Sunday, July 29, 2012

Putting Things Off

I'm not usually a procrastinator. My to-do list keeps me on task most days, and I can't think of anything that needs to be done that's clearly important.

Then there are the other things. They are important, but not in the short term. So it's easy for me to put them off.

For example, I want to get our book into the independent bookstores for the weeks preceding Veterans Day in November. That means I need to develop a media sheet and a 30-second pitch, then go around to the bookstores (four, so far, in the Seattle area) and talk to the managers. I have been thinking about these activities for over a month, but just yesterday finally put together the first draft of the media sheet. It took me a couple of hours. I know my book, and I'm pretty sure I know my audience, but I'm not a marketer. When I think about this phase of publishing, I want to curl up in the fetal position. That's why I've put it off for so long.

Here's another one. I'm reading a book called Master Class. The author interviewed older people who are leading vital, active lives - his group consisted of people who have participated in Road Scholar travel and learning activities - and "reverse engineered" what they told him, to develop a strategy for the rest of us. How do we stay active, enthusiastic and fulfilled in our retirement years? He came up with a combination of four factors: socialization, moving, creating, and thinking. There's a grid in the book where you can list the things you do, assign them values for each of the four factors, assess where you're not involved, and find ways to become more active in those areas.

For me, surprisingly, my lowest score comes in "movement". Now, I do participate in exercise classes every weekday morning. At least that's what my calendar tells me. But I actually only went to the class three days last week. I was out of town on Monday and Tuesday and I was mediating on Thursday. I know I need to make up for those days - either in the afternoon, if I'm home, or on the weekend. That's when I procrastinate. I've only made up one of those days. And I absolutely know that exercise is vital for my continued health. It's almost like scheduling the exercise makes it so. Not!

My second lowest score is in creativity, which is no surprise at all. Other than writing, I do nothing in that area. I used to sing in choral groups, play handbells, and crochet. That was years ago, though. I gave them all up in the 80s when I divorced, became a single mom and moved to a new city. I tell myself I can get back to them all, but I don't. And I absolutely know, again, that creativity is important. When I think about taking up something new - watercolors or sketching or flower arranging or quilting, for example, come to mind - I either roll my eyes in boredom or prepare to take the fetal position.

The socializing and thinking are fine on my grid. Socializing usually comes along as it needs to, and thinking is my retreat.

So what is this procrastination thing? I've been very active and involved for the last two years. Is it because I've done the easy stuff already?

Today I'd really like to lie on the couch and read magazines - I have about 30 in the basket. But I'm going to walk a couple of miles in the sunshine instead. And develop the design for the book's business cards and bookmarks.

The fetal position looks awfully good, though.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Week of the Granddaughters

They're 12. They're twins. They've been here since camp ended last Saturday. We drive 380 miles tomorrow to take them home - from Seattle to southern Oregon.

We've been to the community pool twice. The library three times. To Fred Meyer for flip-flops. To the pizza place and the pho place and the grocery store. They've read six books apiece and spent two hours a day each on the computer. We've done laundry twice. Picked raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and peas every day. Had ice cream three times and corn four times. They learned to make smoothies and quesadillas. They went to the optometrist where one found out she needs different lenses for the glasses she got last year, and the other found out she doesn't need glasses at all (she's disappointed). They found out they like pita bread for sandwiches. Yesterday we took a field trip to a hedge maze.

We listened a lot. They have an annoying little brother and parents who want them to do chores "all the time". Sounds like a normal family to me!

The grandparents are sleeping very, very well at night. The girls get up at around 9:30, so grandparents have a little time in the morning before they get up, and again after they're in bed at 10. I tell them they can read all night if they want to. I have no idea what time they actually turn off the light and go to sleep, and that's okay with me.

Ah, summer!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thoughts from a former minion

Five weeks after my husband Art's total knee replacement, we are almost back to our normal lives. He can't drive yet - probably will be given that permission when he sees his surgeon on Friday - but he is getting rides to most of his regular places, especially the early-morning ones. I watch him overdoing it and then paying the consequences, but I leave it alone. It's his recovery, after all. He has reduced his need for pain meds - only a couple of low-dosage pills a day now - and returned to our senior exercise class on Monday.

