We are so cute!

My husband and I found each other in our 50’s, and appreciate what a gift it is to be together. Between the two of us, we have a string of what society refers to as failed marriages and relationships. We see them as experiences that brought us where we are today, which is with each other. We do not regret our paths, indeed we can look on them with wonderment about how those bumps got us where we are today. One big aspect of our current relationship is we take responsibility for our own feelings; we don’t blame each other for what we feel. This saves a lot of time, energy and conversations and frees us up to enjoy each other. I have been familiar with this concept for decades but actually practice it now. The payoff for taking responsibility for myself is more time for unmitigated joy.
Ken and I take walks together every day the weather is agreeable to us. Shortly after the tree fell on our house last October, we were walking in our neighborhood. A neighbor saw us and ran over to introduce himself and inquire about our house and our welfare. We got to talking and at one point he commented he had seen us on our walks, and how cute we were.
When the weather isn’t agreeable, we sometimes mall walk. We don’t have a local mall, so we walk in box stores. While walking the perimeters of one, on our second lap we passed the same staff person stocking on a ladder and she smiled endearingly at us. My husband said, “She thinks we’re cute”. We talked about these two incidents. Both people were being complimentary, but it also felt dismissive, like we were being patted on the head, and not taken seriously.

I Googled “Cute Older Couples” and found a Pinterest category! Cute Older Couples  It has pictures of couples who appear a decade or so older than Ken and me. I studied the pictures to see what qualified them for this cute category. Besides the fact they were noticeably elderly,  they were visibly engaged with each other, either by touching, actively doing something together, or looking at each other. A lot of them were smiling. I decided I would rather categorize these pictures as “Loving Couples”. I am obviously wanting to be rid of the word “cute”. It occurred to me elderly loving couples may appear cute because they are an anomaly. I hope I am wrong. It seems, though, I see a fair amount of couples who are together but don’t seem to be engaged with each other. I think about the developmental stage used to describe toddlers who engage in parallel play. They are in proximity to each other, but playing separately. I know the busyness of life together can easily result in being in parallel play mode, and not engaged with each other. I think it’s a reason some couples dread retirement; they have forgotten why they played together in the first place. Maybe the elderly couples who look cute have kept that gift of enjoying each other.

My husband and I walk in the world, hand in hand and are smiled upon. It may be dismissive, but that will only last until they get to know us. Then they will find two people who have walked around the block several times, have fallen down, picked ourselves up, and learned that there is plenty in life to be happy about. They will learn we look cute because we are ridiculously happy, individually and as a couple. We relish our time together, and now that we are unfettered with jobs, we delight even more in our activities, recognizing this time together as the gift that it is.

My first holiday in retirement

My observations of my first holiday in retirement.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie
My daughter makes excellent pies from scratch. This year she decided to make a gluten-free pumpkin pie for me. She was deliciously successful!
  • I like love it!
  • I learned something about my thinking process. When I didn’t prepare a dish I wanted to have for the Thanksgiving feast, I found myself thinking it was because I didn’t have time.  I realized that was a default thought, and of course, I had time! More accurately: I didn’t think of it in time, or I didn’t prioritize it. Which was also true before retirement. By stripping away the easy default of not having enough time, I am now realizing what was probably always the case: preparing that dish wasn’t a priority. No further explanation required.
  • I still procrastinated. Having more time at home didn’t change that. I found the gluten-free stuffing recipe I wanted to try this year, a week or so ahead of Thanksgiving. I did buy the ingredients earlier but didn’t think through the steps of the recipe until the day before. Which culminated in preparing stuffing at 10 pm on Thanksgiving Eve.
  • I was very animated and happy at the Thanksgiving gathering with family and friends (framily, as my very close friend, calls us). It could have been from that delicious latte I consumed, but the extrovert in me is so delighted to be around people now! I worked in a high school with over 1,700 students and around 100 staff. There was rarely alone time and always someone to talk to at that job. I now luxuriate in the quiet space, hanging out with my also-retired husband. I love it, but I also immensely enjoy when I hang out with other people.
  • The biggest change I noted was the post-Thanksgiving time. I didn’t rush into the Christmas season. Facebook posts were popping up of Christmas trees, trimmings, and baking occurring in other homes, but I felt no urgency. I had time the Monday after, the Tuesday after, every weekday after, to decorate, Christmas shop, or Christmas bake. Or not.  A sweet outcome of my husband’s retirement is that he has completed our Christmas present shopping! He’s great at it and is not a procrastinator. The only shopping I need to do now is gifts for him. The Monday after Thanksgiving I just took a breath and had a leisurely lunch with a self-employed friend. I basked in the luxury of retirement and sent loving thoughts to all of the people in my life who returned to work that day.
  • (I’m writing this two weeks after Thanksgiving and still no Christmas decorations are up. Reference that earlier procrastination point.)

Carry on!

A colleague wondered aloud at an event we coordinate together,  how they would carry on without me when I retire.  I was baffled.  I see these colleagues as very competent, and I have no worries.

