Home » Personal Musings » Thursday Re-View — Life Re-Imagined

Thursday Re-View — Life Re-Imagined

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…


28 thoughts on “Thursday Re-View — Life Re-Imagined

  1. Now what?
    I love it!
    Only a week ago, I spoke with a friend of mine who “retired” due to high stress in his job of several decades.
    He’s also said that same phrase “Now what?” and is also considering options.
    I mentioned to him that not everyone gets the opportunity, and that didn’t seem to be what he wanted to hear.
    He knows what he’s leaving, and is less clear about where he’s headed.
    It sounds like a world of possibility!

    • Vincent – you are so right in saying that there is a world of opportunity here, that most people would love to have. 95% of the time I know that, but the other 5% of “now what?” rears its ugly head and I struggle. This time has enabled me to volunteer with the Red Cross, sometimes 4 – 5 days per week, and for that, I am grateful. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Shoot, I hit post earlier than intended. Anyhoo, I was just going to say, “Be kind to yourself.” I remember reading William Bridges’ book “Transitions” many years ago, and he talked about how difficult it is for one to be in those “in-between spaces,” but how very, very necessary if you really want to grow and move on to the next chapter of your life in a healthy way. I know it’s hard, but if you can, give yourself permission to just “be” and float for a little while. I have a feeling your angels will show you the way when you least expect it… Wishing you peace…

    • You say it so well – that this is the time for tremendous growth, if I allow it. I believe it to be true 95% of the time, but my patience tests me that other 5%. Bottom line – I know I am blessed to have this opportunity, able to live each day as it comes.

  3. That nagging 5%, that fighting spirit, is what makes you, you. Let that part of you rear its head now and then, accept it, I don’t think it’s causing you any harm. (And actually that ratio sounds pretty good, as I have closer to 33% putting up a fight!) Best wishes for the next step in your journey, it does feel like you are on your way to figuring things out. Sometimes it just takes a little time. ~Tom

    • Thank you for reminding me that the 5% is also part of Theresa, and that “fighting spirit” has served me well in the past. It’s good to remember that right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be for whatever my life lessons are at the moment. Blessings…

  4. Reblogged this on Accidental Sabbatical and commented:
    Exactly the conversation I have had with two friends this week. So many of us on an Accidental Sabbatical… re-imagining our lives. Brilliant post, Theresa.
    I focus on hope and take it a day at a time, continually looking for the ‘best use of me’.
    My book, Accidental Sabbatical, is available for 99 cents until tomorrow: http://amzn.to/1ocgejJ

  5. You nailed it, Theresa! I love this, “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.” That’s right, you’ve *earned* this new season of life and good for you! Brava! And it seems reasonable to expect a bit of a transition into the new…to see how it unfolds…to just be with it.

    While I would never presume to offer you advice for your new season, I had a similar transition when I went from a big enough deal career to staying home with my children. It took my head some time to wrap around why I was doing what I was doing in the face of cultural messages that seemed to add up to a lack of regard for my choice. I did 2 things that in retro seemed most important. I gave myself time to stop, think, and recollect myself based on clarifying my values and how they related to my choice to drastically switch gears. Then I surrounded myself with people who wanted to cheer me onto victory!

    I’m cheering you onto victory and am thankful for your generosity. You could be popping bonbons 😉 because you’ve earned the right to call your own shots yet you choose to give to others like me via your blog. Nice ❤

    • You’re so right about cultural messages that didn’t honor your choice; to that, I will add childhood messages that play over and over in your head. With gratitude and blessings for your good advice and for cheering me on to victory; it means so very much to me.

  6. Theresa,
    I retired in 2003, from 29 years of teaching and coaching. Not because I was ready, but because Post Polio Syndrome said I was. I knew that if I couldn’t provide the best for my students and athletes I was doing them a disservice. I was OK with that because my work was about them and not me.

    God in His benevolent ways provided me with another channel by which to serve Him. It was in writting. And it matters not, whether it is seen by many eyes or just His. For the pleasure and fulfillment I experience is what I receive from Him. For whatever we do – be it refuse collecting or surgery – it matters not; so long as it is good. And if what we do is worthy enough to offer to God, then it is just that; Good.

    You have worn many hats, Theresa. And I’m sure are so blessed with talent in each, that whichever ones you choose to pursue, at your pace and way, will be a blessing to those who benefit from it and will be pleasing to God.

    “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” Psalm 117:24

    • I started my blog shortly after I stopped working, and my writing, and the wonderful people who offer comments, have been a balm for my soul. As donnaanddiablo mentions above, I’ve continued to counsel on my blog in ways I had not imagined, to more people than I imagined. As you say, it matters not who reads it. Thank you, Alan, for your thoughtful words of encouragement.

  7. Theresa, you are a very lucky lady. This is the bit you’ve been looking for within for a very long time. You’ve had enough of this world and all of its needs…that suit them. You have to now do one of the hardest things in the world. Give to you.

    And I mean that…you’ve had a life time of giving so much of what you are to the many. Do you know how hard it is to receive? It is a very difficult thing to do because this world focuses entirely on what you can do to be successful…and entirely omit you.

