Retirement hasn’t been at all like I pictured it. In fact, I never even pictured it until I met Mike thirteen years ago. The fact is, I couldn’t afford it back then, instead I was busy looking for a new job…
Recently Mike and I moved to rural Colorado, which required more major mental adjustments (at least for me!) For the first year we worked full-time to produce a passive solar retirement home. It was only after that major achievement that we began to officially “retire.”
Now, a couple years later, I recently realized that retirement may be my first chance to observe my true nature. For the first time in my life nobody is telling me what to do, no parents, no boss, no need to be nice to make money, no need to prove myself to anyone. Basically no pressure and very little stress of any kind.
For the first time I get to decide how much self-discipline I want to have. At first we both had very little. We were both exhausted from over a year of home building. Mike and I both felt numb. We loved to sit and look at our view and just feel glad to be alive.
The meaning of life is having a spectacular view…
But after a while we began to wonder who we are beyond all the rules and self-discipline that has filled our lives up until now. Do we like who you are now?
Retirement means: How will you fill your life now?
These are the kinds of questions that keep some from ever retiring, fear that they may disappear with no more job to go to, no rules and little life structure. I enjoy this phase of life so much more than I ever imagined! I love the lack of rules or structure to my days. I change my mind all of the time. One minute I’m taking off for yoga in town, and the next I’m doing it on the floor at home.
I don’t need very much to give my life meaning, because my meaning is in the enjoyment of every moment, every day.
I appreciate the fact that I have a better life than just about anyone else on planet earth right now, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of that until I draw my last breathe…
So I’m watching some show on HGTV, and the woman who’s looking for a new home says, “I’m looking for a home that feels magical when you walk in!” From this brief comment I launch into my own version of a song from this 1965 Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella television special. Sure, you remember it, don’t you? With Leslie Ann Warren?
I LOVED THIS SHOW AT AGE TEN! I memorized the songs.
“Magical, mystical, miracle, can it be, is it true? Things are incredibly lyrical, is it me? No it’s you. I do hear a waltz. I see you and I hear a waltz. It’s what I’ve been waiting for all my life, to hear a waltz.”
What a lovely thought, and how unrealistic can you get? I know Rodgers and Hammerstein were probably just trying to think of words that went together well, but instead they helped to create the most unrealistic expectations in a generation of young girls!
Besides the story, which promotes the idea of waiting for a prince to rescue you from your grim surroundings, the words of the songs, which have stayed in my mind for over 50 years now (!) suggest we will most certainly “hear a waltz” when Mr. Right arrives in our lives. And they say we don’t have brainwashing in the USA… No, we have commercialism instead! Just as powerful and encouraged by our culture.
No, I’m not saying that falling in love isn’t magical, I’m just saying the first time I met my “prince” in 2005, I didn’t hear a waltz OR believe in miracles. I had finally gotten past all of that garbage at age 49. I was now ready to meet a real person who had the self-awareness and emotional capability to love and give to others in their life. As it turned out, nothing about his outward appearance or natural talents were what I expected. No, I had no expectations of falling in love with a motorcycle man who knew how to fix things. But I went with my gut and inner wisdom. Good thinking Laura!
Now that we live almost off the grid in rural southern Colorado, I have so many more reasons to appreciate his abilities to wire up the generator when the power goes off for days at a time. No magical, mystical miracles. I don’t remember hearing a waltz when he appeared, but I knew instinctively that he would help me make it through the rest of my life, with love and affection every single day!
Spring can be subtle here at 7,000 feet, especially when we have had so much heat and so little moisture this past winter. Talk about mild, we have had only two decent snowstorms since October and very little measurable precipitation. But there are some much welcomed changes to observe.
First of all the type of birds appearing at our bird feeders are changing. Not that I’m able to identify many, but I do know when a new one flies up.
And we see the Rocky Mountain Bluebird coming by more and more. Such a beauty! Mike built a bird house for these. Sure hope they make use of their new accommodations! And there are a few other newcomers to our feeders. So nice to see…
In spite of the very dry conditions, I am beginning to see little patches of green along the county roads and subtle suggestions of future wildflowers. These lands are used to drought. Mike recently carved an abstract piece of art out of the base of a Pinon tree that we had to cut down to create our new home. The base is only a little over five inches wide and yet Mike was able to count 196 rings! This short tree was almost 200 years old, but most of the rings were impossible to see without extreme magnification.
