Juggling It All Without Crashing: Retirement Realities

I had this idea that when I retired, suddenly my life would be balanced and I wouldn’t feel as though I were juggling everything and struggling not to drop anything or manage to hit myself on the head with something.

Oh, how wrong I was!  

Certainly, my life is less complicated now.  Certainly I have no more classrooms, no more teaching, no more grading and paperwork.  I do miss teaching — the interaction with students, and being part of their learning to love literature and even writing. I miss seeing my colleagues almost daily, though that happened lots less once Kaufman Hall closed for renovations (it houses the departments of English and Foreign Languages, History, and Social Sciences) and we were scattered across campus into any empty office space available.  I do not miss much else about it, though.  I’d become increasingly tired of the constant budget cuts from the state (and the toll those took and continue to take on McNeese and other public universities in Louisiana).  More and more I felt that little I’d spent time on over the years — advising, teaching, committee work, Faculty Senate — counted in the long run; I still feel that in a way.

Once I’d retired, I spent my time with Dad, becoming a full-time caregiver.  I’d really done that for a couple of semesters prior to retirement, and spent a lot of time commuting to Lake Charles from Egan (and hospitals in Jennings, Crowley, and Lafayette).  After Dad died in April 2012, for a few months there was a flurry of paperwork to take care of, legal issues to deal with — since I was the executor of the living trust he’d set up.  And even now there are legal issues that crop up from time to time.

Yes, two very large parts of my life disappeared from May 2011 to April 2012.

Yet I find myself frustrated at times, still, by the feeling that I can’t do everything I a) want to do and b)need to do.  It’s still necessary to have a calendar with so many things.

I have more time to spend at home, and that’s a joy of constant discovery.  I’ve never been a full-time anything at home.  Single — no husband, no children.  My paycheck was the only one, and working for a living was also something I loved.  Now, though, it’s as though I’m learning how to live as a full-time homeowner/dweller.  Plus I do have five pets that require my care and attention.

Finally, I got to start on house projects that were on hold far too long.  But now I’m dependent on the carpenter/handyman who does the work, because he has a full-time job and I am only a part-time job for him.  While I once though that by this December I’d have all the major projects done, that’s clearly not true.  I’m still waiting on the kitchen project to be complete, much less the living room (new sheetrock and painting), the bedroom (sheetrock on ceiling needs a patch replaced) and bathroom (I want beadboard paneling instead of ceiling tiles).  Patience, I’m learning, is something I still need more of.

True, I have time for myself and learning new arts and crafts.  I’ve taken time for jewelry (and had some workshops) and for silk-scarf painting (one workshop recently).  I try to blog most days.  And I’m getting some editing jobs from my writing business.  Finally, last week, I took out a manuscript I’ve worked on for several years but haven’t touched in three — and it’s almost revised again, ready to send to a couple of agents (fingers crossed).

So many things that I’d put off are now in progress.

Yet at times it seems if I work on one, another suffers.  

Unlike teaching, where a regular schedule of classes set my time (MWF 10 a.m-10:50, for example, or TTh 9:25 – 10:05).  No, this doesn’t work anymore.  That, I’m recognizing, is part of my ongoing adjustment process.

And I’ve typically taken on a number of other commitments .  First, I committed to working with Leisure Learning for a trip to Greece in April 2014 (which also entails a 3-meeting series about Greece, separate from but connected to that trip — the three meetings spread over three months).  I’ve got to have a one-meeting program (basically a PowerPoint presentation) ready for next week — it’s a free, open meeting; we hope that this will get people interested.  This commitment means that if I want to travel in the spring, I have to fit trips in around the already set dates for the three meetings.

Another commitment I made is for a three-week program at the public library in Iowa, Louisiana, on Jean Lafitte (using Lyle Saxon’s book Lafitte the Pirate).  This is part of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities RELIC program.  I love this program — I’ve been part of it since it was piloted in the 1980s.  It’s wonderful.  This means any trips in November must be 6 days or less.  

On the second Saturday in November, the local writers’ group will hold its annual conference, and I want to attend — three agents will be there.  This is what motivated me to get back to my own writing, my own manuscript, and focus on that for a change.  I want this, but it’s a time commitment.

In December my friend Myra and I are going to have a jewelry and craft table at a local church fair.  Our first commitment for something of this sort!

Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And don’t forget about this weekend — the International Rice Festival in Crowley.  My sister and I will spend the weekend in Egan and take time for ourselves.  Or next weekend — Rouge et Blanc on the last Saturday in October (good food and wine, and lots of friends to visit with as we wander from booth to booth).  Or the weekend following that, when I’ll meet cousins at the farm (opening of deer season) — perfect time for more family time.

Just how did I manage to work?  I guess the secret is really not so secret.  When I worked, I didn’t do all of the other “me” stuff.  Or at least not so much of it.  

That’s what I’m realizing now.  Time is the same — but what I do isn’t.  Finding my path through all of the new/expanded interests — that’s what’s leaving me reeling, feeling as though I’m an inept juggler.

Because, of course, I want to meet friends for coffee — or lunch.  I want to sit around my house sometimes and just wander in my nightshirt, doing laundry and reading.  I want to stay up all night sometimes, reading and watching television.

But hey — I’m not complaining.  Not when I think about it.  This is what I worked for — time for me, for my life.  Time for friends.  Time for hobbies that are becoming small businesses.  Time for enjoying everything.  Time for more travel to new places as well as familiar ones.

I just didn’t expect I’d still be juggling!

Oh well.  It’s time to log off.  I need to watch some television — and start a new book.  And find my leftovers from lunch.



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