Paying myself back — or forward?

I started off the year kind of gangbusters with blogging, but soon fell off the wagon, as you know. But I didn’t want that last depressing post to be up here on top anymore. I keep praying for my family and friends and am counting on God and the medical system to take it from there.

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been thinking. The usual “What do I want to be when I grow up?” thoughts, only now “when I grow up” pretty much means “when I retire” — which who knows if I’ll ever really be able to. I just saw a commercial for an investment company (don’t have a clue which one), that asks people to write on a wall what they would do if they could do anything. The thing I noticed during the 30 seconds I was engaged was that so many people wrote down creative things. They’d make pies or be a florist or be a writer (! — I’m guessing not the kind of writer I am). So many people are just itching to do something that has nothing to do with traditional office/trade/factory work. The commercial basically said “Yes, you can get paid to do that — you pay yourself to do it with your retirement money.”

That’s a great way to think about it. All those years of working and paying bills (and yes, saving, because that’s a must) are so you can be in charge of your own destiny. Pay yourself to have the freedom to do what you really want. Because otherwise, you might still decide to be a florist, but are you going to work for someone else? Start your own shop? That’s still a business, and a competitive one I imagine. It’s hard work, even though your products are beautiful (and highly perishable). Same with pie baking — or any kind of food/catering business — not easy either. And a writer? Please. We all know how hard that is — and even harder to make any money at it.

So the bottom line, you need to be financially free to pursue your dreams, but that seems so unlikely. I read some sobering statistics yesterday about women and retirement in this article…I don’t think anyone envisions him/herself destitute or in a nursing home, but the sobering reality is that many of us will end up there. There’s also a slew of articles that say, don’t even think about retiring…that even after you reach retirement age, you should still plan to work at least part time.

It’s hard to think about that — that at almost no point in your life (unless you can’t physically or mentally do it anymore), you’ll have to be “on call,” responsible for doing something someone else thinks is worthy of paying you for.

It’s also hard to balance the idea of delayed gratification and saving more for tomorrow with wanting some rewards for hard work today — especially because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone and none of us is getting any younger. (If not now, when?)

I stress about money and saving all the time. I’m convinced we aren’t doing enough. It drives Mike crazy.

I also say just about every day that I want a vacation (the beach comes up a lot). That also drives Mike crazy.

How do you do it? How do you approach the live-today-(while-you-can)-or-save-for-tomorrow conundrum?

Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.
But other times it’s essential to take time off
and to make sure 
that your most important decision in the day
simply consists 
of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.
~ Douglas Pagels

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Forget me not…unless

I haven’t posted in a long time. Haven’t had the motivation, or the inspiration, to write, and that’s OK. Life stuff goes on — work, house, garden. Repeat. Weeks go slow; weekends fly by. There’s never enough time to do what we need to do, let alone what we want to do.

We have, however, made some exciting (for us) progress in the last few months, including completing our 3-year sunroom project and redoing the last (worst) bedroom to turn it into an office for Mike and an occasional guestroom. They’re both great transformations and useful spaces — I’ll post pictures one of these days. Of course, lots of other projects are still ongoing, and it truly does get old. We marked 8 years in the house in May — 8 years at hard labor is a long time, and while I can see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s still frustratingly small.

But this isn’t about that. What’s bothering me lately is my inability to focus on work the way I used to. I’ve made some mistakes the past few days on a particular project, and it’s just not like me. Catching inconsistencies, keeping track of a lot of details, grasping the problem and running with the solution — that’s pretty much what I do or, at least, what I’ve always done. So failing at that is both embarrassing and worrisome. I know I’m not enthused about work these days (is it retirement day yet?), but I should still be able to do the work.

Today it hit me that maybe I can blame the lack of concentration and general ennui on middle-age brain or collapsing hormones or, God forbid, the coming of “the change.”

As depressing at that thought is, at least it’s a temporary thing. A transition to get through, instead of the new normal. Your mind and body do eventually stabilize, right?

Or is this the beginning of the end, signalling that I’m losing my ability to do good work? That the last 25+ years was a good run, but it’s all downhill from here (and not in a good way — funny how “all downhill from here” can be positive or negative, depending on the context). That other people will now be gently correcting my mistakes, rather than the other way around. That the next 20 years of my work might just be a little shoddy.

Ouch. (Or as we say in the ’Burgh, “ahch.”)

I accepted it when my brain wasn’t as johnny-on-the-spot as it used to be. When I couldn’t answer the Jeopardy questions fast enough (or at all). When the right word didn’t leap onto the page, but had to be pulled from the depths after some painful mental gyrations or roundabout online searches. But this I don’t want to accept. Being good at my job has always been an essential part of who I am. I’m not ready for it to be who I was — not ready to say good-bye to me. 

Unless that lottery thing comes through, of course. Then it’s bye-bye Ms. Anal-Retentive-Writer-Editor-Proofreader and hello Ms. Woman-Who-Hires-People-To-Finish-Her-House. Maybe the key is just finding something else to be good at?

whoIam

Take your work seriously, but never yourself.
~ Margot Fonteyn