Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Could I Forget?

I thought I could manage this transition with my hands tied behind my back. Divorce, remarriage, several major moves, cancer, career challenges and changes, parental care-giving, death and dying. I've known my share. Retirement, should be a breeze.

In fact, I thought I'd been doing a remarkable job so far, managing this transition more gracefully than any other previously. Proud of myself, maybe just a bit smug. After all, we'd moved from Vegas within 27 days, downsized from two homes to one, created new routines, signed up for classes, taken up hobbies long forgotten or intended, and all in less than a year. Told friends and family that I'd never felt so content. And meant it.

How could I forget? Forget that just when you think you're well on the road to a new beginning, you can expect the proverbial bump, even a massive pothole to remind you to slow down, maybe take an alternate route, or even turn back.

I've been reminded.  In February, I began to notice that I was feeling "out of sorts", sleeping erratically, restless, frequently frustrated or annoyed, easily disappointed or angry.  At first, I credited the shift to receiving distressing news from a family member, and then to having read some deeply thought-provoking books, and then to both.  Whatever the catalyst, I pulled back as I am wont to do, and filled reams of journal pages. Revisiting again and yet again, what's going on? Why now? What should I/could I do to move through this? 

I finally stepped back and regrouped, realized that I needed to create the space and time to face more deliberately this massive change in my life, in our lives together.  This complex transition we simply call retirement.  To experience more fully what I have understood intellectually - that this may be one of the most significant transitions of my life. To slow down.

To allow all the emotions - emotions too easily masked or denied by a busy schedule of doing.  Not just the pleasure of meeting new people, the satisfaction of interesting new experiences. Not just the relief of leaving Vegas. But also the pain of great loss - the sense of worth and contribution I've known over the years of teaching and training; the unsettling uncertainty of future health challenges; the anxiety when I meet another widow or widower; the nagging everyday worries that aging brings.

To pay more attention to completing where I've been so I can move forward as gracefully as I'd like, as I thought I'd been doing.  So, while away from this blog, I also have been reorganizing, starting as I usually do, with my environment.   Literally attacking the last visible phase of letting go, making those decisions I've put off, getting rid of yet more stuff we no longer need, or use, or will use.  Attacking even those ultimate guardians of the past, my closet and the garage.

And as I continue to sort and donate and toss, rethinking. What activities do I want to continue? Relinquish? What adds genuine value? How can I use what I am learning to support my husband, my family and friends who are facing their own transitions?  How can I still make a difference?

So...if you've visited this site before, you'll see that I'm reorganizing it, too.  If this is your first visit, I hope it won't be your last. I promise I won't be so lengthy in the future.  And to any and all who venture here, whether deliberately, or accidentally, may my reflections be of some assistance - or at least, interest. May we learn from one another - how to thrive, not merely survive, in the midst of transition.

Are you in the midst of a significant transition in your life?