Retirement: How I learned how to settle down and just relax, finally

I’ve been enjoying myself these days, not looking for work, helping out my family, and just taking out time to BE.

Thanks to modern medicine, my depressive episode has been beat back where it belongs (in the corner of my being that I don’t have time for right now. I’m sleeping pretty well, my anxiety is being kept at bay, and I’m ~45% less cranky than I was BZ (before Zoloft).

I’ve also seen some of my self-confidence return since taking my pills. I was fearful all the time, afraid to do things I used to take for granted–stuff I needed to take care of (like driving a family member’s car, dealing with issues like student loans, Medicare, paying bills, etc.). It’s kind of exciting for me, a renewal of sorts, to be taking care of my business again.  Once I got past the knowledge that I should could not be working right now, things started to fall into place.

I’m spending a lot of time in Bellevue, with my son and grandchildren, and that’s helped me also. Their support helps a lot. I’m also driving my family to and from school, play practice, and commuter buses. Add helping with household chores, and watching all kinds of t.v. shows with them! This helps me to feel that I am contributing something, and being a part of their daily lives. I’m no longer in charge of tilting at windmills (i.e., being a supervisor at a non-profit), but I’m giving of myself to people I love. That’s a huge boost for me, an accomplishment that I’m proud of. I’ve missed a lot over the years, because I was working, or home in a coma-like state after a tough week at work!

So–I’m relaxed, my mood is on a more even keel, and I am happy.

Nothing to sneeze at, right?

More to follow on my retirement days…

Winter Storm Juno: Northeast Snowstorm Ramping Up; Blizzard Conditions Forecast in 7 States – weather.com

Winter Storm Juno: Northeast Snowstorm Ramping Up; Blizzard Conditions Forecast in 7 States – weather.com.

For anyone in the path of this historic storm, I hope you stay safe, warm, and well.

And I hope the storm is not as bad as it is being predicted.

As I sit at my computer in Seattle, the sun is shining and the high temperature is supposed to reach 61 degrees F today.

And I’m thinking of another east coast storm, circa 1977 or so. I was living in rural New York State (Wolcott, NY), less than one mile from Lake Ontario, and a monster storm was predicted. In our neighborhood, lake effect snow was a given during the winter months. There was no internet, of course, but television, radio, and newspaper stories cautioned that a monster storm would paralyze us for days.

Mom and Dad called and told me to get ready for a store run, to get supplies for this storm. My son and I bundled up, and Dad drove us to Sodus, NY, to stock up. The grocery store in Sodus was out of bread and milk, so we got back in the car and traveled to Newark. Thankfully, the Wegman’s store in Newark still had lots of food, so we stocked up.

Dad drove us home so we could stock our refrigerators and cupboards.

I made some lunch for my son and I, and we started putting together puzzles and watching out for the storm.

And the storm never came.

We talked about the storm that never came for years!

I’m pretty sure that weather forecasting has gotten more efficient since the 1970s, but if you are in the path of this storm, I hope this is your storm that never comes!

Coming back, and what the hell does self-care mean?

It is happening slowly, but I am starting to feel like my old self.

My ex supervisor, a certified genius, gave me some good advice: Healing yourself is the most important thing right now and it is very hard to put yourself first and be okay with it.   Give yourself the gift of allowing deep healing to occur. Relax. breathe. All of the years in the high stress situation at _______ cannot be undone in a few months.

Yeah.

What she said.

It seems like my healing is taking a long time, but I am noticing some changes: I no longer have to push myself to get out of bed and take a shower or bath every day (which I am sure my family and housemates are excited about); my mood is more even-keeled, with fewer outbursts of anger/tears/hopelessness; my sleep quality is much improved.

