Having long had a motto that "I'd rather burn out than rust out," I sometimes run into real danger of doing just that -- burning out. I've always felt like there was just so much good stuff out there to do, and I want to do it all!
But occasionally, it feels good to pause a moment and catch my breath. This is one of those times. Sam left for college last night, and Bob is fully booked with activities today. Warren will be around once he wakes up, but for the moment, I have a little quiet time to myself. Even after that, the whole weekend is pretty much unscheduled and stress free. And I want to really relish it, because after this weekend, my calendar sends me off and running again pretty much nonstop until the second week of November.
Bob and I have been talking a lot lately about how we're right on the brink of a new life phase. This is Sam's senior year of college and though he does need three semesters yet to finish, he has made it clear that he is unlikely to live here next summer. So barring the always possible change of plans, he has effectively lived here for the last time. His future presence will be just visits, which I suspect are different in nature.
Warren is moving out in just over a month. He has finally gotten his act together and worked steadily for the last six months, saved money, and reached a point where I think he stands a fighting chance of making it as a self-supporting adult. Now he just needs to spread his wings and fly.
So soon, Bob and I will be empty nesters. We're really looking forward to it at this point. We envision it as being almost a return to the early years of marriage, where we could follow our own whims and schedules without really having to worry about anyone else's needs. Of course, it won't be exactly like that. These two young men aren't going to just disappear and never show up with needs. And we each have an aging mother who wasn't a concern back in the newlywed years. The two of us are blessed with excellent health, but even at that, our bodies certainly let us know we aren't the same kids we were then. So we know it won't really be the same -- but it's the closest analogy we have.
We're also at an age where people get serious about their retirement plans and decisions. We have been working with some professionals to consider those options, and have decided we prefer to stay in the workforce for another ten years or so, given the choice. (I know all too well that often, those decisions become not a matter of choice. But we plan for what we can control, and deal with what we can't control if and when it comes along.)
So realistically, we're probably about to embark on a ten-year new phase in the journey of our life -- the empty-nest, pre-retirement phase. I don't really know what to expect, but I am confident of two things: I have the best possible traveling companion, and it will never be boring!
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Tonight I am feeling old, in a way I have never experienced.
It all started yesterday morning, when I learned that a high school classmate of mine had been killed in a tragic bicycle accident. He and his wife were just out for a bike ride when a drunk driver crested a hill left of center and mowed him down. His wife saw it all happen – in fact, she had to take evasive action to keep from being hit herself.
Now, this classmate was someone I don’t think I had communicated with since our 10th high school reunion, so I certainly couldn’t say we were close. And even back in school, we weren’t super close. But I knew him reasonably well, and he was a very likable guy. One of those all around good guys that everyone likes because he really didn’t give them a reason not to. I remember that the first boy-girl party I went to was at his house. His parents let him hire the garage band of a mutual friend for it, making him the coolest guy in the 8th grade, for a while.
Maybe all that’s why it hit me so hard. I feel true grief over this loss. The loss of someone I haven’t spoken to in over 25 years.
Because of this grief, I became nostalgic and pulled out my high school yearbook. I graduated in a class of something like 435 or so, but of course I didn’t really know all those people. My guess was that I really knew about a quarter of them. So I went through my senior yearbook and sure enough, that was about right. The ones I really remembered, could recall some personal item about, added up to about 125. But as I wandered through the pictures, reminiscing about the people I was looking at and the occasions where the pictures were taken, I was overwhelmed by how many of those faces are already gone.
My alumni page on Facebook lists 27 known deceased members of my class, and an even dozen of those are from that subset that I really knew. I can’t really say why Kelly’s death hit me so hard. I’m sure it was partly the immediacy of it. This time I knew within hours. And the tragic nature of the accident makes it unspeakably worse.
All I know is, tonight it seems I am feeling this loss and all the others. Looking back at high school pictures brings moments of joy interspersed with moments of great sadness at the faces I can never see again. And it makes me feel old, down deep in my soul.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Today, for about the 1,000th time, I ruminate on life balance.
For as long as I can remember, I've had a “go for the gusto” bias. I've always perceived life to be full of opportunity for new experiences, with the challenge being how to fit as many in as possible. I often claim as my life motto “I'd rather burn out than rust out.” For the most part, this has served me well and I have no regrets about acting on that bias. I am blessed to have married someone with the same bias, so we are both very busy all the time. We do a lot together and we do a lot separately, which allows each of us to bring new and interesting things into the relationship all the time. It is a satisfying life.
