I know I am pretty dense about some stuff ... but I think I am actually now RETIRED!
Yep! I have looked all around me, in all the rooms, in the closets, under the furniture and through my calendar ... and I can’t escape the fact that there are no obligations or commitments hiding anywhere. I am completely and totally retired!
I suspect this is kind of an odd statement to make considering I haven’t held a paying job since 2007. But as we near the end of this month, January 2022, I realize that after 15 years of stepping away from formal paid employment, I am retired. It took years to get here, but here I am!!
What happened? Why did it take so long and did I sabotage myself?
When I left my last employment in 2007 they gave me a “retirement party.” And there was no need to correct that assumption, because that was what I was doing. Retiring! I was only 59. But my underlying reason for stopping work so early was my mom. She was living with us and it was very hard for me to hold down a full time job and help her out all the other hours. Turns out my mom became a 24/7 commitment as she was developing dementia. It wasn’t retirement for me. But it wasn’t exactly sabotage, because she needed help and I was able and happy to give it.
When she died in December 2014, I thought now I will officially retire. My commitment to mom taxed all of me more than anything else in my life. I needed a break. I just needed to close down her estate - and then I was done, done, done. But did I retire? Nope.
With mom gone, it became overwhelmingly apparent that my increasingly visually impaired husband was at serious risk of falling on our stairs - and in a townhouse, there are a lot of stairs. So from 2015 to 2016 I began the downsizing, taking on tasks my husband could no longer do because of his vision problems, “shopping” for a new and safer place to live, orchestrating the sale of our townhouse, organizing the move, and purchasing our current condo - not to mention the unpacking and settling in a new place and location. I was 69 at the time of that move, and I used up every last ounce of myself. Did I somehow sabotage myself over that year and half? I don’t see how. Now the person needing help was my husband - we needed to move and I had no choice but to take the lead.
In August of 2016 we moved into this condo. I remember thinking “all I need to do is get us unpacked and settled and I will be retired.” The list of obligations and commitments were at 0! One day in January 2017 I was walking my daughter’s dog enjoying the feeling of lightness and I was approached by a resident with a measuring tape. He asked me to help him by holding the measuring tape while he took measurements of a community project. Ha! I was thrilled to help, to make a friend of a neighbor, to become part of a community!! Within 15 minutes he invited me to attend an informal meeting of the board happening in a few days. He started talking ... you should join the board, you’d be great at it!! God knows what he saw in me. Was it my sparkling personality, or the way in which I competently held the measuring tape or .... was I just a warm body without 2 heads, and they needed a 5th board member - and there I was!! Of course, I didn’t recognize any of that at the time - and I started thinking “Oh yes, this might be fun.” (In that moment, the “Oh yes” moment, I began to sabotage my retirement dreams!) Like a magnet I attended that meeting, got involved in community activities - crescendoing in a spell as a board member that ate up hours and hours (... and HOURS) of time every single week. And this volunteer job felt very much like work without the benefit of a salary! January 3 of this year, I stepped out of that board position and ... for the first time in forever - I didn’t sabotage myself. I keep looking over my shoulder, but there are no other hangers-on to hijack my new status!
I’ll admit, it's a little disorienting, but I think I am finally retired.
But then the thought dawned on me. Despite all the past demands on my life, I have been lucky enough to reached this point with good health and independence. And now finally, my time belongs to me - to do what I want. Some folks never reach this point.
While I know life can change in a moment I have taken a precaution to prevent self sabotage - there is no room in my life for measuring tapes!! I am hoping that will be enough. Today I am retired!