I am sitting at my kitchen table with my coffee and my laptop, looking out past the patio and over a couple of rooftops to the lake below thinking about why I have been unable to organize my thoughts to write a retirement post. Then this morning I read this blog post by Tamara Reddy and had an Oprah-sized ah ha moment.
Actually, I have had this same ah ha moment over and over and over. 🙂
Three months into my retirement and I am feeling a bit lost. Everybody I talk to and everything I read says it takes 1 – 3 years to feel settled after such a major life change. So of course, at only three months in, I have barely stuck my big toe in. Of course I feel lost. It is normal.
Phew! It’s nice to know I’m normal! It’s normal to feel a bit displaced. To be tossing around and unable to settle one’s thoughts.
I keep telling myself that.
I have been very busy trying to replicate my life in Whitehorse. I still feel that I must fill my every moment with productive work, and so I have tried to pack everything that I had planned for my retirement into these last three months.
Read dozens of books! Join community concert band! Join quilting guild! Join Fiber Arts guild! Bake bread! Try new recipes! Take quilting classes! Make friends! Lose the last of the weight! Become instantly fit!
Do do do! Produce produce produce! Time is my enemy and I am still fighting that.
I have not yet learned how to relax into a slower pace.
But I am working on it! Mornings last longer and longer as I sit with my coffee and read the blogs I follow. Walks are taken everyday, usually along the lake shore.
My advice to myself?
Dear Nita, Just as your dance students learn how to be in their bodies in a new way , you are learning how to be in a new place in your life. Breathe! Relax into the movement. Don’t force it. Allow the new you to emerge as you dance your way into a new way of living. An inspired life, like an inspired dance performance, comes from a place of relaxation, understanding and joy.
Have you ever chosen a word
just one single word
to guide you through the year?
For the last couple of years I’ve held the word balance close to my heart. It was the word that helped me to navigate a very busy life: teaching up to 5 dance classes per week, directing a dance troupe, choreographing and producing shows while managing to have a family life and working a 9-5 day job (phew!)
Balance was the word that got me through to the other side of menopausal depression. I was out of balance physically, emotionally and hormonally. Searching for and maintaining balance was the lifeline that I clung to and the rope I hauled myself up by. It kept me secure during the heartache of deciding to let go of my dance troupe and students. I kept it in the front of my mind during my weight loss journey (65 pounds!). It was the word that taught me to put health and happiness above productivity.
Balance guided me through the waters of deciding to retire relatively young; to move to a new town and seek out new adventures.
Balance: what a beautiful word!
But now it’s time for a new word to live by. It’s time to get out of the box and…
This year I am going to play in my kitchen and learn to bake a cake from scratch. Specifically, some of the Chatelaine cakes. Yum!
…and I will experiment creating delicious meals from all over the globe: India, Japan, Italy, Thailand…! No fear in the kitchen will be my new motto – play with those spices, Nita! Try it out!
In my Creativity room I will play in the sewing nook, on the yoga mat, in-front-of the dance mirror and with words at my laptop.
My body will become stronger as I play outdoors, exploring local walking and hiking trails with Kelly and Sammy. We’ll take our bikes out and explore some of the country roads.
I will play in the garden, discovering all the wonders of living in a zone 5 gardening region.
I vow to put myself “out there” and be open to meeting new friends, getting involved in the community somehow (music? theater? dance?)
My friend Melissa at 100 Billion Stars puts it brilliantly (you can read her entire blog post here):
Play is a way of making room for our potential. It isn’t about pretending to be something we hope to be one day. It isn’t about presenting a different face to the world, trying on masks and personae. It’s about being authentic and true to ourselves in an atmosphere without judgment or rules. It’s from this place that growth begins, releasing the possibilities that have been lying dormant all our lives.
So here I am this morning, wishing you all a wonderful year of play and a hell of a good time doing it!
“You think you can. You think you can’t. Either way you’re right.”
I came upon this quote on Tamara Reddy’s blog, Early Retirement Journey and it jumped right off the page at me. I’ve been feeling some trepidation lately…worries that the small budget we’ve set for ourselves won’t be adequate, worried that I will be bored, worried that I won’t make new friends. People keep asking me what I plan to do in my retirement, which sends me into a bit of a panic because I haven’t been able to formulate a coherent answer.
But today I feel good, and I’m reminding myself that these are normal fears for someone who is making such a big change – leaving my daily routine, moving to a new part of the country and all that that entails. I would have to be crazy if I didn’t feel nervous about it! Phew! I’m okay! I’m normal!
