“Retirement” Passages

When people ask me how retirement is going, I respond that I haven’t “retired.”  I left my job of 30 years, with every intention of continuing to work.  The difference is that my work is now going to be more self-directed — writing, editing what I’ve already written, doing consulting work.  That’s the plan anyway.

But three months into this new journey, I’m not at all sure what I should be doing with myself from day to day.  I’m getting my manuscript ready for the publisher, which includes formatting the book, putting together a mailing list for people to receive a promotional flyer, and getting blurbs from other poets.  I’m writing a lot of poems but mostly not working on them.  I’ve started a novel and am reading a lot of novels to see if I can figure out how to get more than six pages of the one in my head down on paper, or onto the computer’s screen and thus hard drive.  I’m training for a half marathon in November which means running more, I’m slowly putting my garden to bed, I’m visiting with lots of family and friends, and I’m working on three consulting jobs.

Is this the creative life I imagined?  The storage pod is finally out of the driveway and David’s studio is done and he’s mostly moved in.  Yesterday he created the first of his art to come out of the studio — beautiful cards for friends who came for a multi-birthday dinner last night.  His creative life seems to be cranking into action.

I had lunch two weeks ago with a friend who’s a few months in front of me on the retirement path, though her path is more truly retirement. In an email exchange after our lunch, when I talked again about the anxiety that dogs me some days, she wrote back, “the most important thing that I have learned in the last few months is that this thing called retirement is a process.  Be gentle with yourself.”

Last Saturday we hiked with a friend who’s several years ahead of David and me on the full-on professional life “retirement” exit into a creative life path.  He talked to both of us about finding a creative community to support us in our new life.  “You don’t get many kudos for pursuing your creative art,” he said.  “It’s not like being at a job every day when people tell you what a good job you’re doing.”

And it’s not like I have a calendar with appointments for writing poetry, or working on my novel, or editing The Island Journal, a memoir I finished over two years ago and have done nothing with but type into my computer since.

So what am I going to do right now, on this wet and still Saturday morning?  Go for a run, maybe then I’ll be able to sit at my computer for a while and catch a glimpse of my new path.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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