Thursday, November 08, 2012

Being Temporarily Disabled Instead of Retired

For the past year I've had a 32 year old roommate.  She "ran away from home" (a difficult situation in her marriage) and eventually went through a divorce.  Now that her life is settled, she'll be moving into her own place at the end of this month.  There were many valuable and enjoyable experiences because she was here, but one of the most surprising ones for me was that I got to see my life from the point of view of someone who goes to school (for her master's degree) and works part time.  Every day when she breezes in from her busy life, she asks me what I did that day.  Very difficult question for me to answer.

After being asked that question every day for awhile and trying to figure out what the answer was, I finally figured it out:  What I do all day is all the things I used to do in the evening or on the weekends when I had a very challenging full-time job.  But errands, personal business, etc.  take up all my time now.  It's very weird. 

I never intended to retire.  I thought that was a stupid concept developed in a time when people were decrepit at age 65.  I watched other people retire and thought they had incredibly dull and meaningless lives.  There's only so much "traveling" you can do.  I'm not into golf and other retirement-type stuff.  I did think that volunteering looked fun.  The last two organizations I worked for utilized huge numbers of volunteers for very important work and a whole lot of them were retired people.   At the same time it seemed silly to me to quit working for money and start working for free.

So I decided to keep working at least until I was 72 and then get a part time job so I could relax a little but not too much.  I looked forward to just hanging out with my husband which I could never get enough of.  Of course, like everything in life, it didn't turn out the way I had it planned in my head.  As a result of the wreck we were in, he left the earth and I was left with this less than able body.

For several years I did my utmost to work like I always had.  Boy, was that ever a dumb idea!  My body would not cooperate.  I tried to work at my full time job.  Couldn't do it.  Tried to work part time.  Couldn't do it.  Tried to just work a little bit.  Couldn't do that.  So I quit and took training to be a life coach and began writing my memoir.  I had one or two coaching clients.  I did several classes for people in recovery and took some writing classes.  I did quite a bit of writing on my memoir.  But eventually my body refused to do any of that, so I focused on doing everything I could to heal my body and my psyche.

All the work I did to heal definitely helped and I am greateful to be able to do what I'm able to do.  But still I'm only just getting by.  It's a hard thing to accept.  I do have quite a few responsibilities - I have a son and daughter who are adults now but who have very severe disabilities.  I am their guardian as well as for my daughter's roommate.  That's not a huge responsibility but it does require time and thought.  I'm also sponsoring several women as part of my recovery program.  This can be pretty challenging since people in recovery often have very difficult problems and my job is to help them figure out how to use the tools of the program to solve them.  And then I also do quite a few things to continue my own recovery which includes three or four meetings a week, reading program literature, step work, etc. 

So I've arrived at the point where I just have to answer the question, "What did you do today?" with - a whole lot of just stuff.  I don't like it but my job right now is to learn even more acceptance.  I still don't want to be retired so I still answer questions about what I "do" that I'm a life coach and writing a memoir. I say that I'm temporarily disabled.  And I am working on getting really good at prioritizing so that with what ability I have I use it for those things that are absolutely the most important to me.

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