Category Archives: What is the meaning of life?

What are your values?

Mount Rainier on a smoky day

“I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values—and follow my own moral compass—then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”

–Michelle Obama, from her remarks at the Tuskegee University                                                             Commencement Address, 2015

A few months ago, I wrote about my newfound love of podcasts. Hey, I’m a late bloomer, hence the name of this blog. One of my favorites, The Minimalists, frequently discusses the importance of identifying your values so you can align your life with same. Of course, some values are more—er—valuable than others. Identifying my values is an excellent exercise, and one that bears repeating every few years or so. Otherwise, I risk getting caught up in pursuits and priorities that don’t reflect my soul’s true direction—and that’s how one gets lost.

The Minimalists offer their own hierarchy of values, but I’ve modified that a bit, organizing mine into Foundational Values (must address every day) and Aspirational Values (I haven’t reached these yet, but want to). I’m not saying that I live up to this list 100% every day, but having these goals before me helps me to live a meaningful life. Here are mine. What are yours?

Foundational Values:

  • Conscious living—thinking about the choices I make, rather than following the crowd.
  • Creativity—writing, cooking, artwork, music, dance…
  • Simplicity—A corollary of #1 above, I try to include only those things and activities that add value to my life.
  • Good health—because my spirit lives in a body.
  • Achievement—I feel best about myself when I can look at concrete accomplishments.
  • Balance—work and play, alone and together, sit and stand and walk and dance…
  • Intellectual Curiosity—because the world is so interesting!

Aspirational Values:

  • Order—Yeah, this one needs work, but life is more enjoyable if I can find stuff.
  • Discipline—I exercise discipline in my writing schedule. In other arenas, I have work to do.
  • Beauty—Beautiful surroundings, beautiful clothing, these give me great pleasure.
  • Music—I love it and want to include more in my life.
  • Connection—I need to push myself to connect with those I love more often and to meet new people, because they’re not going to come into my writing cave (except on social media).

Care to share some of your guiding values?

Connecting in the New Year

I got this marvelous idea from Gretchen Rubin’s excellent podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. If you haven’t already, you should check it out on iTunes. Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, discuss ideas from her book Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life. Rather than create the usual list of (ignored by February) new year’s resolutions, Rubin suggests picking a one-word theme to focus on in the coming year.

Choosing my theme for 2017 was surprisingly easy: CONNECT.

Both my vocation and my avocation require lots of solitary office time, and that suits my mostly-introverted nature. I could easily spend a whole day writing and reading—until I find myself feeling lonely and itchy for actual human contact, an itch that social media doesn’t quite scratch. And yet, when I’m with others, I sometimes find it hard to give them my full attention. I could do much better here, and would be happier for it.

And then there’s the news. Oh my, how recent events tug on my worry strings. How they stretch their tendrils of gloom through my dreams. I sit at my desk, picking at the virtual scabs and retweeting dismay, which only magnifies the miasma of impending doom. I don’t want to waste four years huddled under a rain cloud like Eeyore.

And so, in 2017 I’ll focus on connecting—with other writers, with my students and colleagues, with activists who are doing something other than moan, with not-so-likeminded people, to remind them of our shared humanity, with loved ones I see too seldom, and with the fascinating people who cross my path each day. Keeping this one-word mantra in mind will help focus my efforts: connect. There’s no warmer comfort than knowing, deep down in your bones, that you’re not alone.

What’s your focus for the coming year? Can you boil it down to just one word?

But What Do I Know?

question mark

I have a writing assignment with a generous deadline. For this year’s Write on the Sound writers’ conference in Edmonds, Washington, October 1-2, I need to create a work of short fiction, creative nonfiction, or a poem on the topic of “What I Know Now.”

I think I’ll choose the fiction option, as the nonfiction option puts me up against the likes of Oprah—not that she’ll be attending WOTS, but well-written essays about “What I Know (Now, for Sure, etc.) abound. This is not one of them.

