Life On Hold


September 1, 2014 by Jean

life-on-holdThrough the summer, I have felt that I would begin living my retirement as soon as the addition on my house was completed and I could get unpacked and settled. I expected that would happen in early September. Unfortunately, as is often the case with construction projects, this one has been moving more slowly than anticipated. And as the period of living on a construction site has lengthened, I have found myself putting off other activities (like digging flower beds for a new front garden, painting and redecorating rooms in the original house that will be changed by the construction, getting involved in volunteer work, organizing a book club, and enrolling in the Master Gardener course) that I had imagined would begin as the construction was ending. In other words, my life has been on hold.

As I am learning to understand “contractor speak,” I am realizing that my expectations about when the work would be completed were unrealistic. These expectations were based on my misunderstanding of my contract with the builder, which I now realize is written in contractor speak, a tricky language because the words sound like ordinary English but have different meanings. For example, the word “day” in contractor speak refers to a period of time that is approximately 48 hours long. “Fulltime” (as in “We plan to work on your job fulltime this week”) indicates about 8 hours of work in each 48-hour day. “Plan” has a meaning somewhere between “hope” and “wish,” and “schedule” seems to be a synonym of “fantasy.”

Now that I have adjusted my expectations and realized that I might be moving into my new space closer to Thanksgiving than Labor Day, I am feeling that I can’t wait that long to start living my retirement. I need to take my life off hold. Another retirement blogger, Dr. Don at Journey Into Retirement, recently wrote that, “In retirement, there are no deadlines. You literally have all of the time in the world.” I understand what he means: You don’t have to do things on a time schedule imposed by others; you can take time to savor life. But I feel differently about time. At this stage of my life, I don’t feel as though I have all the time in the world. I feel as though every day is precious and needs to be lived fully, which means that I don’t want to fritter away months of that precious time in a holding pattern.

I have spent most of my life beginning a new school year each fall, so I associate September with new beginnings. It’s not surprising that, as the beginning of school rolled around, I decided that it was time to get my life moving again. Although my addition is not done and ready to be moved into and I can’t unpack boxes or begin projects that depend on the completion of construction, there are other parts of my retirement life that don’t need to wait. I’ve decided to plan a day trip at least once a month. When possible, I will take these day trips with an interested friend, but I’m happy to do them on my own if no one else is available. I took the first of these monthly day trips last week, when I spent a delightful day at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It’s also time for me to follow through on my plans to do some volunteer work. I have begun exploring possibilities and plan to make contact with a likely program or organization by the end of this week. Since I can’t begin work on my new front garden, I’m going to spend time this month completing a project in the back garden – something that I began working on over the weekend.

It feels good to be taking my life off hold, to have a sense of forward momentum and the positive energy that goes with that.

11 thoughts on “Life On Hold

  1. Interesting Jean as my life has been on hold due to health issues that seem to be clearing the way for a forward move in September. Like you I have garden projects to do and online courses I want to complete. I also want to take a monthly trip around the area to explore and get out. Wish we lived closer as I would gladly go along with you on a few excursions.

    I agree that even though there is no rigid schedule, I savor each precious day. And I learned the hard way about contractor speak…interesting language they have! 🙂

    • Jean says:

      Donna, It would be great to have you as an excursion companion! Unfortunately, western New York and western Maine aren’t exactly within striking distance of one another. I’m still holding out, though, for a chance for us to visit in person in one place or the other after things calm down a bit.

  2. Nothing is simple is it? And, I think you’ve come to appreciate the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. I’m not into tattoos but if I was this might be the one I’d want to get. 🙂

    • Jean says:

      Judy, Thank you for the reminder of the serenity prayer, which I have long aspired to as a philosophy of life. I’m very good at the courage to make change part, and pretty good at the acceptance part, but I still struggle with the wisdom to know the difference. 😐 And that’s exactly my issue about this construction — figuring out when I should be a squeaky wheel that the contractor has to deal with and when it is better to just go with the flow. (Sorry about the hopelessly mixed metaphors!)

  3. Melanie says:

    You have such a gift of looking past obstacles and aggravations, Jean.

    • Jean says:

      Melanie, I’m generally a glass three-quarters full type of person. It’s one of those personality things that I can’t take any credit for but that I’m grateful for every day. (It just makes life so much easier). I don’t want to waste precious time and energy fretting about things I can’t do anything about. Which brings us back to the serenity prayer and my sometimes difficulty figuring out which things I can do something about.

  4. Diana Studer says:

    treading water in limbo, until I can move, forward.

  5. Jean says:

    Life in a holding pattern brings with it certain stress points, doesn’t it. I felt it big time last winter when I was snowed in for so much of the time. This year I’m armed with plans to do specific and large projects on the computer and sign up for less planned outings that can get canceled. Managing expectations when, as women of a certain age we have so much we want to do and the feeling that we’re running out of time, is very hard at times.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, That is it exactly. I hadn’t seen the connection before between times in limbo when I feel as though I’m not really living and those times when plans fall through and I’m left feeling at loose ends. Thank you for that insight.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

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