I’ve had most of the summer off in an attempt to use up the vacation days that I’ve accrued and, because of the nature of my work, just haven’t had time to use until now. In July I worked basically half time, and for August – other than one day that I needed to be at a meeting – I’ve had time to do a “dry run” of retirement. Now that’s drawing to a close and I am in a real muddle. Just a few days ago I sent my sister an e-mail bemoaning my return to work: “I have to at least get the course syllabus done and my office at home organized before I go back next week. I’m totally overwhelmed with stress at the thought of having to be up by 6, out by 7:15, home by 7:00 p.m., dinner done by 8:30, and from that point it’s a struggle to just stay awake. That’s been my routine for years now, so why today’s panic? I’ve had a taste of being without that kind of stress for most of the past two months and I’ve started to get used to a different rhythm that seems to be a better fit with my 59 year-old body. Suddenly, having a couple of deadlines in front of me makes me feel downright panicky. Weird huh?”
Every time I look around I see all the evidence that I haven’t followed through on my summer plans. I did manage to get the syllabus revised and posted; that’s one thing done. Getting myself more organized at home is another story altogether. There are a pile of old text books sitting on the couch waiting to be given away. Little piles of things here and there waiting to be filed or put away somewhere they’ll be easily retrieved when needed again. Countless articles waiting to be read. Books waiting to be read. My garden’s in good shape at least, but other than that I feel like most of the summer’s gone and very little was accomplished. Is this a harbinger of how little I’ll be able to accomplish when I actually do retire?
One more day. Only one more time to wake up without having to hurry anywhere. One more opportunity to “seize the day” and let it take me where it will. One more day of moving more slowly, really taking the time to – as they say – smell the coffee. One more. Only one. And then – tomorrow – it’s back to the rush and bustle and excitement of a busy professional life and a personal life that has to work itself around the work demands.
I feel like I’ve put on a new skin this summer; one that’s much easier to wear. Now I have to put on business clothes and sit in meetings and prepare notes and strategic plans. My goodness; all summer there’s been nothing strategic in my planning at all – which may, of course, be why so little was accomplished. Everything I was worrying about when I wrote “Don’t Leave the Building Until You’re Done” is swirling around me; how will I get back into the rhythm and energy of work again after this hiatus into freedom? It’s going to be an interesting two months for sure; projects to try to draw to either a close or at least to a place where I’m comfortable passing them along, last opportunities to have influence on things under development, and last annual cycle experiences to have while still an employee. The challenge of working through these last two months is a little bit daunting to say the least.
I wonder how many people retire and then, for one reason or another, find that they need to return to working full-time at least for a while. I wonder how they manage the transitions – in both directions.
If you’ve got any advice at all, please share it. If you’ve moved from work to retirement and back again, please tell me how you managed the emotional and physical shifts.
Meanwhile, I’ll try to relax into this return to work (for 47 days) and will use the advice you’ve shared so far to get me from here to October 31st. I’ll continue posting twice a week and look forward to your comments and thoughts. As I’ve said from the start; women working together is the best!!