I was so delighted by all that sunshine this morning. All the heaviness fell off my body. It helped too that I had a healthy dose of sleep last night – almost nine hours. AND the fact that I’m not that mouse on the tread wheel screaming: I have to fix it! I have to fix it! Yesterday, I gave myself permission to languish prn. Prn comes from the Latin ‘pro re nata’ meaning when necessary.
It’s the nurse in me coming out, though I am no longer a nurse. I’ve hung up my cap and taken off my duty shoes. Old memories are still alive and kicking around somewhere in my body and soul. The memories are ok. Some are good. Some are not but they all can stay. They all contributed to the sum total of who I am today. It is time to let go of the duty part though. It is always the right thing to help one another if I can. It is not my duty to fix anything, anyone or even myself. Just listen and let be. I have to knock the duty part off and have a happy retirement like my cake says.
It’s taken me a frigging long time to arrive here – 6 years post retirement. I’m not complaining. I’m marvelling. It’s been such an interesting journey. I’m feeling the lightness and weightlessness after dropping some self-taken burdens. What a dork! I could kick myself around the block but I won’t. I know we all have moments like these. We don’t know what we don’t know. We will when we’re ready.
Happy Thursday. Now I have to take Sheba around a few blocks, a happy self-imposed duty.
Sunday morning I heard and saw my spruce trees whispered to me as I stood by the window. A feeling of calm and knowing came over me. Everything is going to be alright. The message became clearer later when I was watching Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. She was interviewing Shauna Niequist on her new book, Present Over Perfect. While I got over being impressed by Shauna in a hurry, her one sentence stayed with me. ‘Listen to your life.’
I have not been listening. I felt the danger of listening and hearing. I would then have to act on what it is that I’m hearing from me. There’s always this urge to run and run fast, stick my head under the pillow, put my fingers in my ears and go lalalalala! Catch me when you can. I think I’ve been caught. I don’t feel trapped. I’ve finally stop running. That is all. I’m out of breath, exhausted by my efforts. It doesn’t work anyways. Underneath the ignored knowing is all that unease fighting to get out.
I’ve been feeling all the fatigue, the aches and pains of futile efforts in this part of the year. Maybe it is January. Maybe it’s my SAD. Today I’ve given up and in to the struggle. I don’t have to keep a stiff upper lip. I am not British after all. I am allowing all my feelings their freedom. They have a right to be heard. All the emotions – sad, glad, mad, every shade, are part of the human equation. I suppose we all feel a sense of shame and failure when we can’t live up to our own expectations. I know I do.
Today I’m takings off my Wonder Woman costume. I’m tired of leaping over tall buildings and holding up the world. My shoulders are sore. My tiara and boots need polishing. My lasso needs repairing. I’m not young anymore either. There’s grey in my hair and crow’s feet around my eyes. I need to hang up my rescue gear alongside the nurse’s duty shoes. I need to rest in the retirement of my careers. Drop all that busyness of distraction. Listen to the spruce trees talk. Hear what my life is telling me. Rest in the nothing of the day. There is nothing that I have to do and nowhere that I have to go. I can hear the sound of my one hand clapping. It is my life calling.
Love After Love
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
I mumble mostly about the mundanes of my extraordinary ordinary life. I’m starting to feel I’m a very boring person with a boring life. I’m repeating the same stories over and over. I’m not doodling the same old, same old YET while I’m telling the stories. I’m thinking of an orderly I used to work with who did that. He got dementia after he retired. I’ve been retired for five years now.
I’m happy about the retirement part. Thank God that I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. Thank God that I don’t have to work a 12 hour night. Thank God that I don’t have to save lives anymore. I sound callous, don’t I? Maybe I am in this moment. It’s a very cloudy September day. And now it is really snowing. I feel ever so sleepy and zapped of energy. I want to close my eyes, sit or lay down every minute of today. I’m remembering having to work for a living whilst feeling thus.
I’m feeling grateful that I don’t have to put on a front anymore. I’m feeling grateful that I don’t have to put my best foot forward or outward. I can stay home and let everything hang out. BUT I’ve roused myself out of sleepiness and have made a run at the lunch dishes. And DONE. Sometimes I like a vacation from myself. I sound pathetic, don’t I? Though my motto is to leave some hope and possible solutions on the page, I don’t always succeed.
