Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Beginning. . . . Spring is On Its Way (and bringing some continuing thoughts on Retired Life)

 As you will know if you've been reading here for any time at all, one of the toughest aspects of this move, for me, has been leaving behind a garden I'd created and nurtured for well over twenty years. Especially at this time of year -- I'd planted so many fragrant winter-flowering plants, so many bulbs from which bright small flowers emerged and invited noses down to the ground, so many shrubs whose leaves unfurled early or perennials that pushed their way through the late-winter soil -- all antidotes to February, which can be a surprisingly long month for one with only 28 days. . . Last February, for example, there was this blooming in my garden on the island
 But we did manage to find a condo that has a decent-sized terrace, and the previous owners were keen gardeners who left us a great foundation of planted pots with some lovely small trees, shrubs, and vines. I was only here for two weeks last fall, and by the time I got home in snowy, cold December, most of the herbaceous perennials had hidden themselves underground (although there's a campanula that has stayed green all winter and generously offered some cheery blue bells straight through the calendar).
 It's warmed up here in the last week or so, although it's also been quite grey and rainy. One day, however, I was watching a cloud of bush tits descend on the suet feeder, and I noticed a leaf apparently unfolding on the potted hydrangea. So I popped out for a wander with my camera. And it turns out that there's all kinds of life happening out there, beyond the avian. . . .
 It looks as if there are going to be a (very) few spring blooms. A good start, and we'll be sure to augment that for next year.

 And roses are getting ready to do their thing -- I always love the tender pink that insinuates itself into new shoots. . . and even bare, the branches offer some wonderful shadowplay in the sunshine. . .
 Above, the campanula I spoke of -- it's nestled in a micro-climate within a micro-climate, very protected in a little corner nook, and happily green through December and January. We're very grateful....

Below, not on our terrace, sadly, but I've been seeing so many snowdrops while out running, and I often use them as an excuse to stop. . . .
I've been reading the many thoughtful comments on Friday's post and have responded to most of them by now, although I'm not quite caught up. It's obvious that this is a topic many of us want to discuss, so I'm going to continue the conversation as promised. Not quite ready to do that today, in this space, but if you haven't read that post yet, or if you haven't had a chance to read through all the comments, I'm happy to keep hosting a chat there for the moment.  And before I move to another, separate post as follow-up, perhaps I could ask you to think a bit about What You're Hoping For from your Retirement -- and perhaps why you've had to put that off until now. . .  I guess what I'm wondering about is just how much transformation is possible at the age when retirement generally happens.  How much continuity are you planning on? Or how much have you experienced?

I suppose the reason I'm plucking this thread out of Friday's tangle is that I often read a push here in some readers' comments, for me to be different than I am. I do think that it's worthwhile to examine choices and patterns and to be open to change -- a brief survey of this blog will testify to my willingness to be self-reflexive, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, if not boredom! But the selves we bring to Retirement are the same selves we moved through the WorkPlace.  In an ideal world, quite honestly, if I had time and energy in astonishing abundance, I would still be working because I loved so much of my job (in that ideal world, of course, constant cutbacks and odious politics would have disappeared). But I have always been a bit of a magpie in my interests, and I chose to have four children, and there are still only twenty-four hours on the day's clock. . .

Your Mileage May Vary. I think that's what I most want to honour here, that we will all approach Retirement differently. Some degree of Selfishness, after a lifetime that, for some, seemed not to allow that possibility, might finally be claimed -- speak up, as Giulia did, those of you who think this is the most important message for your Retirement. Some of us learned this value earlier than others -- I had to be fairly Selfish, for example, to go back to finish my BA, then earn graduate degrees, while still raising kids -- and for those folk, Retirement might be a chance to take the Career (or whatever) blinders off and attend to domestic pleasures and even obligations that had to be sacrificed along the way.

As for me, this week I'm "selfishly" heading to a two-day Drawing Course in my old stomping grounds, and folding in some visits with friends and a visit to my son's family. I have a light post ready to publish later (me in spring colours!) and I'll be reading your comments, but extended thinking about, well, anything, will probably be delayed. (As usual, I'll probably post on Instagram in between.)

