Today is July 15.
On Dec. 8, 2017, five months from now, I will retire after working at paid jobs (mostly) as a bean walker, corn detasseler, barn painter, waitress, Hardee’s employee, college dormitory food service worker, Target shoe department employee, ISU Alumni student worker, Iowa State Daily reporter and copy editor, Boone News-Republican reporter/photographer intern (no pay), Gloucester County Times (NJ) food/education editor and news editor, Pawtucket Times (RI) stringer, Dine-Out-Tonight (in the Superman building in Providence!) copywriter, Amica Insurance (RI) corporate communications writer, Seekonk High School (MA) English teacher and Amica Insurance (again) communications specialist and communications and PR manager.
All that adds up to more than 45 years of paychecks for seasonal and part-time work (age 15 to 22) and full-time work (22 until now). I took off almost one year when Emily was born (Mallory was in kindergarten), and I got about eight weeks off when Mallory was born. Other than that, I worked full-time. As a teacher for 12 years, I had my summers off to enjoy with my daughters at Rhode Island beaches, and we visited grandparents and big families and lots of friends in New Jersey, Iowa and South Dakota every summer.
I cherish those summers with them. So many wonderful memories.
In December, I will leave my job of the past 11 years and move to a condo in Groton, Connecticut. I’ll be about 30-40 minutes from my daughters’ homes in Colchester. It’s far enough and close enough for all of us. I hope I can be there for them when they need me — and not underfoot when they don’t. I look forward to exploring the southeastern Connecticut shore area, finding a good library, a bike trail, a walking path, an empty beach. I hope my new neighbors will be friendly. And I hope I will be brave enough to make new friends.
Rhode Island is still right up the road. I’ll probably be even closer to some great RI beaches than I am now. I hope to hold on to friendships and connections I enjoy here. I have come to love this state with all its quirkiness and self-indulgence and feelings of inferiority. Little does it know how beautiful it is — how many wonderful places it contains.
I may be retiring, but I won’t quit writing. (And I hope, hope, hope I’ll still get paid for writing.) I’ll be looking for a part-time jobs after I get settled in Groton. I’d like to work for a nonprofit or some other program that needs help. If that doesn’t happen, I’d love to work with my hands (flowers, gardening, outdoors, seaport, casino — we’ll see).
As of today, I’ve been on my own for one year. I left my husband and my home after 37 years of marriage last July. It’s something I don’t talk about because it makes others (and me) uncomfortable and sad. I’ve never been alone like this before. I grew up with 6 brothers and sisters and shared a bedroom all my life. I went to college and had a roommate. I got married and had a husband. And now I live in a condo with 2 bedrooms and 1 1/2 baths that I share with no one.
And I am happy..
My life is my own. My choices are my own. I can get up and go somewhere or sit all day without someone passing judgment. I can be myself. I don’t have to compromise, if that’s what you call it. I don’t have to deal with negativity and anger and pessimism. For so many years I did things by myself because my husband had no interest in going somewhere new or trying a different restaurant or going to a movie or just going for a drive. And I felt lonely back then. Now when I go places by myself or try something new, I may be alone but I am never lonely. My next steps are to go to a concert by myself and to go on a long trip by myself.
It wasn’t always like this, but somewhere along the way we lost it and we never got it back. For years I tried to ignore the fact that we didn’t make each other happy. I left and came back. He left and came back. I kept thinking it would get better. But it didn’t. We didn’t. And finally I left for good. I’m sad about that, but sadder about all those empty years.
Happiness blooms from within.
And so it goes,
I hope you know happiness. Peace.
This was just one moment on a road trip across miles of prairie. How could anyone find it aimless or repetitive. On this long-ago trip I watched two or three thunderheads and lightning storms take over the humongous sky across the miles. I veered off on gravel roads with signs that pointed to the homes of Lawrence Welk and Willa Cather’s Antonia and Laura Ingalls Wilder. With no one to direct my way or force me to race ahead, I stopped at will. A raw and unsettled feeling breathed new life in me. Maybe this was the moment that changed me forever. After this, I longed for more like this one. To feel the sky reaching out to me, lifting me off the ground. Like riding a roller coaster and falling into the sky.
Soft music slips past the screened patio door.
Out here, a faraway outdoor concert floats up to my second-floor safe place.
Backyard fireworks pop off at will. Not annoying. Yet.
A black sketch of branches scratches a deep blue June night.
Moths slip in and out of a candle flame.
This is the end of a quiet day, of walking, easy chores, cooking, blessings.
It is a gift I gave myself.
Peace to all.
We have no words of welcome for you here.
Did you take a wrong turn, forget the address?
What purpose in taking this woman, this mother, this wife?
What twist of fate have you tapped into?
Why slip in to take this life without a whisper?
We’re left to make sense of your choices.
To find purpose in a life without.
To recreate faith and hope.
That’s what humans do
after you leave.
My goal for 2017 is to have big and small adventures — something I’ve never done before — every month. Here’s the tally of how I’ve done so far.
January: First time ever — Walked (and stood still a lot) in the Women’s March on Washington D.C. — took part in the largest protest EVER on the face of the earth! It was incredible!!
February: First trip to Arizona with Karen and Tom, first Airbnb, first time inside a slot canyon, first Academy Awards party. it was all FUN and beautiful! Will return!
March: Surprise adventure with my sister Nancy, who visited from Iowa — watched ISU (lose) at NCAA women’s tournament at UCONN and spent a cold and wet St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Boston.
April: Took an intense four-week poetry class and wrote first drafts for 15 new poems through the FINE ARTS WORK CENTER in Provincetown.
May: Sold my old bike, bought a new bike and road on the bike path on the West Bay through Coventry and West Warwick for the first time. Then road on the Airline Trail in East Hampton and Colchester, CT. So glad to be back on a bike!
I also had some memorable adventures in 2016 — including an unforgettable trip to Napa Valley in November with Sharon Haselhoff and her two friends. We went up in a balloon over Napa, had private tours of wineries, drove through giant redwoods, relaxed with a mineral bath and massage in Calastoga and stayed at the posh Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Wonderful and relaxing!
Ready for more adventures in 2017!