And I am relaxing, enjoying being with my family, contacting friends, getting out a few times a day to walk the dog, taking joy from doing household chores and just being active.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what self-care means for me and my current situation. I am very proud that I listened to what my body was telling me to do when I retired from my job. I knew that I was burned out and needed to move on, but I have not been sure about what comes next! In another email exchange, my ex sup reminded me that my anxiety attacks are coming from within. Telling me to STOP and listen to myself! As I have started listening to myself, I have considered the changes I want to make, beginning with not pushing myself so hard and easing up on myself.

I told you, the woman is a freaking genius.

So for me, self-care means listening to myself (which is a total scream, I am so good at listening to other people and now I have to learn to listen to myself), and allowing myself the time to recover, refresh, and renew.

It’s also a time to grieve–the loss of my youth, the loss of a family member a few months ago, losing someone I love a few years ago. I have always been one to push things aside until I am ready to deal with them. I know, it is classic denial, but you can always count on unresolved grief to kick you in the ass and remind you it is still there, waiting for you to deal with it so you can move on and be done with it!  live with it. I do not believe that loss is something one recovers from; rather, it becomes something one can live with. I am proud (mostly) of the way I have handled the last few years (and last few months) of profound change. Hey, we all make mistakes and missteps; it is human nature. I have said it before, I am taking the path less traveled for myself. It is new, exciting, and at times scary as hell!

What is most important to me right now is that I am coming back, baby. It feels good, and right, and I am convinced that I am where I need to be right now.

I have promised myself to blog more, work on my writing projects every day, and be gentle with myself when I do not keep those promises!

One of my favorite movies has always been The Wizard of Oz–my favorite part is when Dorothy gets caught in the twister, her bed and house spinning out of control. At times in the last two years I have felt that I was spinning out of control, caught up in the twister, not in control of my life or my emotions.

I have finally realized that I just need to wait for the spinning to stop. It is slowing down, as I have gained a greater understanding of what is happening, and as I contemplate my next steps.

Self-care, a.k.a listening to myself, has shown me that I have been on, and continue to be on, one hell of a journey.

It is time for me to relax and enjoy it.

dorothy

Picture from karenlogan.com

Crispy Critter: A tale of job burnout

crispy critter

I’ve been wanting to share this for some time, but I was afraid that my post would become too weepy and whiny.

You know, boring?

And frankly, I am tired of being blue and feeling sorry for myself.

Again, its boring and not helpful at all.

As a clinical social worker, I know what the research says about job burnout.

I’m not going to cite studies, or journal articles, because I need to share what my burnout has been all about.

And I am not going to blame any one person or the agency I worked for–the job is what it is, I did it for a very long time (and a lot longer than most), and I knew for over a year that it was time for me to pack up my stuff and head out with my head held high and my sanity intact (not sure about the sanity part). I will be forever grateful that my employer kept me working for so many years, and kept promoting me.

As an employee, I have always pushed myself at my jobs, whether I was filling coffee cups  or stocking merchandise at an independently owned pharmacy. Slowing down was not something I believed in, ever.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It took me a long time to get my blood sugars under control, eating healthier and getting off the couch once in a while helped a lot! Being a diabetic means living a balanced life–sometimes it feels like walking a tightrope, one misstep and my blood sugars would go up, I would sleep all the time, and my mood was meaner than week-old socks.

Within a few years, I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. And I noticed that I was slowing down. I was going to bed earlier, using my PTO for sick time instead of vacations, and turning down invitations to social events. I worked harder on my diet and exercise, lost some weight, and noticed that my engine was starting to rev up again. That lasted about six months, and then my dedicated efforts started to slip again. I gained some weight back, and I was exhausted all of the time.I also noticed that my memory was starting to fail a bit. I was also having to shut my office door every so often so that I could manage my anxiety attacks–breathing like I was running for a bus I had NO hope of catching, sweating, putting my head on my desk because I was light headed, my head pounding and my ears ringing.

Yeah.

I was also depressed, a lot, and my doctor talked to me about starting up anti depressants again. I did not let him know about the intensity or the frequency of my anxiety attacks. I know, goofy, right? Doc did know that my sleep was off–I had no problem getting to sleep, but would wake up at 2:00 a.m. and would fall asleep around four, to be royally pissed when my alarm went off at six.

