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Life Reimagined

Now what?

That question – in a nutshell – occupies a fair amount of my time now that I’m “not working.”

People who know me, know me as I once described in one of my posts. In my adult life, I’ve been many things: daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, aunt, wife, ex-wife, mother. Optometrist, Licensed Professional Counselor, writer, teacher, advisor. Friend, adversary, student, mentor, volunteer, colleague, supervisor, supervisee, boss, advocate, committee member, office holder, perfectionist, overachiever. Catalyst, irritant, critic. Tourist, retreatant, co-journeyer, listener, speaker. Avid reader. Supplicant to Saints Francis, Jude, Therese, Teresa and Michael the Archangel. [Human Being? Human Doing? Human Becoming?]

Now that modern medicine has us not only living longer, but living healthier lives, what to do with this life re-imagined?

Two comments I hear (too) often that bother me to no end:

1) Where do you work? (Nowhere???)

2) How do you like being retired? (When did I retire???)

Let’s look at question #1. In the past, I answered: I’m in private practice; I work for a group of ophthalmologists; [insert career change here] I’m in community mental health; I work in spiritual care at a hospital and at a hospice; and, I’m Director of a Counseling Center at a small, private college.

Professional, succinct, in control, no hesitation.

Now what do I answer? Nowhere?

I guess that means housework doesn’t count, or grocery shopping or cooking the occasional meal, dropping off the dry cleaning, setting up appointments, paying bills, bringing my cat to the vet, being my own travel agent for Egypt or Sicily or Peru, being supportive of my husband, ironing, doing laundry, etc., etc., etc.

Somewhere my mind got used to thinking that a pay check was directly related to my self worth. If I got paid to do something, that equaled work, which mattered. Yet I remember when I practiced as an Optometrist, I was always careful to ask (mostly) women if they “worked outside the home,” so they would realize that staying at home incorporated work.

Let’s look at question #2. Retirement? Who retired? A year ago, physicians recommended I step aside from my position and take time off to rejuvenate. Someone asked me not long ago how my stress level was now that I was home. I told them honestly it was higher, since I was so stressed about not working.

I’m never satisfied, I guess…

At any rate, I’m no more retired than the President; I’m just in a holding pattern until I figure out what I’m going to do the rest of my life.

You know – my life re-imagined…

life reimagined

So far, I’ve incorporated neck and shoulder massages into my life [note: my poor massage therapist, who does my deep tissue massages -- we spend half the session solving the hers and world's problems, then the other half talking about how the ever-present knots in my muscles that will not loosen have "migrated" from place to place; who knew that I had traveling knots???], I’ve started this blog, I took swimming lessons at the YWCA, I got back to volunteering in Disaster Mental Health for the American Red Cross, I take a silent 8-day retreat once a year, and I’m looking to get back into per diem crisis work at a Level I Trauma hospital.

But with all this moaning, woe is me attitude, I’ll let you in on something that surprised me — I’m not “hungry” anymore…

Let me explain.

Could I open a private psychotherapy practice and do well? Sure. I did it as an optometrist and I can do it as a therapist with the benefit of years of experience behind me.

Do I want to? No. I’ve done my time and paid my dues. I’m tired of going 24/7 and being exhausted all of the time.

Could I work at another college? Sure – somewhere. Am I up for the politics and resistance to be faced? Not worth it. Let someone younger take that on; my time is too valuable for having to bulldoze the man-made obstacles that would be thrown into my path. And quite frankly, my time is more limited. 30 more years of non-stop, highest quality productivity is no longer possible or realistic.

Let the younger generation have their moment in the sun and in the spotlight, starting up new programs, generating income, getting published and promoted and challenged. It’s their time to shine, bonfire style, while mine is more of the quiet glow of a bank of embers.

Steady, sure, mellow. Still providing light and heat but without the expenditure of so much energy all at once in a short period of time. Both fires serve their own purpose.

Working full-time out in the competitive work force has its purpose, but so, too, does re-aligning my trajectory in mid-life.

But why is it so hard for me to do? Why isn’t what I’m doing, or attempting to do, enough? How can I help more of those in need by what I’m doing? Or not doing?

If anyone has any suggestions as to the best use of me, please let me know. After all, I’ve got plenty of time to listen…

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21 thoughts on “Life Reimagined

  1. It’s a strange place to be in, isn’t it? My circumstances are different, obviously, but I’ve struggled with that loss of identity, too. Most of the things I’ve ever defined myself as being, I’m not any more. I’m trying to shake off the feeling of not being all those things and focus on what I am, but that’s damn hard. Some days, I don’t get much past “Well, I’m breathing.” But hey, that’s a start.

  2. This really struck a chord in me – for we are in similar places. And I have no answers, just appreciate that we’re asking the same questions

  3. I suggest you live consciously in this moment and enjoy the stillness. Each day when I discover your quote in my WordPress reader a calmness surrounds me and for that brief bit of time my worries are but ripples on still water. :) I’m not caught up in the future or regretting the past. I just am.

