Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three days in

So far, I've learned that time has no shape. I thought it did when I was working. I left home at 7:30 a.m. and returned at 6:00 p.m. My time was defined during those hours. Now it isn't, except by the decisions I make.

I can't remember ever having time look like this, and it is very cool.

On Monday I started a new exercise class. One of my goals for the next year is to help build one Habitat for Humanity House in my community and one in the Gulf. I need to be fit, especially in my upper body, to do that. Plus, I believe it's "use it or lose it" with my body, and I intend to use it for as long as possible.

On Monday I also finished up a writing assignment I'd been putting off for a month. I needed two hours of time, and on Monday I had it.

On Tuesday I finished up the first module of my online ESL course. Again, it was a writing assignment that required a couple of hours.

Tomorrow we leave for a convention in San Antonio, where it will be hot and humid. I'm not nuts about humid, but I could use some warm. Here in the Pacific Northwest it's in the 60s most days so far, and the sun is out maybe an hour or two a day.

Today I paid the bills from my husband Art's checking account, for the first time in the nearly 20 years we have been together. It was simpler than breaking everything out and reconciling who owed who what, but it felt decidedly weird. When we got together I was adamant about being self-sufficient. Now we've made the decision together to live off his pensions for three years so I can collect a larger one when I'm 65. I guess I can make that change.

A couple of weeks ago I aggravated an old SI joint injury, and my back still hurts; I'm compensating with my how I walk so my right hip is bothering me too. It's like the universe is telling me to enjoy myself regardless of my physical circumstances. I can do that, too, though with a good deal of impatience to have the healing process hurry up!

And I am reading a lot. Books, mostly about community and social networks and how to live richly after retirement. On my Kindle I'm reading Voluntary Simplicity. Still waiting for later this afternoon are an issue of Budget Traveler and an issue of Sierra, both from last winter. I'm reading the new magazines as they come in, and the old ones in between. It is a feast!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Well, I did it! I took all my tasks for today from my online calendar except for the ones that had to be done. I'm working with a group of six women to compile an "abcdarium" on states of mind. Each of us chose letters and wrote a 300- to 500-word piece on a word beginning with that letter. The edits have to be to the compiler by Wednesday.

One of my letters is "V" and I chose vitality. I turned in the first draft in May and it was honestly critiqued by my group. I put off doing the edits until today, because I needed a chunk of time. Now I have the time!

Here's the current version of Vitality:

My favorite definition of vitality is “the power to live or grow”. I retired from work in June, and I’m thinking of it as a beginning of the next part of my life – one full of freedom and choices and vitality.

In the United States, the idea of the “golden years” of retirement was created after World War II to encourage older workers to leave the workplace to make room for younger workers returning from the war. Before that, people just worked until they physically couldn’t do the work, or died. For the last 50 years the idea of retirement – years of leisure after the end of a person’s work life – has come to be seen as a right. But that view of retirement is more about withdrawal or retreat, and less about continued engagement in the world. That’s not the kind of retirement I’m planning.

In the workplace I served my employer and its clients. My expertise grew with time and experience, but the limitations of office politics dulled my enthusiasm. During the last few years I’ve worked mainly for the money, the benefits and the pension, to prepare for a retirement full of freedom.

For me, ending my work life means opening up time to use in pursuit of my dreams and passions. I won’t just be sleeping late or playing golf or reading in a hammock. My plans include taking classes in mediation, teaching English as a second language, and learning to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I’ve learned that when I’m of service within my community and beyond, I’m engaged and excited about my life. I’m 61, but my mind is alert and active and curious. My body is healthy and strong. I see myself as a woman with vitality, and I’ll be able to apply my life experience – wisdom, flexibility and enthusiasm – to projects bigger than me. And, if I’m on a path that isn’t satisfying, I can choose a different path.

I’m looking at the next years of my life – with all its possibilities for greater vitality – through eyes of wonder.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The first day of the best of my life

When I woke up this morning, this video was running through my head. Going back to work on Monday, walking up the stairs, down the hall into my cubicle. With a sick, trapped feeling. Then it occurred to me I can replace the video, for now, with one of me sitting in the sun at the picnic table in front of the building, talking to a friend. That will work until the video fades and is replaced by other, more current scenes.

For years I've kept tasks for my to-do list on my electronic calendar, along with appointments and events that really have to be done. I read an article this week that suggested having no to-dos on a calendar unless they really have to be done that day. I'm going to do that, because the loaded up calendar creates a sense of urgency where one no longer exists. Amazing and wonderful!

I have an old friend, Shari, who's been retired for eight years now. She asked me recently why I always have to be so busy, why not slow down. Yesterday, I got through all the goodbye emails and hugs and walking out the door. But late in the afternoon the doorbell rang with a florist delivery. A mixed yellow and white bouquet of chrysanthemums, orchids and roses. The note read, "Linda, Happy Retirement! We wanted to help you kick-start your new life with a sun-shiney bouquet - as a symbol and reminder that now you'll have the time to stop and smell the flowers!" From Shari and her husband Bob.

