Reality Check

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In 23 years of driving, I have never had a collision claim. This changed this past week when I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light on my way to work. This has been one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, and it’s not over yet. Not only was the driver who hit me impaired, but also had multiple other violations as well, and there was nothing from the other driver to the police officer to the other person’s insurance company that has been easy to deal with. The factors surrounding the driver were very sketchy.

Although this is a nasty situation, I have been blessed in my ability to handle it calmly. I am sure that if this had happened before I slowed down my life, that I would not be able to “go with the flow” on this as much as I am. In fact, I remember when I hit my first deer a few years ago, that I fell apart completely. It was just too much at the time for my already overflowing plate.

I now have the time to deal with this situation as unpleasant as it may be. Life isn’t fair, and I know that. The one thing that I am very fortunate is that I was not critically injured. In that moment that my car was being struck and I was being pushed into oncoming traffic, I was worried about who would take care of my cats if something serious happened to me. That was the biggest thing that came to mind.

I know that the stress of the situation got to me, as I have been having difficulty the past few days with my autoimmune disorder on top of everything else. Stress is a trigger for the autoimmune disorder. A big part of slowing down my life was to reduce my stress levels. So while this is a bad situation, it could be worse.

This accident is just another learning experience for me to think over when it comes to making positive changes in my life. Is there another way I can take to work? I was stopped at a red light, so it was not like I was even moving. There is nothing I can change about that.

If I did not love my job as much as I do, I would try to work in a different city. I loathe the city in which I work. Since that is not currently an option, I need to figure out other ways to be safe. But seriously, if we are not safe when sitting calmly at a red light, then where are we safe? Just more reasons why I wish I could move into the woods and off the grid.

The silver lining in all this is that it helps me to remember my priorities. I need to focus more on what’s important because life is so fleetingly short. There is nothing like the feeling of “omg, I’m going to die” as you are being pushed into traffic to give you a reality check.

It’s time to prioritize what’s important. That’s why we rewind real slow.

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All That Jazz

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Last year, I had written about letting go of our fantasy selves. If you have table service for 12 with visions of hosting grand soirees, yet in reality value solitude, then letting go of the extra table service and allowing your self to live authentically is going to do more to bring happiness than constantly planning for a house party that probably will not happen.

In my quest to slow down my life and to pare down my belongings so that I am only surrounded by that which I love, letting go of my various fantasy selves has been quite helpful. This is not to say that we should abandon or tear down all of our hopes and dreams. To the contrary, I am actually living the dream now that I have given up the fantasies.

One of the dreams I have always had is one of leisurely weekend mornings spent with good music, good coffee, and quiet peacefulness with those I love. I’ve finally made it happen. This weekend, I had Frank, Duke, and all that jazz. I was at home with the ones I love, good coffee, and nothing pressing on my agenda.

My work schedule changed recently, and for the first time ever, I am working Monday through Friday with weekends off. While I have traditionally shied away from working on Sundays sue to my running schedule, I have worked Saturdays for quite probably, with no exaggeration, 20 years. Now that I have Saturdays off, my life is slowing becoming that of the setting on the washing machine – “normal.”

We have had frost at least 5 times now, with the first time being at the end of September right before I had caught the flu. With the weather driving me inside, I am focusing more on home and being sure that I am surrounded by only by those things that I love. I recently went through my CDs. While I have been adamant that my music collection is the only thing that I will allow to be wholly untamed and off-limits to my minimalist tendencies, I decided to see what life would be like if I stored about 150 items from my collection.

I have found that not only am I more likely to listen to my music collection again compared to the drone of the radio, but that I am enjoying listening to entire albums without skipping around. It’s very soothing to sit at night with vinyl on the record player and relax. It’s equally restorative to push play on the CD player in the morning and be able to melt into the music without automatically being all keyed up with the events of the day.

Being able to listen to jazz in the morning helps to set the tone for the day. It helps me to appreciate and be thankful for all of my blessings instead of going straight into the stress of news and politics that are happening in the world.

I had tried having a morning routine to deal with stress. My thought was that if I had a morning routine, it would help to center and prepare me to meet the demands of the day. Instead, my morning routine only served to stress me out more. If I did not have time to do it all, or if I did not feel like going through the entire process, then it made my morning routine more of a chore than a point of relaxation.

I have decided to do away with the morning routine, and instead listen to my body and do what is best for me for my mind, body, and soul for the moment. Lately, what is best for those three things have been jazz, coffee, and a good book.

