Friday, March 02, 2012


A week ago today, Feb. 24, was a significant day for the two men who I have loved: my ex-husband Jim turned 70, and my beloved Tony retired.

Those are big steps.

Jim, I'm glad to report, had just come back from an extended trip through the Deep South with his wonderful wife Susan, and seems to be thriving and happy. I am lucky in that our divorce was fairly simple and that we remain friends. His wife was one of my students long, long ago when I taught high school in a little rural Missouri town. She attended the college where we worked, and we had some infrequent contact through the years. Several years ago she'd contacted Jim to see where I was, and they ended up dating and falling in love, and they married a few years ago. That makes me very happy.

Tony has been thinking of retirement for a long time, and it has been discussed, delayed several times for various reasons, and the timing debated for more than a year. Last Friday finally arrived, and he was given a good sendoff by his colleagues -- and he found it more emotional than expected. He has worked at a corporate job since he was 20 years old. As he likes to say, that was longer than the space shuttle flew, and it's now retired too.

So it's a new stage then in our lives, this state of not-working-for-a-paycheck.  None too soon, either: both of us have discovered some health glitches that require some attention and focus, and some redirecting of our habits.

I expect that wrapping our heads around this will take time. I know that years ago when I left an extremely stressful job and moved to another state with my family that it took me about a year to thaw, and some very deliberate behavior-modification too: I remember making myself sit on the back deck swing for 10 minutes every day and just watch the squirrels and birds playing in the greenbelt. Eventually it worked. But I came out of that a changed person.

Our job now, as I see it, is to certainly take care of the routine things like cleaning, finances, property maintenance, and going through the old files and books that were part of our past jobs to sort, pitch, and give away what no longer isneeded.

But it is also to cultivate the spirit that we've neglected or not had time for: the fun-loving, adventurous, knowledge-seeking, creative inner self that we know is there, wanting to come out and play after all the years of being an adult.

And our job is also to make it happen sooner rather than later. We do not know how long we will live: few of us know that, ever. But there are enough stories about people who get unexpectedly dire diagnoses or who die in accidents to make us want to make our moments meaningful and full of the life we want to live. Our health glitches only make that clearer.

For a long time we have tried to live one day at a time. Truly now our restrictions are only those we impose on ourselves, and it is up to us to choose how to live each day of our lives, for the rest of our lives, as long as we can do that. It is a time for second chances and new beginnings, once again.

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