What do I know, now that I’ve reached my fifties? Most of it would just echo Oprah’s insights. I doubt the judges would be impressed by my advice to listen to their bodies, keep a journal, eat veggies with every meal, stop wasting food, be selective when considering which (if any) trends to follow, and do something creative every day. We all know that stuff, right?

“What I Know Now” requires a backward glance to what I didn’t know then. Having worked with teenagers for so many years has provided a better understanding of my own youth. Poor teenaged Rhonda thought she knew quite a lot about how to achieve the good life, but she didn’t know diddly-squat. Know-it-all teens are usually covering up deep insecurities; I sure was.

I didn’t know that my racehorse metabolism was a temporary gift from God, not something I’d earned. I get about the same amount of exercise now as then, but I’m sure not as slim as I was at twenty, even without the Friday-night binges with my army roommate—Doritos and Lambrusco. Blech!

I didn’t know that attracting boys/men would never be a problem. I mean, they’re guys. If you’re reasonably attractive, open and friendly, you’ll catch the eye of several potential partners. If this one doesn’t work out, the next one might, or the one after him. Back then, I was worried that my small boobs would prevent me from finding true love. Having met so many non-standard beauties with devoted mates, I know that we can blithely ignore the beauty industry’s strictures about must-have’s and must-do’s. Beauty comes in many flavors.

I didn’t know how to listen and learn from others’ experience. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and frustration if I’d heeded the advice from the many wise older women I met back then. One piece that really stuck was uttered by a Southern lady I worked with: “Honey, ever’body has something to teach you, even if it’s how not to be.” So true. Now I pay attention to the wisdom of others, written and spoken. Teachers abound.

I didn’t know that most of life’s problems have complicated causes, and that everything is connected. As a young woman, I believed in simple solutions. Honey, ain’t no simple solutions. I now know, for example, that my bulging belly has to do with age, hormones, posture, my gut biome, my favorite (alas, far too sedentary) activities, heredity… There’s no pill, no diet, no one panacea that will suck in this belly o’ mine, and the answer lies somewhere between acceptance and vigilance.

It’s all about balance. That’s what I know now. Life is a balancing act—difficult to achieve, but with practice you reach that point where balance becomes automatic. You’re aware of so many factors that could blow you off-balance, but you breathe into your center, open your arms and your heart, and find that place where balance feels effortless. Work and play, together and alone, indulgence and discipline, serious and silly, a well-lived life requires balance. That’s what I know.

Now, if I can just think up a short story that illustrates that lesson.

Z is for Zen Attitude

Zmeditation

Zen quote one

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a bit of a magazine junkie. While living in Europe, I’d snap up French magazines to practice and expand my French vocabulary. “Zen” is a word used often in French mags, and it doesn’t refer to Zen Buddhism, but rather to a relaxed state of mind, to simplicity in cooking, decorating, and one’s daily routine, to shedding stress. In women’s magazines such as Avantages, Marie-Claire, Elle, and even Cosmopolitan française, you’ll find articles about zen vacations, zen decorating, zen workouts, zen weekends, zen attitude, zen recipes, and even zen back-to-school (la rentrée).

I try to maintain a zen attitude (in the French sense) in moments of stress, but I’m not yet very good at it. Malcolm Gladwell says I need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master—I still have about 9,990 hours to go. The little Buddha charm I wear around my neck helps. When I’m feeling impatient or bored, especially in conversation, I finger my little Buddha (that sounds nasty, but you know what I mean) and breathe deeply. Otherwise, my little Buddha rests in my cleavage, over my heart, reminding me to chill. I hope he enjoys it down there.

I face many obstacles on my path to a zen attitude. I’m an impatient multi-tasker, not given to deep reflection (unless I’m writing about it), oblivious to undercurrents. My totem animal is the dragonfly, zipping here and there, never still for long. But “zoom” is antithetical to “zen.” I have a long way to go on the road to inner stillness and peace. Perhaps a course in meditation is in order.

