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Well, here I am branching out. Since I started writing this blog 13 months ago I’ve been thinking that at some point I’d like to synthesize some of the things I’ve learned about retirement and start doing workshops to help other women make this transition a little more gracefully – and with less angst – than I have. It has taken me a long time to figure out what I would actually do in such a workshop and finally I’m ready to take the leap. On October 21 – 25, 2009 (the last week of my first year of retirement) Crones Counsel is holding it’s annual conference – this time in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s their 7th fall meeting and the theme is Transformation: Spiraling Through Life Within and Without. It’s an opportunity for women of all ages to gather and share stories and enrich connections to ourselves, to each other, and to the world. The conference is committed to processes that promote equality, encourage diversity, support personal empowerment, and honour the value to society of older women’s wisdom and accomplishments. Am I excited about this? For sure. Am I nervous? Absolutely!!
This is a bit of an extension of an earlier posting (and a comment from Fran), I know, but what happened at the Y today just needs to be shared. As usual I started my day by writing for a few hours. I needed to send a short bio statement off to the conference that I’m speaking at in February, pay a few online bills …. and of course work on the blog. I’ve quite taken to this blogging activity and it really is important to me (hope you’re enjoying it too … if you are, why not pop in a comment).
So, back to the Y. I put on a few pounds in Antarctica (why is it that pushing 60 requires pumping heavy weights?); although we were working hard on those landings that didn’t seem to balance out the excellent meals or the daily “happy hour” non-calorie-burning activities. Too bad for me that talking doesn’t burn many calories! (Okay … those of you who know me and are now guffawing … calm down!). I’ve been quite consistent in getting to the Y and working out since my return home (a mystery: why do pound appear so much faster than they disappear?) On this particular day I’d spent about 20 minutes doing weight training, rode a stationary bike for 20 minutes, and did a deep water aquafit class. After a brief respite in the whirlpool and a long shower I was just starting to dry my hair when I overheard two women talking; one of them was congratulating the other on just being named to the Order of Canada (the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system, it recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. This link will take you to a list of all of the Members of the Order of Canada). Wrapped in a towel (see, that’s another reason I don’t need to buy clothes much these days), I approached them and quite brazenly, I suppose ,asked “Who are you?” The first to respond was Judith Thompson, a prominent Canadian playwright (I try to see her plays whenever I can because I think she’s fabulous; didn’t recognize her though). The other woman was a publisher and I didn’t get her name but I think it was Angela Rebeiro. That initial question I asked did lead to a long conversation with Ms. Thompson and a moment of clear insight (I think; never sure about that though … especially these days).
Our expedition to Antarctica was even more astonishing than I’d imagined … and I have quite the imagination. In every way this was an experience that surpassed all of my expectations (hhmmmm … expectations … that’s something I need to write about I think). Here we are enjoying ourselves in La Boca, in the heart of Buenos Aires as we prepare to visit the continent that wraps itself around the bottom of the earth. I think that retirement really and truly began for me at a particular moment on the flight home. During our time on the Polar Star we’d had almost no contact with the outside world – they’d post news on a bulletin board every three or four days but it was just a few headlines about what was happening. Our personal contacts were limited to a few e-mails we were able to send out to let family and friends know that we were doing fine. Surrounded by a continent of unbelievable beauty and an environment that’s as other-worldly as anyplace I’ve ever been, we’d truly removed ourselves from our Toronto lives and were just immersed in awe. As always seems to happen when we travel, the connection with our “real” lives began to weave itself back into our reality about a day before our return. This trip was no different. We had a final two days in Buenos Aires between Antarctica and Canada. At this point David had started to reconnect with his office; he’d been able to call them by phone and access his e-mail so he’d started to worry about things work-related. This anxiety seemed to be building until, by the time we were on the Buenos Aires-Santiago-New York leg of the journey home, I had an epiphany. When we got home David would be heading back to work and … I wouldn’t. My life had really and truly changed and what I saw awaiting me upon my return was an open space. Okay, maybe not quite as open as the snow-covered continent I’d just left but – nonetheless – a space not emcumbered by things imposed by the demands of work.