I love country and western music.. That surprises a lot of people who know me. I love it because it’s hurtin’ music; it deals with struggles, and heart-break, and sorrow as well as the joy of a field of wheat on a summer day and the sound of an 18-wheeler rollin’ down the road. I love it because it unabashedly deals with deep issues of the spirit. It is somehow honest music to me. It makes me remember that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed. And, truth be told, sometimes I do. Rudyard Kipling (I like some of his writing, not so much his politics) said it well: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own (wo)man is a hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and.”sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Almost as if he was talking about retirement!
There are those days when the morning brings with it a sense of doom, a sadness connected to all of the things I wish I could do or “make happen” and the glaring disparity between my wishes and reality. It comes as a wave that washes over the promise of the new day. On those days, when climbing out of bed is such a chore, I am driven by another set of realities that quickly lines up next to a sense of inadequacy and impotence. The clock stares back at me and reminds me that I’ve got a limited amount of time to get up and out the door because work awaits. I know there are meetings scheduled in my calendar that I have to be ready for, appointments to keep, responsibilities to address. And so I get up, not always happy and not always full of the joy of living, and I go to work and do the best that I can. This is something I don’t talk much about because, in our culture, it’s a sign of weakness.
On a couple of those kinds of mornings recently I’ve laid in bed wondering what would help me get going if I didn’t have to go to work. This becomes even more a focus for concern when I place it alongside my determination to free myself from the tyranny of my day-timer once I retire. When I think about a perfect day after retirement it starts with a relaxed awakening and a quiet time of sipping steaming coffee (knowing that my sweetheart will continue to bring me my morning latte and toast even though he has to head out to work and I don’t), reading the paper, watching the news, doing a sudoku (or two, depending on how high that addiction is on that particular day and how much it conflicts with that other addiction of being busy, busy, busy). After that – still on a perfect dream day – I will think about all of the wonderful paths I could walk on that day. Should I begin with a trip to the Y to exercise? Maybe a long, long walk through a ravine would be good. Do I have errands I’d like to run? Can I get my kayak into the river? Who should I visit? What do I need to be preparing for? Should I spend the day dreaming about potential places to visit? The trip to Antarctica is already booked, but what about after that? Could I spend some time volunteering at the drop-in centre? Writing an article? Developing a plan for studying the impact on refugees of spending time in Canada? Take a photography class? So many options – all fabulous – but … and it’s a big but … they only look fabulous when I’m not feeling blue.
It’s the blue mornings I worry about. It’s the days when I can see – albeit in somewhat fuzzy shapes – the potential of the day, but I can’t quite find the emotional energy to propel me into the day. It would be so easy on those days to just put the TV on and spend the day watching reruns of shows I used to watch. I remember being home with the flu one year on American Thanksgiving Day and all day long I watched reruns of The Waltons. In each show there was the Thanksgiving dinner scene, and by mid-afternoon I had to call David in his office and let him know that although I was still feeling flu-ish I was almost fixated on needing to have turkey for dinner. Being the great guy he is he arrived home with store-bought roast chicken (a la Swiss Chalet) in hand; okay, it’s not turkey but it’s as close as a man with a sick wife and no time to cook could do. That’s alright when I’ve got the flu, but not something I want to repeat on a too-regular basis.
I wonder how other retired women – who must also from time to time have a blue morning – make it “work” without the requirement of getting up to go to work?