On the plus side, I do like to keep my physical environment uncluttered and simple. I’m a great weeder and discarder of the superfluous—unless we’re talking about books. There’s no such thing as too many books.

Dear bloggers, as we leave the month of April behind, and with it our A-Z challenge, I thank you for stopping by, and for sharing your personal thoughts and experiences with us all. I wish you inspiration, easy-flowing words, and a “zen” summer.

“The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

– Anais Nin

L is for Love

Lheart

You can’t have reached this age without having been tangled up in some complicated love stories. I admit to being a member of the multiple-marriage club. (Sequentially, not all at once.) Love has lifted me and squashed me, inspired me and humbled me, made me bleed and sing and quiver and vomit. There’s nothing like it, and we never seem to give up on love.

Husband number one was a wonderful boyfriend, but a lousy husband—the legacy of his parents’ very messed-up relationship. Husband number two had some fine qualities, but addiction changed him into someone I couldn’t stay with. Before the husbands, there were the boyfriends—sweet, smart, stumbling, dear young men who enriched my life but ultimately moved on. During bad times with husbands one and two, I often wondered how my life would have turned out if I’d stayed with this or that boyfriend. Don’t we all have “what if?” fantasies about the path not taken?

I started using Facebook during the worst years of my second marriage, and heard from a few former boyfriends. No, we didn’t reconnect in any way beyond social media, and all are now married with lovely families of their own. But it did my heart such good to hear from long-ago lovers who remembered me fondly, especially at a time when the man in my life was doing his best to make me feel worthless. He didn’t succeed, but not for lack of trying.

A few friends wondered why I would marry yet again after two “failed” marriages. This leads me to another important “L” word: learning. There is something to the cliché “older but wiser.” I’ve learned a lot about how to be in a relationship, how to disagree without tearing down the other person, how to be aware of my own moods and not blame them on my partner, how to think before I speak. I’m still learning, and there are times when the kindness my partner deserves doesn’t come easily, times when I just want to bundle up in a blanket and tell everyone to leave me alone.

And then I remember how much I love my good, good man and do my best to make sure he knows it. He is truly the best man I know, and his love feeds my heart and soul. Love is worth the effort, worth the risk. Here’s to love.

heart

Joyful, Joyful

happy baby in the park

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
― Rumi

Lately, “joyful” seems to be my favorite term of high praise. Earlier favorites were “passionate,” “fascinating” and “lush.” In my fifties, I definitely gravitate toward people and animals who are joyful. I find myself drawn to

  • Little children and babies. This is probably my grandmother instinct kicking in; I don’t have any grandchildren yet, and I certainly don’t want to rush my daughter or step-son into producing the next generation. But I just love the giggly, wide-eyed, wondering way that little children look at the world around them. Is there anyone more joyful than a little kid in the park, picking daisies, examining bugs, running and whooping and climbing and loving life?
  • Dogs. Joyful is the default mode of most dogs. I like cats too, but dogs are just SO. HAPPY. TO SEE YOU! And if you deign to toss a ball? Ecstasy! Dogs have a tremendous capacity for joy. I know that one important key to happiness is to take joy in ordinary things; after all, our days are full of ordinary things. I strive to be more like a dog in that respect, joyfully enthusiastic about life’s little treats.
  • People who’ve found the right job. This is very hard to do, given our need to pay the bills, and most of us grub along at a job that’s OK, but doesn’t express our essence. But now and then I meet someone like Phil, the man who runs our YMCA. He loves his job, he loves people, and he just beams humor, welcome and joy. The mission of the YMCA is “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all,” and Phil embodies these attributes so well. He has a great big joyful heart.
  • Kat Ross, my former belly dance teacher, is another. Look her up at katrossdance.com if you’re in Tacoma. I’ve always emerged from her dance classes feeling energized, mellow, and like a luscious, saucy wench. In fact, most dance teachers I’ve known have had this kind of joy and knack for spreading it. Dance class is always a reliable quick joy fix.
  • My former Spanish teacher at Tacoma Community College, Dan Call. How I wish I’d met this joyful young man back when I was teaching foreign language classes. He so much enjoyed guiding, tugging, and encouraging us toward speaking Spanish, and his enthusiasm was contagious. His full-immersion classes were filled with games, puzzles, cartoons, films, and lots of conversation. If only we could teach all school subjects that way, there’d be no dropouts.

