Desperate for Conversation

The closer I get to retirement, the more nervous I find myself and that surprises me because I’m usually pretty good with change. This one though — well this one is a huge change that will impact my life, for good or bad, until I die. That’s worth getting nervous about, right?

Up until a week or so ago, I was getting excited about the prospect of doing whatever I want, whenever I want – sleeping late with no alarm; eating better because when I have the time to prepare and cook, I like it because it doesn’t feel so much like working after work; giving my house a thorough cleaning at a leisurely pace; spending as much or as little time as I deem fit on my novel; upgrading my company, Scentsibility and putting in some quality marketing time; sitting out on my balcony at odd hours and watching the wildlife and the clouds; napping in the afternoons; etc.

But now? There’s a man who comes into the Starbucks I frequent who’s retired and he’s the garrulous type who’s looking for anyone that glances in his direction. Aaaaand he’s off. I find myself trying not to catch his eye as he sits eating his oatmeal, eyeing likely suspects in his vicinity. Is that going to be me one of these days? Can’t you just see my seventy or eighty-something shriveled face sidling up to a young, twenty-something in line and saying, “My aren’t those adorable jeans. Did you buy them around here?” How far do you think that’ll get me?

Elderly woman sadly looking out the window, a black-and-white phSo, that’s what got me got me to worrying about my retirement instead of looking forward to it. I took stock of how many people I’d be likely to talk to on a daily basis once my usual work buddies are gone. Um, maybe two. That scares me a little. I already talk to my cats but I don’t think that qualifies. I don’t fancy being the sad old lady who sits in the house and stares out the window all day.

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Then there was the little old man in Albertson’s who stood off to the side staring at me as I checked out the special on guacamole. I eventually decided not to buy it and meandered off. Very shortly, I heard, “Excuse me.” I turned to see the little old man following me over to the produce section. He wanted to know why I hadn’t gotten the guacamole. My instant impression was that he didn’t give a hoot why I hadn’t bought the guacamole; he just wanted to talk to someone. So I stopped. I told him it didn’t seem to have enough stuff in. He said, “What stuff? Guacamole is just guacamole.” I assured him they were all different and I actually liked to make my own with avocado, jalapeno, tomato, onion, cilantro and lime juice. He thought that over, nodded and sauntered back toward the display.

See, that could be me in a year or two – randomly stopping people in the grocery store just to hear a human voice. That scares me. I can hear you saying, “So get out and do something.” I’ve thought about that, too. I’m not accustomed to sitting around much. I’m very active (always have been) and typically have a to-do list a mile long of things I want to do and places I want to go. But then there’s the retirement budget. It’s going to be a game changer with a whole new set of rules (none of which I’ll know in advance). I doubt that I’ll have enough money for travel or to spend on trivial keep-myself-busy projects. Where does that leave me?

I’m still aiming for optimism but I find myself vacillating between ultra excited and secretly terrified.

 

Fashion Backward

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There was a time, in my youth to be sure, when what you wore meant everything. You had to be wearing similar duds to everyone in your age group or you were ridiculed and sniggered at. That didn’t really improve after grade school. The methods of ridicule just got a little more sophisticated but were recognizable as ridicule nonetheless. Instead of outright laughter and pointing, the peer “in” group would make snarky little comments in a tone of voice that clearly indicated you weren’t up to snuff – things like, “Isn’t that adorable? My mom has one similar to that” or “I don’t suppose they carry that at Neiman Marcus, do they?”

I never had much of a fashion sense. I couldn’t (and don’t) understand perusing a magazine to see if the summer color is ecru or eggshell, if the jeans touch the tops of the shoes or meander to the middle of the heel, or if a neckline is bateau or V. If I want to wear it, I’m going to buy it and I don’t care whether it’s the season’s color or not.

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Even so, I would join in the laughter at the elderly women I’d see in support hose and sandals or flowery mumus or pearl-buttoned sweaters in the summer. Give me a break; I was young and stupid! But now? Let it be known that I plan to be one of those fashion backward elderly women . . . very shortly.