We've had house guests for the last two weeks. We have a daylight basement with a bedroom, living area and bath, and three sets of people have stayed there since July 5. We go about our lives, they go about theirs, sometimes sharing the kitchen or an occasional meal. The first couple, Ed and Jeri, live in North Carolina and spent a week with us, visiting their grown children in Seattle each day. The second set of visitors, Jamie and Dyan and girls, are family of our next door neighbors, whose smaller house couldn't accommodate everyone for sleeping. The third visitor, Joost, was a couch surfing teacher, originally from the Netherlands and currently working in Oman. Our house works out well for summer visitors to Seattle, and it returns the hospitality we experience when we travel at other times of the year - even though our guests are different people from our hosts. Check out Homelink and couchsurfing for these interesting arrangements. The last houseguest left on Thursday, we had one night of "just us", and now our 12-year-old granddaughters Mary and Malayne, just returned from a week of camp, will be with us for a week.

I am learning to pace myself.

As part of my "what's next" inquiry, I bought a book put out by Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel). It's called Master Class; the author is Peter Spiers. You can order it on Amazon here. The idea is that, for "living longer, stronger, and happier", the interviews they've done have revealed that people are most likely to achieve that state through a combination of socializing, moving, thinking, and creating. I'm thinking back to my first two post-retirement years - our group and individual travel, our exercise classes, our book. I guess I stumbled into the possibility of living longer, stronger, and happier, and I want to continue on that path.

What about the aches and pains? For some reason, I thought I'd be just fine, thanks, as I got older. And I am - except for the aches and pains. An old SI joint injury that acts up from time to time; twinges from an ankle I sprained badly a few years ago; annoyed feet from compressed nerves in my back from a bad sit last year. This year, part of me thought, well, I'll just wait until all these issues clear up. Then I'll get going again. It has now, finally, dawned on me that this is who I am now, with my particular aches and pains. It's time to move along, accepting them - maybe even embracing them - as part of the 63-year-old me.

It feels better, somehow, to have arrived at a place of near acceptance. And, as I said, I am learning to pace myself!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beginning Year Three

I left my job two years ago last week.

In the first year I had multiple goals: to learn to teach English as a second language; to participate in a build for Habitat for Humanity; and to take a course in basic mediation. I did all those things. In the second year I clarified my values and made a list of of my priorities for each day: spirituality, health, community, curiosity, and purpose. On most days, I honored those priorities.

So far, so good. I've published a book, experienced my 15 minutes of fame as a representative of sorts for Road Scholar and Habitat for Humanity, and am well past midway to becoming a certified mediator. And we've taken 23 trips in the last 24 months.

That all sounds exhausting!

So what's on the horizon for Year Three?

Mostly I have no idea. I am still sure that my values-based priorities are valid for me. But I am aware that my body isn't getting any younger. Many activities advertised in the Seattle paper don't sound worth the effort to get in the car, brave the traffic and find a parking place. I'm thinking about logging on to the three senior centers nearby and seeing what kinds of outings they're willing to drive us to. Maybe a play downtown, where all I have to do is hand over my ticket and walk into the theater? I'm considering hiring a grandchild to weed the garden. My younger neighbor already mows our side lawn along with his own. Gads!

It could be, though, that I'm thinking and feeling this way because I'm entering Week 5 as the Minion to the Man with the New Knee. I'm doing most of the chores he usually takes care of which, of course, I've taken for granted for years. And I'm thinking that as we get older - and he is, after all, five years older than me - we'll be less and less inclined to take care of all this stuff ourselves. Or maybe less able. Or some combination of the two. A big yard with a garden is a thing of beauty and all that, but it's a lot of work. I'm not alone yet, but I may well be at some point in the future. I need to be thinking about what's next - not how many things can I cram into the time now, but how to gracefully handle the events of living when things aren't so good as they are right now. How I'd manage on my own, if it came to that. I do want to live in the moment, but keeping an eye out for the future is also a good idea.

In the meantime, I keep up with my exercise. I'm eating well. I read. Yesterday I made a reservation for a park model at a resort in Tucson for next January and February. I never ever thought we would be snowbirds, but we seem to be drifting in that direction. Sun is a good thing in the winter, I've decided.

And the sun is finally out in Washington State!