Yesterday I worked with another colleague to create wording, policy really, for a service offered through a council on which I serve.  This service had not been utilized for quite some time,  and the people who originated it no longer are a part of our group.  It occurred to me I could help with this, since I am now one of the few from our group who remember some of the details of this service.  When we sat down to do this, the words flowed easily for us, and in forty-five minutes we had a credible draft.

I have always said I have the ability to B.S. in writing, but I make light of my skill by saying that.  Here’s the thing: I am good at writing professionally. And I have other skills.  in the last two weeks I have facilitated two types of meetings  I had not done before.  They were both successful in that the participants felt immediate benefit from our meeting together.  This is just an example of something I know, that I am skilled at facilitating meetings.

The reason I am writing this is to remind myself of my proficiency.  I appreciate that I continue to look at how I can improve my work, but I tend to minimize what I already do well. I hold myself to a higher, more critical standard than I expect of others.  In the next months left of this job, I will continue to take note of what I do well.  I can even let myself off of that old danged hook too.

Maybe my retiring will leave some holes.  Maybe there will be times when my colleagues will need to regroup, and do it differently next year because I am not there anymore. I hope they come up with new ideas and new ways that work even better.  I hope it’s what  I would do.

 

October 14, 2016

It happened on October 14th.  I knew it at the time, and was relieved.  I wasn’t sure it would last, but it has for two weeks.  What happened is I gave up my struggle, my angst about not being able to retire with my job all tidy.  What replaced that struggle was a peace with whatever was going to happen.

On that day I had another event staring at me, that was taking place on the 20th.  It’s an event with a labyrinth of details, involving a lot of people and taking nine weeks for the preparation.  On the afternoon of the 14th, I took care of the next set of details, and realized it would be okay.  I no longer needed or wanted to be experiencing stress.  I felt some peace, thus some ease.  The 20th came, the event happened.  Mistakes occurred, repairs made, and the outcome was delightful for our students.  At the luncheon wrapping up the event, my colleagues acknowledged my fifteen years of contributions.  This was my last time to do this, and it felt just right.  Not too happy, not too sad.  Just right.

I work in Special Education as a Transition Coordinator.  I attend a lot of annual IEP (Individual Education Program) meetings. In order to remember for the next year, I  right notes to myself about information I gave, and next steps for that student and family.  Yesterday I was writing notes from a challenging meeting.  I decided it would be nice for the next person to know what helped moderate the challenges.  I added a sticky note, which started with: “Dear new Transition Coordinator”.  Writing that gave me great delight,  and I plan to do more of that.  I have no idea how the new Transition Coordinator will react, and it doesn’t matter.  It makes me grin, and is helping me acknowledge it won’t be me next year.

 

 

Those starfish!

I coordinated an event at work, and the event happened a couple of nights ago.  I do not enjoy the preparation for it, and worry that it won’t work out as hoped.  I was looking forward to it being over, as it is the last time, in fifteen years, of doing this event.  The relief I was anticipating is not there.  I recall now that a similar activity last April also did not have that feeling of relief.  Then and now, I feel some sadness.  That my self-imposed stress about it was not perhaps, stress well spent, in retrospect.

This week has been another emotional week for me.  I have been upset about a couple of things:  some students’ needs are being unmet, and lack of response from some of my co-workers.  Neither of these issues are new, but my heightened reaction is new to me.  I find myself upset that I am looking at the same problems for twenty years.  I am upset with myself for not effecting change,  and upset with my workplace.  I am then upset with being upset!!  

I am reminded of the times I have moved out of a house.  I have been driven to clean that house to a standard I don’t even try to reach when I reside there.  I have said, I don’t want anyone else to clean up my dirt.  I am now realizing that is my approach to retiring:  I want it all tidy for the next person.  It’s a standard I don’t think I will attain.

In my field, we talk about systemic problems versus individual problems, and about having professional impact on the system  in which we work.  As I look at leaving this field, I am wondering about my professional impact at my workplace.  Not saying I didn’t have impact, but through my current lenses of frustration and discouragement, I  can’t recall having had impact.  I think about the adage of the person on the beach throwing in one starfish at a time.  Historically my work has been like that, one starfish at a time. I am now concerned I  needed to focus on how they all ended up stranded on that beach in the first place.( Actually, I need to focus on both aspects!  A challenge to which I don’t always rise.)  When reflecting on this with a co-worker, she reminded me of a student last year, that with our joint efforts, we made a big impact in his life. He is one “starfish” I am glad I tossed back into that proverbial ocean.

With that in mind,  this is what I want to remember:  I have been in this profession for thirty-seven years.  I have continued to grow in my skills and  my understanding of my work. I am appreciative of the work opportunities I have had.  All in all, it has been satisfying work.  I want to finish strong, continuing to work from what I believe to be the best I can give to this job.  Since I work with people, I will never get it done, but next May I will stop, retire and call it good.