"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, August 31, 2015

Day One


Walt is back on the clock today. My work friends have been on the clock since last week. Kids start back to school tomorrow or Wednesday.

The summer has been long, relaxed, full of small adventures. Hikes. Friends. Family. New sights. Reading on the patio while warm breezes and Toby play around me. Everything one could hope for in a summer. And it's over now. Even the weather has gone from summer to fall overnight.

All summer I've answered the question, "How does it feel to be retired?", with "It's summer. My retirement hasn't really started yet."

Today is the day. I am retired. I am not losing sleep over whether I'm ready for kids tomorrow. I haven't spent the last two weeks setting up a classroom, sitting in meetings, shopping for sticky notes and new read alouds and cool borders. I don't have a new first day dress. I'm not dreading open house tonight, and I'm not excited either to see old friends and meet new ones. I'm not exhausted already, with all of summer's accumulated healing and energy lost in the frustration of facing moment by moment so much wrong I have no way to right.

I. Am. Retired.

I am in charge of my life in a way I've never been before. My choices are limited only by my imagination and my energy and the resources at hand. The list of possibilities is long. I don't know where to start. What do I want the most?

All summer my seventeen year old self has been close by. She was driven to college around this time of year to begin her freshman year. Her parents were in the front seat of the family Rambler station wagon, and she was crammed in the back with her three teen-aged brothers, as they had been for every outing of her childhood. She sat next to the window in deference to her frequent car sickness, watching the known world slip away.

It was not a happy occasion. The tension was thick as the cigarette smoke from her mom's Pall Malls. Mom and Dad had expected her to go to a community college and live at home. Her high school counselor (who just happened to be the mom of her best friend) helped her get admitted to and scholarships for this small private college a couple of hours away from her home. All summer she'd lived with her parents' stony silent anger, every preparation for going away poisoned by her betrayal of her parents' wishes.

She was both terrified and thrilled as they pulled in front of her dorm. So eager to be away from her family and the pain and shame, and to begin her new life. A new life in which she was certain she'd prove herself to be a strong and capable adult. She believed her family was just as happy to be rid of her, and it wasn't until this summer that it occurred to me that Mom might have been sad to leave her only daughter. Might have been afraid for her.

As it turns out, those fears were justified. Seventeen. Small town. Farm girl. Sheltered in that way of families who don't want the world to know their business. Smart, but completely unprepared for the choices and freedoms she faced. Refusing to ask for help, because that meant weakness, and she had much to prove.

All summer that scared seventeen year old has worried about today.

Of course today is very different from that day 46 years ago. I am not running away from anything, and I'm not needing to prove anything. I don't feel alone. Or afraid.

I do feel  - what? Grateful. Deeply grateful. Overwhelmed - where do I start? A little at sea - the choices swirling and crowding, making a clear path impossible to see. And so I start where I know for certain I will find myself and answers, by putting words on the page. I start by keeping my promise to myself - I will write my way into my future, with no expectation beyond the magic that has always been there when meaning reveals itself in those words.

Day one. I am retired. I am happy. I am blessed. I am.

14 comments:

yaya said...

Enjoy your new phase in life! I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures. Your words will bring it to life! 3/12 years is my retirement plan...not that I'm counting down the days!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

And I am jealous, but I wish you peace, joy and lots of adventure. :)

DJan said...

You are definitely blessed. And in knowing you, I am, too. Looking forward to our gathering next month, dear Vashonista! :-)

kario said...

Lovely. Happy retirement, Deb! You have waited long for this and I know you will spend every minute deliberately and passionately and with gratitude. Can't wait to read all about it.

Richard Hughes said...

Yes, it's good to be retired.

Rian said...

Deb, let me say, "Congratulations"! And welcome to the world of *freedom*... where your time is your own (for the most part). So do enjoy!

Barb said...

I know that you're still that 17 year old, Deb, but you're also the woman molded by her experiences. I want to say, "Sweet!" because I'm excited for you. Retirement just means (hopefully) further growth, but I think the growth is more self-directed. You are less at the whims and schedules of others. I look forward to knowing the person who emerges during retirement. Hugs from CO.

Barb said...

I know that you're still that 17 year old, Deb, but you're also the woman molded by her experiences. I want to say, "Sweet!" because I'm excited for you. Retirement just means (hopefully) further growth, but I think the growth is more self-directed. You are less at the whims and schedules of others. I look forward to knowing the person who emerges during retirement. Hugs from CO.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Congratulations on your now-official retirement! There is no wrong way to begin. You don't have to do the Most Important Thing first. But writing is always helpful, and I look forward to reading about this new stage in your life. I wish you tons of happiness!

Linda Reeder said...

Oh yes! For me that Day 1 was ten years ago already, but it was the most wonderful transition in my life.
I see myself in your words once again, from going away to school at just barely 18 to those challenges of teaching, to taking this big step into retirement.
Welcome to your most wonderful new life!

Terri Tiffany said...

Awesome!! So happy for you and I LOVED this post. You stirred my own memories of my first trip to college a few hours from my home. Like you, I was eager to begin my own life away from my parents.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself when you put words to the page. I love all that you write. Though retired long ago due to poor health I still have moments when I miss the joy and excitement around the pupils who helped me to see their world as I tried to give them tools for learning for themselves. Each day brings something new. Will all the days be numbered from this day on? Day I has happened. Enjoy what follows.

Mark Lyons said...

YES...you are!!

We love you

Mark and Max

Sandi said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your exuberance regarding "Day One". The day I chose was a bit different (I think it was Aug 26 for my district) but I felt an incredible sense of rightness all day that day - and wrote also - just haven't gotten around to blogging quite yet! Hurray for being here in this space in our lives!