And I know that it will be okay because, really, it is only my circumstances that are changing, not my attitude. I have always lived a big life, and now I will have the time to explore and enjoy the things I love to do even more…live even bigger!
What do I plan to do with my retirement? Well, I am a healthy 52 year old woman and my husband is a healthy 55 year old man and we both look forward to being active together. We both enjoy walking with the dog, and look forward to living in a climate where we will be able to do these family walks most of the year ’round.
We don’t do much hiking these days because of time constraints, but when we spent a month in Australia a couple of years ago we went hiking almost every day, and we hiked into places that I had no idea I was physically capable of going. And I loved it! Both of us are looking forward to throwing the camper on and driving into nearby provincial & national parks to check out the trails. I’ll start off slow and train up to the steep hikes, getting stronger and fitter with every outing. And then there are our bicycles, and believe me we have plans for using those!
I love yoga and Pilates, and I’ve included classes into the budget. I figure I can meet some new friends this way, too.
And as you read in my last post, I would like to do some teaching or coaching in the local dance community (assuming they’ll have me, of course!)
I also look forward to having time to write, and get involved in a writer’s group. In fact, I’m taking another creative writing course right now and loving it.
I would like to do some volunteer work as well, and I’m interested in working with children. Maybe I could be part of a food-for-learning program and help prepare & serve breakfasts in the schools. I’m sure the volunteer possibilities are endless.
And music, of course. We will definitely be involved in music – I almost don’t even need to mention that one, it’s so obvious!
I haven’t even mentioned my love of handwork, and you know that knitting and quilting are going to be high on my list.
I am going to have a fabulous garden, including fruit trees (apples, cherries, plums anyone?)
I want to experiment in the kitchen and make interesting meals together with my husband, and share those meals with new friends. I look forward to reading a good book from cover to cover. And if I want to do something I will, and if I don’t want to do something, I won’t.
Whatever I end up doing, it will include participating in my new community. And, hopefully, I will make a positive contribution.
And if we get homesick for the Yukon, we can drive the truck & camper up whenever we want and stay for as long as we like. The cabin at Fox Lake will be there waiting for us.
I am falling in love with the endless possibilities.
I have been pondering my upcoming retirement and what I want it to look like. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do?
Ironically, it was my illness that gave me the opportunity to examine these questions. It was a devastating time for me.
For a while, I couldn’t even go to work, and I had to give up every single thing in my life in order to concentrate on simply getting up in the morning and getting through the day.
Dance felt like a raggedly amputated limb, and it hurt so much to lose it that I actually packed up my gear and put it away where I didn’t have to see the dust raining down on it like tears.
Gradually, though, creativity began to clamor for an outlet and I began to quilt and knit and write and explore avenues of creative expression that I hadn’t had time for when I was dancing.
Fortunately, part of my wellness journey has been re-learning to pay attention and listen to my body and to my heart. And, happily, what my heart is telling me is that the dance is still there, just not in the same way as before.
I’ve discovered that I love quilting. I love knitting. I love baking and hiking and gardening, and I no longer want to pursue dance to the exclusion of all else. In future, dance will be only one of many ways to express myself instead of the only way.
On another happy note, I have been thinking lately that I would like to teach when we get to Salmon Arm. Did you see that coming? I didn’t.
Ideally, I’d like to focus on teaching women my own age. Middle-aged women who have “been there and done that” and have women’s bodies; luscious or lean with bellies full of life experience and stories to share simply because they have lived half their lives or more already.
Maybe I can eventually direct a little troupe of 4 or 5 women, dancing with the assaya, baskets or zills… dancing joyful, dancing our stories in the old way. A small student dance troupe like the Allspice dancers of Arabesque Academy: “dancers who celebrate the female spirit at its most glorious time in life… a group of Bellydancers who have lived a bit and revel in their wisdom, uninhibited sensuality and zest for life.”
I could also hire out to work with other troupes… teach a choreography or perhaps come into the studio and rehearse them in preparation for performance. I could do that on a charge-by-the-hour, workshop style basis.
I am very good at troupe direction, if you don’t mind my saying so. My dance troupe Saba and all the accolades we received over the years is proof of that. I’m tough but fair (and a helluva lot of fun). Just ask these gals, lol!