But let me think and try to fulfill that part of my mission. I’m not feeling and performing my best but I know that could be a part of my SAD. Feelings are not always indictive of truths. I could be grasping for excuses but I am feeling and doing much better underneath all this crap. I am not feeling weighed down with things left undone. I’ve been tending to everyday life. There’s bravery in shouldering and resolving those icky, boring facts of life.
Alas, I’m getting sleepy again. I must get up and stretch a little. My brain is not functioning on all cylinders. I have been idling too long. I must move on to another task.
I was never one of the nurses who counted down the years, months, weeks, days, hours, the minutes till retirement. I think I must have loved my job. If it was so intolerable that I have to do the counting, I am sure I would have quit and found another job. I hit such a critical point early in my career. After suffering enough doctor and head nurse abuse, I quit right then without another backup job. I was never afraid of not finding work.
Nursing must be was what I was supposed to do for I found myself back in it not long after. I was aghast. I thought it was not where I want to be again. I never thought of myself being the ministering angel. I was definitely not the lady with the lamp type. I entered the profession solely to help me develop confidence with people. I was a shy timid wallflower. What better job than being a nurse in a hospital?
I think I fulfilled my goal of gaining confidence. My second job in nursing was in a large university teaching hospital with many departments and people. I got some backbone and learned to deepen my voice. I tried to cut out my squeaky ‘excuse me(s) after being told by a kindly resident. “For heaven’s sake, Lily, speak up and don’t say excuse me,” he chided. “Be more assertive!” With time I became that. I was not quite as tough as nails but neither was I soft as marshmallows.
Over the years, I must have turned Florence like. Once upon a time, I had hoped to regale stories from my years upon retirement. But to my dismay when the time came, I held no memories nor the desire to recall them. They were all bad.I was in full anxiety. Now some time has passed and so too, my PTSD. Yup, it’s my own diagnosis of my post retirement predicament. Well, I am/was a nurse. I know or should know the symptons.
A few pleasant memories are seeping back. I don’t need to feel tough as nails anymore. I’m hoping to feel soft as a marshmallow. I remember some of the reasons why I stayed in the profession. It is the soft whispers of the patients in the night. “Thank you.” ” You have such a gentle touch.” I go from bed to bed and room to room with my torch. I bend over a bed. I straighten a blanket. I fluff a pillow. In the dark, a voice asked me, “Did your mother ever tell you how pretty you are?”
How could I not love that? I melt like a marshmallow.
Sheba was right on the money this morning. 6:05 am was when I felt her cold wet nose, followed by her little snort. It was still pitch black. But I love that part of the day when Preston Avenue was still asleep. No continuous ribbon of cars and only a few foot traffic.
I’m learning to leave my electronics asleep for awhile, indulging myself turning a few pages of written words. Once I start scrolling, one thing would lead to another. The minutes and then the hours would go by. My head and mind stirred and messed up with bad and/or useless information. Instead, these mornings I am reading Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise, a Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. It is not an easy read. I can only do a few pages at a time. Now I might have to leave it for a few days.
He didn’t tell me anything that I did not know before. What it did was to take me right back to the workplace I have left 4 years ago. The scenes and talks were so familiar. I know he is coming from an authentic place. He has given a voice to those things and feelings that I’ve experienced and breathed for years but couldn’t articulate. I am grateful for that identification. It will help me ‘get over’ and heal from my ‘anxiety’ or ‘trauma’. The book is aptly named. It is a manifesto for sanity and soul. I believe that my anxiety was from the denial of all the feelings I’ve witnessed and experienced in the hallowed halls of the Hospital. But how else could I have carried on working without the denial?
These things were never talked about that I could remember. Yes, there was a Health Office but that was mostly where you report to after you’ve been off sick. It was like the Prinicpal’s Office. Most of the time I felt like a truant child, not deserving but abusing. Health care was for patients only. But then this was my experience. I don’t know about others. We don’t talk about it much. It was the same way with after retirement. I don’t hear about how others fare. I just hear about the travelling. That’s what I hear the most. Are you going to travel? I felt obligated to travel just because I am retired.
What happened to me was I fell apart. Or that’s what it felt like. Oh, I did some travelling. I was busy most if not all the time. I wasn’t just sitting around having a nervous breakdown. I always took pride in being very functional, no matter what. No one probably knew I was having difficulties except maybe the person living with me. Sheba probably did. She had her own anxiety attacks. They were probably from me. She cushioned me by absorbing some of it. She is my best friend.
I am so lucky to have arrive in this space and time. I can now sit and stay with my feelings without jumping out of my skin. I can acknowledge the good, bad and the ugly. I can sit and read Die Wise – if only a few pages at a time.
