Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I've done enough.....but I'm not finished.

I had a great week of work last week. And it almost spoiled things for me.

You see, I'd much rather have had a crappy week at work so I could justify my desire to retire from  full-time work at the end of this year-like my wife, who is doing her her victory lap after nearly 26 years at her current, and soon to be ex, job.

At the of 2014, she  gets to retire and sail into her golden years by starting her day with coffee, the paper and no time clock telling her to get in the car and hit the road, there's work to be done.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I probably need to provide a little more information here.

She gets to retire because she's earned more ways than one. First off, she's turning 65 and will qualify for Medicare and Social Security, which she's paid into for over 45 years. Second, she's commuted an hour each way the past 10 years after we moved here for my job and I've never heard a peep of self pity out of her.

But most importantly, she's ready. She's leaving nothing behind on the shop floor. She's maxed out her time and talents at her company and it's time to pass the baton. Enough said.

I, on the other hand, don't turn 65 until 2017 so there's a slight problem with paying for health care if I don't have a full-time job. But even if I could find a reasonable solution to that dilemma, the stock market closed today at 2014 lows and our bronze years (forget the golden years) may turn into rust years if things continue in this direction. Every month I keep working reduces the likelihood that we don't get put out into the street until at least....uh, around 75 years of age.

So I'm working on accepting the idea that I will have 3 more years of full-time work while my lovely spouse gets to sleep in, eat bon-bons and watch soap operas. Except without a poodle on her lap since we have a beagle. 

OK, more full disclosure here. She has never been one to sit around and do nothing- job or no job. Even with her commute and full-time job, she manages to keep our house running like a top, including making home cooked meals most nights of the week, and then some. So I would expect that bon-bons and soap operas will give way to refined household management. She is also is talking about getting a part-time job doing something to keep her engaged while I trudge off to the salt mines.

Truth be told, I've done enough work for this lifetime. And I've not gotten cheated. Starting at age 16 at McDonalds, teaching music for 10 years, working as a counselor, traveling the country as a management consultant...I've had a great ride. I've done enough, but I'm not finished. Not just yet.

And I had a really good week last week. Lots of conversations with some our best, brightest young leaders. Spending 2 hours facilitating a session with our executive team. Some good hallway yaks and informal chats. Nothing negative. All positive and productive. 

I'd call it a dream week but I'm a little cynical of "dream" statements. "Dream house!" "Dream vacation!" "Dream job!"  That sounds  game-showy to me. "What's behind door #3, Bob?" "A work week of your dreams!"

But I'd take "Excellent week!" Useful week!" "Fun week!" And I did.

So where does that leave me? For starters, I'm going to applaud and celebrate my wife's victory lap and be as supportive as I can as she transitions to her new lifestyle.

And I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself when it comes to surveying the wreckage of my  future.

I'm going to look forward to having more good weeks,. Heck, I may even get a surprise and have a "dream week".

And I'll mutter the mantra "I've done enough, but I'm not finished" under my breath as often as I need to.

So if you will excuse me, I've got some muttering to do.

Even Grace, the beagle, is planning her retirement.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Accepting Acceptance

I pulled myself out of bed this morning at 4:57 just before the alarm was set to go off. Grace had waken me several times during the night by sitting up, looking around, then finding another position to curl up in as she resumed her slumber. I kept waiting for her to jump out of the bed and wander over the sliding door, where she might mitt on the vertical blinds, her way of telling me she wants to go out.

Today was an exercise day, running to be exact. And because I'm meeting the guys at 6 PM for pizza followed by a meeting, I'm up to run at 6 AM. In the basement. On a treadmill. I hate the treadmill. 

OK, maybe hate may is too strong of a word, after all,  I've logged over 6,000 miles on that machine since 2003.  Say nothing for the miles I've run in exercise rooms of hotels, those 12 years I traveled for Gallup. All this coming from a guy who said he'd never run on a treadmill. Period. Foolish me.

But before I lumbered down the basement steps, I sat and read the paper and enjoyed a cup of coffee.   
That took me an hour so now it's 6 am and I'm on the machine, with CNN blaring and the close caption scrolling  (I need both), and I'm telling myself, "just get the first mile in and you can go from there." I might as well have been Richard Gere in "An Officer and  a Gentleman" doing push-ups while Lou Gosset screams at him, "You can quit anytime you want, Mayo!"

Maybe it's that I've had a cold/sinus thing that has lingered for over 2 weeks now or that it's dark and cold outside and I'd really rather run outdoors, or that, it's really none of those things. It's because I'm lacking acceptance right now. I want things, some things, not everything, to be different. I want what I want when I want it. And that's not acceptance.

Sure, I'd feel better if I could run after work instead of before work, but I'm committed to my meeting and the pizza thing. So I get up early. And sure, if it was April or May, I'd be out enjoying the fresh spring air at 6 am. And sure, if I had my own running track in the McMansion I don't own, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Or whatever it is that we are doing now.

But wait, there's more. If I didn't still have to go work everyday, I could get up later and linger over coffee and the newspaper then run In the daylight at 9am. And take my time. Or take Grace the beagle for walk like I see my retired friends on Facebook doing. It just isn't fair.

And then there is the issue of retirement. While Georgette is doing her last lap this year, my retirement isn't scheduled for at least 4 more years. Surely there has to be a plan B that I could conjure up that would free me from the burden of having to be a professional for 4 more years. All my guy friends retired years ago, some in their late 50's. 

So what does all this have to do with acceptance anyway, you might be asking. Acceptance, for me anyway, starts with accepting reality. Just the facts, ma'am. I can't change the fact that my body isn't as limber or resilient as it was when I was 30. 61 isn't the new 41 either so don't even try to go down that path. I need more rest and more recovery time between long runs. And running at the same intensity I did 34 years ago would risk injury. So while that's something I could try, it's just not a good idea.

And I can't change the fact that I did nothing to start planing for retirement until I was into my 40's  other than to have a job and pay into social security.

After accepting reality, acceptance means spending my time and energy on solutions and POSITIVE things I can control. Note the emphasis on the word positive. Spending time on strategies to get even isn't acceptance. Trying to change another person isn't acceptance. Giving up isn't acceptance, nor is "throwing the baby out with the bath water." Modifying my exercise plan based on reality is acceptance. Giving up exercise and feeling sorry for myself is not acceptance.

Here are a couple of other things acceptance isn't:

Acceptance doesn't mean that what I find unacceptable  is right or fair or just.

Acceptance doesn't mean I would wish whatever is troubling me on my worst enemy.

Acceptance almost never means that I like or approve of what my reality is.

Finally, staring at or obsessing on something I find unacceptable, be it person, place or thing, is not an act of acceptance.

On a practical level, I've learned that the best way for me to being the process of acceptance is to talk about whatever with another person I trust. Someone who also knows how to practice acceptance. Someone who won't let me wallow, but will listen and then redirect me. Then it's up to me to take the action that leads to acceptance.

I've also learned that to reach acceptance on some things takes a while and isn't something I do once and I'm done.

It's early in the New Year and I've already been given several situations to work on. I guess I'll have to accept that acceptance is going to be part of of my life from here on out.

There's hope though- it's supposed to be 50 degrees tomorrow. Maybe I can skip the treadmill and run outside.

I'll leave you with the prayer of acceptance:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And a sense of humor for when I don't."

Which is like everyday.

OK,  I'll stop talking now.