I guess that’s the key: find something you love to do, and then find a way to share that joy with others via teaching or mentoring—or playing in the park. I think I’ll take a walk to the park right now. I need a joy break.

On Selfishness

Image result for selfish

One of the delights of my current age and stage is the oodles of time I have for selfish pursuits. Yes, I realize that this word is off-putting, that some people will immediately judge me as a less-worthy person because I claim the right to be selfish. To those people I say: Pooh! Also balderdash, rubbish and hooey!

During the half-century I’ve been alive, I’ve learned that no one will ever care as much as I do about my well-being—and that’s as it should be. Taking care of me is primarily my job, as long as I’m of sound mind and body. It’s up to me to know when I need rest, exercise, a snack, a day to myself, an outing, etc. And sometimes I have to insist, even though my needs may conflict with loved ones’ desires or plans. If I need to sit and have a coffee right now, then that’s what I shall do. Go on and do what you’d like to do, dear; we’ll meet up later.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with a husband who loves me and wants me to be happy, and thus respects my little outbursts of selfishness. I do my best to respect his as well, and we succeed quite well most of the time. Alas, this was not always the case; previous partners expected me to follow along with their plans regardless of my “selfish” needs or desires. That’s why they are previous partners.

In our culture, we sing the praises of selfless people—especially women—especially mothers. Well, I don’t believe that I would have been a good role model for my daughter (or for my son, had I had one) if I’d devoted all my talent, passion, and time to nurturing others and neglected to nurture myself. What does such an attitude tell our girls? That they were put on this earth with talents, passions and smarts, but they may only develop these until they have children? And then all their gifts must be used in the service of nurturing their children, half of whom will never fully develop their passions, talents and smarts? This is not good. We’ve produced some fine young men, but their contribution alone is not enough to carry us forward amid all the challenges we face as a nation. We need the girls’ contribution too, and the women’s.

OK, writing this feels a bit silly. There are few people, and even fewerer female people, who would disagree with the previous paragraph. But why, then, do we continue to beatify selfless parents, especially mothers, and criticize each other for being selfish? Perhaps it’s rooted in our own selfish nature. See, if Mama’s off doing her own thing, she’s not taking care of me. How selfish of her.

I’ve just read a long and interesting chain of comments on Facebook. A retired DoDDS teacher (that’s the school system on overseas U.S. military bases) posted advice for newly retired teachers. Most of the respondents mentioned the joy of having time to pursue their own interests, including just hanging out, relaxing, and sleeping in late. Many wrote about their volunteer work, and suggested that new retirees look for opportunities to volunteer in local schools. One former teacher—a man, by the way—said, “Sorry, I’ve done my time,” and mentioned how he enjoyed driving past schools and not having to go in.

Now, I’m not a follower of any religious doctrine, but I do believe that we have a moral obligation to somehow leave the world a better place because we were here.  So, have I contributed enough to society by teaching for 26+ years? Must I continue to volunteer my time in my community, or is a selfish existence justifiable? Actually, I did some volunteer teaching during my first year of retirement—because my spouse was volunteering there and enjoying the experience, and because of nagging feelings that I really ought to be contributing something to my community. I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I’d hoped to, but a purely selfish life seemed, well, selfish. Hmm.

I suppose it’s a question of balance. I’m going to follow the rhythm of the school year and take the summer off from volunteering. After that, I’ll look for other, non-school programs that need help. Surely there’s an activity out there that would be both enjoyable and useful to my community. But I must agree with those retirees who warn us newbies not to overschedule our time at first. I’m going to enjoy being selfish.