As far as teaching goes, my preference is to work with intermediate and advanced students. Because I don’t want to tie up my time year-round, I envision teaching occasional themed master-classes and workshops instead of on-going classes. I’d like to revive the Special Topics classes that I had started to develop before I was interrupted by illness.
It can be a tricky thing to carve out a niche in a new dance community, but I’m not a political person, and I’m generally easy-going. I’d really like to be a positive-minded contributing member of Salmon Arm’s dance community, if they want me.
I’ve also come to understand that while I will always be a student, I have also stepped out onto that first rung as a master instructor. Yes, I dare to say that out loud. My peers and my community have designated me as such, and it is time for me to acknowledge it. I am still an affiliate instructor with Arabesque International, and that means something.
As for my personal performance practice, I have come to understand that my dancing heart lies right in the roots – the very guts – of Egyptian dance. In the baladi. My mentor, Yasmina Ramzy, saw it in me when she called me “little mama baladi” and urged me to pursue that direction several years ago.
I look forward to finding myself back in the bubble of joy that always overtakes me when I am truly dancing without care.
This is Baladi. This is the rich flavor that sets my artistic taste buds on fire.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Outside my window…it is overcast but I can see some blue between the clouds.
I am thinking...about how much I would love to be lowering my stress levels at a dance workshop right now, hip-dropping myself into a sweaty ball, or howling with laughter over a silly joke with a girlfriend. Yesterday, alone in the office, I dialed up a Middle Eastern music station and worked to Amr Diab, Hafiz and Oum Kolthum. I have never done that in the office before. Since I am alone in the office again today, I am thinking that I might just do it again.
I am thankful…that my recovery from menopausal depression is withstanding the stress of these last several days weeks and that I have learned to recognize, acknowledge and ACT on my feelings of tiredness and stress before they overwhelm me…to be able to say “this is about me” and say what I need.
On another note, I am also thankful to feel inspired (and, yes, even impatient!) to rejoin the dance world (are you surprised?)
In the kitchen…since I am writing this on my lunch break where I work at Yukon College, my kitchen of the moment happens to be the top of my desk, which has a half-eaten sandwich hiding somewhere amongst a pile of paperwork on it at the moment.
I am wearing…leggings, sandals and a tunic top. Not the most appropriate office attire, but the campus is quiet so it’s okay.
I am creating…I have just spent the entire morning formatting a draft MOU between our Bachelor of Social Work program and the University of Regina. At home, I’ve started a new project: making a quilt out of hand sewn hexagons. I can’t have only the ONE project on the go after all…two is definitely twice the fun.
I am going…to pick up the truck after work. It is in the shop getting camper bars put on. Yay camping! Then to take Samson for a walk. Then (maybe) to a gals night out going away party. I say “maybe” because I am unbelievably tired emotionally – and it feels like a lot of work to go anywhere but home.
I am wondering…what possessed me to write this during my lunch break. You don’t really get a lunch break when you stay at your desk. I’ve already been interrupted a half-dozen times to do work, lol!
I am reading…Royal Weddings – a Harlequin Romance book of three short stories about girls who meet princes-in-disguise. This is sheer unadulterated, brainless, entertaining summer reading and I am not going to apologize for it!
I am hoping…that the scale doesn’t reflect the crap I’ve eaten this week. Stress eating. Yuck for gut.
I am looking forward to…getting some exercise. I feel antsy and wound up. And getting home to sew.
I am learning…to make neat little hand sewn seams that the Queen herself would be proud of.
Around the house…since I am at the office, I’ll say “around the office”. We are in the middle of moving, so everything is in boxes and discombobulated (don’t you love that word?)
I am pondering…ugh. Do I have to?
A favorite quote for today…“don’t ask me, I just work here”
One of my favorite things…well okay…I will admit it…I love shopping. I do. God help me and my bank account.
A few plans for the rest of the week…no plans. I’m just gliding along day by day, enjoying the summer.
The sun has come out after a showery
and I have taken my handwork
The air smells of wet wood,
Quiet and still, I hear a gull calling in the distance.
The campers in the campground next door
have not yet emerged
from their tents
and their travel
and I savour the moments
before their children
re-discover the chill of the water
begin the business
of chasing squirrels from the trees.
Across the lake, a lone fisherman
and I can hear the faint tick-tick-ticking
I sit in the hot sun
until I begin to feel the trickle
behind my knee
and behind my neck,
under my hair.
the quilt becomes
to hold on my lap.
I put stitching daisies
until the cool of the evening
me to return