Almost a year into retirement, I am still not sure what to do with myself. I feel like I’m still trying to find my footing and figure out how to navigate the world without the identity of “student.” Changing my mornings have helped to ground me in peace. I’m hoping that somehow out of that peace will come direction.

So this morning as Duke Ellington spun in the CD player, I did more than just listen. I felt the music with mind, body, and soul. I felt it in my bones. I may not know where I‘m going from here, but all that jazz is a pretty good place to rest.

 

 

Lost & Found

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I’ve thought about calling this year the Lost Year. In the now 10 months that I have been retired/out of school, I have felt completely lost. A huge chunk of my identity (student) is no longer there. I don’t know what to do with myself. On top of that, this is the first year that I am not running a major race or getting a medal. That has never happened before. I have run through pretty much everything. This year, I have been waylaid by my autoimmune disorder, my work schedule, and now the flu that has simply rendered the requisite 5-month training schedule an impossibility.

I’m seriously starting to wonder if NOT being a student is making me depressed. In what seems to be a bottomless pit of despair, there have been some pinpricks of hope this year. These are the three top aspects of “found.”

One of the major things on the list given to me by the doctors for how to manage my autoimmune disorder is to reduce my stress levels. It has now been over 6-months since I completely deleted my facebook account and canceled my home Internet service. Getting off of facebook is the #1 thing that I have done to decrease my stress levels. Words cannot express how much happier I am now that I am not online. To be honest, people talk to me a lot less, yet I do not feel lonely. When I was on facebook, a lot of people talked to me, but I always felt lonely. So now, I’m lucky if someone sends me a text message once a month, I am actually less lonely than I was before. Strange, but true.

Out of all the things I have done to decrease my stress levels, going offline has taken the most burden off my shoulders. I drink green tea and meditate, and I still want to slap someone. Going off facebook is better than yoga and jazz and all the new age relaxation techniques combined.

Second, when I had the flu last week, there was one day when I was trying to watch football, and just physically couldn’t. That’s when I said, you know what? I can’t do this, I don’t have to do this, and then I shut off the TV set and went to sleep. Having the flu last week was the first time in my life that I have been sick and was able to listen to my body 100%. If I had been in school, there was always something to read or something to write, and I would have fought through the flu because I had schoolwork to do. Last week, I did not have schoolwork, so I was able to say “no” to everything around me, and give my body what it needed to heal, which was pretty much sleep.

Third, I had less beach days in 2016 (in retirement) than I did in 2015 (in school). When I first realized this, I was dismayed. Why would I have less beach days when I have taken great pains to slow down my life and my schedule to have more time to do what I want? And that’s when I realized that life cannot be measured by beach days. When I was in school, I made a point of scheduling beach days so that I could relax. Scheduling a day to relax is about as much fun as making a schedule to have sex. It’s not. Fun. It’s more fun when it’s spontaneous. Looking back at summer 2016, I may have had less beach days, but here is what I had more of: baseball, live theatre, movies, time with family, time with friends, picnics, hiking, camping, sunsets, swimming, reading, and sleep. I did so many things this summer other than going to the beach.

Days before I was completely flattened by the flu, I had made plans to return to school. Yup. That’s right. I have talked about teaching, but I actually have that opportunity at work. I am enjoying the “teaching” I do at work so much, that I do not feel the need (at the moment) to teach in academia. I am truly blessed in that I have a job doing what I love.

But I’m a person who likes to finish what I start, and I was thinking I have some unfinished business. I would like a PhD, but my student loans are maxed. I know I cannot get financial aid, so the PhD is off the table. There is, however, the question of the physics degree I started and never finished. Three years into that, I switched to psychology, and stuck with that field. Plus, there is the fact that I actually looked through my high school yearbook this summer given that it was technically my 20-year class reunion. One of my future plans under the Senior Directory was to “get my PhD in Chemistry.” I’m thinking of going back and finishing a degree in either chemistry or physics. Of course, I would have to pay for classes out of pocket, but I could take one at a time.

I could, theoretically, complete my 5th degree by the time I turn 40.

That was the plan before the flu. Now post-flu, I am thinking “hell no.” Going back to school must have been part of my flu-induced delirium. There is no way I want to go back to school and be stuck in that schedule again. Especially now that my time is my own, I enjoy being homework free.

However, it is only October. The spring semester does not start until January. We will see what happens and what I think over the next three months. Apparently, I had a lot more wisdom at 17 than I do at 37. At 37, I feel like this past year has been lost and found. At 17, my quote in the yearbook came from Luke Skywalker: “I’m ready for anything.”

If I can hang onto that, maybe this year can turn around from lost to Found.