That's when I finally cried. Thank you, old friend.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My goodbye email:

From: Linda Myers
Sent: Friday, June 25, 2010 10:41 AM
Subject: Thanks

To my colleagues:

Thank you all for your Friendship Fund gift. I bought a Kindle recently, and the gift card to Amazon will allow me to download books extravagantly. On our last trip - to Maui, in April - I took nine magazines and a book in my carry-on, and lifting that bag into the overhead bin was a challenge. On our next trip - to San Antonio, next week - I'll carry only my Kindle. Thanks also to my Application Development colleagues for the cash and the card. I'll buy espressos with that money. As I'm sitting in the sunshine at Starbucks on Monday morning, I'll remember you. Also, I promised myself I'd take a class in Flower Arranging for Dummies. Now that I've got the beautiful vase, I have no excuse to procrastinate.

I've been at WSIPC for 20 years. My goodness! How did that happen? I never expected to stay at one job for anywhere close to that long. But WSIPC is that kind of place. When I arrived in 1990, we were creating WISE. Now, in 85 more conversions, WISE will be gone. I've gathered requirements, created logical and physical designs, tested, documented and trained. And enhanced. And worked with clients to prepare for conversion - twice. Talk about the full product lifecycle!

Now it's time for the next part of my life. Travel, reading, writing, grandchildren, genealogy, volunteerism - or whatever the universe sends my way. Exciting and scary at the same time.

Bud, our pig, knows how to relax. I'll need to take some lessons from him.

My best to all of you and this place you call Work. Keep in touch!

Linda Granholm Myers

Hugs from Doug, Willy, Sally, Don, Jean, Beth and others.

When I got home, I saw that Art had put the flag out!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quiet day

Work was quiet today. I had lunch with a work friend. I finished up my assignments, cleaned out my desk, and deleted almost all my electronic existence off my workplace computer. I spoke to a few colleagues and gave hugs. Tomorrow morning will be a few more quick assignments, the rest of the computer cleanup, the unplugging of my keyboard and trackball to pack up, and a quiet last walk down the hall, down the stairs, through the lobby and out to the parking lot, where Art will be waiting to take me home.

I brought home the certificates that hung on the bulletin board behind my desk: Dynamic Facilitation Skills for Participative Leadership, Completion of Certificate Program in Software Product Management, JAD Facilitation, Defining & Validating Software Requirements. And a paper mache mask my younger son James made in the 7th grade as an art project (he's now 31).

And an essay I read often. I don't know who wrote it, but it's about happiness. The last lines are

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Work like you don't need money.
Love like you've never been hurt, and
Dance like no one's watching.

Art is going to patch the paper mache mask - it's a little worn after 20 years on a cubicle wall - and we'll hang it on the wall by my desk. James will probably be embarrassed to see I've kept it. Or maybe not.

It occurs to me that my workplace skills are transferrable in the wider world: facilitation, mediation, analysis, communication, training. I might be short changing myself if I decided not to use them at all, ever. So I'll remember how to do those things in case I need them again!

I'm a little nervous tonight. My back went out last week, and though it's getting better I decided against going to a restorative yoga class. Instead, I'm sitting in my quiet house thinking about writing - a solitary activity after 20 years in a cubicle. I think I'll feel more like myself when I've finished off tomorrow's four hours.

Tonight I'm waiting for tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I took my last sick leave day yesterday. In my absence, at a scheduled companywide meeting, I got paid tribute to by my director. Apparently my face was on a big screen for five or ten minutes. I'm so glad I wasn't there! I did get a printout of the tribute, which I'll keep. And a lovely glass Mikasa vase with an inscription: To Linda Myers/For 20 Years of Service to Children/WSIPC 1990 - 2010.

Today was the small lunch I'd requested - 13 colleagues, me and Art at The Tin Fish. Two cards with lots of signatures, a gift card to Amazon for Kindle downloads, cash collected from my department.

I work all day tomorrow and half a day on Friday. Then I'm done. Done!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm starting to say goodbye. Here's an email from work.

FROM: Linda Myers
SUBJECT: Last blood drive for me

Good morning.

In three minutes I leave my cube and spend 45 minutes in the Bloodmobile in our parking lot. I've been doing this for a few years now. It was scary the first time, and I still don't look at the needle or the blood. But over the years I've had family and friends who've needed transfusions, and it feels good to know I've helped out other people's family and friends in my small act of altruism.

There are still a few openings this morning. If you've been on the fence about giving blood, maybe today's the time to jump off and pay a visit to the Bloodmobile.

Today is the last day I'll walk to the parking lot. Take my place for next time, please.

Linda Myers

And one response:

I gave for the first time and read my book so it was ok. I guess next time I will think of you and know I am taking your place.

Debbie Johnson

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's not retirement. It's just not working at my career job any more, after next week. There are too many other possibilities for my life, and I'm ready to get started.

I made some schedule changes today. Moved a 40-hour class in basic mediation from August to November. Moved a four-day trip to Whistler from August to July. Reserved rooms at a water park resort instead of Disneyland. I could do all those things, because I'll no longer be bound by the number of vacation days taken and available. Such freedom!

