I’m Sorry

I didn’t start out writing this blog post. I started writing a blog about robots. A shallow blog. And then the world blew up. Again. A dear friend of mine posted a passionate, well-written, well-reasoned response to the grievous events in Charlottesville, and she said this. She encouraged all of her friends to think about ways they too could speak out about what happened and what continues to happen in the United States of America. To no longer remain silent. To stand up and be counted. This is my way.

I am pretty much your quintessential Canadian. I was born in Canada and other than a short stint in the very southern U.S of A, have lived all of my life in this great country of ours. I listen to Gordon Lightfoot, love 5 pin bowling and always pour pure maple syrup on my pancakes. I’m not sure why I am even telling you this as it doesn’t seem to be much of a secret. According to my American friends I sport a Canadian accent which apparently becomes most evident when I use words like “out” and “about”. I also say “pop” not “soda”, assume that everyone knows I want a hot drink when I order “tea”, and always ask for directions to the “washroom” not the “bathroom”.  I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that sometime during a conversation I will inadvertently end a sentence with “eh”, which you would think, would be the most telling of all. But if there needs to be icing on this cake, like most good Canadians, I share with my compatriots a propensity to quite unapologetically say “I’m sorry” for, well just about everything. And that’s exactly what I am about to do now. Because unfortunately, right now in this world of ours, there is plenty to be sorry about.

First and foremost I would like to say I’m sorry to all of my American friends who find themselves in the midst of the turmoil through no fault of their own. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to wake up each and every morning and realize that the man in charge is actually the man in charge. A man who has hijacked their country and taken it on such a turbulent flight that no one knows where and if it will safely land. It’s not a dream, or rather a nightmare. It’s really, really happening. Of course we all know that things have never been perfect. Not here, not anywhere. When it comes to governments, even on this side of the planet, there’s always something to beef about. You know what I mean. There are roads that need to be fixed, money wrongly squandered, past injustices to be apologized for.  But I can’t for the life of me recall the last time that one of the “leaders of the free world” came out in blatant support of a group of white supremacists and Neo Nazis. Not even the “fine” ones.

I’m sorry too for all of the people who lived through the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the white supremacists in the not too distant past. The horrific images etched into their memories, never faded.  The survivors of the holocaust. The men and women who fought in wars to keep our countries free. Those who put their fear aside and marched in the streets of Alabama, and many more streets, in the ’60s. I may be shallow but I’m no fool. I know our problems were never solved. I know that there is still plenty of hatred and bigotry in this world of ours. But for a while there at least, it was frowned upon to walk down the street chanting Nazi slogans and proudly displaying swastika laden clothing. Just ask Prince Harry about that. It hurts me to think that the people who fought so hard for our rights, who implore us to “never forget” must again witness this unadulterated hatred in our streets.

And now let me apologize for myself. I’m sorry for all of the times I stood silent, walked away knowing that something someone had said or done was antisemitic, racist, sexist or egregious in some other way. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t always walk away. There were times that I stood my ground. Let others know what I thought. Fought the good fight. But there were also times when I told myself that battles had to be chosen. When I was too tired to take a stand. Not ready for the confrontations. I had been there, done that. Didn’t want to do it again. Looking back I know better. I just should have done something, said something. As should we all. But now I watch as the daughter and son-in-law of the man in charge have apparently decided to pick their battles too. If I can be so bold, I’d like to say something to them. Here’s some unsolicited advice from one Mother, who at times stood silent, to another.

You are two powerful people. You have a platform, a voice. You have his ear. We counted on you to be his voice of reason. To do the right thing. So where are you now? Ok. I get it. He’s your Father. You work for him. That aside, there are many reasons for you to speak out now, but here’s just one. You made a choice to bring Jewish children into this world. They are your legacy. There is nothing, not anything, that is more important to you than your children. It’s your responsibility to protect them. To speak up, if not on your own, on their behalf. Because if you don’t, one day you’re going to look back and realize that you too, have plenty to be sorry about.  

So there you have it. I’m sorry that this is not really a shallow blog. But I’m not sorry that I wrote it.

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We’ll See.

