It is disorienting. This much I will admit.
Jesus tried using this same technique with his followers, continually provoking disorientation, in order to widen their narrow views on life.
And can we all agree it was a fatal mission?
Which makes me think God might be back to Her old tricks. Applying the same technique to retirees but without walking on water or changing it to wine. Because wrinkles, menopause, and reduced brain function aren’t disorienting enough?
I think this is God’s way of campaigning as we’re closing in on our final election so to speak.
I wake up every morning and can’t figure out what day it is or who I am for that matter. Don’t get wonky on me, I’m being philosophical.
The struggle is real.
Within a matter of seconds reality sets in, I scan the room for familiar signs, am I here or there?
Awe, I’m here, so if all else fails I can act as a location device.
The tragedy is my emotions. I detachedly observe which ones bubble to the surface as if day-old champagne. You know what I mean? Am I happy and secure, troubled and listless, or wildly maladjusted?
Clearly, my carbonation has gone flat.
I take a sip of the water from the glass on my nightstand and it washes through me as if baptism.
I’m not troubled.
I used to wake up with a purpose, now I purposely wake up. I suppose it’s better than the alternative.
The sun is up, a new day has dawned, with or without my consent. The current moment is unmoored, drifting around as if a fluffy cumulus cloud, casting a shadow on my room.
The arrogance of time.
This reminds me that I sent my manuscript from the cloud to a publisher yesterday. Awe, now the insecurity bubble makes sense. It seems I’m always positioning myself for rejection. I’m sure that’s significant to a psychologist but for the life of me, I can’t fathom why.
The space beside me is empty, there’s a dent in the mattress, it’s definitive, and when I slip my leg in between the sheets I realize it’s still warm. A body was laying here, moments ago, in its own cocoon, but his rousing did not rouse me.
Which means the coffee might not be ready.
I don’t want to acknowledge the things that are indicative of time but they’re hard to ignore. The crispness of the cool morning air, the clock on the nightstand, the character of my skin.
“Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again,” says Katherine May.
Retirement means no alarm clocks, no jarred awakenings, no slipping into my work clothes, wrestling with a jumble of cars as I make my way to Notre Dame.
No students, no smiles, sassy co-workers, bells, whistles, or lesson plans. I remember when my carefully constructed lectures would be taken hostage by some current event and I’d just throw the plans out the window, prioritizing the edification of life. Oh, the good old days.
I stretch and only succeed in pulling a muscle in my left calf as I leap from the bed to pull it out, bent over as if a pretzel, frantically rubbing the knotted muscle. The blessings of a well-worn body.
Well, now I’m up.
Due to the harshness of the morning light coming through the window over the bathroom sink I brush my teeth with my eyes closed. I can hear the ducks squawking along the shore, the whine of fishing boats speeding across the lake, the lapping of the waves against the pillars of the old dock. I hear her groan with the unwarranted motion and I don’t know why but it makes me smile.
Not exactly helpful while brushing one’s teeth.
That’s the thing about retirement. I feel these waves of conflicting emotions lapping at my soul. As if I’ve been displaced, dare I say rejected, dispassionately reclassified. My understanding of what is and is not significant has been modified and I’m not adjusting well. Hence the resonance with the groaning dock.
It does occur to me that I should monitor which thoughts I decide to share or not on this blog but I’m on a roll.
Eventually, I emerge from my
womb room, shuffle down the dark hall, allowing the brightness of the great room to pull me into the light. Larry’s reading something on his computer, a cup of warm coffee is sitting on the windows ledge, the steam rising as if in slow motion.
I stand motionless. Taking it all in with my eyes. Deep breath. The beauty of the lake is staggering, it’s restorative. I feel hope rising up in me.
We have much to be grateful for, our health being the most important, but also the plethora of possibilities that retirement affords us. As the pandemic wanes we can travel again, get in a few more rides on the tandem, curl up with a good book and not feel guilty.
When we got married we silently agreed we would make living worthwhile for each other. Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible to do this without careers, vocations, and children to raise. Maybe retirement allows one to understand more deeply the dignity of all life because for the first time ever our value is not based on salaries, occupations, or some sort of perceived social status.
Maybe we need a new agreement.
Something that includes coffee, clemency, and the capacity to endure excessive amounts of unmitigated time…together. Baby steps.
Retirement is not a thing you just walk into as if Alice in Wonderland, expecting to arrive at your destination by walking aimlessly about.
Where exactly do I want to go?
I want to stay as close as possible to my purpose.
See, I still have this umbilical yearning for love and connection. It’s what pulls me out of bed and into life.
Larry moves up behind me and hands me a cup of steaming coffee.
I say, “Another day.”
He says, “Another day,” and leans in for a kiss.
I’m Living in the Gap, juggling the possibilities, how’s life going for you?