Do you remember that old song that started “I feel the earth move under my feet“? Well, that’s just how I felt when I realized that I’d been expunged from my old work e-mail list. Gone! No messages of congratulations for having moved on. Just no longer there. Final. That part of my life is gone. A very different feeling, and it definitely came with lots of anxiety about what other spheres of my life would oust me. I decided that a little walk through the neighbourhood; through familiar streets where I’d pass familiar places would help. I’d forgotten that it was a just a few days until Halloween, so when I came upon The Grateful Dead rocking out on a neighbours windowledge I was definitely not comforted.
So I guess that I am now officially in the process of getting used to having a new identity. I’m no longer an Education Officer. I no longer have a real office with all that entails. I haven’t yet had to respond to the “what do you do?” question but have begun to formulate possible answers to it. For now my answer is that “I’m in metamorphosis; just hanging around for now waiting to see what will emerge next.” This actually works pretty well for me because one of the things I’ve discovered already – less than a week into retirement – is that things I’d thought would be a part of my retirement life are already moving into their own spheres.
One of the things I’d been dreaming about and looking forward to for such a long time was that once I’d retired I’d be able to spend more time with my grandchildren. I could get out to the West Coast and see my grandson Solomon a couple of times a year. I could go to Ottawa to see my grandsons Art and Noam … and soon a new grand-daughter who is scheduled to join the family in January – each month. It would be so wonderful, I’d been dreaming, to be able to attend more of their important moments; the piano recitals, dance concerts, school events. Being here at home, trying to clean up my house – turning into the home of a retired woman and a working man – I am continually filled with joy as I notice that all around me there are photos of my family (sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, heart-family) as they grew up. Plays they’ve been in. Graduations. Births. Bar and Bat Mitzvah photos. When David and I got married we had a lot of fun adding the important and beautiful pictures of his family to the walls. Alongside of the pictures of our six children, there are pictures of our grandparents and parents. There’s even a photo of David and I climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge when we went to visit Nili and her famliy when she was doing a year of research in Melbourne. We’d already started talking about how we were going to clear more wall space to continue to add pictures of our growing family over the coming years, especially all of the “whole family” pictures we’d be able to add now that I’d have more time to spend with the family members we love so much and who want us to share our lives with them. Indeed I was just about to buy a book of tickets for flights between Toronto and Ottawa because you can buy 10 tickets at a discount and surely I’d use those up just over the winter travelling up to see the new baby and help out my daughter.
And then there was an e-mail and a phone call and another e-mail and …. and the earth moved. Seems that one of my children is seriously considering (maybe even deciding) to move their family half way around the world. Yes, it’s for a wonderful job. And there’s no doubt that when parents are happier, the whole family is happier. Yes, of course, it’s their choice. But …. my heart. This was a pretty sharp attack on any plans or thoughts I’d had about the future and what retirment life could be. My colleague Robyn warned me about this a few months ago when she said that she, too, had hoped to spend more time with her grandchildren but found that their lives were busy and there really wasn’t that much space for her in their lives. I agreed, at the time, that they had very busy lives and that we’d have to work around their schedules; it didn’t for a minute — foolish me — cross my mind that those precious grandchildren could be taken so far away that relationship would rely on phone calls and e-mails and, at best, a yearly visit. This has truly taken the wind right out of my sails for now so, like that butterly, think I’d best wrap myself up in something warm and safe and let some time pass.
This is my first recognition, as well, that sometimes having to get up and go to a job that keeps you very, very busy; keeps your mind occupied for most hours of the day; doesn’t give you time to stop and feel the ache in your heart … well, that can be a good thing. Cleaning up just doesn’t seem to have the same distracting value somehow; in fact it forces more looking back and rethinking and that isn’t helping at all.
Well, the sun is shining so I’m going to head out to the backyard, put on some soul-comforting music that will remind me that, as Obama’s been telling us, it’s time for change. Just a few more days before I fly to LA for an Obama Victory Party; hope lots of you will be celebrating with me.