Wash, rinse, repeat. Retirement + COVID = boring.

by Kathy Larson

Yes, this is another one of those laments about how COVID 19 has affected life. My life.

I woke up this morning and the first thought to pop in my head was: wash, rinse, repeat. I knew I was thinking about the day ahead. And it wasn’t going to be about doing laundry.

I retired a couple of years ago and so far I’ve enjoyed not having to live according to a work schedule. I got through the honeymoon phase all right — sleeping in, staying up late, reading books ALL day, then moved into the ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ phase with total enthusiasm and now I’m in the ‘so, what will I do today?’ phase.

Let me tell you, this phase has its challenges — and they’ve only been exacerbated by COVID.

Having all the time you want to do all the things you want is, in theory, a wonderful thing. Ah, to write, to take photos, to paint the house, to renovate the kitchen, to spend time with family, to travel, to have lunch with friends, to take all those lessons in all those interests that you’ve put on the shelf for all those years. . . The list is endless.

And, before COVID hit I was accomplishing some of that. But. . .

. . . it became apparent rather early on that just because I had all the time in the world and no schedule to adhere to, didn’t mean that others didn’t. Or, that those friends of mine who were also retired didn’t also have their own free-time plans that simply did not mesh with mine. It was all very disconcerting and more than just a little inconvenient.

Retirement, it turns out is a solitary journey.

There is no lunch room, or coffee breaks where you get to sit and gossip or talk about last night’s episode of The Amazing Race. There is no stopping off for a drink with friends after a trying day, or holiday parties to plan for. It takes a little while to get over that and to discover that you can find ways to fill those voids. And, that they are equally as enjoyable. But. . .

Enter COVID 19 and being confined to home.

Visits with family and friends screeched to a halt, holidays got cancelled, celebrations got shelved, renovations got delayed and classes got suspended. Indefinitely. Anything I wanted to do I had to do on my own. If I didn’t know how to do it I had to teach myself, or learn from YouTube videos.

Being self-sufficient, independent and reasonably able to follow instructions I’ve made out okay. But, it’s boring. With a capital B.

In the past 8 months I’ve learned a bunch of new stuff. Like how to take an online class using Zoom,. I’ve taught myself to knit (slippers are my current obsession). I’ve become more proficient with both my SLR and phone cameras and better at editing photos. I’ve experimented with numerous recipes and learned how to bake a beautiful bagel. I’ve started painting with watercolours — an online course sparked the interest and a few video lessons with my talented sister-in-law later I’ve discovered I even have a bit of a talent.

So, imagine being bored when you’ve got all that going on. Absurd. A year ago it would be.

When I got out of bed this morning it wasn’t with a sense of enthusiasm for taking on any of the many projects I’ve got on the go, it was with a sense of weariness and boredom. Sadly, this house, my home, the place I most like to be has become too familiar. Because I can’t leave it.

I can’t, on a whim, pop out the door and drop in on a friend for coffee. Whenever I do leave — usually to get groceries or the mail — I have to ensure that I have a mask in my purse, in my pocket and in the car, along with a good supply of hand sanitizer. I can’t sign up for classes at the local pool, I can’t attend the monthly book club held at our local library, I can’t go grab my grandkids and take them for lunch just because I feel like it.

Visits with my grandkids have to planned weeks in advance, and are subject to being cancelled on a moments notice. I can join online fitness classes, book clubs, painting lessons, cooking lessons, knitting lessons and have virtual visits with my mother and siblings. I’ve done all of that, and I’m tired of having to do it that way.

I’m whining and I know it. But I don’t care. When every day is a carbon copy of the previous one it’s hard to look with enthusiasm at your options and be inspired.

Today I’m going to make cinnamon buns, zucchini muffins, and English muffin bread. Then I’m going to go for a walk in the cold sunshine. Then I’m going to practice painting trees. Then I’m going to finish that pair of slippers. . .

March 6, 2020

Here I go again. . .

Something happened. I haven’t felt like writing for over 3 years. It feels like I’ve lost a piece of myself. But. . .I don’t have the determination to find it and get it back.

Lately, I’ve been trying to force myself into writing. I’ve entered a couple of free contests, I’ve done tons of ‘research’ and read a gazillion winning entries of said contests, but still, I haven’t felt that spark.

