Sunday, September 30, 2012

Loosing My Edge?

Even when I was working and would take a trip, I was good at getting away – especially with foreign trips. I’d come back and couldn’t remember passwords or what was at the top of the list of things that seemed kind of urgent when I left. But then I’d go back to work, the onslaught would resume, and by the second day, I’d feel like “what vacation?” With this recent trip, especially with the continued hiatus from the news, minimal TV and parsing out the paperwork to-dos, I’ve managed to stretch that vacation feeling out. You know how you can see the familiar with new eyes for a little while after you come back from being away? That. And you are bit more centered. That too. All that has gone on longer and feels more permanent. Like a bit of a real shift.

Some perspectives have changed. For example, I sat down in front of the TV at the end of a day; winding down, not actually watching, channel surfing - which I used to do a lot of. Hoarders, Toddlers and Tiaras… I used to linger there out of warped curiosity. Now, I can’t spend any time there. Click. Off. Bed instead. As I become more present in my life - more balanced (there are other places to live than in my head) … I don’t need the visual sedative….no longer need the mental babysitter … the visual accompaniment to vegging-out … or the vegging-out itself.

Maybe I AM getting all zen, like I kind of wanted to. So now, because I’m a little neurotic (just a little, right?) I wonder if I’m losing my edge. What will happen without that little bite to my perspective? I won’t be funny anymore. Just calm, kind and companionate. Those of you who know me are probably chuckling - yah, right. But it could happen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Truth About Truth or Consequences

I’ve driven by the turnoff to T or C (as it is called locally) a number of times and wondered: what the ?? And, quite awhile ago,  I read an article in the New York Times Travel Section and another blurb in Sunset so I thought I’d check it out on my way home. The drive from Santa Fe to Tucson is about eight hours and five is about my limit now. I have a couple friends who use T or C as an overnight stop point. So I booked myself a room at the Pelican Spa mentioned in the article:  It looked sufficiently funky yet serviceable. And it was. Fifty-five dollars for a little living room (with retro couch), bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. And a pretty big TV. All I needed, and more.

Like much of New Mexico, T or C touts many places for hot springs soaks (the best, in my opinion, are in and near the Gila National Forest - natural, outdoors and clothing optional) and the Pelican had deep cement/tile tubs in little private rooms for guest-use only. So I had a good long mineral water soak before fully utilizing that big TV watching the Emmys…and a spectacular sunset out the window. A really lovely last evening.

That said though, I thought T or C would be kind of like Silver City but it was more like Benson (sorry for the local references, but that is the best shorthand descriptor) with a couple blocks of businesses/shops.  Most closed. Reeeeally quiet. Maybe because it was Sunday and then Monday morning, but barely a soul in sight.  However, the Black Cat Bookstore and Coffee was engaging and memorable. Lots of great used books, all organized, and 1950’s tables and chairs interspersed in the rooms so you could sit and have your coffee and browse. My Santa Fe friends know the owner, who was serving up the coffee that day, so I had a momentary connection there. Which was nice as it can have a lonely-town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-ish vibe.

So, that’s the truth about T or C as I see it. Not sure I would stop over there again. There  is still Faywood Hot Springs  near City of Rocks, both of  which have been on my list for years. Next time. Looking forward to meeting Isis (see the video on the site to sate your curiosity: What a hoot. Can’t wait.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

(Not) Writing from the Road

I had little connection to electronics while on the road – just a quick email check here and there – thus, the break from blogging (I hoped you’d all still be there when I got back). I really wanted it all to just … be … unfold … flow. And it pretty much did. Reaching the last days, I still had a need to get back, driven by different considerations than when I was working (meaning I needed to get back for the Bonnie Raitt concert and some other things).

But the exact when was a little flexible by a couple days - so on my last day I could take a "detour". I left Truth or Consequences (more on that later) and was barreling south down I-25 (not all that scenic at that point, comparably) like I had done a number of times before - with my foot to the pedal to “get home”. Then I saw the cutoff that goes through the Gila National Forest on a very (very) winding road that ends in Silver City (a cool former mining town, turned arty and foody, but not pretentious – one of my favorite second-hand stores is there). And I thought – what am I doing? I could be enjoying this last day rather than looking to the end point (a metaphor for some corny life-lesson?) so I took the turn-off and enjoyed the twists and turns (another metaphor? – geez) and, because I was by myself, I could take them at my preferred speed – which usually makes passengers a little queasy.

Anyway, I enjoyed a little time in Silver (that’s what the locals call it, FYI) and then back on the road that goes down to I-10, which would take me all the way into Tucson. There is a point on that road where you come over a rise and laying below is a vast - vast - landscape of grasslands, yuccas, the Lordsburg playa (an ancient lake bed/large area of sandy soil that fills up with shallow water when it rains and will be a stopover for Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese in the winter) and many mountain ranges all the way into Mexico. That rise, and that view, including the light streaming through massive clouds in a blue, blue sky  (I call it “religious-picture” light)  marks the shift to familiar landscape and  “close to home”. It was beautiful, inspiring and welcoming. I descended into it, turned west on I-10 and rolled my way to my front door. All was well - including me - when I got there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vacation from Staycation

I'm back from a 10-day road trip. Did you miss me?