In the meantime, the mic's all yours. Let's talk about Spring Gardens or Retirement Plans or The Value of Selfishness or whatever connections you wish to make. Thank you in advance. . . .


34 comments:

  1. I spent Sunday afternoon in a long conversation with a close friend who has just heard her breast cancer, caught early ten years ago and supposedly cured, has returned. She is nearly 59. All I want from retirement- which I have been in for about five years- is to be here and not have to live on the street, and the rest I will make up as I go, letting the currents of interest and opportunity carry me. I want to be here, and I want her (and others) to be here, too- for a while longer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The most wonderful answer, Duchesse. Thank you.

      Delete
    2. These bouts with mortality come increasingly often these days, and they always remind us sharply of what's really important. At the same time, though, I might argue that "being here" and having our friends here a while longer -- or even having/keeping those friends in the first place -- has to do with the priorities we set. I'm flexible enough to "make up as I go" to a certain extent, but for me it's also important to set some basic parameters, to have some clear guidelines to help me sort a plethora of interests and opportunities. You're very fortunate if you are always able to do this on the spot, but the discernment and the ability to say "No" don't always come so easily to me.

      Delete
    3. re your "I might argue": I cannot set a priority for myself that my friend survive this but (and I will guess this is what you imply) I can choose to get on a train and see her now, because I have the time and it's absolutely paramount to me.

      The good part about being retired is that thinkers have time to ponder and spontaneous sorts can just follow their whims and there is no performance review or promotion hanging in the balance, just one's own satisfaction.

      Delete
    4. Exactly -- you can, and obviously do, get on that train, while others might choose not to be distracted from other goals they've set. My reality is that I can quite happily stay on my own for fairly long periods (I've easily done four or five days in our island home, going out for my run or if I'm desperate for groceries, but otherwise very content with my own company, my books, my knitting, etc.) -- so that to have the friends in the first place, I have to make some conscious choices and keep in mind that trade-offs will be worthwhile.
      I love your last paragraph -- it's quite wonderful having this privilege, isn't it?!

      Delete
  2. I'm studying to add a new but connected layer to the work I already do. I sometimes wonder whether I'll retire in the normal sense when the time comes. I love what I do and it's always been a vocation rather than a job. That said I don't work at it full time, and the hours I have to be at home, in the garden, out running or walking I value tremendously. We're all different and find our routes in a variety of ways I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The core of my work was a vocation rather than a job as well, except that the job part got to be overwhelming and exhausting (as is true for so many in academia these days, a constant cry of "recruitment and retention" accompanying an equally constant budget-cutting). If only we could find more ways to allow satisfying part-time work which would accommodate the balance of domestic life that you've found. You're very fortunate, but I'm sure you worked to create your good fortune. Well done!

      Delete
  3. Yesterday, I listened to the birds in the sky and the lilies of the field sermon about the futility of fretting. I still agonize over the uncertainty of the future but Duchesse's friend's story brings me back to reality. The bulbs are coming up in my little parking lot garden. This morning, I've had plenty of clean water to do loads of laundry. Next week, in Oaxaca, I will be dealing with very limited water. That same Selfishness that enabled me to complete my university in spite of a pre-schooler and a faltering marriage is what allows me to leave husband and home in search of
    adventure, fulfillment, solitude or independence....I'm not really sure. Unlike those birds and lilies, I will probably always live "too much in my head". Enjoy your drawing class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you -- I'm very well aware of encroaching mortality and of how little control we have, how much we should focus instead on the present, on what's most important. And I think for the most part you and I do that reasonably well. However, we're pretty much wired to "live too much in our heads," and I don't see much value in beating ourselves up about that. We are who we are, right?

      Delete
  4. I've been retired proper for 6 years and still it looks nothing like I imagined it to be. I enjoy watching the feeding birds because I can do that "for free" as I do other things but with spring sniffing at my back door, I know I'm going to have to organise myself to give the garden a huge amount of attention and finding that time ... ughhh! I'm supposed to be swanning around the garden de-heading or doing yoga, not digging trenches wearing wellies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the reminder of all the work I used to do in the garden. And quite honestly, it was getting to the point where it needed some real overhauling that I wasn't much interested in doing. Have fun in those trenches!

