Forever Home – Far Away From Home

House for sale

Knowing retirement was coming up and fearing I wouldn’t be able to live on Social Security in the U.S., I started several years early and visited both Panama and Costa Rica as possible long-term locations. Even though I was looking at locations with mountains (since my dream included a babbling brook or quiet creek nearby), and a garden so I could fill my days with beautiful, aromatic flowers and herbs right at my fingertips – greenery that wasn’t readily available in Las Vegas, I had a friend in Florida who kept nudging me to come check out the state. He was not put off by my constant gripes that Florida had no mountains, I wasn’t really interested in sand in my shoes on a daily basis and they had hurricanes – not on my to-do list. Nevertheless, he persisted and so I visited a couple of times, with house-hunting at the top of the list. And what do you know? I liked the craftsman homes in the area, the greenery and the old-fashioned neighborhood feel.

I had it stuck in my mind that the thing to do was to cash out my 401K, use it to buy something outright so I’d have no rent or mortgage and then I could afford to live off my Social Security. And so I spent countless hours scouring Zillow and Realtor.com and a couple of others for something that I liked that I could afford. Not an easy task. I discovered that my meager 401K wasn’t going to get me much. I had found lots of places I could afford in Costa Rica but I had no way to check out the areas they were in or even see if the photos matched the reality. That scared me into going back again and again to look at properties in Florida.

I was constantly disappointed at my lack of affordability. The houses I could afford didn’t remotely match my dream and the amount of repairs that would be needed would require even more. I finally decided to stop attempting to make things happen and turn my attention elsewhere. I was sure that if it was meant to happen, it would.

And then one day, I got an email from my friend in Florida that one of his friends had come across a cute little place in her own search and had told him she was not going to buy it but that I should have a look at it online because it had the garden I said I wanted and it wasn’t terribly expensive. spring time gardens

I gasped when I saw the photos. There was a lovely garden and deck in the back and French doors leading from the master bedroom to a screened-in porch. Are you kidding? I wanted that house from the moment I saw the photos. My friend convinced me to fill out the online Quicken Loan information to see how much I could qualify for.

I’m not really sure what happened from there. One minute I was dreaming of a house with a garden and the next minute I had qualified for one, the lender had contacted me for more information and I was suddenly buying a house and would close on it in 6 weeks. Panic set in.

My goal of a stress-free, relaxed retirement turned into anxiety and sleepless nights as I downloaded document after document and started paying for all kinds of not-disclosed-up-front and unexpected expenses like an HOA application fee, an inspection fee, a property surveyPaperwork vortex fee, a title insurance fee, etc. I was running out of money and I’d been instructed not to borrow from the 401K until it was time for the down payment. I was drowning in paperwork (most of which reads like a foreign language and is exhausting to plow through) and my emotions vacillated all over the map – exhilaration, anxiety, despair, fright and excitement.

In the end, I drove across the United States to Florida and although I’m still adjusting to all the changes from my 42 years in Las Vegas, I think I’m going to be happy here. I love the back garden and have plans to transform it into a peaceful haven full of beautiful flowers. I already have the butterflies, birds and squirrels and I love them. But guess what? Gardening is expensive – just one more thing I didn’t anticipate.

One Month In

'Which pair of pajamas says 'smart casual'?'I spent the two months after giving my retirement notice worrying about whether or not I’d be able to stay occupied or would find myself twiddling my thumbs, bored for hours and hours with nothing to do and no one to talk to. Well, so far, that’s turned out to be a joke.

Of course, the one thing I looked forward to has panned out beautifully. More than anything else, I hated getting up to an alarm (any kind of alarm, whether white noise, soothing waterfall or music) in the dark. I vowed to only go to bed when I felt like it and never get out of bed until it was starting to get light outside. I’ve stuck to that one (mostly) and it’s glorious. Although I don’t always make it until it’s technically “light outside” due to two hungry kitties who are insistent on their breakfast hour, I manage it most days. Then I can make my coffee, scroll through my emails, play a few games of Candy Crush Soda or solve a Microsoft jigsaw puzzle, and leisurely plan my day.

Fearing destitution, I took on an editor position for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) for their quarterly journal. I thought it would be an easy way to make a few bucks to supplement Social Security and still have time to work on my writing projects. That has not developed exactly as I imagined. I have three new online programs I’m struggling to learn and master and thus putting in way more time than I’m going to get paid for since the agreement was for a specific sum with the publication of each edition. But I certainly don’t have to worry about endless hours with nothing to do.

