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.

old-man-at-grocery-store1

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.

 

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.

Friendships – Survival or Not?

friendships

If I hadn’t had several career incarnations, I might not have realized that many of the people I commonly called “friends” really aren’t. They’re fun acquaintances that I laugh with day-to-day and maybe even meet for drinks after work occasionally. But most won’t, and didn’t, survive the career split.

I don’t begrudge that at all. I’ve heard many ex-employees bemoan the fact that the people they spent time with at the old job faded away after a few weeks or months. I had this happen as well but the truth is that if I’d really wanted to cultivate a long-term friendship I’d have tried a little harder to make sure we got together on a regular basis.

Perhaps my definition of “friend” is a bit narrow but most of the people I associate with are fun and worth a laugh or two at work but we don’t have enough in common to sustain that relationship after I’ve moved on. I think it’s normal to put your time into the establishment and learn to “fit in.” Consciously or not, that often means acting according to the group norm but not really revealing your innermost thoughts. Workplace relationships can be fickle and it only takes one disagreement or one assignment where you’re pitted against your friend to discover that it’s each one for herself.

That’s just human nature, I think. Everyone wants to succeed; everyone wants to be well thought of at work. And it’s that same survival mode that taught me to tread carefully. I’ve had plenty of friends who turned out not to be when a promotion was at stake or when the company was weighing the worthiness of each of its team members in times of financial crisis. And yes, I use the term “team” loosely because it’s really quite amazing how fast a valued team member can get thrown under the bus. I’ve watched far too many be given walking papers shortly after being told they were one of the most valued employees and would never have to worry about their position disappearing.

But I digress. Friendships. I enjoy my time with many of my fellow workers but I don’t expect that many, if any, will still be in my orbit about six months to a year after I retire. I don’t know if that will make me feel isolated and lonely or not but I tend to doubt it. I always have a gazillion things to interest me and to occupy my time. But who’s to say that I won’t enjoy all those gazillion projects for about a month and then find myself sitting around in a quiet house twiddling my thumbs, wondering who I can call in order to stop chatting with my cats and hear a voice besides my own.

I can’t actually remember a time when I’ve been lonely but that time may be coming. Who knows? I first started contemplating this possibility when I was approached one day in my local grocery store by an elderly man. I noticed him standing back staring and I thought perhaps I was in his way. However, when I moved away to another display, he came over and told me he loved the guacamole I had decided not to buy and wondered why I didn’t try it. I can’t tell you why, but I sensed that he could care less about why I didn’t pick up the guacamole. He just wanted to talk to someone. So, suddenly wondering if that would be me one of these days, I draped my arms on the shopping basket, parked my foot on the lower rung and had a lengthy conversation about what makes a good guacamole.

I measure a “friend” by someone who I’ve learned I can pour my heart out to, good and bad, and they’ll always be there for me. They are the ones that I’d entrust my cats to if I died tomorrow. They’re the ones I’d feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if I needed something.

I think it’s harder to cultivate friendships like that as I get older, mostly because true friendships develop slowly. They require a gradual give and take of relevant information, the sharing of likes and dislikes, and the realization that this individual has passed all the little subconscious “tests” that have resulted in trust. In any case, I won’t be surprised if, in a few years from now, some of the people who swear we’ll always be in touch when I leave, one day hear my name and say, “Whatever happened to her?”