    • On a good day, Fern, I find peace in the mindfulness, but I yearn for the good days when I’m struggling with the not-so-good. Such is life. I’m grateful you find calm in the daily quotes.

  4. I actually did retire from my job as a caseworker 2 years ago, mainly because I just didn’t enjoy what I was doing anymore. Those of us who give of ourselves greatly do reach a point when we need to pull back, as I did. Since then, I have been on a journey to find a new direction. It was hard at first, but slowly, I am finding my way. New interests and new friends have made my life more interesting and fun again. And you know what, isn’t it nice to just lie around some days and know that that whole day is yours to do whatever you want?

    • What you say about people who give often of themselves is so true. And you’re right – time off on some days is a gift. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  5. As a woman who is living her “reimagined life”, just remember that it is a process and takes time for the transition. Consider that…it took years and years to create and live your “other” life. So, it takes a bit of time to “find” the self that you are living now. Your purpose, however, is to be the most authentic you…right now. When we change and are no longer defined by what we used to do, the beauty is, we can then define ourselves any way we choose…and there is infinite possibility in this. Ask yourself…what do I REALLY want to do…and be deeply honest with that answer, and allow yourself the space to embrace it. And do not judge it. It may be very different than what you “think” you want. It happened for me. And unexpected, lovely things came from my honesty with myself. Also, consider it is possible to be fulfilled just living each day as it comes. Be in the moment, let go of the past, and know your future is unfolding. Look closely. Sorry for the long response but hope it helps. Contact me if you would like to talk. Perhaps I can help…it is what I do! :)

    • Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I know they are true because I tell them to my clients; it’s just more difficult to hear your own Self in all the clutter of our own making. I am getting better at mindfulness and will think upon what you say – what do I really want to do. The answer may surprise me. Your concern and offer to help is much appreciated.

      • Life transitions can be difficult…Especially for those of us who guide others. It seems it is much easier to observe and guide others.than to be the observer for ourselves…as we stand in the thick of it. I wish you swift movement from the grove into the clearing. So Many Blessings to you!

  6. It’s probably best to do what makes you, and those closest to you, happiest. Take all of this knowledge and wisdom you’ve been gathering, figure out how it all works together towards some purpose, and point yourself in that direction. The most important thing is that you realize there is no inherent rush. You have already accomplished so much, and will certainly accomplish more. But there is no ‘end’ that you’re rushing towards…so take a few extra minutes to breathe!

    • I’m doing my best to remember there is no ‘deadline’ and what will be, will be. In the meantime, life is happening and I don’t want to miss it. Your comments are appreciated, my Alex.

  7. You own your own time now and can do and be anything you choose. So explore things you’ve always wanted to do until you find what appeals to you most. That’s what I’ve done and it did take some time, but the time was mine to spend or not spend as I chose. As to where do you work, my answer is any where I want and no where that don’t want to. And that’s a good feeling after nearly killing myself doing what I was doing for as long as I did. Theresa, you are still all those things that you used to be. It’s just time now to expand and add something else to you resume! As to being retired, I love it, but I didn’t retire from life or my friends or my dreams, just a job that I did very well but for too long. As a teacher, every summer got off to a rocky start because I didn’t know what to do with myself for a few weeks, but then I’ve found that life has a way of filling itself up with more of itself in some way. So I’d give myself permission to sleep late and not do much of anything until something called to me, as it were. And like the white rabbit, I, “Alice,” followed him down the rabbit hole that led me into all sorts of new adventures. Now that I’m rereading this it may sound as nonsensical as that silly rabbit, but maybe you can eek out something valuable out of my babbling. As my daughter always says when I get stressed, “Just breath. Relax and breath. In and out. In and out.” The Lord has a plan for your life and He is NOT going to let you miss the boat that will take you to the right place. So along with the breathing and relaxing, trying telling Jesus that you trust Him to take you where you’re meant to be. Blessings, Natalie :)

    • Not nonsensical, Natalie – what you took so much time to write makes sense. I especially like the “giving myself permission” part. I am reading a prayer daily – de Chardin’s “Patient Trust,” since even though I know everything is already being moved into place, I have to remind my impatient self to relax and trust. For my personality, who is used to being in charge – a better phrase is having control – that is a challenge. Yet another lesson for me, perhaps??? Blessings, and I thank you for reading and commenting.

  8. It took me two years to get used to being retired. The world didn’t miss me, nor did it collapse. People in need will find others to help them. Old jobs are filled and others step into our shoes. You obviously have a great need to do service and that’s admirable but sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses. You’ll soon have what you need to be doing popping up to get your attention.

    • Thank you, Laurie, for being a voice of reason for me, reminding me that realistically, the world goes on without Theresa, regardless of my frustration or needs. And, it’s doing quite well, thank you! I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

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