It’s now been six months since I retired, and so I think it’s a good time to do a bit of a review and assessment on how am I doing. Not the kind of assessment that ends up ranking me against others who’ve similarly retired. Oh no … not that at all. Just a bit of a review of what I thought would happen, what happened, and what I’m thinking should happen next. This is an opportunity to revisit some of the “lessons” I think I’m learning. Which are still useful? Which are being applied? What am I happy with? What am I struggling with? How to move forward?
First, a little recap on the past six months. November was pretty much great; spent a lot of time at the Y and a lot of time getting ready to journey to Antarctica. December – also great … it was more time away from reality as we travelled in South America and the Antarctic. January … real life started setting in and things definitely got more difficult. By February I think the “honeymoon” was starting to end and the bright light was the arrival of Freida. In many ways, although there have been some high points, it’s just become more and more difficult since then.
Let me try going at this another way; piece by piece.
FINANCES: Normally this isn’t what I’d think about first but these days it’s hard to not be thrust into thinking “finance” far too much of the time. Bad for global blood pressure I’m sure! That said; this, for me, is mostly an easy one. I have a guaranteed income from my pension and that’s what I’m living on. The fact that there’s a financial crisis swirling all around me is actually making it easier to be “trimming costs” because I have lots of company in doing that. Not consuming is “in”, not being wasteful is “in”; seems like I set it up just right to live on 40% less. That said, I’m also doing a number of keynote addresses, workshops, and some private teaching/coaching to supplement my pension. I think I can somewhat safely (if anything related to money is safe these days) say that this isn’t a big area of concern for me. Even factoring how this crisis is effecting David we’re fine, and so really I have little to fuss about on this front. Whew! I’m grateful. This has in the end been a great opportunity to put into practice what I identified in Lessons #1, #2, and #12: Let go of any need to control; it’s an illusion at best; No matter what the circumstances, I can choose how I want to respond; and The world is constantly changing around you. Know who you are and where you stand, be joyous in watching things reshape themselves, and remember that they will reshape again and again.
LOGISTICS & TIME MANAGEMENT: Slowly moving this one along. Having endless numbers of hours to structure (or not) is much trickier than I’d thought.
How easy it is to get nothing done at all when you’re not in a rush. Sounds crazy for sure but somehow it was easier to get a lot done when I had a lot to get done. I’m working on different schedules (sleep late/get up early, write in the morning/write later in the day, exercise early/late/not at all.
I am doing pretty well at what my dear friend Peter (and also Jung) refers to as “holding the tension”. After all, this is my Lesson #10: Stay open. Don’t let the urgent overtake the important. You see, my natural response when there’s too much uncertainty in the air is to push things to a conclusion; it’s what I’ve always called “Premature Closure” if you catch my drift. I’m struggling here – but not too worried about it. The next months, trying and evaluating lots of different time-management approaches, will undoubtedly provide me with a new framework of comfort.
IDENTITY DRIFT: Now it gets a little harder. “The identity of one changes with how one perceives reality” says Vithu Jeyaloqanathan. From the day that feels like it was so long ago when I realized in an after-movie discussion group that I could talk about how I really saw things in education and not deliver a “party line” (whatever the party may be) I have been conscious of my perception of the world around me changing. Changing back. The filters through which I see the world are slowly returning to be those that I choose as filters, replacing ones that I’ve had to live with because of my professional role. Making these choices – clarifying my goals in a way – is one of the biggest challenges at six months in. Most important is that I’ve come to fully accept that the key, for me, is that I need to feel that I’m contributing to making the world a better place in some small way. Gives me a sense of living out a purpose and that’s important to me.
Stephen Covey was “de rigeur” when I was in graduate school; narry a course would be taught in any department without mention of his theories about how we organize our time. The basic premise was to imagine that a great big bowl is the container representing your total time. Start with a bucket full of stones (some large stones representing the things that require a lot of time and are very important, all the way down to small pebbles which represent all of the little chores of each day). If you start moving the stones from the bucket to your bowl (or you can see this as from your “to do” list to your calendar) in a willy-nilly manner, just placing things into your “bowl” as you notice them, then you’ll run out of bowl before all the stones are placed. But – and Covey would always demonstrate this in his workshops – if you start by thinking about the big important things you want to be doing – placing the really big stones first – it’s a different outcome. You make your decisions about what’s important with some real introspection, giving consideration to both short-term and long-term goals, and you put those big pieces – symbolized by big stones – into the bowl first. Then you start adding the smaller stones to fit around – but not coflict with – the big pieces. Once all your stones (things you need to do) are in the bowl you can still add quite a bit of water to it; this represents the fun things you can do in a free-floating, relaxed, non-demanding way. In a way, I guess I’m just finishing up determining what the big stones are for now, recognizing that this can, and will, change over time. For now, what are the main areas that I want to devote more time to?
David and I were talking last night and I was telling him that I think I’d like to be spending more quality time with my mother. Not just running errands with her or taking her to doctors but more stimulating and interesting time. I’m going to hunt about and see what ideas I can suggest and see if she has more ideas to put into the mix as well. Ours is not one of those mother/daughter relationships that was always very close; but over the past years we’ve grown closer and closer and she’s really become one of my very best friends. Her health a year ago didn’t look promising, but she’s doing so well now and I see it as a real gift – and honour – to be able to have more time to hang out and enjoy life with her. David and I both agreed that this is important and that it is time spent that has real value. Okay – there’s one rock in my bowl: more time with my mother … and actually with family overall. More hiking and exploring and star-gazing and wine-sipping and book-reading and dancing time with David. More trips to the zoo with Motti for long walk/talks. More lunches with Molly. Time to teach Miri how to sew pleats and to hang out with Elly and Shira and Dovid. More time in Ottawa with Nili and her family. Time on the West Coast to see Josh and Solomon and Laura (Solomon’s mother). Time in California with my loving family there; Fran, Ed, Cheri, Alec, Yoni, Tari, Boots and Danny. More dinners and movies with cousins. In my rather complicated life there’s so much great opportunity for family connections; I’d really just like to be able to spend more time with everyone in my family that wants to spend time with me. More time with heart-family too; the friends who’ve been there and cared and enriched my life in so many ways.
And more time with myself. I guess in practical terms that means it’s time for me to go out and buy that trailer for my kayak so that this summer I can paddle up-river whenever the moment is right. This is a good thing. This is spending time in good way. This too is contributing.
I just need to figure out what percentage of my time will feel right – the my family and myself time – and I’ll do that by moving in this direction and noticing how I’m feeling. This is Lessons#4, #6 and #7 in action for sure: Try to do the things you love to do; Take the time to treasure the things that have really enriched your life; and Honour the importance of what you choose to do.
I’m hoping that over the next few months I’ll be able to figure out what else should be filling my bowl that will say- when I back up a bit and look at my bowl as a whole – this is me; this is good.
Six Months In – Part 2: Coming next!