Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Betty returns to work after failing retirement

12/5/07 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Hello. My name is Betty and I am a recovering retiree. I failed retirement.

Last year, I reluctantly tendered my resignation from the Sentinel and prepared for a change of lifestyle. I blithely looked forward to a time of leisure, travel and catching up on a multitude of unfinished household tasks. It didn’t work out that way.

After decades of working outside the home, I had a big wish list. I ambitiously planned to get 10 years of photos put into albums, write our family history, go through 20 years of tax returns, clean out my filing cabinet, take tap dancing lessons, brush up on the violin and maybe even play a little tennis. It didn’t happen.

Instead, my hiatus from the Sentinel revealed what deep down I already knew. I am hardwired for a certain amount of work and accountability. I am most productive under pressure.

In retirement, I deeply craved the satisfaction that comes from doing the job that I love. Writing is like breathing to me and freedom from writing left me short of breath. Retirement robbed me of an outlet for my creative writing juices. Eventually, like an addict, I went into withdrawals.

Initially, I didn’t have time for withdrawals or anything else. As former readers may remember, my husband and I have been on a five-year health catastrophe roller coaster. Shortly after my so-called retirement, we were thrown into yet another crisis that consumed our time and attention for the better part of a year.

Thankfully, the timing of my retirement became a “God thing.”
In May 2006, Chuck had what we now call the surgery from hell. It was one of those not-so-routine spinal fusions, complete with titanium rods and screws. From the get-go, everything that could go wrong with the surgery did. The situation immediately dictated that I become a fulltime nurse and patient advocate.

The doctor said that he should be up, walking and home in 3 days. It took 8 days. His lean, all muscle back became a source of excruciating pain, not the strong asset that we expected. (Perhaps a little fat would have masked the pain?) The man who barely took an aspirin after his open-heart surgery was administered pain pills around the clock for 3 months. Our time was consumed with learning how to walk again, doctor visits and driving several times a week to Sacred Heart for physical therapy.

It was a tough time and believe me, more than once, I was grateful not to have any deadlines to meet. And to most people, that’s what retirement is all about. Retirement is freedom from deadlines.

Retirement means doing what you want when you want. Right? Well, In May of this year, I began to taste that freedom. Chuck was doing well and I was relatively free to do whatever I chose to do.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the surgery from hell, we launched a travel program. First on our list was a month-long European tour that gave new meaning to the phrase “If it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium.” We visited multiple countries, delighted in different scenery, made new friends and were thrilled to return home.

Then came summer with its outdoor activities, guests and RV trips. We were busy coming and going and sprucing up the house and yard. By the end of September, I realized that something was lacking in my life. There was a void that needed filling. I missed writing.

Most retirees find life outside of the workplace fulfilling. I know that when I mention returning to work, my retired friends just shake their heads and look at me like I’m crazy. They’ve worked all of their lives and now is their La Dolce Vida.

Several times a year they are out cruising the waters of the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Russia or South America. Some invest quality time into community service boards and activities. Others have fulfilled life long dreams of horseback riding or ice-skating. Some play tennis while others golf daily. Many join philanthropic organizations or guilds.

Maybe I just need time to transition into that lifestyle. Right now, I still need to work (just a little). So, I’m back! And I am thrilled to be writing the Chatterbox and Cook’s Corner on a part-time basis as a semi-retiree. Please give me a call, drop me a note, or send me an email and let’s chat.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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