I miss the spark. I miss how excited I used to get at the prospect of finding time to write. To pigeon-holing that time just for me. Now, I’ve got all the time I could possibly want. I’m retired. And the last thing I ever do is make time for writing. Maybe it wasn’t the writing that excited me, after all, maybe it was the selfish pursuit of time I could claim as just my own.

Throughout my day I find myself thinking of things I could write about, things I’m passionate about. Rarely, though, do I have the tools with me necessary for writing when these thoughts occur. So, I think I’ll hold on to them until I’m at the computer or have a pen and paper, but by the time I get around to it those thoughts have gone. So, I do a crossword puzzle. Or crochet. Or make something to eat.

No spark.

I want to write. I love to write. Why can’t I want to love to write?

Maybe, writing here will help. I’ll see.

Fingers on keyboard, words on screen, match to flame. Spark.

Untitled — something I’m working on

© KLarson 2019

Maybe that’s what happens, she thought. As we get older, the longer we’re together, the more we find to dislike about one another.

She was busy, or rather, she was trying to be. There really wasn’t that much to do. Now that they’d down-sized. She snorted inwardly at that — “down-sizing” — the new in thing to do when you retired. All of their friends had done it — some all the way to Mexico, Belize or the Caymans. Those were the truly successful down-sizers. Everyone else, she and Dan included, had simply traded down and stayed local.

The reasons were numerous and all legitimate. Lower living expenses, no stairs (so much easier on the joints), less cleaning, minimal yard work, no snow shoveling, zero maintenance and close proximity to shopping, transit and hospitals.  It all sounded so reasonable and smart, so mature and well-considered.

The truth was that it was boring. Dull and boring. Of course, it hadn’t been, not at first. When they had first started considering the idea of selling the house it had been exciting. A new start. Purging 40 plus years of accumulated stuff to make way for new stuff.

It was only when she got to the boxes of old school reports, handmade cards and favourite books and items of clothes she’d saved for each of the kids that it hit her. They were ridding themselves of their life. The one they’d worked at building for over 40 years together.

But she couldn’t say anything.

Because down-sizing had been her idea. Dan had resisted from the beginning, and he’d had plenty of good arguments for staying in their house — their home — not least among them the history that their place embodied.

It had taken a lot of persuasion, arguments, enlisting the help of friends and family, even the kids, to get him on board. When he finally agreed that it made sense to move into something smaller, something they could just lock the door on and walk away from when they wanted to travel for more than 2 weeks at a time, something situated right next door to a golf course, well, there was no turning back then.

Be careful what you wish for, her mother had always said.

.   .   .

Dan came through the door on cue at 5:30. She forced herself to smile.

“Supper in five,” she said, as she reached to take their plates out of the cupboard.

” ‘kay. I’m just going to jump in the shower,” He hung his keys on the hook by the door, dropped the day’s mail on the hall table and headed to their room with barely a glance in her direction.

When he came down nearly 20 minutes later she was finishing the last few bites on her plate.

“You didn’t wait?” Dan looked at her coldly.

“I told you in five,” she said, picking up her wine glass.

“Yeah, I guess you did.” He lifted the cover off the plate she’d made up for him. “What is this?” He sounded slightly disgusted at the sight of the food on his plate.

“It’s spaghetti squash with vegan chili. And gluten-free corn bread.” She took a sip of wine to hide the smirk forming on her lips. Dan scowled, grunted and continued to stare disdainfully at his plate.

Inwardly, Leslie was daring him to make a remark. The whole time she’d been preparing the meal she’d been anticipating his reaction. She knew he’d hate it. Dan was a meat and potatoes man. Had been his whole life. Once upon a time he’d been open to trying something new or different, but since turning 60 he’d made it clear that his days of adventurous eating were over.

So, every so often she treated him to something special. Like tonight.

“Can you get me a beer?” he said looking at her with thinly disguised anger.

“Excuse me?” she said with raise brows.

“Please. For Christ’s sake. Get me a beer.”

“Love to,” she answered cheerily.

Leslie stayed at the table, nursing her wine the whole while he ate. When he was done, he looked up at her and with a smile, said, “That wasn’t half bad. Tasty.”

Leslie tipped her wine glass at him. “Thanks.”

They’d cleaned up the dinner dishes and tidied the kitchen. Aside from a few questions and answers about each others day they barely spoke. She was heading into the bedroom to brush her teeth when when saw him pick up his phone. Tight-lipped she listened as she heard him order two pounds of wings from Jerry’s around the corner.

