Really, “pretend retired” (borrowed from a colleague whom I met flying to Seattle early one morning this past summer), as I knew this would be my transition to SELF employment, learning to heed a deeper knowing, respond to a higher calling in which to focus curiosities and talents, while making space to be delightfully surprised. And so turning the corner into my second month, insights and questions are emerging.
I acknowledge the very real privilege of being retired with pension every month for the rest of my life. Yes, I earned and saved for this, and during the “falls of my discontent” (as in coming back to work after those deliciously spacious months of summer, wherein I moved to a more natural rhythm, I’d feel squished and squeezed into schedules), that benefit helped focused my commitment to bring and be my best. However, I realize that today, many workplaces don’t offer this, and employees move through organizations faster and with more fluidity in search of other perks. So on the second last business day of every month (three so far), I say a quiet prayer of thanks and do a little dance of joy for this gift of plenty.
This gift gives me the gift of time…not that I’ve had many days of doing nothing. “You’ll be busier than when you worked full-time,” offered another. Though never a fan of “busy”, observing how it’s often the corporate badge of worthiness, worn to convince, compete, cajole and conform oneself or others, I prefer to reframe this as “engaged” – how engaged, disengaged, overwhelmed, under whelmed am I? Never disengaged or under whelmed, in these past thirty plus days I’m swinging between fully engaged and overwhelmed as I navigate this new place.
“How do I now imagine time?” “How do I now manage time so that I’m engaged meaningfully?” “What does meaningful mean now?” These have been the big questions I’m sitting with. Even to have the space and time to ask and consider these questions brings me full-circle-stop to my first insight – the privilege of a monthly pension. I’m getting glimpses of answers –taking time to purposefully reflect and journal and blog, rediscovering my rhythm for regular yoga, meditation, and process painting, walking during quiet moments of the day with our Peggy dog, dedicating a portion of my service to pro bono offerings. I welcome living “along some distant way into the answer.” (Rilke)
Work rhythms, patterns, and habits run deep, in the body, mind and psyche. On a Monday in late August, when many of my colleagues would be returning to work, I awoke with a headache that grew as the day lengthened. During the last year, headaches had been a reliable harbinger of grief…inside tears needing release for relief. On that Monday, my being knew it was time to return to work, though not for me, in the old way. It was another one of those bittersweet moments, as I stood on the cusp of my past-present-future life. “It can take a year or so for the body to de-tox from the stress hormones triggered by work,” reminded the friend who’d been unceremoniously dismissed from her career almost a decade ago. During my leave I remember the day when I knew I’d lost my edge, that felt-sense that I’d shifted from mental acuity and efficiency to something softer, vulnerable and more open hearted. And while I sensed, too, this was a good thing, a necessary “breaking open” for what, I’m yet to fully know, if ever, it’s meant for a bumpier ride last year and now. I am grateful that I heeded my WiseDame wisdom last January, when upon seeing and saying farewell to soon-to-be retired colleague and noticed she didn’t look well, that I heard my Self say as I walked to my car, “Pay attention!” and have good health for this journey.
“What’s the introversion-extroversion balance that now best suits?” I had another one of those counterpoint moments earlier this week, when on Monday, as both October and autumn arrived with wind and wintry skies and temperatures, I co-facilitated with the admin team, a retreat for twenty of its new and veteran leaders, guided by a design that we had co-created. Responding in the moment, scrumming with each other to determine the next place to go, I was in my deep gladness. On Tuesday, I held space for two hundred or so of my former colleagues in a cavernous hotel space, filled with tables and chairs, devoid of natural light, and we talked about facilitation. While warmly welcomed by many, with hugs, and words of appreciation and well wishes, I was lonely at the front by myself, wishing for the sound and space capabilities to have moved in and among my friends and colleagues more readily. I’d recounted last having been in that same space with those same people (more or less, as many had moved on to other assignments), working “ensemble,” with mates to help shift and shape the design in the moment. Appreciative of this opportunity for the reunion and reimbursement, I knew Monday’s way more suited me as it allowed and supported my need and movement through introverted sensing to extroverted expressing. How this translates to other dimensions of my new life invites exploration and again, living into the answer.
A month in. Summer has now given way to Autumn and she’s quickly letting us know what comes next. Our sister city to the south got snow yesterday and until this morning, we had yet to awaken to frost. I’ve changed over the closets, and this weekend, flannel sheets replace cool cottons. Flowers will be pulled from pots and beds this weekend while the Thanksgiving turkey brines and roasts. And I will say again, as I do everyday, a silent prayer of thanks and do again, as I do everyday, a little dance of joy to be here now.