Oh, and here’s a photo of his new piece. He calls it Rabbit-Hawk…
One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.
Long story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrivallast night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.
One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.
But the real point of this film is the simple question:
If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?
This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?
Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.
Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
Come to find out I am not alone in observing that my pre-blog friends and family don’t read my blog posts much, but others whom I’m not even familiar with, find it interesting. Even people in over 75 other countries come here, I assume to check out rural living in the USA.
I suppose most people see blogs as a new kind of vanity press. I can see their point. Who cares about me and my life? But there are also over 18,000 visitors who have made over 40,000 views here. Who are they?
I’m sure some are simply nosy about the lives of others. Some may hope to someday move to a rural area and build a solar home. I’d sure LOVE to hear from any of you!
The reason I started this blog three years ago, and the reason I put together my new bookwas to document our experience in leaving suburbia for a quieter, more economical, rural experience in sunny southern Colorado. I have always had very good reasons for writing my books. Of course I also just enjoy writing. I find it helps me with my recent brain injury.
My thought process and intent:
We are doing something very different for us. After living in or near cities all of our lives, we are going rural. I wonder if others are thinking about doing something similar? Perhaps they might enjoy reading about one couples’ authentic experience. Perhaps they would like to know more about designing a home around passive solar heating.Maybe they would like to know how well passive solar heating can work. Reading about the experience of another might encourage others or convince them not to take such risks so late in life. Either way they could benefit from our experience.
We are so glad we took on all the risk and uncertainty, however if you asked me three years ago I might not have agreed. But now I can highly recommend leaving city life behind for the quiet, wildlife watching and pure beauty of living close to nature.
If you never take a risk, you will never know for certain how well it can work out! That’s our best lesson from our own retirement experience…
P.S. For whatever reasons you find to come here and read, THANKS!
To purchase your own signed copies of any of my books, or if you have other questions, please e-mail me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com.
Perhaps I will always remember this holiday as the one where I finally accepted the truth about other peoples’ reaction to me. Ah, if I could have totally accepted this truth decades ago, my life would have been so much easier:
You cannot control how other people receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through the lens of whatever they are going through at that moment, which is NOT ABOUT YOU.
Just keep doing your thing with as much integrity and love as possible.
This includes everything I write about here and in my books. Just because I have chosen to learn enough to understand the psychology of midlife transition or passive solar technology, and appreciate the freedom this knowledge has given to me, does not mean anyone else has a clue what I’m talking about.
Even my parents, who taught me much of what I learned as a child, the ones I thought knew EVERYTHING when I was young, have no idea where I’m coming from with most of my ideas and thoughts today. They are living in their own reality and often do not appreciate mine, but that is not about me.
On some level I’m ashamed that it has taken me this long on this beautiful blue planet to appreciate this truth. But on the other hand, it is so freeing to let each of us be where we are right now.
We continue to search for whatever makes our lives feel better.
When was the last time you put some serious energy into contemplating your life goals? Not what needs to happen in the next year or two, but what needs to happen for you to feel satisfied in the long run.
After I lost my job and 25 year career back in 2004, I spent months contemplating my life up until then. After decades of work as an academic librarian, I was suddenly set free to consider every option. This was a wonderful gift, well disguised as misfortune.
My first book Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside is a summary of the feelings I went through at that time. Here I share my own story of transformation from divorced, unemployed and miserable, to my best life ever, explaining how midlife change, changes everything.
Yesterday I went through a list I made back then, a list of my new priorities after I stopped and considered my life at age 49. Here are a few things I wanted more of before I died: love, acceptance, appreciation, access to pure silence, to be surrounded with solar warmth, natural beauty, music, wildflowers, peace, contentment, relief from guilt and shame, and respect for my own integrity.
Such a wonderful feeling to know that I have somehow brought so many of these blessings into my life through my own stubbornness and courage. The way I describe this transition now, on the “About The Author” page of my new book:
“Her midlife crisis began with a divorce and then progressed to the loss of her library career, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful in her present life flowed from these difficult experiences.”