I used to wonder why anyone would “let themselves go” like those elderly women and not give a damn what they wore or who saw them in it. Now I get it. When we’re younger, the whole game is about attraction, whether attraction means a mate, a job to help climb the corporate success ladder or the approval of peers, and you only accomplish that by looking good. So, like most, I conformed as far as I was able. I wore the pointy-toed high heels that eventually caused me to have foot surgery on a permanently pinched nerve, the form-fitting jeans that required sucking in my nonexistent stomach at every meal and ending up with perfectly etched replicas of snaps or buttons on my waistline when I could finally get out of them, the seasonal shade of lipstick and gloss so I’d have those come-hither lips at all hours of the day because you just never knew when your makeup would garner the attention of someone who had clout and, of course, the perfect perky bra so it appeared that I had more than I did or ever would.

As we age, we come to realize that no one is looking at us as a potential date or new employee, we’re not likely to get the next Vogue cover and, in fact, regardless of whether we’re fashionable or sloppy, the generation currently running things often looks right through us as they maneuver those “moving up” decades. So we not only realize that it doesn’t matter what we wear, but we also realize (or at least I have) that if that’s the case, then I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks and I’m going to opt for comfort every time. If that means a T-shirt that’s two sizes too big over an unmatched pair of comfy sweats and well-worn tennies, then get ready — here I come.

Truthfully, it feels good to know that I don’t need to conform to any of those unspoken but ever-present rules about what’s acceptable and who might notice. I guess if I’d ever really cared, I’d have spent more time trying to be a fashion statement every time I left the house but I’ve always been more interested in people’s lives than their fashion sense. I’m finding it liberating to not only not care what anyone thinks of my fashion sense but to know that I don’t even need to make the attempt any more. In any case, I can’t wait to start my new chapter. I think I’ll call it Bet You Secretly Wish You Were Me.

 

Time – Fast and Slow

Time

Don’t you find that time is a fickle thing – snail’s pace one moment and warp speed the next? I love reading the theories about time and how it’s a manmade thing but at times, my own life teaches me how stupid the idea is that we can measure it accurately.

I remember a time when I had to audition to become a majorette in high school and the few hours I sat in the room watching everyone else’s routines almost ground to a halt. The few hours I was there in the afternoon felt like days had gone past.

Then there was the time I had my debut performance in my first Vegas show and although I wanted the experience to last forever so I could remember every detail, the show flew by in the space of a blink and I was left wishing it had lasted longer.

So why is that? And why can’t I harness it so I can slow my life? The thing is, it also applies to smaller events, I’ve noticed. I can arrive at work and if I’m not swamped with work, it feels like it goes on well beyond my shift. That scares me a little when it comes to applying it to retirement. It would seem that the trick is managing the mind but damned if I’ve figured out how to do that. I don’t want my retirement to slow to a halt to the point where I feel like I’m perpetually bored and hate it, but I also don’t want it to zoom by so I wish I’d retired sooner and had even more time to pursue interesting places and ideas and hobbies and “stuff.”

As I get closer, time is speeding up and although I want retirement and lazy days of my own making, I grow a bit more frightened of the unknown each day. Does being “off the clock” make the clock stop?

What I’m afraid I’ll do is cram everything I’ve ever wanted to do into my life in the first few months, end up crossing most of them off the list as things that aren’t really my cup of tea and that I know I’ll never finish or continue with and then end up sitting around staring out the window wishing I had someone to talk to. I often wonder if I’m the only one who feels that way but I doubt it. I think it’s probably pretty common. But it’s funny how I’ve been excited about the prospect, literally marking days off a makeshift calendar on the wall until things are getting down to the wire and suddenly not having a schedule scares me. I find myself wondering if maybe I should just keep going one more year.

No, I won’t. But the closer I get, the more anxiety I’m feeling about it. There’s that old time speeding up again, only this time, I’m not sure if I want it to slow down or keep going at the current breakneck speed.