Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Abnormal

I can't wipe the grin off my (unshaven) face this first day of the new year.   I just called out to N. in the kitchen, who is prepping the New Year's Day feast:  "You realize it's 11:50 in the morning on a weekday and we're still both in our jammies!"  Things changed dramatically in 2013 as the wheel of fate turned ridiculously fast and furiously; three lives ended in our family, N. retired rather suddenly  and the normal routines went out the window.  Those of us left on this plane of existence are sort of stunned.

The normal middle-class life is bound up by school schedules and then work routines.  Saturday is overloaded by all the things you must run around to do that couldn't be done when you're boxed in at work, and with those and other requirements, demands and deadlines.  I, personally, thrive on self-imposed tasks, projects and even deadlines but just want to get those dumped on one by others done and out of the way.  I could scrounge up things to put in the "awards and accomplishments" section of an application or evaluation, but exterior rewards were not important and quickly forgotten.  If you live for these, upon retirement you may feel useless and undirected; I feel more inspired and (completely self-)directed than ever.  Now N. is feeling her way toward a new, and I think, much more exciting, normality rich with opportunity rather than obligation.

One of the things you can rely on is the adage that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.  We have worked pretty diligently on our own thing, apart from obligations and work, to get ready for changes; the timing seems to have worked out.  We are not going to degenerate, despite the appearances of this indolent morning and tapping the extensive wine supply a little more enthusiastically in the evenings.  Rather than the usual boredom experienced on this most empty of supposed holidays, we're feeling the energy in the air that was usually suppressed and hidden by what I call the daily noise.  We weren't home before to see the scarlet cardinal perched on the deck railing each morning devouring his seeds.  Laundry and other chores don't have to be done on busy weekends or tired evenings, and I don't hate going to the grocery store anymore since we usually pick an off time.  The traffic around here goes nuts at 3 p.m. due to the many school and government employees fleeing their parking lots, so we head home by 2:55.  We laughed ourselves silly the first time we had dinner at 4:30.

No, we're not going to turn inward, hate the future and watch Fox News.  Despite what we see in the mirror, we're going to be young again, without the school or work or complicated income taxes (standard deduction with little record keeping, a postage stamp and we're done now) or totally insufficient income of youth.   We toy with ideas like moving to a warm place with citrus and palm trees, or getting a new Tesla, since we actually already have an unused 240V electric line to charge it (OK, that's just me), but realize we still need to keep our bearings.  Dreaming's free, as the song said.

Doors close, doors open; change swirls around and through us.  The old Zen master summed up all the teaching about how to deal with life in one command:  "Pay attention!" 

But no one said you can't have the last laugh while you're doing that.



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