Not What I Expected


March 27, 2017 by Jean

Handel's MessishRegular readers may have noticed that I’ve been A.W.O.L. from this blog in recent weeks. The reason is that all my time and energy was absorbed by other responsibilities and activities. This was not what I expected my retirement to look like.

When I was anticipating retirement, one of the things I was “sure” of was that I would go away for a couple of weeks each year in late March or early April to enjoy the pleasures of spring in some more southerly place. Late March is “still winter” in Maine, where I live; and at this point in the season, everything about winter is old, old, old! I am more than ready for the snow to be gone and I am eager for spring flowers and work in the garden. I can get pretty impatient and grumpy about the weeks still remaining until that happens. So going away to some place where spring has already arrived seemed like a good solution.

What I didn’t anticipate is that, because so many people in Maine experience this winter-into-spring period with the same impatience, many activities are planned at this time of year to help people get through it. The Maine Music Society, whose chorale I am a member of, has its big classical music concert each year at this time. The McLaughlin Garden, of which I am a member, has a winter lecture series that begins in late February and runs through March. The spring session of classes at the local Senior College begins today.

As many of these activities ramped up in recent weeks, my schedule seemed to get more and more hectic. Singing Bach’s great masterpiece, the Mass in B Minor, was a glorious experience. But, oh my, what a lot of work! In the past eight days, I had three rehearsals, each several hours long, and two performances. During the intermission at our final performance yesterday, a concert-goer asked me how long we had been working on this music. When I told her that we began the first week in January, her eyes widened, her jaw dropped, and she said, “That’s all?!?” To put this in context, you need to understand that the vocal score for this work is 240 pages long. About 65 of those pages are solo arias that I could just sit back and enjoy, but that left almost 200 pages of music for chorale members to master. Several weeks ago, I realized that I needed to increase my practice time from an hour a day to two hours a day. By the last week, I was practicing music on my own 3-4 hours a day (even on days when we also had a 2-3 hour rehearsal!).

Right smack in the middle of this week of intense concert preparation, I gave a talk on garden record-keeping as part of the McLaughlin Garden lecture series. (All I can say in my own defense is that I believe this was scheduled before I knew the dates for the Bach concert.) The talk also required many hours of preparation, including a fun little research project I did during the winter months plus analyzing and organizing the information from that research and preparing PowerPoint slides.

With both the concert and the talk behind me, this week feels luxuriously relaxed. Next weekend, I’ll take time to attend both the Portland Flower Show and a fundraising dinner for the local farmers’ market (both activities designed to help us look forward to spring). Next week, the chorale will begin rehearsing for our late spring concert of popular music (this year, songs of Carole King and James Taylor). This afternoon, I was supposed to attend my first class of a Senior College course on “Solving Everyday Problems with Physics”, but didn’t because of freezing rain and icy roads. (I know enough about the physics principles of momentum and friction – or lack thereof – to shy away from driving curving, hilly back roads on ice.) By the time that course ends, it will be May and spring really will have come to Maine.


10 thoughts on “Not What I Expected

  1. Donna Donabella says:

    I was warned that I would be busier in retirement than I could ever imagine….it is amazing. I get grumpy waiting for spring too, and with late snow this year…well all I can say is grunfff. I liked that we went away last year in March to warmer climes, but this year we had to change our plans….so I am waiting. For health reasons, I have had to not get into too many things….but online courses and reading have kept me busy enough….enjoy all those wonderful activities Jean!

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I was determined not to become one of those too-busy retirees, but I seem to get carried away with my enthusiasms. Spring really is coming, even if it is in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back way. Today, I noticed new growth of both irises and daffodils in places where the snow has melted. April is usually the month of big changes here, when the snow piles disappear and new growth appears throughout the garden.

  2. Charlie Emmons says:

    Jean, this is scaring me. I don’t know if I’m cut out for the work load of retirement.

    • Jean says:

      LOL, Charlie. Don’t worry; even my busiest week is a walk in the park compared to a three-prep semester. I think I feel so busy because my standards of what constitute “busy” have changed. I no longer treat adequate sleep as an occasional luxury, and I include some time for relaxation and reflection in even the busiest days.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    Is your garden lecture available online somewhere?

    • Jean says:

      Diana, The lecture isn’t available online. I could put the PowerPoint presentation up as a PDF file, but it wouldn’t make much sense without the spoken commentary. I’m working on a blog post for Jean’s Garden summarizing the main points.

  4. Jean R says:

    Every new retiree goes through what you are going through. It’s like over eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet. It all looks so good at the time we sign up for stuff, thinking we have all the time in the world. I’m happy for you that you’re finding challenging and interesting things to round out your life. When are you ever going to find time for those sewing/tailoring classes?

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I love the comparison with the all-you-can-eat buffet — perfect analogy for an enthusiastic eater like me. I’m trying to make my sewing room/guest room a priority for April, which is a necessary precursor for buying a new sewing machine and starting to make clothes again.

  5. Ellie Leight says:

    What local farmers market do you support? I don’t know of any around here except in Lewiston. And I did make that drive to the college yesterday for the Russian history class. You weren’t wrong about the hazardous driving conditions and the silly people who won’t even slow down on the turnpike when the roads are so slippery. To top it off, now they say we’ll have more snow on Friday!

    • Jean says:

      Ellie, The Lewiston market is the one I go to. I am subscribed to two different CSAs that have booths there. Your description of driving on the turnpike reinforces my decision not to go to Monday’s classes, but I was disappointed to miss not just one class, but two (Tai Chi in the morning and Everyday Physics in the afternoon). Have you taken classes with Chris Holden before? She’s a very popular teacher. I’m not happy to see more snow coming, but on the spring side of the seasonal tug-of-war, my first crocus bloomed today!

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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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