Mid-February I enjoyed a week of socializing. Valentine’s Day was filled with appointments including a lovely long luncheon with other women, mostly widows like myself. There were flowers on the table, at each seating Lindt chocolate paper hearts filled with truffles, wine and good food and great camaraderie. Then, of course, yoga Monday and yoga Wednesday followed by my third Thursday book club tribe and a stimulating discussion of The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve.
I was flying high when suddenly I crashed with a nasty head cold. Rachel brought a Covid test. I was negative followed by the happy dance. Did we ever think we’d be glad to have a cold? Just a cold. Yay! But, not yay. I felt like crap. No amount of hot tea with honey, throat lozenges, fluids, fluids and more fluids or meds could make me feel much better. And, sleep. That’s all I wanted to do and did as much as my physical discomfort allowed.
On one of those days when rest escaped me, I stared out my second story window watching feather light flakes of white meandering slowly to the ground. Snow accumulating on the branches of the oak outside the turret highlighted its winter gray color, a few dead leaves still dangling as if to be brown ornaments swaying in the light wind. This was supposed to be my winter of just being. In January I envisioned a winter of contemplation, introspection and the claiming of much needed space – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical as I distanced myself from the past. At the same time I wanted to throw myself into activities, which not that long ago were difficult, if not impossible to enjoy.
Now held hostage by this dreadful cold and impossibly icy roads at first I felt trapped. But, as the days of endless nose blowing and coughing wore on my feelings became ones of contentment. I couldn’t remember the last time I just was. No place I really really had to be. No preconceived notions of time to rise or go to bed. No one asking what was I going to do today. When was the last time I actually looked at the oak? I mean really looked, noticing the branches softly swaying in the unseen wind, the deep wintery gray of its trunk, the hint of swelling buds promising spring will come yet again. When was the last time I lived in the moment, every moment, not thinking about what I thought I had to do, but really didn’t have to do?
Once upon a time this is how I wanted my retirement to play out in part. And, I still do. In between all the big events during retirement, the travel, moving, socializing, there is a lull where everyday life hums along. I want that slow, steady whisper of daily events, not the rushing crescendo as in my working and caregiving years. Even vacations were once crammed with places to go, to eat, to see, things to do. Go, go, go. Lists and lists. To do lists at home. To do lists at work. Bucket lists for retirement. I always felt like a squirrel in a cage. No. I want days of just being, of contemplating my surroundings and turning inward toward self-knowledge and contentment and noticing whatever is outside my window.
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What a heartfelt post, Kathy, and so enjoyable to read it. The secret among retirees: unless we are caregivers, most of our activities are by choice; and so we try to choose enjoyable activities in this best part of our lives. And yes, retirement has been wonderful so far. Am enjoying it now, because there will be rough times ahead with my remaining parent. So I’m enjoying each day for its own sake while that is still possible.
Just be you!!!
I love your story. As a retired principal since 2017, I now find myself back on the hamster wheel. When I did have COVID after a vacation to Scotland, I actually felt that “just being” phenomenon. I heard recently that there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Solitude is what you described in your segment. Thank you!
Wow, Kathy—a silver lining in the guise of a nasty cold! I’m so glad you found a nub of contentment in that experience. You are right, we do sometimes find ourselves seeming like squirrels in a cage during retirement. It’s always so illuminating to step back and contemplate how we are living our lives. I loved this post—it made me think!
Kathy, I hope you’re feeling better. Did you do a second Covid test 24-48 hours later? (Sometimes you get a false negative because your body isn’t shedding enough virus yet to trigger the antigen test.)
I share your desire for a retirement that includes social life and purposeful activity, but also time for just being. I try to set aside down time in the mornings and a couple of days a week with no scheduled activities.
I so enjoy your blog. Thank You
I really like this! Hope you’re feeling much better by now.
Love this!! Such beautiful writing. My daughter recently asked how I
could be so busy when I’m retired! (She wanted me to fly up to visit
her.) I am looking at things and cutting back!!
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Thank you for all the support and kind words! I’m over the head cold. I still tested negative for Covid 4 days into it. And I was outside a couple of days ago cutting pussy willows to bring into the house. Signs of spring! K
Dear Kathy, I have been reading your blog for quite some time and wanted to finally thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts and, more importantly, your feelings and emotions.
div>When I first retired 5 years ago I seemed to strugg
There is amazing stuff just outside my window. It is different every day of the year. All I need to put on the layers of clothing I need. Which hat will I wear? Do I need sunglasses or umbrella? Something to listen to in my phone? And would you believe it, I run into a friend and her dog on my walk. My battery is recharged.
At last it wasn’t novovirus