      Delete
  5. Oh retirement! After so many years of running around chasing my tail in education, it is blissful to have time. Just over a year into this state I find new delights to enjoy each day. Photography, a passion from the past is now something I have returned to. It links so well to blogging; again a new retirement hobby. Walking, now jogging are daily pursuits. Volunteering for the national trust; my love of history being nurtured. Time to read, wonderful. Of course travel and gardening. Family support in the sense of decorating and lots of family meals. The days are full and good so far. In the future what else? Maybe further study, not sure what yet. Possibly historical research. Of course I am lucky and in full health and I know it is important to make the most of these good years. Maybe my settled home life makes me revel in this time. I'm lucky where I live. Hopefully you will find a happy pattern to your days doing things you enjoy. That drawing class sound great fun. Enjoy:) B x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You do make retirement look wonderful -- I think this is what mine would have been like if we'd stayed where we were on the island, and I hope it will approximate an urban version of same as I settle into it, although perhaps with less emphasis on the domestic. I do think I'll sort out a pattern eventually -- you're a great inspiration, thanks!

      Delete
  6. Heading into our third spring nhere and still the garden is little more than a lawn and a hedge. I roll myself that this game like this will be done when the time is right.
    I missed your last post, so I will go around right away to have a look and to join in the discussion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lawn and hedge are good place-holders for the garden I know you'll someday have, when the time is right. . . (I'm over your way soon -- will email)

      Delete
  7. I'm in-between here: my husband is retired, as are quite a few of my friends. But I expect to work quite a few years yet, and I worry that I won't be able to retire while I am still young enough to enjoy all the things I want to do. So I'm trying to find time for some of them now, which is requiring some adjustments in my work-life balance. A definite work in progress!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very much what I was trying to do the last few years of work. I found it really hard to find that work-life balance in a job that really consumed all during term. But I think it's really important to do that, if you can. Otherwise, at least for me, much as I loved the job, I began to resent having to put everything else aside, when it was increasingly obvious that the high-energy years were dwindling. I applaud your determination to keep work in perspective and to find time for the other parts of You to "have a life."

      Delete
  8. Lots of snow drops and winter aconite here, as well as 3 60+ degree days in a row. Last summer and fall were not good gardening seasons for me, so there is tons of not very interesting catch up maintenance to be done - after a couple hours a day I have some interesting sore muscles. However, how lucky to be retired and able to devote this time, and to be able to neglect the garden last year when I evidently needed to. To every thing there is a season.....looking forward now to hearing about your art class and spring colors!

    ceci

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love what you say about the luck to be able to devote the time to the garden, but also to have been able to neglect it. I think there's so much happiness to be found in recognising that we have and make choices (if we're so privileged/lucky).

      Delete
  9. Hi there. Not much for chiming in (most of the time) but on this posting I thought I'd just voice my two cents. I've been retired for 4 years now. After 40 years as a nurse and nurse practitioner I'm happy to become selfish and return to my passion which is art. As far as years remaining, I hope to have 10 more good ones--maybe a wee bit more. If I'm lucky my husband and I will travel a bit more too. No grandkids. If we end up with grandkids we'll probably be too old to appreciate them! I do love reading your blog and seeing what you're up to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say these two cents are worth quite a few dolars ;-)
      It sounds as if you're making the most of retirement -- did you know, as you wound down your career, that you'd pursue your art as first priority? And did you wait until you were done before putting that pursuit in motion? Or did you need months just to unwind, perhaps to organise?

      Delete
  10. How very, very timely. I don't know if I am retired, between jobs, responsible or just hanging about aimlessly. At heart, I echo Duchesse and her simple desire just to be alive and kicking but it seems so very difficult to achieve. It amuses me to think that,when I was young, I thought I'd have it all worked out by now. As if I were a character in a Joanna Trollope novel - having been through a mire of family problems, I'd be sitting by an Aga and gazing serenely out at my Cotswold garden. Life just goes on throwing up hitches and glitches and expectations like it always did. Present situation: holding pattern, like a full plane endlessly circling the runway, waiting to land.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, your last post makes it clear that despite your generally no-nonsense attitude, you "worry" the possibilities to bits, as I tend to. Luckily our pragmatic sides usually smack our "too much in our heads" sides into sensible action, but . . . . the Aga in the Cotswolds will probably remain a distant dream (much as I enjoy a JT novel for her characters, their recognisable dilemmas of familiy life, I've been known to roll an eyeball or two at her endings).

