Monday, January 19, 2015

Living in Limbo

I feel like I'm in living in limbo. If you don't know what limbo is, here's what the dictionary says:

an unknown intermediate place or condition between two extremes: in limbo

I first heard the term limbo when I attended Catholic grade school back in the early 60's. The nuns told us to pray for the souls of unbaptized  babies who were in limbo- because if they got enough prayers sent their way, their souls  got elevated to heaven. So in my mind, limbo was kind of a holding zone between heaven and hell where you waited around for your ticket to get punched, but until it did, you simply had to wait it out. It was better than hell but it certainly wasn't heaven. It was.....limbo.

And it was all very confusing to me.

"Sister Agnes Michael, can they play monopoly in limbo?" 

"No Daniel, they don't have board games in limbo"

"Then what do they do all day?"

"They wait until someone like you prays for their soul and when they get enough prayers, they get to go to heaven."

"So how many prayers do they need?"

"Is your math homework done, Daniel? If it is, I'd suggest you say some prayers. If it isn't, then get back to work."

I'm attributing some of my limbo feelings to the month of January because if there was ever a limbo-month, it would be January. After New Years Day, there isn't another major holiday until Valentines Day ( which we all know is a holiday that can make perfectly happy people feel miserable). There's not much else to anticipate in January other than the Super Bowl and this year it is being played on Feb. 1st. So there's just not much to look forward to in January other than waiting around.....a lot of limbo.

And then there's the weather. In spite of it being over 50 degrees the last 4 days here, January is usually cold, dark and gray. Even if we get a spurt of better than average weather, you don't want to get your hopes up because technically we still have 2 months of winter-limbo get through. Mother Nature could blast us with a foot of snow and sub-zero temps all the way into March. Best to keep the gloves, heavy coat and sweaters ready and hold off on the flip-flops and shorts for a while yet. 

I'm also suffering from a good case of job-limbo. While my newly retired spouse (NRS) is settling in to her next stage of life, I'm back at work everyday for the immediate future. My earliest possible retirement date is too far off to be close, but close enough that I can see it peering over the horizon. I've got nothing significant left to accomplish but I've still got work to do. I've been told the time will fly by faster than I realize but  there have been days when the seconds last minutes and the minutes last hours. 

Speaking of retirement, I had a couple of Ward Cleaver moments last week when I got home from work and my NRS had our dinner prepared and the table set as I walked in the door. I was ready to don a black suit and tie and retreat to the den to read the paper and give fatherly counsel to Wally and the Beaver.  This is not a bad thing, mind you, just a different thing. I suspect that we will be doing the limbo quite a bit as we both adjust to the changes going on in our lives.  Like not getting over-envious when I got a text from her this afternoon that was sent while she was taking Grace for a walk on this unseasonable January day. She might not have been doing the limbo, but I certainly was.

I have to admit that patience, focus and  "living in the here and now" have never been strengths of mine. I'm excited about the next stage of life and what it has to offer and I am ready to close the book on the 40 plus years of going to work everyday. But I have to wait a while longer and that gives me limbo angst which can best be summarized by adapting a quote from the end of "When Harry Met Sally" that goes like this: 

"When you finally figure out how you want to spend the rest of your life, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

I hope none of you reading this are taking my plight very seriously, if at all, because I'm not. I know better.  My version of limbo is nothing compared to what my dear friend Al is going through. I visited him several times in the hospital this past week as he was back in the ICU to deal with some setbacks related to the lung cancer he is battling. Time can't go slow enough for Al, I suspect, and if you are the praying type, please pray for him not for me. I can wait.  

In the meantime, if there aren't any board games in limbo, maybe there are some others things I can do while in limbo:

A. Set a goal to go a whole day and not say the word retirement out loud.
B. Get the seed catalogs out and start to plan the garden for this spring.
C. Get some real work done.
D. Try to listen every one of the 15,000 plus songs I have in my ITunes collection.
E. Start taking Limbo lessons, the Chubby Checker version.

Who knows, I might learn to like this whole Limbo thing after all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Challenge for the New Year

Our New Year's Day supper.
I woke up early on New Year's Day and headed off to the gym to beat the rush of those who had "start working out" on their New Years's resolution lists while my wife and beagle slumbered away in their cozy beds.  And by the time the day was done I had enjoyed a wonderful breakfast that was followed up with a prime rib, asparagus, and twice baked potato supper,  all lovingly prepared by my aforementioned newly retired spouse.

In between I lounged on the couch and watched a lot of football and took Grace, the beagle, for an hour long walk.

It was a good New Year's Day.

But it was back to work on Friday because unlike the aforementioned newly retired wife and never employed beagle, I still have a job for the time being. Which really means for the rest of 2015 and then some. 

So while I've never been one for New Years' resolutions, I do have a New Year's challenge that I need to put out there with the hopes that by doing so, I will be more committed to making an honest attempt to meet this challenge. So here's my challenge:

Keep going to work everyday without whining and feeling sorry for myself and make an attempt to do what I'm paid to do even though I really don't want to go to work anymore and really do feel sorry for myself and want to whine about it, at least for a bit.

Our plan (a plan that could be changed) is that I will work for a while longer having just turned 62.

Here's why:

  • Georgette just retired last week and has signed up for Medicare so she doesn't have to work for health insurance benefits, but I still do.

  • The experts say one person in a marriage should retire at a time to make the transition less dramatic. So she's going first...fair enough.

  • We are going to try to live on my salary and her Social Security before we both collect Social Security and start to tap into our personal savings.That will be an adjustment, I suspect. In the meantime, I'm still funding my 401K.

So you see, those are all very practical reasons for me to still be working a full-time career job.

However, practical is sometimes over-rated. Especially at this stage of life when you have fewer days ahead of you than more. So here are the impractical, but very personal reasons I'd like to retire sooner than later:

  • I've been faithfully and responsibly going to work every day, full time since I graduated from college. I've had a great run and for the most part,  have always enjoyed my work. But I'm tired. And I want to do other things that having a full time, Monday to Friday job, simply put, gets in the way of.

  • We are both in excellent health and would like to take advantage of that while we can by traveling, relaxing and just living our lives to the fullest, without the rigors of the Mon-Fri, 8-5 grind.

  • Sticking another year or two of $$ into a 401k isn't going to help me sleep better at night or change my day. At some point, enough will have to be enough and we'll make it work. The same goes for squeezing another 8% out of Social Security by delaying benefits another year or two.

  • And while I've been willing to get up at 5 am on workdays to get to the gym, I'd much rather get up at say 6:30 and get there at 8, when the whole place is cleared out. Then come home and have a nice breakfast on the garden patio at mid-morning. Then take Grace for a walk, have a nap, go putz in the garden some more or work my part-time job at the grocery store or whatever.

  • I want to put more space in between the events of the day and I want the events to be about savoring instead of doing.

My time will come and I agreed to this plan. It is the practical and responsible thing to do. 2015 will be a year of transitions and adjustments and anticipation, in that order. My challenge is to gracefully walk through it.

In the meantime, spring is just around the corner. Catchers and pitchers report in just 7 weeks. We have another grandchild arriving in March. The days are getting longer and before we know it, the leaves will be falling and there will be eggnog for sale at the Safeway in Estes Park in holiday-themed the first week of October.

Available at the Safeway in Estes
Park, CO the first week of October.
And I don't want to miss a minute of it wishing I was somewhere else.