What about the blues?

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?

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6 responses to “What about the blues?

  1. Ho boy! Can I relate to this!

    My last year of work was filled with much anticipation for retirement, extra sweetness in that these were the last times that I would participate in the events the year held. My retiring events (the breakfast with staff, the luncheon with friends, the dinner with my team) were times I relished.

    When it was all over I got the blues. I would get emails about other art teachers’ ideas, and I would realize I would never again have the opportunity to teach these lessons to kids. I’d hear from my friends about things that were happening at school and I’d first feel great relief at not having to endure yet another innovation, but I’d also feel separated from my group. There were lots of things at home that I could do — I didn’t want to do anything!

    I think I was grieving. I wanted to retire, but with the end of work came a terrific change in my responsibilities, my focus, my purpose. I had more than two months of funk.

    I’m emerging from it now. I still have days where I want to do nothing, where I feel low. But there are those other days, most days, when I enjoy the freedom to choose when and what I will do. I can focus a lot more on my artwork and that is bringing me great satisfaction and fulfillment. I can focus outward (not on the list of gotta dos) and I find greater enjoyment in the beauty of a city at night after the rain or the quiet of the forest during a midweek hike.

  2. Sylvia Bereskin

    Jeannnie, it is so comforting to hear from other women who have dealt with some of the things I’m still just worrying about. In my last month at work I’m pretty regularly feeling that sting of knowing that I have this one last chance to give some advice and then projects that I’ve worked on for years and that involve students I really care about will be in somebody else’s hands and I won’t even know how they’re evolving. Part of me wants to ask my colleagues to keep me in the loop, but I know that isn’t reasonable and likely not too wise either. By the way, what kind of artwork are you doing? I’m hoping to get more involved in photography once I’ve retired.

  3. I wish we could clone your sweetheart!

  4. I’ve definitely had a few days like this. Where my energy is not very high and then I get in a spiral of negative thinking because I’ve not accomplished anything that day.

    But I finally realized, I’m not really accountable to anyone anymore, if I have a day like that I’ll probably have a higher energy/accomplishment filled the next day (or the next week.)

    Once I figured out to go ahead and accept that and FORGIVE myself for not always being full of energy I felt much better about the “blue” days. After all, it’s just one day, I’ve got a bunch more of them starting tomorrow!

  5. A clone of David? Hmmmm
    I expect the blue days when I retire but I’m not afraid of them. Like Syd said, another day awaits. My fear is shopping and spending too much $. I don’t like to shop but when I’m bored or needing to do something, shopping is what I do. I need a hobby! Esther

  6. My I left a formal job and started working out of my home, I just sat in front of my computer some days, wondering how to fill my time.

    I hear you and others say that your life has purpose when you are in the (paid) work world and you question if it does otherwise.

    My life experience is the you have NO IDEA which of all your actions or inactions are the ones that make a differnce in the long run (or even in the short run). I have done things with great good intentions only to find out later that my actions caused problems that could otherwise have been avoided. I recall a woman who left a volunteer group at a critical time – her group agonized about how they could go forward without her. But her leaving left space for others to come forward and share new gifts – and the group itself learned that the project was/is not dependent on any one person.

    So – my learning was that perhaps my paid work is not so important or “valuable” as the formality of the title, the pay, the parameters would suggest. Every day, what you do – or don’t do – makes a difference – in ways that no one can predict.

    Best wishes for the future – as full of moment by moment possibilities as every other point in your life.
    Barbara

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