Now that I’m Free
Now that I’m free, I don’t need to strive and I don’t need to compete. I’m done with the corporate world. I don’t need to set goals and I don’t need to dress for success. I don’t need to prove anything and I don’t need to impress anyone. I just need to be the best person that I can be. Now that I’m retired, I am free. It took about eight years after I quit work to completely unwind. Writing my memoir was the ultimate liberation.
So the question is: now what do I do? As a baby boomer, don’t I have an obligation to do something adventurous or challenging or difficult? Shouldn’t I agonize over the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle? Shouldn’t I try to unlock the mysteries of Sudoku? Shouldn’t I try to keep my brain from shrinking? If not, maybe I should I concentrate on the outside. Maybe a facelift will do the trick, or a cute trainer to get my body in shape, or a diet to beat all diets. Maybe I should learn the Argentine Tango, or run a marathon, or get a good night’s sleep. Or maybe I should accept myself just as I am.
Since my liberation, I wake up in the morning and drink my coffee, watch the news and read the papers. I look at the mountains and the golf course, the lake and the sky. I listen to the birds, the soothing fountain, and watch the mischievous rabbits eat up our garden. My husband shoos them away, but I cheer them on as they scamper away, their stubby white tails in tow. I am grateful for each day that I am alive. Isn’t that enough?
I really do want to exercise regularly, honest. I occasionally attempt a long walk or go to the gym with my IPod buds stuck in my ears. I’m very hip. I know that a regular exercise regimen will improve my health and longevity but what prevents me from following through? I constantly argue with my indolent self to get moving, stop watching Mad Men, stop lollygagging. But Ms. Sedentary, my alter ego, often wins the debate. She would rather read books or write stories or hunker down with Netflix. She’s a laid-back kind of gal.
I notice that I have slowed down a lot. I hardly recognize that aging person in the shop window. When did that double chin appear? Is that a muffin top I see? Why can’t I wear high heels anymore? Why does my back hurt? What the heck happened to me? In my mind’s eye, I am always thirty, but the image in the shop window doesn’t lie. Although my body betrays me, I’m still young and excited for the future. So I promise to get moving right after I finish writing this piece. Does walking the dog count?
I desperately want to write three books: re-write my memoir, write a fictionalized version of my memoir, and write a book of short stories. I know that this three-fold goal (let’s not call it a goal) will make me happy. Publishing a book is euphoric. I want to feel that rush again. Why then, don’t I do it? Is it too much work; too much solitude; too much sitting, too many stiff joints? (Not those kind of joints). If I can’t achieve this goal (let’s not call it a goal), can I forgive myself? Of course I can because I have come to realize that writing is its own reward. It is a creative exercise like no other. It causes me to go deep and learn things I never knew about myself. Writing is curative. That’s good enough for me.
I really, really, really want to volunteer and make a lonely or infirm person smile. I will call Carlotta or Odyssey tomorrow, scout’s honor. But then I ask myself: will tomorrow really be the day that I make the call? What’s holding me back? Is it fear of committing to a schedule? Or is it the fear of being infirm myself some day?
I also want to travel some more. My husband I have taken wonderful vacations but I still dream of going to St. Lucia, and Greece, Southern Italy, and Africa, among other destinations. The problem is that my husband is not excited about long flights or layovers. Now I might be able to ply him with a martini in the Jacuzzi, but I’m not holding my breath. It all depends on how drunk and how hot. Maybe I’ll find a way to go with girlfriends. I don’t want to exclude him but I don’t want to deprive myself either. We should be able to work out this stalemate, martinis notwithstanding.
I remember when Tiger Woods made his announcement that he was leaving Stanford to pursue a professional golf career. He said his overriding question was: “Am I happy?” I think that’s the key, right there. I ask myself: “Does this make me happy?” If not, I need to stop it. The chores, the deadlines, the obligations and the dreaded treadmill can wait until tomorrow.
Advice to self: “Do what makes you, or somebody else, happy. If it involves a lovely glass of wine on a sun-splashed patio, all the better.