 

On Free Thinkers and Trends

Trends are designed to make us buy shit. Not literally shit – that’s never been trendy, because there’s plenty of it around. You don’t even have to go to the store to get some (literal) shit – it’s available right there in your home. Or at least on the sidewalk in front of your home. Thanks, neighbor dogs! And cats. And raccoons. No, trendy items are only trendy if they require effort and expense to attain.

I once loved magazines – loved, loved, loved magazines, with their bright, shiny pictures; with their neat little packages of information and inspiration; with their message of eternally-springing hope. I’m speaking of women’s magazines here, the kind with a fashion focus – not, say, Ms. But the raison d’être of a magazine is to get you to buy shit – clothing, “beauty” products, purses, toilet bowl cleaner, fitness gadgets, what have you. And how do the marketers do that, dear reader? You know the answer as well as I – by making you believe that your life is somehow lacking, and that your life will be so much better if you buy this particular shit.  But you’re not – lacking, that is. And your life will not improve if you have in your house any particular consumer item that is advertised in those magazines.

So yeah – lately, the shine has worn off magazines, as far as I’m concerned. I’m just having a hard time seeing past the ads, despite the sometimes-good writing that I find buried between the ads. Have you ever tried this? Take a magazine – whichever type you choose. Flip through it, and tear out any page that has nothing but advertising on both sides. Make a note of how much slimmer your magazine now is.

And blogs! Some of my formerly favorite blogs, sort of online magazines, have morphed into vehicles for selling shit. Writers whose points of view I once looked forward to reading are now more focused on convincing me to buy this blouse, that moisturizer, and that other mascara. Jeesh! If I wanted that, I’d buy a magazine.

Here’s where I lose credibility with some of my younger readers: I do not care what the latest fashion trends are. The beauty of reaching my advanced age, 52, is that I feel just fine about choosing clothing that covers my nakedness, is comfortable, and suits my own ideas about what looks good on me. Are those snazzy-to-me shoes “so last year”? Who cares! Does this hat remind you of your grandmother? That’s your problem! Do the cool kids not approve of my simple, practical purse? Tough shit, cool kids! Who asked you anyway? I use a purse to haul around things that I want to have with me when I’m away from home, not to impress the cool kids.

And really, that speaks to my personal philosophy: You should do the things you do in life because they please you and express your inner essence – not because they might impress someone. It’s a key distinction. I taught high school until recently, and every day I would pass in the hallways clumps of black-clad “emo” types whose carefully chosen outfits carefully toed the emo party line. They made a big point of being “different,” but all in the same way. As I passed, they’d get louder so as to attract attention. They were trying very hard for a negative reaction – from teachers, from parents, from peers. I see people like this on the streets of Tacoma, in their oh-so-similar hipster outfits with the baggy gray beanies, and they’re mostly out of high school, yet many of them are still angling for the disapproval of passers-by like me. I find that sad. Why should you care about what sort of reaction you can draw from perfect strangers? Do you really need me, a middle-aged person, to validate what a badass you are?

Then there was S-, a student in my classes the last few years before I retired. She wore the oddest, coolest outfits, which she often designed herself out of scraps of cloth, old garments, and funky items cobbled into accessories. But she did this to please herself, and for that reason, I was always delighted to notice and to compliment her wardrobe choices. S- enjoyed what she wore, whether others approved or not; she was expressing herself.

I want to dress like that too, now that I no longer have to meet someone’s expectations for what’s appropriate. Not that I want to wear silver lame skirts and tiaras, like S- did, but it’s wonderful to be able to please myself, sartorially. And it’s such a relief to realize that, no matter what event comes my way, I already have something appropriate in my closet. I don’t need any new clothes! Take that, advertisers.

And that goes for electronics – so I’ll say no thanks to an expensive smart phone. I have a computer at home, and I don’t care to snap photos of myself in various locations throughout the day and post them for all and sundry to admire. You like your smart phone? Good for you – enjoy! You think that I’m hopelessly uncool because I don’t have one? Who cares! That also goes for social media. I enjoy Facebook, especially the goofy videos that my friends and “friends” post – that porcupine eating a pumpkin – too cute! And I like to read what distant friends are up to. But I’ve heard that the cool kids have left Facebook behind in favor of Instagram, Twitter, and God knows what else. Who cares! Not I.