“Yeah, buffalo and some honey garlic. Twenty minutes? No problem.” As he hung up he looked at her and smiled.

.   .   .

 

Progress

 

mom-july-2017
Mom — thank you for asking the hard questions!

 

Okay, so I had a talk with my mother yesterday. We were just chatting — I had sent her some flowers the other day on a whim and she had called to say thank you. We were talking about everything and anything — the dream I’d had about my father a few days earlier, the nightmare I’d had the night before, moving, being bored, a new baby born into the Black clan, etc., etc., etc.

At one point in the conversation she asked me: “So, why aren’t you writing?” I was a little taken aback. Not that she would ask such a question, but because she asked. I really didn’t think anyone paid attention to whether I wrote or not. It’s such a personal thing, and I do so little of it, really, that I figured it was mostly un-noticeable.

Anyway, after I got off the phone I really started thinking about why I don’t write anymore. I know focus is a problem, but that’s simply an excuse. And it occurred to me that I really don’t do much of anything anymore. Since I stopped working. Since I retired.

The other day I wrote a little bit about man’s search for meaning, and for finding purpose in life. Well, I guess my purpose had been working, at any job, for so long that work had become my purpose. Not the satisfaction of any particular skill or achievement, but simply the act of working.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the jobs I had — except selling encyclopedias — that I was dreadful at, but I know I was good at just about everything else I did, and especially as an education assistant. Then, some things happened in the last year/year and a half at my job that really made me doubt myself and my abilities. Coupled with some big personal family issues I began to spin into depression and became unable to cope.

With the help of a great doctor, some fantastic meds, counseling and support from friends and family I was able to get out from under the feelings of despair, anxiety and depression that had taken hold of my life. I made the decision, for my personal well-being, to not return to work. And, I think that I’ve been unconsciously doubting the ‘rightness’ of that decision for the last little while.

Because I’ve not come to terms with not having a job anymore, I’ve been unable to move forward with anything else — especially writing.

Writing was that thing I always lamented I didn’t have enough time for, because I was always working. And yet — I accomplished more writing when I was working than I have since having all the time in the world to do as much of it as I care to. Crazy, huh?

Last night, while out for a walk, I decided that something needed to change. I thought about how I used to think when I was working, how I used to make plans all the time for what I would do with my free time — my days off, my holidays, my evenings, my weekends.

This morning I got up and I made a plan. For my health and for my personal life. It’s a pretty simple one, but it’s a plan. I’ve given myself small goals to accomplish daily, weekly and monthly. Essentially, I’ve decided to treat retirement as a job. A job that I  control, and that can provide me with as much meaning and purpose as I choose to create.

Thanks Mom!

 

Day 41 of The Purge

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Confession: I don’t think I should say this blog is about purging anymore. Although.  .  .

Tim and I talked about purging yesterday. It didn’t go well. More in a bit.

The last four days were what I consider ‘good’ days. The weather was decent; I got some great walks in (Tim even came with me once).

We took some dance lessons on Friday night. Learned the two-step, which I pretty much knew how to do, but they taught us how to twirl and do the cuddle. We need more practice, but we had fun and met some nice people.

Saturday was an incredibly lazy day. The most I did was make this weight watchers loaded cauliflower bake. We visited with some friends in the evening and I wanted to give this recipe a try. It was actually very good. Lo-carb and (fairly) lo-cal. The important thing is it had cheese and bacon in it.

Sunday, I spent the morning on the phone.  Easy to do when you have seven siblings. Then Tim and I indulged ourselves and went to Cora’s for brunch.

I never used to be a Cora’s fan, but I tell you, I sure am now.

After our leisurely brunch – where the subject of purging raised its ugly head – we went for a long walk in the cold, but very sunny afternoon. Lovely.

So now about the purging.

And it occurs to me that I have discovered another way that I am actively purging, but I’ll get to that after this.

While we were waiting for our meals at Cora’s we began discussing the future. As in three years from now when Tim retires again.

One of our main plans is to have our house completely retirement ready. All repairs and reno’s done so that we don’t have to spend our time, energy and limited income on doing them when we have nothing but time on our hands.

To do that we have to really clean house. Tim and I have VERY different ideas about what that means.

I would like to get one of those rent-a-dumpsters and just go to town.

