh, Im not going to than restaurant any longer'. There are a host of other things to change/ I'll leave that to you.
    But after you kick the inevitable self-recrimination(s) to the curb-----you will taste the sublime sweetness of unencumbered self direction. Putting reading, drawing and camera at top of list will go against your ingrained behaviours.
    Wait 'til you book 4 months in France on your own. ! Ha ! ! !
    And what will you say in reply (in defiance/ in your temerity to change) to the new you that shakes everyones ground?
    "It is what it is."

    Make it so.

    -Giulia

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    1. Thanks, Giulia. Here's a powerful manifesto indeed.
      So much depends on personality and individual family relationships and patterns, doesn't it? But Earth to Arcturus, yes, that sounds about right...
      In fact, I do love the time with my grandchildren, and our move to the city was at least partly motivated by wanting to spend more time with them while they're still interested in us. And it pleases me to help out our kids with b-sitting -- it takes a village to raise little ones, and I'm glad to be in the village now, although I'm really glad that my kids have their own independent support networks and that they don't ever take for granted that we will or should help out.
      I so agree that domestic chores should be shared so that we all have time to reach the potential of our (finally free!) retirement time. I'm very lucky that my husband has always done much of the cooking, and since he retired a few years before I did, gone into the pattern of doing all the grocery shopping and almost all the cooking. In fact, one of my goals now is to recover part of my kitchen because I like cooking.
      In short, I applaud the spirit of your instructions, but they're not all relevant to my situation, and I'm a bit leery of having assumptions about my overall happiness with family life made on the basis of photos I show on the blog. I take your point about guilt, though -- a constant life accompaniment I continue to struggle with. But honestly, there's much that I quite like about the old me. . . ;-)

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  9. I'm watching how serious you are about "retiring well." Because that's me. Or ... it was me before I retired at the end of 2015 at age 70. For two years prior to retirement I focused much of my therapy time on: "What will I do after I retire?! Who will I become after I'm no longer my professional persona?! What will I do with all that free time!? Which of the long-planned postponed books will I write first?!" I was very anxious about what no longer being a working woman would mean for me.

    Then retirement actually happened, and I experienced the first gap year I've ever had in my life! And yes (to another reader), I did put myself first. As a result, I've never been in better shape, slept better, or eaten better. But I didn't start a book, enroll in university classes, or overhaul the local Community Foundation. Instead, I've cleaned out my closets, done daily crossword puzzles with hubby, read books about writing, watched the entirety of long sunrises, stared at barren tree limbs and the squirrels who live amidst them. And I have completely forgotten how to multi-task.

    Of course, my lifetime is running out. But it's been running out ever since I was born. This is my "quiet time." I'm learning how to listen to it.

    And I have absolutely no idea yet how Year Two or Year Three of Retirement will turn out. But I'm so happy and grateful I got to have at least one gap year before I die. :)

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    1. I'm so pleased that you've had the retirement year you really wanted.

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  10. I'm not retired but still recognise what you say about organising your time. I don't like to be idle. Time spent pottering at home is one of my most favourite things to do, it can be surprisingly productive. As I was reading your post it popped into my head that you could do worse than write. So glad I found your blog.

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    1. Yes! Pottering (or puttering, as I usually call it) is a necessary step, for me, to so much creative and/or intellectual activity. I think it's partly why, despite my first impression, last week was actually very well spent, for me. It was really one long putter -- a bit of this, a bit of that, somewhat scattered, but little inroads made here and there. Thanks for the kind words re the blog -- I'm so pleased I found yours as well -- thanks B at Coastal Ripples!

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    2. Yes, hooray for B! I love her blog too :o)

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  11. I'm using this as a primer for retirement. It's a relief not to think I need everything worked out before I retire. There was a time when retirement was planned for two years from now, but teaching political science in the US now has moved from challenging to heartbreaking. I feel as if I am giving up, but perhaps it's simply time to refocus energies in a different way. I'd like to be able to sleep again and read something for fun!

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    1. I can't imagine teaching PoliSci in that context. . . I do regularly miss the chance to guide young people as they explore what citizenship means (which we do as well through literature (my discipline) and, really, all the humanities). My intention had long been to teach well past 65, having begun late. But the last couple of years I was so tired and so often quite unhappy, nearing depression -- something had to give. . . And now I'm happy to offer up my wandering path as your primer ;-) I'm definitely an example of someone who didn't have everything worked out first!

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    2. I am so on the fence. Had a great class today and then came back to piles of silly forms to fill out and endless departmental politics. I wish I could have the class without the institution. Definitely not an ideal world!

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  12. This doll is amazing! Your grandchildren are so happy to be able to learn what art/love/craft looks like :-)
    Very interesting topic:
    first of all,the goal for one has to be feeling good and healthy-in body,mind and spirit( as it is posible i.e. to find a balance and steady state if living with the chronic illness)-to be able to give to the others.
    Our problem, Frances, is that we want so much of everything at once and have too many interests and things to do.
    I have to remind myself daily that I could do and enjoy still a lot of things,but not at the same time.
    Dottoressa

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    1. You so often say just the right thing -- I love this notion that I'm showing my grandchildren, through the doll, what love and craft can do together.
      And yes, for those of us whose eyes are bigger than are stomachs when it comes to what we want to do, it's very important to find a balance, to be able to recharge. We can't do everything at once, but we're so lucky to have so many choices.

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  13. Protecting free time is a challenge isn't it? Justifying an activity to oneself as being worthwhile enough in other's eyes is a poor technique but hard wired in me. Especially when asked to do something for others that you are willing, nay happy to oblige with, and have no cast iron reason to refuse. Except, that sometimes you should feel able to set aside the time for yourself with no justification needed. Nothing creative happens to order. You need time to allow creativity to emerge and that doesn't happen at all if you are always ready to jump to attention when called. More thoughts on this in future posts here will be very interesting to this first time grandma.