      Delete
  11. I just want to enjoy life, slowly, in my own little spot of earth, and share life freely with those who cross my path. I am increasingly ok not doing things, except that at the moment I am in a fit of doing: tasks required to get a house ready to move in, getting another house ready to sell and so forth and so on. I'm less ambitious about it than I was a few years ago however.

    Today I just unmulched my front flower bed after the grounds crew for the complex threw 6 inches of mulch uniformly over everything, bulbs, spring perennials that were coming up etc. Although my new place will undoubtedly be more work, the decisions as to what and when will be purely mine, including the freedom to do nothing should I so desire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The simplicity of your lovely opening sentence gets a bit battered by all what you have going on in your life at the moment. Something like what was going on for me with my first year of retirement when a simple wish to rest and relax after years of a too-heavy schedule bumped into a decision to move, a daughter's health scare, etc. etc. But I hope that now the slow enjoyment can begin -- and I hope it's not long before yours does as well. (I must say, though, that so far I haven't often seen you, via your blog, exercising your freedom to do nothing ;-)

      Delete
  12. In the end it is the Reobert Frost dilemma all over again, isn't it? There are so many roads through the wood, but even when retired we can only travel one at a time. The privilege is the free choice, however. So we can either take a path which is enjoyable in itself, or we can choose one which will take us to a certain place (like learning a language or acquiring a skill).
    As for the difficulties of decision making, all the wise people I have been talking to tell me that it takes at least a year, problably more, to find a new rhythm after retirment. I suggest your last year does not count and you are just starting. So give yourself time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, exactly. We must choose, but we have the privilege of being able to choose.
      You see my last year as I do. It was so taken up with the "job" of moving (twice!) that I don't think it quite counts as a year of retirement. Hence my efforts to figure out how to start this next bit of my life.

      Delete
  13. I love Eleonore's reference to Robert Frost's poem; we had it read at our wedding by a dear friend. And how true it has been for our almost 30 year marriage & our lives together. And I have heard the same from my retired friends. It takes time to find the rhythm that brings the most satisfaction.
    I find it fascinating how all the present and past educators are writing about how hard working in the field has become. I am absolutely bone tired when I return home. I am usually the last one out of the building at night. So much for the 8-3 schedule I heard about in university! Education has become so laden with "stuff," I find that the teaching part is only a fraction of what I actually do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you, Carol, re the fatigue your work brings. My last few years at the university, I'd barely talk to my husband when I got home in the evening, all my physical and social energy spent on the job. I hope you can find ways to recharge, to nurture yourself, in the years you have left to work.

      Delete
  14. I started to leave a quick comment but then somehow lost it all! I haven't much time at the moment as I'm holidaying with family. Some, who are already up in the mountains whilst I'm still in the valley ... Literally!! There's nothing like the combination of sun and snow to make me "just want to get out there" and feel so very happy. Consequently I have little time to reply in detail at the moment but I would like to say "thank you" to you all for enabling me to reflect on my life at a greater depth and not just let the days pass by ... I feel, thanks to Frances, that we have discussions here about things that my friends and I simply don't discuss ...such as how we may live the last decades of our lives ...
    Thanks again to you all ...I hope that your day is going well!
    Rosie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so welcome, Rosie, and thank you so much for letting me know that the blog matters to you. Much appreciated!

      Delete
  15. Meant to add ...such beautiful pictures ... watching the plants on your terrace start to "awaken" hopefully you'll soon have lots of colour to look out at.
    Rosie

    ReplyDelete
  16. Still finding a balance between All The Things I Thought I Would Do, and what when push comes to shove I actually want to do.
    We walked in Kirstenbosch, up the steep slope, too hot. Wound down thru the forest to lunch by a pond, where we were joined by a family of Egyptian geese.
    A good day! And I thought we'd go to Kirstenbosch every week ;~))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know about Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden, but I've looked it up, and I can see it must be magnificent to walk in. Even if you don't go every week ;-) (and yes, I'm beginning to see what, push and shove having sorted it out, I might really want to do Enough to not do other things....

      Delete

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...