Tim is all for saving every thing. He considers all the stuff we’ve accumulated over 39 years together as’ history’.

You see the problem.

The more we (I) talked the more agitated he got. Finally, it got to the point where he told me he wasn’t going to talk about it anymore. Which annoyed the crap out of me. So I asked him what could we talk about. Nothing, he said. So, what, we’re just going to sit here staring at one another? I asked. I guess, he said.

So that’s what I did. I made my eyes as big as I could and I stared right at him. He was studiously ignoring me, but he finally had to look in my direction. The second his eyes caught mine he started to laugh. You’re such a jerk, he said.

After that we had a great time. However, I wisely left the subject of purging alone.

Now, the way in which I am actively doing some purging is while I’m walking. I get so tired of seeing garbage on the street and walkways and I always complain about it.  Last week I decided to stop complaining. Instead, I pick it up.

Fort McMurray is a wonderful town for having an abundance of garbage cans and receptacles on its streets. And for the most part its citizens are very good about using them. Still, there is always some garbage littering the ground. Generally, it’s plastic stuff. Stuff that won’t break down or biodegrade.

It’s such an easy thing to do to bend down and pick it up and carry it the few feet to the next garbage can.

There you have it. It won’t save the world, but it’ll keep a little more waste out of the river and the trees and maybe it’ll save a bird or a fish.

Gotta love the urge to purge.

May 29th – June 3rd

Day 150 – 155 — Holy crap!  155 days!  Can’t lay claim to blogging for each and every one of them — which was my intended goal — but I am at least recounting them.

As you can no doubt tell by the sporadic way I’ve been posting, this is my REALLY busy time of the year.  It has been just insane lately, but the end is in sight.  I am counting the days, the hours, the minutes. . .

I think we’re finally going to get a break in our rainy, cloudy, cool weather.  I sure hope so, because I’ve got a pail of deck stain just burning a hole through the floor in my front hallway.  There are so many jobs I’m behind on right now that it gives me fits if I start thinking about them.  So, I don’t.  I just shelve them in the back of my mind and tell myself — you’ll get to it, don’t worry.  It’s not worth stressing about.

And, in truth, it’s not.  But I want things to get done so that I can just mellow out and relax.  Spend more than one night a week cooking a meal.  Sit on my deck and read a book with a cool beer beside me.

So, I haven’t really recounted what I did over the last 5 days.  It wasn’t much, believe me.  Just travel and meetings and getting ready for meetings.  But last night, I attended the retirement party for a dear friend and colleague.  Charlotte is truly one of a kind and she will be greatly missed.  The kids she loved and mentored and helped to educate owe her so much, but all she ever asked for was a smile and a desire to try.  I learned much from her over my ten years working together and I knew I could always count on her for a shoulder to lean on and a friendly face to talk to.  I miss my old school still, and seeing Charlotte retire brought that home again.  It also reaffirmed that times change, people move on and we all have to seek our own path.  I wish her well on wherever hers takes her.

May 6th, 7th & 8th

Days 127, 128 and 129 — Must be the nice weather that’s keeping me from keeping this up daily.  Which isn’t such a bad thing.  Better to be outside enjoying the sunshine than cooped up inside in my dark little office tapping away at these keys.

Pretty eventful 3 days — 3 women in Cleveland who had been held hostage by a sexual predator were found alive on Monday.  Thank God.  Actually, one of the women risked her life to escape.  It’s an absolutely horrific and fascinating story.  I hope the bastard that had them suffers mightily.  And I hope those 3 women — and the little girl that one of them had by her captor — can heal and get back to the joy of living.

I’ve come to a decision in my life — a good one — more to come on that later.

My leg is healing — slowly.  I get out for a walk every day — a little bit further each day — and I don’t think it will be too much longer before I’m back on my treadmill.  I do need some kind of therapy, though.

Tim resigned from his Inspector’s position Tuesday.  He’s feeling relieved, but also a little down.  Time will take care of that, I think.  He’s getting to that point where he realizes it’s time to retire.  He needs to explore his options, though, and he’s having a bit of a struggle.  It will all work out, I’m sure.

We went from a temperature of 32 degrees on Monday to a temp of 14 degrees on Tuesday.  Had a hell of a wind storm Monday night.  Made me think of tornado’s.  But, in the morning all was calm and, of course, cool.  Yesterday was a bit better and today we’re heading for 24 degrees.  Yay!