I was still pushing myself at work, but not as much. By this time, I was threatening to retire on a pretty steady basis–one week I would calculate my Social Security benefits and tell my boss I was leaving, the next week I would declare to my long-suffering supervisor that I would NOT retire, not yet anyway.

Deep in my soul, I knew that my time at this job was coming to an end, my body was aging, my need to work at MACH 1 getting really old and frankly not the best plan for me.

And here’s where ego comes in!

Over the years, I gained a rep at my agency for being some sort of expert, and many people looked up to me as a role model (or so I have been told). This was very gratifying, but when many people think you walk on water, it can be hard to live up to! I remember telling a grandchild a few years ago how smart they were. “Please don’t say that, Grandma Beth, it’s a lot to live up to.”

Preach it, kiddo.

I was a Golden Girl at my agency, and it felt great most of the time. Hell, that is not an honest statement, I LOVED it. My self-esteem has never been great, and it really blew back whatever hair I have left to know that I was held in such high esteem by my colleagues. I lapped up praise like a really good sponge, and I came to need the praise. Even when I was 100% WRONG about something, I managed to retain my royal status.

What a rush.

But my old friend exhaustion became my stalker, following me around night and day, whispering in my ear, “You will never get rid of me, EVER, because we belong together. You are mine, and no one else will have you, bitch.”

Okay, I’m laying it on kind of thick, I know, but I’m enjoying it.

So I retired at the end of June, with every intention of getting a job to supplement my Social Security check, ensuring that I would maintain the quality of life I have come to enjoy while being gainfully employed for years.

As of today, six months after leaving my job at a local nonprofit, I have walked away from two great jobs because I was unable to handle the stress of the jobs. And remember when I told you that I loved being the Golden Girl at my agency? Well, I am pretty sure that part of my stress level is about having to prove myself to new employers–I’m not the Golden Girl anymore, I’m the new hire!

Me.

Once I have been trained for these jobs, and am expected to perform at an acceptable performance level, I fall apart. My head aches, my breathing becomes erratic, my chest starts to hurt, and I start to cry.

Criminy.

Thanks to my family and my housemates (and a doctor who answers emails), I am lucky to have lots of support. At least for now, I need to look for a job that is low stress and easy to do–because I need to work at something. It’s not just about having some extra scratch, it’s got everything to do with being out in the world, being productive, despite my age and chronic health conditions. For me, working is about keeping that balance in my life.

And to be honest, there have been some good things happening as I’ve traveled down this weepy whiny road of retirement. I’ve gotten lots of sleep, spent oodles of time with my family and housemates, and even gotten out to some SOCIAL functions. And, with my housemates and grandchildren, I have moved into a cool house on Cap Hill, and can walk everywhere. AND I get to pay senior bus fare, FINALLY!

Whoa.

I miss my colleagues, and the clients, and being royalty at my agency.

But you know, I am taking the road less traveled right now. I may not have kept those two jobs, but dammit, I am trying! I am not giving up. Life experience has proven to me that change is hard, but I know that I have made the right, the only, decision for me at this time. My sense of humor is returning, my sleep quality has improved, and I am getting out of the house every day (I forgot to mention, there were days in the past six months I did not leave the house. My housemates made me get out of the house, thank goodness).

I have been grieving for the last six months, letting go of that younger woman who used to inherit this body. Accepting this aging, cranky woman has been hard, but it’s been a good and necessary series of inner battles.

If you have kept reading this far, I thank you very much.

That’s all I have to say right now, thank goodness!

Book Review: (Un) bidden (Judgement of the Six #4) Release date 11/24/14

I received an ARC of (Un) bidden from author Melissa Haag, and I am so glad I got a chance to read more about Charlene and Thomas!