In the months before I retired I planned to take a road trip within the first couple months. I’ve always found being on the road by myself - tunes turned up, wide-open vistas - to be very mind-clearing and centering. I’m not sure what I expected to get out of the trip, but it seemed a good marker of renewal - especially since I planned to go friend to friend in northern Arizona and New Mexico. So, that’s what I did – with a little camp and motel time in-between.

And it was really good. It didn’t feel that much different from road trips I’d taken while working, which tells me that I was pretty good at letting it all go even then. And now, without much to keep up with, I could really have a mind-rest -  stay here-and-now with the continuous windshield movie of gorgeous scenery going by. It took a couple days to get into the rhythm - to just be. But everything faded in the rearview mirror soon enough.

It was especially good to be away from the to-do list, electronics/TV, the news and the heat. And I’ve stayed away from the news. Absence of the incessant onslaught of vitriol, and opinions about vitriol, has contributed to sustaining an increased level of calm and well-being. When I turn the news on now, it grates - like fingers on a blackboard. We’ll see how long that lasts. I figure I have political-junkie friends on Facebook, so I won’t miss anything important.

In the following days I’ll be adding some details (like the two quietest nights in memory and the truth about Truth or Consequences, New Mexico). For now, it is good to be. Home.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Petty Annoyances

Yes, petty annoyances are still part of life.  For example, in some views of this blog,  about nine posts from August are missing and the Google blogger “help” function definitely needs to be in quotes. I had to call three times to the automated phone system and navigate about 10 choices just to change the credit card to which an automatic payment goes. I was thwarted in making arrangements for a trip because of two-night minimums. Mechanical and electronic things don’t work correctly.

Before retirement there were annoyances - petty and not-so. That was sort of pervasive and blended in with the generalized noise of life.  Now they stand out... and I seem to resent them more. I’m surprised by that. I thought that without work stress and drain, I’d be all zen. But, as it turns out, some of this stuff is about me in any situation and for some things to change I’m going to have to change. The personal-ways-of-being-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-work-and-need-to-be-addressed list is growing. Now that is annoying.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Playing the Game and Following the Rules

Finally watched The Hunger Games (didn’t read the book). Apparently in the future the elite dress like they are in a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie and attractive black men who look just like Lenny Kravitz wear white eyeliner. The working-class people dress like it is 1930s Appalachia, but have high-end electronics. Who knew? Oh, and the earth is still verdant and full of wildlife. That’s good.

The movie struck me as a combo between gladiators, the Olympics and a Miss America pageant. It got me thinking about the necessity of playing by the rules of the game to survive. In the workplace where there is any kind of hierarchy one must turn a bit of a blind eye in order to survive. It’s not worth it or productive to take everything on, so it is sometimes necessary to pretend that things are different than they are.  Of course this is a matter of degree, but it really became a strain for me because I have a finely tuned BS detector and really low tolerance. 

There is very little of that in retirement. There just aren’t any stakes that require  pretending. And there is much more control over what you do, and don’t do, and with whom.

Now I am playing a different game. The “no more excuses, be the best you can be” game. Maybe I’ll get a gold medal.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I’m Forty Years Old in Here

This blog is supposed to be about the transition from work to retirement and whatever comes next, and it is about that. But of course it has to be about getting older. It can’t be denied. Yet it is so surreal. That’s part of the Zen part. What I look like and who I am are not necessarily the same. I have no kids and no husband (by choice). Good health and relatively good fitness. You may look at me and see 60 – or maybe thereabouts…on a good day. But inside here, I’m about 40, looking out.

I have more in common with 40 year olds (or even younger when it comes to lifestyle) than most 60 year olds. Except my relationship to time. When I was younger the future expanse of time - that road - stretched out long - couldn’t really see the end of it. There seemed to be a lot of time to do and be, to spend as well as I could and to take care of myself financially.  As time passed, that end point started to come into focus. And my perceptive on time moved closer and closer to the here-and-now as the questions  - unknowns - about my life and my future were answered – especially, how can I do meaningful work and still be financially stable. I somehow managed to do that, because of risks taken and despite some really lean years. And that allows a certain peace that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Neil Young’s Old Man just came up on my Pandora Leonard Cohen radio mix and I almost teared up remembering what my life was like when it came out in 1972. I was twenty years old and the world seemed quite a mess. But life was full of promise because I believed it could and would get better as long as “we” continued to do things to move us towards more understanding, inclusion, equality, valuing the natural world and all that. I’m not sure how we got where we are – I’m pretty disillusioned with much of the human race. But now that I am “free” I still feel life full of promise - but in a personal-to-me sense. Part of the decision to retire was to make the best use of my time that I can. Perhaps as the workplace fades in the rearview mirror, I’ll find a way to contribute again. 

I’m 40 years old in here …without the angst of making a living. If I start whining about anything, remind me that I have no excuse for being anything but ecstatic.