A Squirrel In A Cage

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.