All I can say is it’s been 2 weeks and I’m not sure this is for me. Maybe it’s because I’m shallow or perhaps because I’m not shallow enough. That rather frightening thought has occurred to me over this past little while. And I say “little” with my tongue in cheek as the last 14 days have been one of the longest years of my life. Let’s get a couple of things out of the way from the start. First, I’m not implying that all of you happy retired people are shallow, although it’s possible some of you might be and there’s really nothing wrong with that if you are. Second, I’ve always  known that the hardest part of retirement isn’t about the money. It’s about figuring out what you want to do with these golden years of your life. And before everyone starts dishing out advice, yes, I did the research. Read the books. Well skimmed a few. Talked to all of my happily retired friends. Found out what they like, what they don’t like, what they do and what they don’t do. I’ve paid attention as they post one seemingly joyous status update to Facebook after another. Good God! I’ve even lived with a retired person for the past 8 years so no one can say I haven’t done my due diligence. And yet, here I sit, wondering why many people seem to spend their entire working life looking forward to the day they don’t have to work anymore.

I’ve never been one for routines. My cat has routines. My husband has routines. I just don’t. I don’t get up at the same time everyday. I don’t even have an alarm clock. Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get dressed when I get up, most often I don’t. When I worked, I did my work when my work needed to be done. And it’s been this way for quite a while now.

I suppose if I think back to when I was younger, it probably wasn’t the case. In those days I wasn’t seasoned enough to go about my business any which way. Younger people (at least in my day) had the disadvantage of youth. Not enough experience (or guts) to tell the old guys how things should be done. So in we came five days a week, starting at 9, working to 5 whether or not there was work to be done. If nothing else, it gave the day some structure. You knew what time you had to be up, what time you would be home again. You got hungry around 7:00 because that’s how long it took you to make dinner. You did something in the evening but not too much since that alarm of yours was going to go off bright and early the next morning. Much time was spent thinking about what you were going to do on the week-end because back then, there was a difference between weekdays and weekends.

Here’s the good thing about getting older. Some time ago I finally figured out that they needed me just an eensy bit more than I needed them. I can’t say exactly when that happened or when it will happen for you. When it does you’ll just know. You’ll start to come to work a little late and no one will say anything, even though they most certainly will notice. You’ll leave early and they won’t ask you where you’re going because they assume you have something important to do. Eventually you won’t even have to pretend you are on your way to a meeting. Before you know it you’ll add your afternoon hair appointment to your calendar, even though everyone you work with can see it. It’s then you realize you’re captain of your ship, master of your universe. You’re doing things when you want to do them. You broke the mold. Hit the jackpot. Finally, no more routines for you.

And here’s the irony of it all. It seems to me (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) that the people who are most successful at this retirement thing are those who have managed to adopt a routine for themselves. They’re the ones who get up each morning knowing pretty much how the day is going to play out. Maybe they run. Or eat a hearty breakfast. Or find some friends and go for a long morning walk. Perhaps they read the paper. I’m thinking they must make lists because it seems that whatever it is they do, they know what they are going to do next. Things fall into place. At least that’s what they tell me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they do the same thing each and every day.  After all, there’s not a concert in the park every day. Just every Wednesday. And on Wednesday you can bet your bottom dollar that’s where they’ll be.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I haven’t quite come to grips with my new found status in life and I’m finding this all a bit confusing.   After years of working my way out of a life of day to day routine it appears that my best bet is to go out there and find one.  I’m struggling just a little bit. Maybe I’ll write my way through this. I’ve been thinking about turning those “Prickly Pete” bedtime stories I used to tell my kids, into a series. I’ve also been thinking about writing a “Shallow Guide to Retirement”, although seems to me that might be a tad premature. I don’t know.  I’m not ready to make any commitments. For now I’m reminded of when I used to ask my Mother if something was going to happen for sure. Most often she would reply with a rather definitive “We’ll see”.  Maybe two weeks just isn’t enough time. I suppose we’ll see.

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The Cat’s Not Dead, Yet

To work or not to work. It may not be “the” question but it is a question nonetheless. And it’s one I’ve been pondering for some time now. As many of you know, I retired (apparently fake news) going on two and a half years ago. It’s true. I got the gifts and the accolades from my colleagues, which included a very public declaration of my aversion to hugging. Timely I’d say on that particularly day. I even gave a “poem speech” as I am apt to do on these type of occasions. So you would think I would have packed my bags, bid a fond adieu and rode off into the sunset. You would think. But, again as many of you know, I took a day off (actually two) and headed back to my desk, albeit in a rather distant location,where I have remained ever since. Because apparently it’s what I love to do. Work. But “the time has come to talk of other things, like shoes and ships and sealing wax” (Thanks LC). Well maybe not that. Ok, shoes. But at the very least one must talk about what to do when stepping away from the almost too familiar daily grind.