And there are two upsides to this new venture. I can work at my own pace and, best of all, I can work in my pajamas.

Do You Believe in Magic?

I’ve had the strangest thing happen over and over in my life and although it’s nice once it happens, I never seem to learn to trust it. My life has a way of bringing me exactly what I need to either keep going or move in a different, more positive direction at the very last second. And even though I’m aware of it when it happens, I nevertheless can’t seem to learn to trust that it will.

Many people believe in good luck charms. I’ve heard the biggest skeptics talk about lucky lucky symbolssevens in the casino or not walking under ladders or finding a four-leaf clover. And yet if asked directly whether or not they believe good luck charms work, they’ll laugh and poo-poo the idea.

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s the symbol that means anything. It’s the positive energies you send out into the universe. You’ve heard the saying that nothing ever dies, it just changes shape? I’ve worked in hospice long enough to believe that our vital energies don’t die; they just change shape and exist elsewhere in the universe. I don’t believe it’s my imagination that if I’m in a room when the patient dies, I can feel his or her energy – not in the body but in the room. It’s almost like the essence is still there, making sure it’s okay to move on and that everything’s okay, and then it begins to dissipate.

I own a laughing buddha and I’ve been known to rub his tummy for luck. But here’s the thing: every time I do that there’s a wish or positive affirmation attached. Dr. Candace budaiPert long ago established that thoughts are things and do indeed affect our bodies and minds. You get back what you send out. So if I send out positive thoughts long enough, I’ll start drawing those energies back to me. And I truly believe that those energies show up exactly when I need them. I’d sometimes like for them to make an appearance a little sooner so I can relax about my future, but I won’t mess with success.

And here’s an interesting experiment I duplicated to prove to myself that thoughts contain positive or negative energies and can affect your environment. I heard about an experiment where steamed rice was placed into two identical containers and then they were sealed. Each day, positive, loving things were verbalized to one container and negative, mean, hateful things were verbalized to the other. After about six weeks, the “positive” rice still looked good but the “negative” rice had begun to break down and decay. I tried it. It works. Imagine how that translates into our everyday lives.

These fortuitous outcomes of mine seem to happen to me when I’m the most lost or confused about what my future should hold, which way I should turn. And perhaps that’s when my subconscious thoughts are the strongest. It’s nowhere more evident than in my recent search for something to supplement my upcoming Social Security payments. The budget I did revealed that I’ll be spending $1,300 to $1,500 more per month than I’ll be getting from Social Security. That mangled my thought processes for months when I was trying to decide whether to retire or whether to work until I’m 70. I went back and forth, back and forth with a zillion “yes, buts.” Ultimately, I realized that whether or not I retire at 70 or sooner than that, I’ll still need extra money and I’ll still need to do something. Scary. What should I do? And just when I was about to start scouring want-ads in the Sunday paper, I had an opportunity to become the Editor of the aromatherapy journal for the organization I belong to – a paid position. I applied and was selected for the position.

Once again, just when I need them, things somehow fall into line. It’s an interesting phenomenon that one day perhaps I’ll learn to trust. Is it magic? I don’t care. It works.

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The Obligatory Farewell Party

The funny thing about the last few weeks of employment is that people suddenly come out of the woodwork to make suggestions that are now clearly too late to implement and could’ve been made any time at all within the last thirteen years. I know they mean for them to be helpful hints for me to use while training my replacement but I find myself wondering if a lot of what I’ve accomplished in my career is viewed as very-nice-but-could’ve-been-better. Okay, yes, I’m probably overly sensitive in my last few weeks but I can’t possibly be the only one who’s left a career wondering if anything they did for their length of time in the organization made any difference.

I’m also aware that just as there are many people I’ve been cordial to but won’t particularly miss, I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual. So if they’re not going to miss me, I’d rather not have a party where they feel like they have to show up because someone (whether me or the CEO) might notice their absence.

Retirement cake blunderI found this photo of someone’s cake to be hilarious but it also aptly sums up my aversion to the obligatory retirement party and, presented with a date for my own staff farewell party, I politely declined and said I’d just as soon leave quietly (that in itself will be novel to most of my co-workers).

