I am approaching the sunset of my life; I just experienced my last day at the job I’ve had for almost 30 years. I could easily emote about all the ups and downs that I have experienced over my decision, and I have endeavored to stay present with my feelings. My work in Alanon has been a tremendous support during these times as meetings helped me get in touch with the deepest roots of my being and my most intimate feelings. I follow those roots like a cave explorer rappelling down a rope to each and every dark encrusted crevice until I arrive at the core of my being where layers and layers of diamond-like crystals blaze with startling brilliance. I turn to that brilliant crystal-like light within to guide me through all the doubts, uncertainties, and unknown future. The light within helps me to explore what is bothering me, nagging at me; what do I need to feel and to let go of, if necessary? My 12 step work has changed my life – it’s made me more comfortable in my own skin, and more trusting as well, and it’s made me a happier and I hope, a better human being! I shared recently with a trusted colleague that I feel like I am finally getting my act together (in my sixth decade, but better late than never). 12 step work has helped me trust implicitly that no matter what, a Higher Power has my back. The road may be paved with boulders and impediments because that is life, but I don’t have to let it deter me from forging on. Boulders are just temporary impediments – I can approach them with caution and then figure out how to clamber over them.
I have also kept my eyes and ears out for signs. These signs included a dream where a significant player at my workplace was going in another direction than I. I followed a different road… I was in a car headed straight; the other person turned off the road. Boy if that dream wasn’t a loud and clear message. The other person wasn’t thinking of retiring – far from it, but I needed to stay on course and head straight towards retirement and the decision that I had made.
Even after that dream, I almost retracted my intention to retire, and was ready to approach the boss and announce a changing of the mind. Before that could happen, I woke up in the middle of the night with my hands radiating with pain. Repetitive stress injury had been an unfortunate by-product of my occupation, but this new pain in the hands was reaching a significant level of discomfort, one I had not experienced previously. I had never woken up in the middle of the night with pain radiating throughout my hands and fingers. It seemed to come out of the blue. After I woke up and got on the road, I found myself in gridlock traffic. I honestly was going to go to my boss that morning and say “I take it all back. I want to stay another year.” As I sat in atrocious traffic, I said to myself, “What are you doing? Seriously, what are you doing? You are stuck in this god-forsaken traffic and your hands are hurting. Think about it!” I did think about it and I never approached my boss. Yet, I still wavered. I had good days and bay days and I questioned often if I were doing the right thing.
Another sign was a potential traffic accident as I recently exited my parking garage. I looked both ways before turning left in the two-way alley and although a line of cars blocked my view, I thought I was safe to go so I edged out. Unbeknownst to me, a car had come racing from the other direction and all I remember is slamming on my brakes and closing my eyes. I don’t know how I knew that car was coming or if I had seen a glimpse of it, but it was as if my beloved angel of a Dad in heaven had given me some help and aided me in slamming on my brakes just in time. My heart was beating out of my chest as the man exited his vehicle and signaled that there was no damage. I bet there was an inch between our vehicles. I mentioned my Dad because he is my guardian angel from heaven and he always cautioned, “When the light turns green, pause, don’t go out right away into the intersection, watch for cars.” It saved him from some accidents and my son shared how that wise approach to driving had saved him too from an accident or two. My son intoned, “Take that as another sign that it’s time to leave the big city.”
But the biggest sign so far was the display of a most radiant sunset on the night before my last day at work. It was a gift! I’ve been praying non-stop for inspiration and guidance as to how to approach and handle this new life coming up. I know there are billions who would love to be in my shoes, retired with time for golf or other hobbies, or just to kick back and simply be. Yet for me, I went to a job every day that I loved 99.99% of the time; I worked with people who were like family. And I had generous, understanding bosses. Sounds like too good of a gig to give up, right? Someone asked, “So why are you retiring then?” I answered, “Good question. I’m doing it for family. More time with family and for a new grand baby arriving soon.” And I like the idea of going out on top, while I am still relatively young and in good health. I’m going out on my own terms. I might have easily stretched out my career even longer, but I also have the luxury of getting on my civil service retiree husband’s health care and that is huge. I probably would not be able to retire early if it weren’t for that fact. So once again, I count my blessings. I make it a point of trying to wake up with a smile filled with gratitude for my blessings (hey, I woke up to see another day) and I try to make it a point of going to sleep at night, inwardly reciting the long list of daily blessings that I received, so I can drift off to dreamland with a smile crossing my lips so grateful to the Creator/Creatrix in heaven.
So, back to the blessing of a radiant sunset. The freebird sunset as I call it. Thirty minutes before sunset on a Thursday afternoon, I took a walk along the coast. As I turned a corner, this glorious sunset greeted me and it stopped me in my tracks. I don’t always carry my phone with me on walks (more often I don’t), but fortunately on this lovely late afternoon, it was in my pocket and I snapped some photos. I also happened to be listening to music and had ear plugs in my ears (something I rarely do!) and as I approached the glorious view spread out in front of my eyes, the song “Freebird” by Lynard Skynard was playing in my ears. One of my favorite songs of all time. I had to laugh to myself. Here I had been praying long and hard for guidance and for help, sometimes riddled with doubts and anxiety over the choice I had made. And here was my prayer answered, right before me in stunning Technicolor. I was an actor in my own movie, with stunning cinematography on the screen, meaningful musical score in the background – here was my prayer answered. Higher Power whispered rather strongly so I could not miss it: “I am giving this to you. This is your sign that all is well, you are riding off into the sunset of your life, and I’m giving you a glorious scene to speed you on. I’m also going to give you this significant mega epic tune as a backdrop. You are about to be a freebird. Fly with wings spread, be happy, you’ve earned it.”
I want to cry but I am holding back tears. A colleague asked on my last day how I was doing. I answered, “I am not talking about it.” She quipped, “De-nial is not just a river in Egypt.” I said “I am using that!” Sometimes denial cushions us from hard falls and deep or painful emotions we are not yet ready to face. It can serve us until it doesn’t :-). Another colleague quipped that denial can be a blanket we hold close, and no one has a right to tear it away from us and we have no right to tear that blanket from others. I love it. Denial works until it doesn’t and if I choose a smidgen of denial during a major life transition, hey why not?!?
I will never forget that sunset and the message I got and I will hold onto that. I let some tears flow but for the most part I am trying to hold it together and be strong. My Dad would like that. One of his favorite sayings was: “We must be strong.” He was a brilliant, sensitive man but he knew that sometimes one had to buck up like a “German feudal lord” (his choice of words) and damn the torpedoes. His strength steered our family, charted our courses and was the cup out of which we received and drank our daily inspiration. I have often imagined asking him, “Dad, should I retire or not? What do you think?” He was a fount of wisdom, strength, hope and experience. What would he have counseled me? Sometimes I think I know the answer, and other times I don’t. I am on this path by myself now without his earthly presence; I have only the essence of his grand spirit to filter down from heaven if I am so lucky to receive some droplets of his angelic beneficence. So here I go, for better or for worst. Stay tuned! And still reverberating in my ears…. the music accompanying a Freebird Sunset:
“If I leave here tomorrow
would you still remember me
for I must be travelin’ on now
there’s too many places I got to see
Bye bye baby, it’s been sweet love
but this bird you cannot change
Won’t you fly high free bird”
5:00 pm sunset, Pacific Coast highway, December 28, 2017 —