I was noodling around on the internet, looking for others’ interesting thoughts on being a free thinker who doesn’t unquestioningly follow fashion, technological, and/or social trends. Most of what I found related to the Free-Thinker Movement – apparently devoted to freedom from religious dogma and clerical control, with past ties to the anarchist movement of the 19th century.  I’m greatly simplifying here, but – in any case – this was not at all what I was looking for. How disappointing! Where were the articles, essays and websites devoted to thinking for oneself in daily life? I did, however, find this good bit from Urban Dictionary website (always a fun read):

Free Thinker

A philosophical viewpoint that opinions or beliefs of reality should be based on science,       logic and reason. Ideas should not be derived from religion, authority, governments or         dogmas.

A free thinker should not reject nor accept any proposed truths of organized religion,           established norms, media, etc. They should determine if the belief is valid based on their     own knowledge, intuition, research and reason. Just because other people believe in it,         doesn’t mean it’s right! Use your own judgment and think critically!

by Autumn’s Modesty, September 19, 2009

Thank you, Autumn! I’ll bet she doesn’t waste much time reading fashion magazines or trolling the mall for external validation. So – here’s to free thinkers. I shall do my very best to be one.

Looping Back

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. Recently, my laptop died – something had gone wrong with a start-up program and, lacking a CD drive, the machine had to be sent back to the manufacturer for re-installation of the faulty program. Alas, this meant that many files and programs were wiped away, cast into oblivion. The “customer service” person I spoke to in some faraway foreign land read to me from her script:

“Before sending in the computer, Ma’am, we recommend that you back up all files.”

“Well,” I replied, “I can’t start the bloody computer, so how could I possibly back up my files?”

“Oh, well – nevertheless, we recommend that you do that. It’s what we recommend.”

Sigh.

Anyway, one of the lost programs was Microsoft Word; since my computer runs Windows 8, I have no choice but to pay about a hundred bucks every year just to write and to save what I’ve written, assuming that I continue to use Word. One hundred smackers! Well, it turns out that there are other options. After much grumbling about corporate greed, I downloaded OpenOffice. Allow me to sing their praises for a moment – huzzah for OpenOffice! A free word-processing program that can open Word files that would otherwise be denied to me by the Microsoft gatekeepers – what a lovely gift!

Anyway, realizing that I’d been foolish and lazy about securing backup copies of my writing, I set about recovering many bits of a novel in progress, some of which I’d written out longhand in various journals throughout the last five years.

I’m a great believer in the therapeutic value of keeping a journal. The kind of grumbling, grousing, musing, imagining and navel-gazing that goes on in my journal would bore the most loving and patient listener. But I’ve had so many “Ah-ha!”moments while reflecting in writing, especially during difficult times. People pay a therapist good money for the kind of insight that we can get from writing out our thoughts, dreams and troubles, with no audience in mind but ourselves. Patterns emerge, vital questions arise, and we can try out answer after answer until one finally rings true.

And I truly believe that there’s a power in declaring one’s intentions, in detail and in writing – “putting it out there in the universe” so that our heart’s desires can begin to manifest in our lives. Yes, it sounds a bit woo-woo, but in my experience, writing about my goals is a big step toward achieving them. For example, during the last, unhappy years of my previous marriage, I wrote in detail about the kind of life I wanted and the partner I wanted to share it with. Et voilà! I now have the freedom I longed for, the time I need, and the most wonderful partner to share this new life with. Is there some cause and effect at work here? Well, knowing what I want and where I’m headed certainly helps.

