It was sometime last spring that I first had the idea that I’d write a blog about the experience of retirement. Since that day so many many years ago (no, I’m not going to count the years) that I first took an Educational Psychology course (which later really morphed into Cognitive Psychology – the branch of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember, and learn) I’ve been fond of exploring inner spaces to understand the world. I had a sense that the transition from professional working woman to retired woman would be an interesting journey … and it has been so far for sure. So I set about blogging 4 months before I retired and now here I am, some 4 months plus after retiring and I’m taking a moment to think through what the blog’s all about … for me … so that I can decide whether or not to continue writing.
Writing the blog has forced me to pause a couple of times each week in this tumultuous transition to step back and think about the experiences I’m having. It has enabled (or caused) me to be both “in the moment” and “conscious of the moment” at the same time. Participant and observer. Actor and critic. Eric Harrison, in writing about Awareness Meditation, says that “focusing keeps your eyes on the road, but awareness lets you enjoy the scenery“. These first months of retirement I’ve been able to do that through the blog (which maintained the focus) and through the impact that writing the blog has had for me (which provided the conduit to awareness). As I continue to try to figure out what retirement for a feminist woman in 2009 means the blog is of great help … to me.
It’s also the source of some pretty silly business. For example; each day I check my “dashboard” (the behind the scenes organizer for the blog) numerous times to see how many ‘hits” I’ve had that day (a hit isn’t really a good indicator of reader activity, I know, but it’s the only measure that I have to see if anyone’s actually reading what I write and … for some reason … that matters) and whether or not there are any comments. When the red flag beside “comments” appears I am delighted; it’s the feedback that I’m looking for. When there are no comments or few “hits” I start wondering whether or not I should even continue doing this. Are there no comments because what I wrote was uninteresting (can’t quite bring myself to say boring)? Early on I ended each posting with a few questions which I thought would prompt responses; I stopped doing that when one dear friend pointed out that she liked reading the blog but didn’t like it when I pulled that “teacher thing” at the end and that as she read it it seemed like the questions were the homework assignment. Yikes! So, I stopped doing that. And still, although I know that I’m writing this for myself and to develop a record of this transition that others might find useful, I can’t help but let my ego attach to the readership and responses. Is that insecurity (in the old sense, before security and homeland were connected in any way)? To coin a phrase … you betcha. It’s like performing to an almost-empty theatre; it just doesn’t feel so good.
Then there are the struggles to decide what to actually blog about. Do I honestly plumb the depths of my thoughts and experiences as I move through this transition? That’s what I’ve committed to. Do I only write about things that nobody will find offensive or do I write about what’s really on my mind? Well, even though it has sometimes meant I’ve had to unravel things with others I think that writing about what’s honest and true is the only way to go. Several days ago – when I returned from Ottawa – I was in a close-to-the-precipice panic because I didn’t have any ideas about what to write about. David even commented at the dinner table one day while I was talking about the blog that: “Ah, Sylvia has writer’s block” and I totally freaked out. If my new identity is attached to writing then to have “a block” is to succumb to fear. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of rejection? Fear of mediocrity? So I’m going to have to face all of those fears if I’m going to continue to write.
And continue I will.
I’ve had a chance to have a number of really good conversations about social media with my son-in-law Andy (an interesting thinker and techno-visionary who’s in Technology Law) over the past months. What, you might be asking, is social media? Here’s a videoclip that might help explain it.
This blog has given me a way to be a part of something significant. It’s enabling me to work through this major transition with others. I’ve been able to meet women all over the world through the blog, and I’ve been able to benefit from their observations and experiences. Most exciting of all, blogging lets me – and you, the readers – be a part of something significant that has the capacity to change the world. The whole Cramer/Stewart brawl happened because of social media I think; people began to see that there was an issue and what followed was a flurry of folks sending videos to others to bring them into “the loop”. Even Obama’s meteoric rise to the Presidency must, at least in part, be attributed to the power of social media I believe. Now I will admit that I’m likely not within the major demographic for social media participation; without doing any actual research I’m fairly confident that mostly this new realm is inhabited by folks some 20 to 30 years younger than I am.
But I am here. And so are you.
So I’m left with a couple of questions (not meant as homework though … which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like your responses):
#1: How do we – feminist women entering or in retirement and those who think this transition is an important one – harness this new power?
#2: How will I know when I’m done?