Sunday, February 2, 2014

US50 - Phase 1: Just a few more days until road time!

Sep 2012
Coming up on half a year retired; and the trip is looming!

I have to say that in my case I highly recommend retiring. In fact it is almost scary, OK, sometimes it’s definitely scary, how easily I left my work-a-day life, and persona, behind and settled into just being me. It feels like I can breathe again, like I can truly relax.

My routines have always been important to me, my grown up version of a security blanket.  All those little things I do every day that let me know I'm still taking my proper place in the overall scheme of things, that all is right with my world. So as I moved into retirement and the impending loss of so many of those little routines I worried about life without them.

How was I going to structure my days? Either that or how was I going to manage without structure to my days? Was I going to continue to feel right with the world once my labors weren’t so focused on the outer world but rather more on the inner world of me?

Well for me the answer is yes. I have enough structure to keep my inner self happy. Little things like waking up at sunrise (Waking naturally; no alarm clocks!) and working out as dawn sweeps down the hill to the west. In fact I’m working out much more regularly now than when I was working. Can’t use the excuse of a hard day or late hour to get out of it now. (But rain days are allowed!) I guess you could say I’m now living with a ‘flexible’ set of routines and much of my time just happens depending on the needs and wants of the moment rather than being scheduled.

I find that my sense of well-being, of accomplishment, isn’t completely dependent on being able to check off a list of the day’s accomplishments. When I do finish something concrete, like fixing a broken door or setting a carving on the curing rack so the finish can harden off, it feels good, but if I spend the afternoon kicked back in a chair reading I don’t feel guilty about it.

As for the days going by, I can remember my parents commenting after they retired, that they couldn’t figure out how they ever kept up with all the things they had to do and worked a regular job at the same time. I’m seeing the truth in that now. There’s plenty to do to keep me busy and I can only marvel that I used to do all this in the short time left over after my ‘paying’ job.

So all in all I’m enjoying my freedom and my life and I don’t find myself missing the things I left back there at the office. Other than the occasional flash of curiosity, I’ve never felt like I wanted to go back to it.

So what’s scary about all that? Well maybe, just maybe it’s been a little too easy. Maybe I’m just fooling myself and this initial phase of well-being will wear off; but right now it doesn’t feel that way.

But it’s not all roses. Take this trip for example. This is something I’ve been dreaming about and planning for years. A trip that doesn’t have to be crammed into the unforgiving brackets of a two week vacation, a trip without obligations, OK, with few obligations. (If I ever got that close to Michigan and didn’t stop in to visit the family I wouldn’t have a family to visit!) but now I find myself ambivalent about it, which is probably my way of coping with the fact that I’m afraid of it.

What’s there to be afraid of? Well let’s see. (a) Maybe over the years I’ve built up this unattainable expectation of what this trip will be in my mind and I’m going to be crushed when it doesn’t hit the mark. (2) I’m just getting settled into this retirement thing and now I’m going to take off for a month or more!? What if it breaks the whole status quo? (Thirdly)What if I find out I don’t know how to take a trip like this or even worse, that I don't like it?!

OK, that last one is pretty close to the first, but still; Every road trip I’ve taken since I left home at age 17 was either tightly scheduled (There’s that structure thing again!) or was exactly that, a road trip focused on getting somewhere else. I’m pretty good at knocking off 800 to 900 miles in a day in order to get from here to there (Usually Texas to Michigan) in the shortest time possible, watching the country go by through the windshield at 60+ miles an hour, touching the ground only when I need fuel or a pee. Am I going to be any good at covering a couple hundred miles a day, or even less, and actually touching that countryside? What am I going to do with all the hours of the day if I’m not driving? Can I become the tourist? Checking out restored downtowns and little community museums? Will I be able to find trails to hike, monuments to visit?

It’s not a reaction I was expecting and now I don’t know what to do with it; so I’ve been letting the trip creep closer and closer without doing all that much about it. Not talking about it, not packing for it, not pouring over my maps; not much at all.
So now I can't put it off any longer. It's time to find out if this is going to work.

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