Doubt…and then some

Did you watch the Golden Globes?  David and I had a lovely evening watching it together.  He’s very understanding of my need to watch the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards while doubt-image1doing an ongoing commentary on the dresses (last night they were fairly lovely in my opinion, other than a number of very weird bumpy-stick-out parts that seemed to just burst forth from shoulders).  There was a palpable sense of hopefulness in the air I thought.  I saw an interesting article online this morning that said that “Tina Fey officially rules the world and has the Golden Globe awards to prove it.”  Not sure whether I was pleased or not that she didn’t work the words “you betcha” into her acceptance speech.  One of the movies nominated for multiple categories was Doubt;  if you haven’t seen it you likely want to because it’s fabulous. 

Doubt.  It’s often defined as the state of being unsure about something, lacking confidence, having doubts, uncertainty about the truth of something.”  Doubt.  Some days I feel pretty clear about “where I’m at” and some days I am utterly overwhelmed by doubt.  Sure, right now I’ve mostly been enjoying the rhythm of my days.  And then there’s the past few days.  I’ve been feeling almost mesmerized by fear.  When I began blogging about my retirement, in my first posting, I said that :  “The coming months are going to be so filled with new experiences, new perceptions, new ideas, new challenges; doing this in the company of other wonderful women makes this so much better.”  In those early pre-retirement days I thought about issues like aging, loneliness, resentment … but I didn’t think there would be so much doubt in my future.  Doubt and fear.  “Fear of what?” you might ask.  Fear that the rest of my life lies before me and truly, for the first time, I don’t know what I want to do with that. 

Maybe this is part of “coming down” from my incredible journey to Antarctica.  Having to shovel snow over and over and over again isn’t helping either.

Maybe it’s fear connected to being officeless.  I have been writing/working (yikes, there’s the “w” word slipping in!) on an old (that means 4+ years) laptop at home.  It’s of course limited in what it can do but that was never a problem before because I had a big, powerful computer in my office.  My office.  I don’t have one any more.  Just a room at home we call the “kol bo” (from the Hebrew term that means “all is in it”; in Israel it’s often the word used to describe the neighbourhood store that sells a little bit of everything); in it we store linens and extra clothing, some suitcases, books, a futon for guests, my home “gym” (that means a little TV connected to a DVD player and tape player and a bit of exercise equipment like a yoga mat and pilates ball) … and my desk.  On that desk, as of just a few days ago, sits a beautiful new iMac … this is a huge step forward to me and I think it’s a toy I’m going to like … a lot.  I’ve started taking some lessons so that I know how to use this lovely technology; more about that in a later post.

Just to be clear, I’m not sorry that I don’t have to go to my office every day.  Indeed, when trying to reach a former colleague the other day to see if he was available for lunch, his voicemail told me that he was at a meeting.  At a meeting.  And I’m not.  Hooray!  In fact, I don’t even really remember the last meeting I was in, unless – of course – you call the negotiations that David and I (and I’m guessing most partners) are continually enjoying as they problem-solve their way through new challenges. 

Maybe it’s fear that I’ll finally figure out what I want drake-passage-water2to do and won’t figure out how to do it or that nobody will want me to do it.  I’ve been working on a keynote address I’m giving at an education conference in February and am tortured by wondering whether this will be the last time anyone wants to hear from me since I’m not “working” anymore.

I’m not done thinking about this for sure.  Give me a few more days to mull it all over.  There must be something to learn here.  Meanwhile, I’ll be grateful for anything that you can share from your own experience that will bring some light into this dark chasm that I seem to be drifting through these days as the images of Antarctica become more and more of a background.  Somehow it feels like I’m on an emotional Drake Passage ride … without a clearly defined landing point.



8 responses to “Doubt…and then some

  1. Hi! Found your blog through WomanTours. I, too, had a “rough landing” after coming back from an all women, all over 47 (and two well up in their 70s), 15 day raft/kayak down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Took me at least a month to begin to get comfortable in my new skin.

    I learned so much–skills, life lessons, spiritual journeys–that I wasn’t at all sure I was still Nina when I got back to RI where I live.

    But I did finally sort through the let-down feelings, the I’m-new-how-come-everyone-else-isn’t feelings, the doubts about whether in this terrible world I should be spending thousands on an entertaining trip when that money could have supported a whole third world village for a year….

    What I came up with was: I am. OK, sounds corny, but it works for me.