The pacing of (Un)bidden is a bit slower than the other books, and I liked it! This story gave me the opportunity to learn more about claiming, and how the werewolf society was functioning when Charlene arrived. Poor girl, she was just looking for a safe place to spend the night, and she got more than she had bargained for! I cringed when Charlene got bitten, and I felt her pain as her wounds were being cleaned up. Ugh! (Un)bidden shows the daily life of the werewolf community, and the problems it is facing, when Charlene stumbles in for a place to sleep.

It was good to learn how Emmitt and Jim’s parents met and fell in love; Thomas is so patient with Charlene, even as he is struggling to understand what she is all about, what she needs as a human and what she fears.

I love this series because the young women are powerful, and we get a chance to see them acknowledge, accept, and make use of their power. Charlene makes her presence known in this community of werewolves, and uses her power to change their lives for the better (even if it means she is putting herself in more danger). At one point, Thomas tells Charlene that she is the heart of the community, and that made me punch my fist in the air and yell YES. I think that it can be hard for women, especially young women, to embrace and accept their gifts.

I also loved watching Charlene learn to love and trust Thomas, but as the story draws to a close it is clear that she has still kept secrets from Thomas, and she fears what is coming next. I do not like this facet of Charlene’s character, this part of her personality that keeps her disconnected from others, and isolates her. It is the fear, I am sure, fear of what will happen to those she loves. I think Charlene feels very responsible for everyone, and that her power is in so many ways a burden.

Wonderful addition to the Judgement of the Six!

I cannot wait for the next story.

unbid

picture of book cover from amazon.com

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J.K. Rowling writes Harry Potter Halloween tale profiling ‘malicious’ Dolores Umbridge – Books – TODAY.com

J.K. Rowling writes Harry Potter Halloween tale profiling 'malicious' Dolores Umbridge – Books – TODAY.com.

Smashing character profile of Dolores Umbridge!

Dolores has always scared the heck right out of me, even more than Bellatrix Lestrange .

If you love the Harry Potter series, I guarantee this story will not disappoint!

And Happy Halloween!

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read | Banned & Challenged Books

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read | Banned & Challenged Books.

I will not get a chance to post this next week, so here’s my 2 cents:

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot read.

Censorship is NOT okay in a free society.

If a book offends you, don’t read the damn thing.

But please, don’t tell me what I can and cannot read, because is it none of your dang business. I will read what I like, when I like.

And personally, I feel that if you are going to restrict what your children read, then you’ve never spent any time in a schoolyard, playground, or other areas where children congregate.

When I was a child, if my parents told me I could not do something it automatically became the one thing I MUST do.

But again, that’s my two cents.

Celebrate Banned Books Week, by reading (or rereading) a book on the Banned books list.

I’ve decided to finally read “Fifty Shades of Grey” this week and next.

Because that’s my right!

‘Festive in Death’ by JD Robb

Must-read romances: 'Festive in Death,' 'Malachim'.

When it comes to reading, I am not a romance buff, with one exception.

Festive in Death is the latest JD Robb story about Eve Dallas and her gorgeous (and filthy rich) husband Roarke, and it’s available September 9.

OF COURSE I have my Kindle copy pre-ordered.

Here’s why the In Death series is so awesome:

–Amazing characters. I’ve watched Eve Dallas fall in love, work on conquering her demons, and generally become a stronger human being as the books progress. The other characters in these books are also well thought out, interesting, and as human as hell. Hell, I even love their cat, who has as much spunk as Eve.
–Each book has Eve solving another case, usually with her husband Rorarke by her side. The cases are lots of fun, kind of grisly sometimes (well, Eve IS a murder cop), and always very interesting.
–The dialogue uttered by these great characters moves along quickly, and their words ring true.
–The stories stay on target, from beginning to end. The scenes from Eve’s personal life do not detract from the story, they add to the story.
–This series is fun to read, and allows me to escape for a few hours as I devour each book like a crack junkie.