Here it is, another hot summer day, something we all yearn for in winter. Here I am, in retirement in summer – one year and a week. If you are expecting me to crow or gloat about it, you will have to wait a long, long time. You can retire from a job, but you can’t retire from life.
The same applies to summer and vacations. You still have to do the breathing and eating thing. You still have to go to the bathroom. Sheba still sheds her hair all over the house. Meals have to be made, dishes to do. Then there’s laundry and the floor to vacuum. It’s no vacation at all. I have never deluded myself on that one!
I’m sweaty and cranky. My eyes feel crossed and stuck to the back of their sockets. I suspect I am a little difficult to live with. But the dishes are done, the floor vacuumed and a load of laundry out to dry. At last I’m sitting here, tapping out my words. What story do I have to tell?
Things are never what they seem. It is often more complicated than you planned and always take longer than you think. You just never know what turn your life will take.
I remember the time I went downtown to buy a broom and dustpan. I walked by Sound City and went in just to look. I came home with a Magnavox cabinet stereo and a portable TV. I had just started my very first real job at the Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs. I didn’t have any money but the store was quite happy to do the financing.
I did get my broom and dustpan that I set out for. Later, I learned about the high interest I was paying on the TV and stereo and took out a loan from the bank to pay off Sound City. My impulsiveness did not stop with electronics. A little while later, I saw an ad in the paper about ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray’s. I phoned for an appointment to check it out.
I came out of Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio a few days later, having signed on the dotted line for x number of lessons. I signed a few more times after that, ending with a certificate saying I had completed the Bronze Program. I did not have the money. It was just shortly after my electronics purchase. Again, it was not a problem. They happily put me on the monthly payment plan.
It may have been foolish of me to have spent the money, for it was not small. But dancing was one of those things I had always wanted to learn. I never went to any school dances after Grade 8. I felt out of place in our small town so didn’t go to town hall dances either. Arthur Murray was worth every penny I spent there.
I fell in love with all my instructors. I felt like Ginger Rogers dancing with them. I did not enjoy dancing with my fellow students that much. They were clumsy like me! I unloaded my roommate problems on Mr. Woodhouse. The problems were bad and she had mental health problems, but that’s another story.
Mr. Woodhouse was very British and patient, had a willing ear and a good sense of humour. I went ga-ga over Mr. McDonald. I don’t think there was much talking on my part. I was probably demure and love sick. Alan was like a brother. He convinced me to participate in a dance competition. I was reluctant but gave in. We tangoed to Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina. It was a good experience which meant we didn’t win any ribbons.
I had no regrets over my electronic and Arthur Murray spending. I was young and trying out my wings. That was the proper time to fly and be a little daring. If I faltered, I had time to recover.
I think retirement has been good for me. A year later, I am standing slightly straighter, my smile more relaxed, albeit goofy. I’m working on being natural and ‘me’. My vegetable beds look awesome, don’t they? I’m slowly excavating and recovering the lost parts of myself – my core, my hard drive.
I wonder if I have been suffering from what they call ‘compassion burn out’. I do not miss work at all nor have any desire to revisit my place of employment of 34 some years. It is strange and troubles me sometimes. Does my work have so little meaning? I feel cynical and sarcastic at different times.
I thought I would be tapping out story after story of my life as a nurse. There were many stories over the years, some funny, some not. You could count on plenty of drama. There was always plenty of poop if not blood and gore. My blog was set up, BUT the words and stories were slow to come. My memory went blank. My mind fled the scene.
Now the blog sits abandoned like an unfinished house, waiting for the contractor to return. Its few posts are still standing, bravely holding the space till the once-upon-a- nurse returns to tell her tales. Will she? Can she – recover her nursing cap and pin? Can her fingers tap out the medical history? Only time can tell.
Meanwhile she is busy clear cutting the under/over growth of her life. Woolly and wild things can take over when you are busy slinging bedpans and saving lives. Now the weeds are being machete-ed. There are clearings in her forest. She can breathe. She can almost think again. She has resuscitated herself.
The bread is rising, the flowers are blooming, the guy is tinkering in the garage. Sheba is keeping a close eye on him.
You’ve made it to retirement and if you think you can just fall back into life again, guess again!
It’s not that easy. The life you once knew is no more. For one thing, you’ve grown up. No, you’ve grown old – pensionable and pensioned. You can no longer fit into a size 5, 7, or 9. Even a 10 is stretching it. Now you are breathless just bending over to tie up your boot laces. What the hell happened here?
