With some trepidation but a lot of enthusiasm, I decided to retire at 58 to enjoy my husband’s “golden years” with him; Gary is 12 years older than I am. I thought it was stupid to work until I was my official retirement age of 66 and 4 months, since that would mean that Gary would be about 78. I had a choice and I made it.
On the first official day of my retirement, I was held prisoner in the kitchen by my husband, while we processed 78 pounds of cucumbers into pickles. It took about 11 hours, beginning to end. And just in case there is any doubt in your mind, making pickles was not on my bucket list. (It is now on my Eff It list, along with making pie crust from scratch and studying opera.)
While I said my goodbyes about 20 months ago now, I still kept in touch. I worked with the best people of my career there. When we’d meet occasionally for drinks, I was one more person who understood the madness of the day they had just endured. I was a kindred spirit, forever. They patiently listened to my babbling on about the fun trips we had taken, kids, grandkids, and how exhausting it can be (really) to not go to work. Or maybe it’s how exhausting it can be to be married to Gary. Regardless, they only pretended to take a little pity on me. And who can blame them.
But just when I was getting in the groove of this retirement thing, I got a phone call. A week and two more phone calls later, I signed a bunch of papers and had a start date for a contract gig that would run for nine months. I started back at my old company this week.
One of my colleagues theorized that Gary had decided to buy a pontoon boat and attach a ferris wheel to it for the grandkids…and my returning to work was how we were going to pay for it. Not quite, but a fun idea. Thanks, Dave.
It’s still awful to be awakened by an alarm clock at any hour, but 5:30 still kinda sucks. This week, I’ve actually showered and brushed my teeth before 7:00 am, for once. On Day One, since I’m trying to cut back on coffee, I had my one cup at home and grabbed tea for my day at the office. Then I hit the road, not quite remembering exactly what time used to be the best to make my 25-30 minute commute. I opted to leave with plenty of time to spare.
Out of habit, I turned on our local public radio station, but realized I was feeling antsy and wasn’t up for listening to the morning’s news. Being the luddite that I am, I have not fully embraced the joys of my iPod. So, I fumbled around in the little pouch on the door of my trusty Subaru wagon and found a CD. I brushed the dust and dog hair off of it.
I laughed out loud: It was the “Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over” CD. Yeah, the band who will never get back together and do one more tour, hence the name of the album when they did. Kinda like how I felt about returning to my old job. When Hell freezes over, indeed. I put the CD in the player and cranked it up as I turned onto the highway heading south. Cool.
I had to play “Hotel California” first, the lyrics emblazoned onto my brain forever (along with those from “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man, but for very, very different reasons). Like some kind of ancient boomer groupie, the irony was not lost on me as I sang out loud, to my car and the outside world:
“You can check out anytime you like…but you can never leave…”
Considering that this is the third time I’ve returned back to work for my favorite employer, I found this rather appropriate and smiled to myself as I worked my way down the highway.
I smiled again as I realized that I will not be available for making pickles this year.
At the next major intersection, where I turn left onto a main arterial from this two-lane highway, there are rarely a lot of cars, but today, thanks to an accident a few miles up the road, traffic was backed up almost to the light. At least I was still able to turn left, and I did, while hearing The Eagles sing:
“Life in the fast lane…guaranteed to lose your mind.”
And then, as I passed the accident vehicles on the side of the road:
“…lines on her face…she pretended not to notice…she was caught up in the race.”
Things turned a bit philosophical for most of the rest of the drive, for example:
“It wasn’t really wasted time…you should be home but you’re not…how come we learn so slow…”
Wonder of wonders, as I hit the left-turn light green at the last major intersection, I heard for the umpteenth time in my life:
“Why must we grow up so fast…and the storybook comes to a close…”
And then there’s a final right turn on a side street, which I had absolutely no awareness of making. My muscle memory took over, as my attention was momentarily caught up in:
“Hi there, how are ya? It’s been a long time…”
Seconds later, I found myself in the ol’ parking lot, feeling all too familiar and strange at the same time. But good. I turned off the CD before it got to “Desperado,” and walked into my new/old office.
Fast forward a couple of days.
I now am having two cups of coffee before leaving the house…and a little shot of caffeine in mid-afternoon. After Day One, I was in bed at 8:35 pm…it was still light out. Oh, for crying out loud.
Anyway, as I am sitting here, chugging my first morning cup of java, my mind wandered and made a strange connection. Kind of like the time I ordered sashimi and cheesecake from Room Service at a hotel on the North Shore of Oahu.
I can’t help but think of the Eagles and…the Dude.
NOTE: If you have not seen and enjoyed The Big Lebowski, the rest of this post will make even less sense to you than the first part did.
My little brain shifted over from pondering the Eagles’ lyrics to the Dude and how I could incorporate his or his cohorts’ wisdom into my everyday work life. I mean, he was a likeable guy, even though he hated the f—in’ Eagles. But I can forgive him for that. After all, I’m not so hot about White Russians.
So here is how it’s going to work. I can certainly anticipate some of the more challenging work situations that I will encounter, so let’s see what I can do to temper these occasions with the laid-back and sometimes sarcastic attitude of The Dude and his cohorts:
“New sh*t has come to light!”
I’m sure I’ll be using this phrase every day as I let my team know that the client has just changed their collective mind about what we are supposed to do…again. (The client? Oh, I can’t tell you that, but let’s just refer to them as Harry Potter for now.)
“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
If Gary bumps into me as I carry a post-work martini into the living room.
“You’re entering a world of pain.”
This is good, realistic advice to give to the new contract employees who will be working on my project.
“This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.”
What I will say to my team after a status call with Harry Potter wherein we are laid open like a dead fish for something we didn’t do, should have done, might have done, or did badly.
“Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.”
What I’ll say when my new team members ask me what I do for recreation. I think team-building is important, don’t you?
“You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head.”
This will be a great thing to say at my weekly status calls with Harry Potter, when asked how things are going. I hate to bog these status calls down with too much detail.
“You have got to buck up, man. You cannot drag this negative energy in to the tournament!”
When one of my team members dares to bring up the obvious fact that Harry Potter’s expectations are unrealistic, irrational, or sadistic.
“Well. I guess we can close the file on that one.”
After this project ends in nine months, this is what I will say as I pack up my desk and head back home to my Other Life. What has me a little worried is that no one else at the office seems to think that this project is going to end in nine months. I’ll get back to you about this at the end of January.
So, for now, I think maybe I’ll go rug-shopping for my office. I think it’ll tie the whole room together.
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.