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    1. Lucille, you articulate my reality so well. There are so many things I'm happy enough to do, with, as you say, no solid reason to say no. . . but then those all pile up all over the clock, and there's no quiet left for recharging, and the creative happenings just don't. . . . Tinkering away, hoping I'll eventually get it right. . . (and of all the interruptions to the puttering and the creativity, that first grandchild. . . oh!)

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  14. This is such an interesting topic, Frances, and one with which I am contending too. Lucille has put my feelings into words more eloquently than I could, and many other friends above make very good points.

    I think we all have to find our place between the two extremes and that is not easy (I speak as one who did not get to her laptop at all last week - other than for my one day of paid work - due to dealing with various issues which sprang up with my nearest and dearest but I am happy to have been able to help out in a crisis. Not so sure I'd be so keen if this became a regular state of affairs.

    I have friends, now retired, who are single and have never had children. They live their lives exactly on their terms and while I applaud that, there are times when it is rather difficult to get together, take a trip, meet for a meal or whatever, because they are so inflexible. Ultimately I feel that they will isolate themselves.

    Each to their own, I guess.

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    1. Exactly so. We need to sort out what will work for us, given these -- let's face it -- last couple of decades, our last chance to decide what really matters. For most of us, the place will be somewhere between Completely Selfish and Hopeless Martyr to Others' Demands. . . and I suppose there will be a few who thrive right at the poles as well. . . (and I have a few of the same friends, although mine aren't yet retired. Whether they never had families because they were constitutionally unable to, or unsuited for, compromise, or because not having children meant they were never forced to develop that flexibility is impossible to know. I do know that getting together can be a real challenge -- but every time, I see freshly and applaud the relative flexibility I have picked up along the way. . .

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    2. Hi Frances, Ceri ...hope you don't mind me commenting here but your reply Frances, really resonated with me ... " last couple of decades and our chance to decide what really matters" ...great title for a blog post! I find myself agreeing with all you're saying and yes, being flexible at this time in our lives seems so important as does trying new things. So often people seem to long for the "freedom" that retirement can bring just to fill it with an inflexible routine. Hope I don't sound too judgemental but I think you'll both understand what I mean.

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  15. This post is fascinating to me, as I face my retirement next January. What will I do with all that time? How and where will I travel? Will I be too isolated as the urge to cocoon is very strong in the introvert part of me? There is much food for thought in your post and the other comments. Brenda

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    1. Brenda, this urge to cocoon is strong in me as well, and having seen the consequences for my mother of giving in to that urge, I'm really trying to get out there now and develop networks and routines outside the condo. I look forward to chatting with you about this over lunch before too long.

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  16. I've really enjoyed reading this post Frances ...cause for reflection "should I stay or should I go" re Portland. I've made the same decision recently. I had the opportunity to go with my husband, while he worked but as we're away now and would only be home a day before setting off again, I decided it would be good to have some time at home :)
    Hope you're feeling much better now ....I just love the doll ...it's so cute. I imagine your granddaughters will keep her for many years to come.
    Hope your weeks going well.
    Rosie

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    1. In fact, not going with my husband felt a bit like what they're calling a Staycation -- did you find the same thing? I love to travel, but one of my favourite ways to spend time is in my own home, with no one else there. Luckily, my guy understands it's about me, not about him ;-)
      And yes, I'm feeling much better, and I've sent the little doll off to my g'daughter in Rome. Can't wait to see what she thinks of her.

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    2. Yes, my husband "gets it" too and it is nice to have alone time ... Just having yourself to consider for a while re activities, what and where to eat, have coffee etc :) mind you there is always a tiny part of me that's thinking "should I have gone? :) ) Always good to have options!

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  17. I was widowed with two young girls at age 34. I spent decades in a blur of work and being Mom and Dad. Losing my husband clarified one thing for me though. I really focused on putting our "new" family together and making if different- not tragic. Our threesome travelled, read, visited museums and explored different options. I had a sense of urgency that life is fleeting and I wanted to explore beauty and nurture my girls back to a solid place. I made choices to bring beauty in all its forms into our lives. 27 years later, I can tell you it was worth it! My daughters are adults with fascinating and different from average careers. To bring this back to the retirement theme, I tried to do the same thing for myself upon retiring. I took a year to just "be", I tried to immerse myself in the things that I love. I wanted time to bring this same love and attention to my grandchildren. I wanted to be available to help my daughters in a way my mother wasn't available to me. After all, the only constant in life is change. Be easy with yourself and try to focus your time on what brings you joy. It works for me.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, BuffaloGal, such a moving and meaningful contribution to our conversation. How wise you were able to be at such a painful, difficult time. And it seems to me that you're saying something really important about the relationship between continuity and change, because in both the huge loss of your husband and in your move into retirement, you countered change by maintaining continuity through joy and beauty and love and being present. Powerful, thank you!

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  18. Seems to me that you really needed some time on your own to begin to sort out this new phase of your life, so well done for taking it. I am always amazed by how much more I get done when my husband isn't around and how my routine goes out of the window, in a good way. Relationships take a lot of time and energy, as do friendships, much as I enjoy and appreciate them. The crucial thing is to recognise that need to have some time and and enjoy it. And you did.

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    1. It's surprising, isn't it, how much time and energy relationships can take, more for some of us than for others, I think, and because it's a "background," in our life, we don't always recognise the upkeep required. Being on my own really helped recharge -- sounds as if you "get" that completely.

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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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