The problem with this approach, though, is that from time to time I get overextended. While I like being busy, there has to be some time for reflection and regeneration, too. Every once in a while, I find myself feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Run, run, run, without feeling that I'm actually getting anywhere. Lately, I've been getting close to that point. Fortunately, even before the snow came, I had claimed this Saturday as a day off.
I'm a practicing Catholic, and the Catholic church actually promotes a period of reflection and regeneration this time of year. It's called Lent, and there have been a lot of years where what the church offers at Lent has nicely aligned with my personal needs. Those years, I have had a good Lent and felt a lot better at the end.
As I approached Lent this year, it was a little different. Some of my current over-extension is at church, so it's hard to see taking on more church as the answer. In fact, today was the day of the annual Catholic Women's Conference in Columbus, but I had opted not to register this year. While I have found it a lovely experience in the past, I couldn't get past the feeling it would be just one more have-to-do this time around. I knew I wouldn't benefit from it if I couldn't get past that. So I decided a day in my own home would do me more good this year.
It was a good call. It is lovely sitting here, watching the snow, knowing I have nowhere to go, nothing I have to do. I've accomplished a few little tasks I wanted to get done, but at a leisurely pace. And now I think I'm actually going to go curl up with a book for a while.
What about you, readers? Is balance an issue for you? How do you cope? What trips you up? What have you learned along the way?
Monday, February 16, 2015
I'm sorely tempted to write a blog post complaining about February – bringing, as it does, the beginning of Lent, today's Level 1 Snow Emergency, and many consecutive days of temperatures too cold to walk outside any farther than from the car to the door. It is not a lovable month.
But I strive to rise above that. Instead, here are some random thoughts/observations/musings:
- My mother gave us a big scare last week. She quickly went from being active and outwardly focused to bed-fast and non-responsive. But as I've said before, that little lady is a lot stronger than everyone thinks. She is bouncing back beautifully. She has been moved to a nursing home for continued rehab, but my sister says she is walking with good posture again, fully aware of her surroundings and interacting in ways that sound like her. She's making 90 look good.
- Over the course of last year I let my weight get a little out of hand. I decided to do something about it in the fall, and I lost 10 pounds in about two months. About mid January I picked back up where I left off, and I have lost two more pounds. I have a physical coming up March 13, and my personal goal is to finally, for once, fall within the recommended range for my BMI by that time. I believe it will be a close thing whether I make it or not!
- My laptop was dying and my sister had a nearly new one she HATED because of it running Windows 8. I was pretty sure I could fare better with it, so I bought it from her. I'm using it to write this blog entry. All things considered, it was a mutual win. But that said, Windows 8 is kind of hateful. My experience is that it isn't as good as either the old Windows or the touch screen technology of my Android phone and tablet. It's some kind of unholy hybrid that trips on itself in odd and vexing ways.
- Our church has added a program that will meet every Tuesday evening for ten weeks. I agreed to be a facilitator for it. Then as I went through the training, I also went through a period of intense second-guessing. Ten weeks of having every Tuesday night committed? In addition to my usual commitments? What was I thinking?!? But the first session occurred last Tuesday, and already I feel a little better. I think I just need to put the ten-week commitment out of my mind, and live it one week at a time. In the moment, it is very enjoyable. And that is all I need to think about.
- Our added-on son, Warren, after a lengthy stretch of unemployment, started a new job the end of last week. He has five consecutive days of work in now and I am feeling cautiously optimistic. He is getting good feedback from his supervisors and they extended his shifts a couple of those days, including bringing him back in for essentially a double shift one day. Perhaps this will be the one that gets him on the path to independence.
- I feel like my actual son, Sam, has turned a corner in growing up. He's still my son, he still loves me and I still love him as much as ever....but he is undeniably an adult now. It is a beautiful but strangely bittersweet thing.,
- The things that are happening in the wider world scare me to death. I remember no previous time in my 56 years when there were this many hot spots in the world. And with social media, I find the responses to each new atrocity almost as frightening as the atrocities themselves. And it all makes me feel so powerless. I spend a lot of my time just trying to NOT think about it, since I see nothing I can do. And I find that response puzzling in itself.
Enough musings for one night. Mainly, my goal was to break the long drought in blogging. I have accomplished that goal.