Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Words and Pictures
We humans are creatures of habit. A regular routine helps keep us sane, giving each day a slightly different cast, but still managing to help us march through the calendar. We look at our weeks and know that certain things happen on certain days and times. For most of us, our jobs and those related activities occupy Mondays through Fridays. Weekends, for parents, are driven by the schedules of the kids, i.e. baseball, football, basketball, gymnastics, and the seemingly never-ending soccer season. For some, Sunday means church followed by an afternoon either watching or playing sports, or just taking a snooze on the couch. This makes our days fairly predictable, if frenetic. As I have discovered, there is safety in that routine.
Schedules, whether we like them or not, run our lives, and when there is a major change to that routine, we are left adrift; confused and gasping for air.
One of the things I have had to get used to, now in my third week of retirement, is learning how to live a life mostly bereft of scheduled obligations. I used to work Wednesdays through Saturdays, and upon waking up on these three Wednesdays, my first thought was if I had ironed a shirt for work. Then realizing that was no longer necessary. For decades, I lived my live in suits, ties, and slacks. Now, it's mainly jeans. We're still sorting out boxes here in my daughter's house, so I guess you could say I still have a job, albeit a different one.
The really fun thing we've discovered is the freedom we have to go do things without consulting our smartphone calendars. This week, on a whim, we drove up to Breckenridge, Colorado for a day...just because. We walked around town, did some shopping, some eating, spent the night and drove home the next day through a driving snowstorm. Today, we were passing a theater, and decided to go see a movie. Just like that.
I finally got my desktop computer unpacked and set up, and am starting to write again. There is a sense of solace and purpose in that activity for me, having the outlet to purge my thoughts and emotions in a healthy way. But even as I write, my mind wanders back to Virginia and a certain undisclosed location. And I wonder how they're doing. I know how these things work out. They are busy, engaged in complex and vital work. That plus the maelstrom of their personal lives ensures that their memories of me will fade faster than mine of them, mainly because I have nothing better to do with my days.
In time, this will change for me as well. A routine, familiar and safe, will work itself out, and within those familiar parameters, my life will go on, adjusted to that new pattern. Cheryl and I will enjoy some needed spontaneity, along with the still-necessary things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc., etc., etc. This is our new life, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. It becomes necessary for us to look forward. Dave Nichols once said, "Nostalgia is a useless, futile thing because it is a longing for something that is permanently lost."
There is a painful truth to that statement.
In that first ten days after leaving Virginia, I felt sad, and lost. The work that had in a significant way defined me was no longer. I was adrift on a sea of uncertainty on a boat with no chart, no compass, and no rudder. I was resigned to drift with the tide, as I no longer felt I had any direction. I felt unvalued, separated from the thing in which I had perhaps placed far too much value. But with Cheryl's help, I've started to shake myself out of that lethargy. In a few days, I will again start working on the three books I want to finish. I will spend hours crafting words, sentences, and paragraphs, trying on plot lines in the way folks try on jeans; looking for something that fits perfectly.
We are bonding with our grandchildren, learning their personalities, likes, dislikes, what books they like to have read to them, places they like to go. Being with them has helped me to learn my role in this new life.
I was an Intelligence Analyst. Now, I am Grampa.
And you know what? That ain't half bad.