As I am wont to do at these times of indecision, I called a good ol’ friend and headed to my neighborhood watering hole (ok, you know where I went) to shoot the breeze and have someone else figure this out for me. It’s the least they can do, don’t you think? I mean I’ve pretty much worked out my life for myself to this point. I think it’s about time that someone else stepped up to the plate and took a swing at the bat. Why let fate take its course when you can plant the blame firmly on someone else? Sure. It might cost you a cuppa coffee or two but if that’s what it takes to absolve yourself of all future responsibility for the decisions you make, it’s money well spent in my book. Just think of it as an investment in your future. And so, there we sat under the blazing sun in the eternally blue skies of Alberta, talking about all things retirement.

The thing I love about retired people is how they manage to put a positive spin on just about anything. Talk to them about money. Let’s face it. More than likely, when you retire you will be living on a few less shekels than what you’ve become accustomed. I know. There are the pensions the government gives out in order to leave enough cat food on the shelves for the cats. And then there’s the dollars you have been saving for nigh on 40 years that you can now start to pry out of that wallet of yours. Nonetheless, you are still likely to come up a little bit short. But ask a retired person about living on less and, dimes to dollars, they’re going to tell you that they don’t even notice the difference. First they’ll rattle on about all of the seniors discounts that are now at your disposal. So what if you can only go to the grocery store on the first Tuesday of every month and the lines will literally be out the door? You’re retired! What else did you have to do? Then there’s those early bird specials at the local diner which are perfect, now that you will want to be home for the 6:00 news anyway. Of course clothes are no longer an issue since you can pretty much wear the same jeans and T for most everything. Afterall, who’s looking at you? And if you decide you need a new frock, just head down to the nearest Bay store, on a Tuesday of course.. At the end of this diatribe you’re absolutely convinced that, not only will you be able to avail yourself of all of the necessities of life, but should Bill Gates come knocking at your door you’ll welcome him with open arms and let him know you’ve managed to reserve a suite for he and his family at the Four Season’s. Gratis.

As important as money might be however, that’s not what you’re really worried about. You really want to know more about what’s going to get you out of bed each day. How are you going to pass all of that time now that you don’t have a whack of emails to go through, people to see, places to go. And here again they’ll pontificate on the wonder that is retirement. Somehow, and apparently this happens each and every day, you get up in the morning and before you know it, the day is done. They`re not even sure where the time goes but somehow between reading the morning paper and watching Peter Mansbridge  end the day with the nightly news (it`s a Canadian thing), time just flies by. Asking for more specifics reaps some rather vague chatter about taking walks, meeting friends for coffee, getting through the stack of books that’s managed to accumulate over dozens of years, the gratifying feeling that one gets from volunteering once a week and that continuing education photography course they should have, would have taken years ago if only they had found the time. This will all end with the now very much overused and perhaps even, somewhat trite “I don’t know how I ever had time to work” followed by what can only be described as a long sigh of gratitude that those days of tedium are over and done with.

Of course, the conversation can’t come to an end without some talk about travel. It seems to me that for most, this is really what retirement is all about. Once you’ve wrapped up the daily 9 – 5 you are apparently now free to travel the world. There are places to go, people to see.  And so it was that I sat and listened to my friend wax eloquently about the exotic destinations he’s visited, the wonderful food and wine he consumed, and the beaches he has relaxed on, with nothing better to do than sip Margaritas and watch the evening sun slip through the sky. Who could ask for anything more? So I was not surprised that when he stopped to take a well deserved breath, he noticed the look of dismay on my face. The conversation that followed went something like this:

My Friend: “What?” he said. “Have I not convinced you that this will be the best time of your life?”
Me: “Don’t get me wrong. This all sounds great.
My Friend: “What is it then? What’s the problem?”
Me: As enticing as the walking and the discounts, the coffee and Peter might be, I’m really most interested in the travelling. But, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do that.”
My Friend: Why not? You’re still young! You have the time, the money and the energy. What’s going to stop you now?”
Me. “Well, it’s none of those things. It’s just that the cat’s not dead yet.”