If you read this, and you have not read any of the In Death books, I hope you give one a try!

Happy Labor Day, USA

This is it.

The end of summer.

As I prepare to start working again (part time, yeah), I’m thinking of this new path I’m on in my life.

Creating a new normal for myself is exciting and at times scarier than hell.

But hey, I asked for this, right?

I thought through this new path for months before actually taking the leap.

Be careful what you wish and plan for, girlfriend!

Today I’m wishing you all a great Labor Day holiday, if you are in the U.S. If you work, then I hope you only have to work for a few hours.

I’m going to do laundry and work on a writing project, and take a bit of a walk this afternoon.

Cheers to you all!

labor day2

 

Burned by the job? What to do, what to do…

Great article from the Mayo Clinic about Job burnout.

As many of you know, I retired from my nonprofit job after 12 years.

I worked at my agency from 2001-2006, then went back in the spring of 2007 and made it until the end of this June.

As a master’s level social worker, I know what job burnout is all about. I can recite all of the signs that one is burned out from the job. I worked for over a year knowing it was time for me to move on. For awhile I resisted making any changes, I think because I loathe (and fear) making any changes in my life!

So here’s what I experienced in my months of burnout:

  • Coming home at night so tired all I could do was crash on the couch after dinner, and then wanting to consume large bags of Lay’s potato chips and sugar-laden foods.
  • Turning down social invitations because I was so emotionally and physically fatigued.
  • Absolutely dreading Sunday afternoon, because it was time to get ready for another week of work.
  • Increasingly impatient, irritable, and angry with everyone–my agency, my coworkers, clients, and myself.
  • I always had a headache, or backache, or some kind of damn pain, somewhere in my body.
  • I was always complaining about my job, to anyone who would listen.
  • My sleep was poor; I would fall asleep with no problems, then wake up a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep.

I floundered for awhile, wondering what the hell to do next. As a “mature” woman, I had to take into account ageism. If I quit my job, how long would it take me to get another one?

That’s when I started thinking about retirement. My full retirement age is next year, so I needed to assess my situation. In the end, I decided to take early retirement and start looking for part time work after a short break.

I realize you might not be in the same age bracket as me, so here’s what I suggest you do if you think you have job burnout:

  • Start by assessing your situation and what you want to do next. I do not know if this will work for you, but when I admitted to myself that I was burned out, and needed to make a change, I started to feel like I was taking control of my situation. I told myself, over and over again, that I would know what direction to take next at the right time for me.
  • Get some support–family, friends, coworkers (if you feel comfortable doing so), a therapist, minister, or perhaps someone who does career advising for a living.
  • Consider talking to your doctor, and see if your health insurance covers any therapy sessions or support groups. If your company participates in the Family Medical Leave Act, do you qualify for some time away from work?
  • Get your resume spruced up and get it out there–on Monster.com and Indeed. Join LinkedIn and start connecting with others. Spend some time on Craigslist and troll the ads, just to see what’s out there.
  • If you see some jobs that appeal to you, apply for them and see what happens.
  • Take a vacation if you can!
  • Better yet, get some exercise! I took some Pilates classes, and they helped me manage my sleep. Yoga and walking helped me a lot also. Getting outside in the fresh air is a great mood booster.
  • Even better, try some meditation, especially if you are having trouble sleeping.

I have classified myself as semi-retired right now. I will admit that I’m starting to feel a little anxious, and hope to get some part time work soon. But I am certain that I did the right thing for myself–my mood is improved, I have caught up on my rest, and I feel in control of my life again. I miss my work mates something fierce, and plan to see them socially whenever I can.

But I’m also happier than I have been for a long time, at peace with my decision to leave a job that I was ready to leave.

And if you feel you are burned out by your job, I’m sending you a virtual, side-type, Granny hug. Try my ideas, or Google job burnout.

There’s hope for all of us, I’m certain of it!

And here’s my latest iPhone pic, that I took today while I was out walking in the sunshine:

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