But I digress. In order to piece together the missing bits of this novel in progress, I looked back into my old journals, going back to the last few years of the aforementioned unhappy marriage. I skimmed through three volumes of determined declarations, tearful regrets, and then reread the joyful beginning of my current relationship with my now-husband. Wow! Even more than photos ever could, the words scrawled in hurried, careless cursive on those pages took me right back to my sunny backyard in Germany, to hotel rooms and waiting rooms and train compartments where I planned a better future. Reading those pages, I relived those painful endings and joyful beginnings. A lot of what I wrote was repetitious, and a lot was bluster, a way of propping myself up with firm declarations at a time when my life was resting on a wobbly foundation. It did me good to revisit that not-so-long-ago version of myself. I wish I’d been a better journal-keeper back in my 20s and 30s, but my 40s and 50s (so far) are well documented.

An important part of this journey of reinvention, of crafting a new life after retirement, is remembering who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do – long ago, and recently. There are threads running throughout the narrative of my life, and reading through those old journals reveals the strongest, brightest threads (dance, the joy of movement, the importance of creative self-expression, the love of reading), as well as the tangled threads that have tripped me up again and again (impatience, being judgmental, procrastination).

How about you? Do you keep a journal? Has recording your life’s journey helped you? Do you ever revisit those pages you wrote long ago?

Of change, and blessings, and writer’s block

Hey y’all, I’m back!

 

I began this blog project in 2013 as a way to put my money (fingertips?) where my mouth is. I like to write: fiction and essays and rants about life’s great injustices, comic quirks, and puzzling dilemmas. I particularly wanted to focus on finding my way to the good life in my 50s, and I thought that the blog format would encourage me to write and post regularly. I envisioned writing for friends and family members who are around my age, on the same journey, and hoped to start/join a conversation about the joys and challenges of this age and stage of life. Then things got complicated.

2014 has been an incredibly busy and eventful year. At the end of April, I got an early retirement offer. DoDDS (where I taught, the schools for US military families stationed overseas) needed to thin the herd of teachers because of the ongoing drawdown of military personnel overseas, and I was one of the lucky few who was close enough to retirement to get the golden ticket. My now-husband retired too – he was ready to go. It’s not a generous pension, but we can probably get by if we’re frugal. So – 26 years of teaching in Germany, and suddenly I’m a retiree. Feeling like I needed to write first about this huge change has held me back from writing anything at all. The fact is, it’ll take me a long time to process how I feel about being retired. I do know this: when people ask me (and so many have), “Will you look for a teaching job here?” I can answer with a resounding “No way!” Maybe some tutoring, or teaching something fun like creative writing or exercise, but no more classroom teaching for me. (That’s another blog post I ought to write, why I’m done with being a classroom teacher, but it’s so ponderous a topic that I haven’t yet begun.)

Moving back to the US is another huge topic that I ought to write about. (Yes, I’m a retired English teacher, but “about which I ought to write” just sounds pompous.) Sure, I’ve visited the US most summers, but I’ve spent most of my adult life in Germany, albeit working among Americans. Now we’re living in northern Tacoma, WA. So I do feel a bit foreign, not quite with it when it comes to so many little details about how life works here. This is another blog topic from which I could draw many, many entries. And I haven’t written them yet.

Finally, I got married. That is a HUGE topic, my sisters! I find it intimidating, quite frankly – not the marriage itself; D is great, the best partner I could wish for, and our relationship hasn’t really changed that much as a result of signing the paper and saying “I do.” But the whole topic of getting married – again, in both our cases – having faith that this relationship is THE ONE, that we are a forever sort of thing, and saying so in front of our friends and family – well, that whole experience is a huge topic to wrap my mind and words around. I’m still working on processing that.

You see, like so many people, I process my thoughts and feelings by writing them down. Keeping a journal or blog is very therapeutic, but it takes me some time to sort out my thought on any big change, and there have been so many in the past three months. I’m just overwhelmed. So I’ll just take small bites and write about those, until I can begin to see the bottom of my plate. It’ll be a long time until I’ve licked the plate clean. In the meantime, my search for the (frugal!) good life over 50 continues!

 

How about you? What changes, big or small, are you facing now?