I retired officially, in December 2015. In the past year I have learned a few things about myself.
1. My Social Security check ain’t enough.
Well, duh. I knew that going in. I knew I would have to find something part-time to bridge the gap. My SS check covers the bills. The bills that come every month no matter what, the bills that must be paid if I want to avoid living under a bridge. But, as we all know, there are ALWAYS other things that must be paid for. Tires. Car repairs. Art supplies. Books.
2: I love being at home. All the time.
I have a quiet, peaceful little life. The more time I spend on my own, with just my cats for company, the better I like it. I dread going to the grocery store, but look forward to time spent at the library. Eventually, I realized a part-time job might be a good idea if I didn’t want to end up a caricature of the anti-social “old cat lady.”
- I love winter…now that I don’t have to drive in it.
My new part-time job is going to be tricky this year, because I am still adamant about not going out in icy weather. The chance of wrecking the car and injuring myself is NOT worth any job. I had to do it before; I don’t now. Last year, I stayed home in January and February. I watched it snow, heard sleet on the roof, listened to the winter birds call. I drank a lot of hot tea, read a lot of books, did some drawing, hand sewing, watched Netflix (my new guilty pleasure) and petted my cats. They spent hours in my lap, purring while I nursed my tea and watched The Walking Dead. I still got out and walked every day, but I waited for the temperature to rise to 40.
- Relaxation training.
I don’t actually know how to relax, apparently. I find myself getting anxious for no reason. I flit from one project to another, frantically trying to find the one that will SELL. If I wake up and there is light coming through the windows I panic, thinking I’m late. If I’m sitting on the deck, watching the birds on the trees, I’m good for about 5 minutes. Then I start fretting, thinking I should be doing some mending, or drawing, or reading…something productive. Something I can SELL. I get up and make myself sit back down, force myself to continue to watch the birds and BREATHE. Relaxation depends a lot on breathing, I’ve learned. I finally figured out that a lifetime of poverty has trained me to worry about money. Not relax. And I think constantly about what’s going to happen to take away my new freedom. I hold my breath every time I get in the car, hoping it will start. Actually, I find myself holding my breath while I’m driving anywhere, fearful that someone will run into me, wreck the car and a new financial apocalypse will be upon me. This is not a joke.
- I love playing.
I’ve wanted to experiment with so many art forms, all my life, but there never seemed to be enough time, or money. Since I retired, I have spent embarrassing amounts of money on art supplies and books. (Which has added to my anxiety about money. See above.) Instead of working on things that I’m pretty sure will sell, I’ve been playing. I spent time with Papier Mache. It’s a great medium, but it gets so humid here in the late summer that drying things, and KEEPING them dry, is a challenge. I played with shrink plastic-another fun medium and I made some interesting, lovely jewelry. I may keep working with that, but I just wanted to experiment with other stuff, so I have a lot of jewelry and bits and piece of projects sitting in my little plastic bins until I’m ready to get back to them. Now I’m knee deep in polymer clay. I’ve messed around with this off and on forever, but now I’m doing more than ever before. Still nothing to sell… My brain is turning over ideas and designs when I should be falling off to sleep at night so that’s a good sign.
- I am not drawing like I should be. Or writing.
These two activities have sustained me all my life. What is with the sudden lack of activity in the two things that I love most? I think (hope) it’s because I have time I never had before. Poverty is still with me, and I doubt seriously that will ever change, but time…time has become something entirely new to me. I’m still not used to it. Suddenly I’m not on deadline. I don’t have to get this or that done in the next hour. My hours are my own. I’m off the leash. I’m wildly running through tall grass, leaping at butterflies. Every time I set myself a schedule a little part of me says..I don’t want to!
Maybe all this freedom has scared me. All these years I’ve been convinced if I had the time I could make something, or write something, that would provide me with a living. Well, here it is! And still I run through the tall grass and leap at butterflies. I know me, and success was never in the cards. I never believed I would succeed at anything and I’ve been right. Yeah, probably more than a little self-sabotage going on there, and now is the time to rectify that. But I‘m still running and leaping. So instead of doing the 2 things I know I can do I’m playing with everything else. Is that a good thing or a self-sabotage thing? I honestly don’t know. I could make arguments for either opinion.
I struggle with anxiety every day. I have trouble with my entire digestive process. This is what goes first with me when I’m upset, anxious. There are days I can’t swallow. Some days, EVERYTHING gives me heartburn or sits in my stomach like a brick. I have trouble swallowing WATER. It has eased off some since I took this part-time job. I’m starting a fund for another car. Until then, I still hold my breath and hope the car will start, or that it won’t suddenly STOP while I’m driving. I hope it will get me to work and back home. I guess that’s the last big problem. For someone who is poor, a decent car is a huge problem, so don’t sniff and say, “is that all you have to worry about?” I’ve got plenty of other stuff to worry about…swallowing, for one.
In the meantime, I’m reading. And reading. And reading. I’m reading Val McDermid and Elizabeth George crime thrillers…and slowly making my way through The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich. I am! I’m reading for hours sometimes. Oh, that’s truly liberating.
I’m watching all the movies I ever wanted to watch. Yes, I have a list of books and movies and I’m slowly checking them off. I’m watching Netflix. I’m relieved to know the term “binge watching” wasn’t invented just for me. Hey, I’m retired. I can binge watch without guilt…it’s part of my relaxation training.
And I am making art. I know, I know, not as much as I should.. I found these chairs ages ago and recently came across a small table that fit perfectly between them. SO, after weeks and weeks of cleaning and sanding and cleaning and more sanding I started to draw. I call it my “bistro set.” There should be better pictures of this, and as soon as I can afford them, I’ll replace these. But look, I’m making art!