I don’t know. Maybe I better just keep working.

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I Need a Plan

I’ve never been much of a planner. I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you that. After all, you’ve been reading about the life of a shallow person for many, many years now and, as such, I’m pretty sure you have some idea of how this little brain of mine works. What you may find a tad ironic is that I spent a good deal of my working life as a career planning counselor helping others figure out what they wanted to do when they grew up. But I suppose it’s not that unusual. You can liken it to the carpenter who never has time to build her own deck. Or fix the hole in the wall. Or finish the doghouse she promised to her pooch when she picked him up from his foster home. You get my drift. There are things you can do well for others that you never do for yourself. And for me, planning my life was one of those things.

It’s not that I don’t plan anything. Oh contraire! There are a plethora of things that I plan for. Like vacations. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m really good at planning vacations. There’s never anything spontaneous when I hit the road. By the time I’m done with that planning  I’ll know exactly where I’ll rest my head each and every night. Not only that. I’ll be able to tell you my estimated time of arrival, give or take a minute or two depending on traffic and road conditions along the way. I’ll have gotten the best possible price on the best possible hotel in the vicinity and likely know where I’ll be satiating my hunger that evening. The last thing I want is to end up sleeping in my car on the side of the Trans Canada highway somewhere between Princeton and Vancouver, in the pouring rain, because there are no vacancies due to an obscure peach (or other kind of fruit) festival being held, of all the silly times, on a long week-end in August. I mean who wants that to happen…again. So I plan my vacations.

To tell you the truth, I’m not too shabby on the financial front either. Not that it has made me rich beyond my wildest dreams. But I’m doing all right. Sure I’ve made some mistakes but nothing that has proved to be catastrophic. As it is, I have a lovely roof over my head, food on the table, jeans in my closet and enough left over at the end of the month to take one of those well planned road trips. All of which I am truly grateful for.  And while there may have been some luck involved, for the most part, it was planning that made it happen. Which probably leaves you wondering, why all the fuss and bother about not being a planner? Because on the surface it would appear that everything is hunky-dory. The important stuff has been worked out and as to the rest, well maybe I should just let the chips fall where they may. Of course, you’d be right. Except for one thing. You see, in the very next little while I will be retiring from my current job. And if I have to be honest with you (as I always am) that’s something I really haven’t planned for.

Don’t get me wrong. Like most, I’m looking forward to this new stage of my life. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed working. The truth is, I’ve always loved my jobs and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with. At least most of them. Which could be the reason I face this next adventure (as some would have me call it) with more than a little trepidation. You see, I’ve been racking my brain as to what I am going to do with all of the excess time I will find myself in the midst of. Yes, I know. Friends of mine who are retired tell me they are busier now than they ever were when they were working. Over and over I hear them exclaim “I don’t know how I ever had time for my job!” I can tell you how. They paid you to be there, so you were there.

The truth is, I have had no shortage of suggestions made to me. There’s volunteer work to be done (isn’t that just a job you don’t get paid for?), lunches to be had, books to be read, places to go, dishes to be washed. I get it. There’s lots to do when you retire. The question is, exactly what is it that I will do? I suppose I could say I will spend more time meeting my friends at  the local Starbucks but that just doesn’t seem to cut it. Not that I don’t want to see my friends, or spend my excess cash drinking fancy coffees. The thing about going for coffee is that it only works when you are taking a break from “something”, not from “nothing”. Some people have suggested that my new found freedom will provide me with much more time to spend writing this blog. I’m guessing they are mostly people who don’t read it.

So there you have it. Even for a shallow gal, the prospect of an uncertain future seems somewhat daunting. Sure. Over the next little while I figure something will come up that I can latch on to. I’ll take a class or two and see what happens. Do some sightseeing around this Island of ours. Reconnect with friends I haven’t seen for a while. But in the meantime, if anyone happens to know the name of a good career planning counselor, this would be a great time to pass that on to me.

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Back Again!