What happened to all my plans that I saved up for ‘when I retire’? Not that I am bored with nothing to do. I have too much to do but don’t know how to do it. The world I knew has changed and I am hanging from the ledge.
Deep breath now. Relax. Remember that you are probably not alone. You have the tools. You have the words. You can write your own script. This life is but a dream and you are the dreamer. So dream the life that is meant for you. Be brave. Be daring. You are already on the ledge. Be vulnerable. Be true. Be you.
It seems surprising to me that when so many of us look towards ‘retirement’ as an answer to everything, a lot of us are also so afraid of it.
My hairdresser thought I was too young and worried for me. She liked being at work more than being at home.
She is not alone. Many of us enjoy being at work more. We cry for freedom but we also love having schedules made for us. We know exactly what we are suppose to be doing all day long, including when we eat. Freelancing and winging it on your own could be scary.
I was never one of those who counted down to the months, days and hours to being finally free, whatever that means. I was never one who worry about things to do, places to go, etc. But. I did worry about who I was going to be and who had I been all these years.
How am I doing? Well, I’m in my 3rd month. I haven’t traveled the whole wide world yet. I haven’t made a ton of new friends, not even a one, though have met some new people. I haven’t discovered any new burning desires. Haven’t won the lottery, or anything. All this does make me feel somewhat of a ‘failure’ at retirement. Somehow I feel that one should be out there burning up one’s bridges.
Oh well, I am always bigger in my own mind than I really am! But I have been getting 8 hours of sleep almost every night. I am enjoying the lovely autumn on our daily morning bike rides with Sheba. I am working out my quirks. I am enjoying life.
Do you have days when you hear a song over and over in your head? Today, I am hearing Willie Nelson’s To all the girls I’ve loved before. I’m singing and singing it to myself over and over. Perhaps I need to love myself again…all those fractured splinters of my being, past and present.
How did I arrive here at this particular moment? Who am I right now? And where was I all this time, these 63 years? They say that life is short but I don’t think so. In these 63 years, I have traveled from the distant shores of Asia to a small town in the province of Saskatchewan in the northern country of Canada. I have known the time before electricity in my home village in China. I saw the first electric light bulb, dancing nakedly from the ceiling of a hotel in Canton when I was 6.
How fast the years sped by, just like a slide show! First, there was grade one. I did not even speak English then. When I had to go to the bathroom, I just got up and went. How do you ask permission when you don’t know how? Good thing I knew where the bathroom was. Oh, the things that lingered on in our memories!
Here I am today at 63, sitting in the comfort of my sun room. There is electricity. There is running water. There is WiFi. There is iPhone. There is Candy Crush Saga. Do you know that you can give Life there? I am tap tapping away at my keyboard, wondering about the how of all these things.
The slideshow plays again. I am 16. How young and dreamy-eyed I look. And look at those earrings! They look good enough to eat. Another slide forward and it is grade 12 graduation. The girls are all dressed in their long gowns and white gloves. Our hair are coiffed by hairdressers in Lloyminister, a city some 30 miles away. We are feeling so grown up and important, not realizing that we were still very much wet behind the ears.
The years passed. I went to university. I dropped out of university. I went to business college and became a secretary, much to the disappointment of my public school principal. Then I got fired from my first job, just before Christmas. I cried all the way as I drove home. The shame of it. What was I to do, if they didn’t give me work to do. I answered the phone but how many calls are there to a broiler company? I was bored with making coffee and getting donuts for the few employees there was. So I sat there, smoking and blowing smoke rings. Then, I answered the phone call….from someone for my job. THAT’S how I knew.
But under every cloud there’s a silver lining. I got a better job in a big office with a bigger salary. But I got bored after a couple of years. I got tired of being ‘cute’ and unable to advance to a higher level. I wanted to an executive secretary, have my own office and sit in on meetings and take minutes. Was that too much to ask? Apparently it was. I was just too cute and had no commanding presence.
The projector of life moves again. The slide show stops and I am a nurse and in my late 20s, 30s, 40s…..Yikes! Now I am in my 60s. This leg of my journey has been long and it is done. I have to cake to prove it.
I have many stories to tell once I am rested up. There are many stories in Bedpan Alley. You can mosey over to: http://soyoucallyourselfanurse.wordpress.com/ if you are curious. It is just up and still in construction with just my About page.