I look at my calendar and see multiple trips - to San Antonio, Alaska, Maine, Italy, Utah and Mexico. When we're at home I see a daily commitment to an online ESL class. To nurturing the garden. To mowing our lawn instead of having a yard guy do it. To looking for the best self-publishing option for a piece I wrote in 2006 about returning with my husband Art to Vietnam in a journey of reconciliation and healing. To spending time with my grandchildren besides over long weekends. To reading and napping and chatting with neighbors.

Clearly, ending my career is not retiring from life. Anything but. I expect to be busier, more engaged in my life, now that it's so much more of my own choosing.

Earlier this year I spent time worrying about money, now that I won't be earning it. Somehow it's worked out, or it will. I think my Bag Lady fears grew from the grand expanse of the Unknown. What happens the first Monday after my worklife ends? Anything? Or everything?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm no longer saying I'm retiring in some number of days. Now it's a week from next Friday. And since I'm taking sick leave days on both Tuesdays, and vacation leave on the last afternoon, it's only seven and a half more days.

In a recent blog comment someone suggested I mark Friday the 25th with some kind of celebration. I thought it might be fun to take the ferry to the San Juan Islands, have a wonderful dinner and stay overnight in a B&B, coming home on Saturday.

I suggested this to my husband Art last night. I thought he'd say, "Whatever you want". But instead, he raised his eyebrows and look baffled. "Why?" he asked me.

"This is such a big deal after all these years of working," I said, without recalling until I finished my sentence that he retired on April 28 after over 40 years in the workforce and we had no such celebration.

Art was silent for a moment. I figured he was thinking about how to celebrate. Then he said, grinning, "We could put the flag out."

The flag. Memorial Day and Labor Day and July 4 our flag waves from its stand outside our bedroom window.

We stood in the kitchen with our arms around each other and laughed. And laughed some more.

Am I taking myself too seriously or what?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's been a little scary today. Sitting in my cube, thinking that my last day is two weeks from tomorrow, I realized I don't want to be there on June 25. I'm not wild about goodbyes, whether I'm leaving or someone else is. So I put in for four hours of vacation on that Friday afternoon. I'll take my carpool to work and then ask my husband Art to pick me up at noon, with my one last Xerox box of personal stuff. When my colleagues get back from lunch, I'll be gone.

This job has been a long one - 20 years - and mostly satisfying, except for the last few years. I won't miss having to ration my vacation days, or drive to work in the dark and come home in the dark during the winter months. And the workplace drama and all the rules made by somebody else.

But my time will be my own to fill, and at first it might be intimidating, even with the plans I've made.

The other scary part of the day was in getting my Social Security statement for the year and realizing that, having worked in a place for all these years where I didn't pay into Social Security, I'm not getting much out of Social Security! Our budget included only a small amount from Social Security, but the actual will be less than that. And even though the financial planner is reassuring, the Bag Lady is whispering, "I told you so."

Two weeks from tomorrow! It's really here. Oddly enough, my blood pressure is rising a bit as I think about July, with a short trip to San Antonio at the beginning and a weeklong one to Alaska at the end. And all those days in between. Freedom and fear. Jubilation and uncertainty.

Bring it on, I guess.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm taking a sick leave day today. Since my last day of work is two weeks from Friday, I want to use my three remaining days. I even told my manager I would be doing it. Shameless of me.

Today I'm living like I'm retired rather than like I have an extra day for catching up. I walked a couple of miles with my husband, read for an hour, put stain on one of my new Adirondack chairs, wandered in the yard inspecting the broccoli and the spinach and the neighbor's chickens and the humane squirrel trap on our front porch.

My mind is moving ahead already, thinking about my schedule once I'm not working - a commitment I've made to work on my online ESL class for at least an hour a day. To blog or write or query for an hour a day.

At first, I think I will be greedy to read. Like when I was a kid and then a teenager. Magazines and books and Kindle downloads and newspapers and other people's blogs. Filling myself up with the printed word. How wonderful!

For today, I'm going to take a nap instead.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

We've been watching The West Wing on DVDs for the last five months. Last night we saw the last two episodes of the last season. Today I feel sadness as I detach from these characters who've been in my living room most nights since January.

And I'm slowing down at work. I've finished up several Outlook tasks I do only once a month and then roll to the next month's date. This time I sent an explanatory email to my colleagues and deleted the task from Outlook.

And I'm slowing down at home. I have these "ought to dos", but when I have extra time I want to read or nap instead. Which I'm allowing myself.

I realize I'll miss the work community, but no one person in particular. And I won't miss the current work climate at all.

However, the thought has flashed through my mind more than once in the last day or so, "Where will I belong after June 25?"

One of my blog readers' comments was that the next few weeks will fly by and then things will come to a standstill. With all my plans for my post-work life, I didn't get it. I do now, though. I still have a bunch of plans. But where will I belong?

My older son has a current crisis - common for him - and part of me wants to leap in, since I'll have more time available. But I don't do that much any more. I may be able to give his daughters, my granddaughters, some support. But that's it.

Where will I belong?

This is not comfortable. But I suspect it's normal.