I know. It’s been a while. Not that anyone has been calling to ask what’s goin’ on with the blog. Nonetheless, I’m guessing that by now you’re thinking my transition from a shallow person to a non-shallow person (that would be the opposite, would it not?) has been complete and I can no longer sustain a blog that would claim differently. Can’t say that it’s so. There’s a funny thing about time and distance. You see a month or so ago, when I was 2,120 km (that’s 1317 miles for those who resist the conversion) from home, I was in the thick of it. I kept my eye on things. I knew each and every move that was being made by what seemed (and still does seem) to be someone who might not have been an appropriate choice to run one of the most powerful countries in the world. I suppose I could now conclude that at the time I was residing in our neighbor to the south, it was pretty hard to escape the “goings on” and yet, it was more than that. I was drawn in. Sucked perhaps into the midst of the political debate, discussion and controversy that surrounded me.

But time and distance have made all the difference. Don’t get me wrong. I remain painfully aware of who’s in charge and continue to have moments of pure trepidation as to what news I might awake to on any given morning. And I realize that no man is an island. Although I do actually live on one. But it’s not as intense. Not so immediate. Not so welded into my existence, day in and day out. Besides. There’s no one at the local Starbucks that’s even talking about “45” these days. Trust me. I’m a pretty good listener.

So here I am. Back again and ready to admit that I realize all of what’s been said above doesn’t account for my rather extended absence. And here’s where a shallow person’s colours really shine. You see, shallow people are unabashedly unapologetic about coming up with excuses for pretty much anything that needs explaining. There’s no uphill climb here for me so let’s just get this show on the road. 

Excuse #1: First there’s the “settling back in” stuff that comes with having vacated your homestead for nigh on two months and a bit. The trips to Costco, the local grocers, the butcher, the baker, the bank (bet that’s not what you thought I was going to say) back to Costco. And perhaps with a little less gusto, the now unavoidable dentist appointment that can no longer be sidestepped with a “Sorry but I’m going to be out of town for an extended period of time” excuse. It all has to get done and it all takes time.

Excuse #2: Next there’s catching up to do. Lots of people that haven’t been seen for several months need to be called, arrangements made to get together for a chit chat, and time set aside for that get together. Since I’m normally not the most social person in the universe, the meet and greets tend to take a fair bit of energy on my part, leaving little left in the evenings for my musings. Not that I’m complaining. I mean it’s nice to make some time for friends particularly when it becomes a stellar excuse for my rather flagrant procrastination. Which might not be so problematic if it wasn’t for NetFlix.

Excuse #3: Yes, Netflix. The current scourge of my existence. I can’t even begin to count the number of quite awful movies that are consuming my time of late. In retrospect it may have been a less than good decision to purchase a subscription to this dastardly service given my propensity for watching B list movies. Honestly, why would I think that spending hours watching them on the TV stations was not enough?. Did I think my life could be improved by having access “on demand” to a seemingly infinite number of bad movies? Don’t get me wrong. There are actually some very good offerings on NetFlix (who wouldn’t want to spend an evening with Grace and Frankie?) and there’s something to be said about having the freedom to call up “Eat, Pray, Love” whenever one has the inkling to do so.  But again, all of this takes time and in my case, time away from the blog.

Excuse #4: My laptop broke. Sure I have other computers that I can use for the blog. After all, the blog is on the internet so theoretically I can access it from any electronic device. I have lots of those. But I’m accustomed to writing the blog on my laptop. It’s comfortable. I can move around with it. If I need to leave one room for another I can take it with me. It lets me multitask. I can also watch TV with the laptop on my lap. It’s not that hard. Really bad movies don’t demand all that much attention.

Excuse #5: It’s not that I can’t come up with more excuses but for now I will leave you with this one. I just haven’t had anything to write about. As you may know, I spend a fair bit of time observing the human condition (some might call it drinking coffee) and that usually triggers an idea, a thought, something that inspires me to put pen to paper, so to speak. Lately of course those triggers have been fewer and farther between but nonetheless, they have been there. But now there’s nothing. Nada. None of this half empty/half full glass for me. It’s just plain empty. I don’t know. Can’t really explain it.

Funny story. I’m still sitting here with nothing to write about and yet, what do you know. I’ve written a whole blog post. It’s a post about nothing really. That sounds vaguely familiar.  Makes me think this just might have some potential.

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