When I was contemplating retirement a friend who is a psychologist told me it takes about five years to settle into a rhythm of retirement. Surprised and skeptical, I thought to myself “Nah, not me. I’ll have this retirement thing nailed from the start.”
Two and three-quarter years later, I must concede she was right. I am so out of rhythm I’m calling it “Post-Retirement Stress Disorder.” As I acknowledged in my first post, I took on too much. With additional child care responsibilities I’m not able to do many things I looked forward to, like enjoying a window corner of our bedroom, reading a good book in a rocking chair; or taking up serious poetry study, honing a craft I’ve dabbled in for 25 years; painting and drawing more; buying a good SLR camera and getting serious about photography; taking up quilting; learning more than “where’s the bathroom?” in French and Spanish; doing volunteer work… even the list of things I’m not doing is overwhelming! Instead I chase the clock, chase the child, dabble a lot and spend too much time on personal and household care.
All this came to a head on our recent trip to San Diego with the granddaughter, 1300 miles each way, with a stop at Carlsbad Cavern. A day or so into it I thought to myself, “What was I thinking? Me, a neat freak introvert, spending nine days in a car and hotel rooms with two untidy extraverts?”
And it was hard, and it was exhausting, and I wouldn’t have missed it. She had the time of her life and we all have some wonderful memories.
As I always do, I kept a travel journal. On the last day of the drive home, I made these notes as we left El Paso:
What I learned:
- Gary is endlessly patient and good-humored.
- I am neither but I try.
- We all did our best and it often wasn’t enough.
- Chloe is a sweet, funny girl as long as she is not hungry, overtired or missing her mommy. She can also be selfish and mean (like everyone else) and is capable of epic meltdowns.
- I think I may be ok. I survived eight nights in hotel rooms with them both and didn’t lose my mind.
- I still need to lighten up and loosen up.
But I nearly fell apart. I became so ill after the walk into (and elevator ride out of) Carlsbad Cavern that I thought I was going to have go to the emergency room. My fingertips went numb on several occasions. I couldn’t keep up with Gary, let alone Chloe. My lips cracked and peeled; all my nails broke; and six days after returning I’m still exhausted. I know I was a pain in the butt. I’ve already visited a therapist and a chiropractor this week. The chiropractor has suggested the stress has caused adrenal insufficiency and I’m trying a supplement to see if I can revive some of my old stamina.
Even my sweet new car had it rough. Gary dinged it taking a suitcase out of the trunk. The back seat was an archaeological dig of Chloe’s stuff when we got back. And the windshield is cracked, probably hit by a rock from a truck at 80 mph on I-10. The car is so new the windshield is not available as an after-market and has been ordered by the dealer, costing more than $500 (and of course our deductible is $500!).
The responsibility was unnerving. When Chloe and Gary were playing the Pacific, I stood in the surf to keep another pair of eyes on her. Taking her into public bathrooms was always dicey—she’s afraid of automatic flush toilets and I had to figure out how they worked to keep them from flushing unexpectedly. The car ride was terribly long for her. She had her tantrums and her “I have to go potty bad” moments. But we played silly games and sang even sillier songs. I don’t know if she made it up, but one was “Three mermaids washed up on the Jersey Shore,” with California variations And I’ll never forget when Gary was “Capt. Kirk,” I was “Shell Wells,” and Chloe was “Maple,” who helped us through several big storms, advised the driver on approaching hazards. Unfortunately, on the return trip Maple was on maternity leave and Chloe had taken up her duties. Gary kept saying, à la David Sedaris, “I’m going to have you fired!” They got to saying “Exqueeze me!” a lot. And for some reason the word “plum” became extremely funny, pronounced “pluhhhm,” to much giggling.
All this week (between errands, appointments, cleaning the car and time with Chloe), I’ve fantasized about a silent retreat/spa where I’d be totally alone except for massage therapists and others tending to my needs. Next week’s calendar has filled up again, with chiro appointments, car work, child care. School starts in just over two weeks.
Now that I’ve got this off my chest, rant over. The photo, on the scary Atlantis water roller coaster ride at Sea World, sums up the trip: Gary is having fun, Chloe’s hair is standing on end and I’m cowering with my eyes squinched shut. Next post will be about the fun parts, the bliss of the Pacific and the San Diego Zoo and Sea World seen through the eyes of a five-year-old.
(I’m upper left, Chloe is next to me and Gary is in front of me.)