Every retirement party I’ve attended in the last thirteen years has had the same format and it goes something like this:

  1. An email invitation is sent to most of the company’s employees inviting them to attend the going-away party.
  2. A lot of people who’d rather finish their work, take the time to saunter over.
  3. A conference room is set up with soft drinks, cake and maybe cookies or fruit.
  4. Everyone sits around the conference table and waits for someone to say something.
  5. The retiree is eventually asked about a favorite work story. Everyone listens politely and nods approvingly but really has no connection to the memory.
  6. Another awkward silence ensues until someone asks if anyone has a good story about the retiree.
  7. Having finally run out of pithy comments and stories, the retiree is given a gift. In our case, it has often been a crystal vase with the company logo on it – nice, but I probably won’t want to spend my meager Social Security funds on bouquets of flowers.
  8. A final thank-you-for-your-service is voiced and then a few people grab refreshments and the rest head back to their work stations, having fulfilled their duty.

I think this tradition needs to go. Too many people feel like they have to show up because they know the retiree knows it was sent out to most of the departments and they think they have to attend because she will notice if they’re not there. I believe the people who actually give a damn will stop by and say goodbye. And that’s enough.

The Subconscious Speaks

It’s been two weeks since I turned in my two months’ notice at work. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve second guessed my decision and wondered if I should try and work until I’m 70 in order to maximize the Social Security I can receive. I come down firmly in the camp that I should go for it while I still have the health to do it – whatever “it” turns out to be.

That said, I’ve found myself engaging in some interesting things lately … well, two. One concerns my waking state and the other concerns my dreams.

As far back as I can remember, if I’m going to have a dream that I would recognize as showing anxiety, it has always harkened back to my dancing days. I will either be onstage in the wrong costume or I’ll be late and trying to perform the wrong routine. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a couple of those dance dreams but they seem to have some other interesting components to them. In both cases, I was trying to lead the ensemble to the stage location and we couldn’t quite get there. All the other dancers were younger than I was and I was afraid they weren’t listening to me.

Okay, should we try to analyze them? I think I’m worried that my “legacy” will be forgotten by the younger generation taking over my duties and that I’ll be seen as useless. Sound about right? The reason I find this interesting is because in my waking Yin-Yang-Woven-Dreamcatcher-8_3.jpg.optimalstate, despite the dreams, I’m aware that people at work think I’ve made some significant contributions and that we need to get someone who can continue them as is. So I find it fascinating that my subconscious says otherwise. Perhaps I need a dream catcher over my bed – at least until my actual retirement.

Then there’s my waking state. I have found myself, illogically, stocking up on things like books on CD for my car, magazine subscriptions, cases of prescription cat food, sneakers for the gym, custom-fitted trash bags for my kitchen garbage can, my favorite cologne Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-9.57.43-AMand the oversize tees I sleep in. What’s up with that? I guess I know that when those run out, I’ll probably see them as extravagances that I shouldn’t be spending my Social Security money on, so the idea is that if I stock up now, it’ll be quite some time before I have to face the music.

Who knows what other illogical things I’ll come up with in the next six weeks in preparation for retirement? Time will tell

Night Before / Day After

Last night I could’ve easily taken half a bottle of Maalox and still needed more. Even though I’ve weighed all the pros and cons – at least a bazillion times – they ran on a continual loop in my mind. Should I retire? Should I not retire? Would everything work Scared womanout for me financially or would I be as destitute as it looked on paper? Would I find lots of new hobbies to keep me busy or find myself staring out the window every day? Could I find a part-time job if I needed one or would any of my writing aspirations pan out? Could I revamp my independent business so that it would make enough money to keep me comfortably afloat? Yes, this all led to lack of sleep.

This morning, I tweaked my resignation letter for the umpteenth time to get the tone just right, the language just right, the insinuations just right. And then I forwarded them to my work email, got dressed feeling like I was headed toward the guillotine and headed in to the office.

I pulled up an email, input four relevant individuals, said something inane and slightly lame, attached the resignation letter, paused – one, two, three – and then resolutely hit “Send.” I fully expected to lunge for the keyboard, trying to retrieve the email and replay that mental loop just one more time. Didn’t happen. I actually felt totally comfortable and, dare I say it, a bit elated and relieved. I knew I’d made the right decision a few minutes later when my first problem correspondence arrived in the in-box and it didn’t bother me like it usually does.

I eventually got nice replies from all four recipients. That’s not to say that once they’ve had to time to think about it, they may change their minds and decide to boot me right away. But the truth is – – I don’t care. I’m comfortable with that one, too. I suppose what I finally realized yesterday was that I was always going to be scared whether I retired today, 2 years from now or 10 years from now. I’m always going to have to scramble for extra money to supplement the Social Security. So if that’s the case, why not get out while I still have my health? That’s exactly what I’m doing and here’s how I felt today:

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