    That beautiful loving lady inside has been awaiting this moment, and now you are lost…where do you start…what is it that you feel you are missing…you’ve done so much, but still feel unsatisfied.

    With all the changes that have recently been happening for you, you are removing things that no longer serve a purpose, have no meaning any longer. So you have created a vacuum in your life and NOW you have something that many people strive for but never seem to achieve…the time AND ability to do something for yourself.

    Now, here is the interesting bit. You ARE an overachiever…..why? What drives you to be and do so much? A world or parent that showed you, as you grew up, that success is the only answer, or you weren’t good enough unless you achieved this or that. Well, whatever is the driver behind you…you need to ‘see’ it…and I mean really understand what is deep inside that pattern…understand it, and with great love go within and remove that wall that has held you fast for a long time. Remove it, let it go, set yourself free, because in doing that you allow that great love in your heart to be shared with the most beautiful person in the universe…you. Once the drive is removed you no longer feel dissatisfied.

    You remove that fear of ‘not good enough…or have to’ from your vocabulary and replace it with a freedom that is so beautiful, and allows the one thing that has been missing within your life…that love for you. Once it is gained you are open…totally, happily, and with a great love within.

    But first…ask yourself why there is a wall. What is behind that drive to DO. Time to be brave and look within. You’ll know when you touch it for it will create hurt, pain, anger when you come to it. Is that how you feel when asked ‘what do you do?’, does it leave you feeling uncomfortable or worthless or you are no longer a part of something. Look within and ask your spirit to guide you to that happiness you seek. It can be a bumpy journey, but the light at the end is priceless.

    Wishing you love, light and blessings on that journey. Namaste

    P.S. I have found that if an uncomfortable or dissatisfied feeling comes into a life, then that life is awaiting a change to remove it. Find a truth within that, that is life giving and opens the love that is there.

    P.S.S. In truth, it is not in trying to find something for happiness, it is in understanding it and letting something go, which allows that natural state to be.

    P.S.S.S. Imagine your having a fight with a good friend. Everyone is not happy, unsure of how to deal with it etc. But when you finally sort it out and remove that discordant resonance between you, and understand why it had occurred, you are so happy that it is no longer between you. You are relieved, happy, and all the more BECAUSE you have gone through that. Become even closer. And you no longer feel that uncomfortable feeling because it has been dealt with and released. While ever it is still there you are holding it in, it is still a part of who you are and keeping you in that unhappy state.

    • First of all. thank you for the wisdom you’ve imparted to me.

      My Thursday Re-Views are previously posted entries, and I wrote this not quite a year ago. In that time, with soul searching and therapy (every therapist needs a therapist of their own), I have come to realize who, even with great love, put forth the examples of achievement and perfection in my life, and have become more at peace with the fact that it was not mine to work through, but theirs. Now, when someone asks what I “do,” I answer that I am finally taking care of myself. It has taken almost two years to achieve that position, but I am grateful, none-the-less, to have gotten that far with my search.

      I tell my patients/clients/students so much of what you’ve told me, yet it is so hard to listen for my Self, especially the part about receiving. Those of us who give find it almost unbearable to receive – the not good enough discomfort, etc. But I’m a work in progress, and getting better.

      This time off has also given me the chance to volunteer for the Red Cross, and am presently helping the Pennsylvania State Troopers four days a week during one of their investigations that involves a manhunt for a killer of one of their own. To be there for them, to feed them and smile and provide snacks, etc., along with a listening ear, is tremendously rewarding, and something I could never do if I were working full time. It is a joy, even though the hours are long and the physical work grueling. This is not about achievement, but about being there for those in need, and as always with volunteering, I get back far more than I give. It’s good for my Soul.

      In closing, I have printed what you wrote and have it on my desk as a reminder that I am on the right path, and that there is someone out there who cared and understood enough to offer sound advice and innate wisdom to me at a time when it is not only needed, but welcomed.

      I thank you also for being a loyal reader.
      With gratitude and blessings…

      • Thank you for your lovely reply Theresa. Sometimes I find if I just let everything go and go for a walk and just enjoy the walk for itself, God drops what I need into my lap, I think its called having faith and patience that everything will work out fine 🙂 I’m still working on the patience bit 😀

  8. Since we are on the subject…the question I get all too often is “how tall ARE you, anyway?” I think I am going to get a shirt with the words…”I am 6’5″ tall, and the weather is just fine up here!” I wonder if I can get a couple of casual wear, and one or two for the formal occasion…

    Love the post! So…you like retirement, yes or no? Kidding…(oh, that’s another kicker, “LOL!”)


      • Now if I do find shirts like the ones I mentioned, there is another question which must be answered:

        California has a number of different cultures and languages. Just how many of them should I get printed on the shirt? Maybe just those which I understand myself…

        Have a great weekend!


  9. A timely post as so many of us Boomers are in this same place. We have become so identified with doing rather than being. It is a habit that can be broken! I stop and make a mental list of all the things I love to do and try to do more of those things. That way my days are much more pleasurable and rewarding. Lay on the grass and stare at the clouds for an hour? Go for it!

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