    I am new. Yet I am also the schlepper of my own baggage. I hope I’m getting it tagged and sorted, but I’ll always be carrying it around.

    I am rich enough to afford to go on a trip (this year, WomanTours beginners trip to the Chesapeake will probably be my choice). And I can also afford to give, which I did before, but do more of now.

    I am who I am, Colorado River included. I am feeling hopeful right now–in spite of all the misery in this world. No doubt I’ll be feeling, er, well, doubt soon enough again. I use the hope to move myself forward. I use the doubt to evaluate where and how I’m moving. Two sides of the same coin, a coin of great value.


    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Hi Nina and welcome to the conversation. Great to have you here. I came back from Antarctica feeling like I’d at the very least shifted skins and am still working on getting comfortable in this new one. I like your notion of a new person shlepping old baggage; great image. On a good day I also try to use the doubt as something to propel me forward. Thing is, what to do on the not-so-good days when the doubt overwhelms other realities. Any advice?

  2. Sure! Go to bed. Read a good book. Watch weepy dvds. Write long self-pitying but humorous posts on your own and other people’s blogs. Move the furniture around. Sign up for a new trip so you have something to look forward to. Send a check to your public radio station. Murder all the bloody little aphids that are sucking the life out of your hybiscus.

    The trick is to not beat yourself up when you’re taking care of yourself. As in, “I really should feel or be doing blah blah blah instead of giving myself a little TLC. I’m a horrible selfish person! I should be grateful.”

    Try instead to think of the doubt and sad times as compost. Smelly, rotten compost that will make the best flowers and veggies grow. Get into the compost! Roll around in it! Let yourself lie still and rot a little so that you can nourish new growth later.

    That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.


    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Sounds very good. I wonder if others also feel the guilt associated with moving from someone who’s in demand from early until late each day to someone who can just sit in bed and watch TV all day. Confession … yesterday I stayed in my pyjamas all day. I like your plan though.

  3. Greetings Sylvia!
    It seems to me that blind fear is a pretty natural response to facing the sudden “void” in routine caused by a radical change in circumstances.
    Four and a half years into it (what was initially a short term disability has become long-term leave) I find it helps to remember that “nature abhors a vacuum.”
    By frenetically jumping from task to task to fill my time I have merely confused the issue (and exhausted myself and my spouse as well) and have delayed the inevitable, natural and best resolution – the one that comes from sitting still and listening to myself and trusted friends. I have learned to embrace PJs. Bought some new ones. Got new sheets. Replaced the mattress. Revelled in the downtime (bedridden pun) when I was able. Put up with the guilt when I was not.
    After all, what we are talking about is a figurative death. Who we’ve known ourselves to be and who we’ve presented to the world for the bulk of our waking hours for the duration of our working life has been put out on the iceflow and we are watching that person drift off into the cold black night. It’s sad and scary stuff. Really, this transitional period is a grieving process. It is, by definition, chaotic. Confusing. Frustrating. Scary. Sad. Personalized. NORMAL.
    It’s OK to be knocked sideways. It’s OK to swing radically from being euphoric (wooh-hoo, I’m free!!!) to despondent (who am I now???). The pendulum will find equilibrium if we let it come to rest.
    Think of our parenting skills: Remember when the kids were little and they would have a behavioural regression (or outright physical illness) right before making a huge developmental leap? Welcome to their world! We need to parent ourselves through this process and tuck ourselves into bed with a favorite stuffie and a good story. Set ourselves off to sweet dreams which we can actualize in the morning.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Lots of wisdom there. Having just returned from Antarctica the image of being out on an iceflow is particularly striking. It is so so so helpful to hear from others who can remind me of the normalcy what I’m feeling while struggling through this transition – when the general opinion seems to be that doing anything but being happy when you’re lucky enough to retire is equivalent to moral bankruptcy. Hope you’ll keep adding your wisdom to these discussions.

  4. I’m fascinated to see the experiential parallels between retirement and long-term disability absence from work. You’re right, it is most helpful to hear about how normal these emotions are.
    Reading through your postings I am finding such comfort from recognizing the wonderful familiarity of the rythmn and cadence of your insights and dialogue.
    Thank you for starting this discussion!

  5. Sylvia Bereskin

    I’m just very happy to be having this discussion with other women who are thinking about similar things. I think that it’s great for all of us.

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