Looking into the future


I just met with our company’s retirement advisor. That’s not something I’ve ever done before because 1) for much of my life I didn’t think I’d survive to retirement age; and 2) even in the last few years it seemed so far away. I just had my 56th birthday, though, and I plan to retire at 62, so it’s coming up fast now and I need to start planning.

I’ve worked at this company for almost 18 years, and when I retire I will have racked up almost 24 years here. I know from co-workers who have retired that the company has a good pension plan, so I haven’t worried about specifics. When the opportunity to meet with this (very young, very smart) woman this morning came up, however, I found I was anxious to find out what I could.

I really try not to live in the past or the future. It’s been hard the past few years because the present has seemed so difficult most of the time, but still I’ve tried. I don’t want to wish my life away, nor do I want to hang on to the past. I try to stay in the moment – the only thing that’s real. Right now.

Having said that, I think you have to plan for the future as best you can, while understanding that your plans might not work out. I can’t honestly say I saw any of my life turning out the way it has 6 years in advance. Like most young people, I assumed I was in control of my path and I had everything all mapped out: college, career, husband, 2.5 children, nice house in a warm climate = happy life.

With the exception of college, none of that happened. My career has had nothing to do with my college degree, and really can’t be called a “career” so much as a series of jobs in different fields, most of which I’ve enjoyed and have been lucky to have, but not a “career” in the way I thought it would be (award-winning journalist and wealthy famous novelist).

No husband. No children. Both turned out to be a good thing – a choice – but not what I thought would happen.

Depression happened. Nearly 30 years unmedicated high-functioning for the most part, 10 years medicated and much better, and now roughly 7 years post-medication and therapy, doing my best. I try not to think about who I might have been without depression, or how my life might have been different. It’s just what happened, and I’ve survived and that’s all any of us can hope for.

Family happened. My mother and father both were ill for most of my life. I was the only child, so I stuck around to be available to them. So no house in a warm climate. I did buy a house, but it’s in the same small town I grew up in, near my parents, in a place where it snows 8 months of the year.

So it’s been a good life so far, but in some ways, difficult. Same is true for everyone, I’m sure. That’s the human condition. Life can be so good, and so harsh – sometimes even at the same time. One thing’s for sure – you can’t see it coming most of the time. All we can do is try to set up conditions for the best future we can imagine. So I’m trying to figure out whether I can stop working in 6 years.

6 years! I’ve worked – sometimes 2 or 3 jobs at a time – since I was 14. I owned a business for 5 years. I’ve worked in my present job for 18 years, and in the job before that, 10 years. I’m old! I’m tired! I look at retirement as the Promiseland – all I have to do is live that long and all will be well. According the the smart young lady I spoke to this morning, financially all should be well, assuming the stock market doesn’t tank. So that’s something. I don’t have any control over the stock market, or my health, or anything that’s going to happen in the next 6 years, for that matter. I have a plan, though, and hope, and armed with those two things, I march happily ahead.

Learning curve


I’ve been having some lessons in trust. I didn’t sign up for them, but I asked the universe, god, and/or angels for help, and the result was chaos. Through it all I’ve despaired, raged, resented, trying all the while not to slip over the edge into depression. I was right at the edge looking into the depths a couple of times, but I didn’t fall in, and for that I’m deeply grateful. I kept asking for help, and things just seemed to get worse and worse. There was enough that went right, however, that I kept trying to trust that the craziness was the help I had asked for and that everything would turn out alright and that things would be better if I could just get there.

I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m hopeful, and trusting that I’ve been led to the path I’m on now, which, if all goes according to plan, seems like it will be the right thing, and better than where I was before. I hate to do that, because historically, when I start using words like hope and trust and I feel optimistic I am kicked squarely in the teeth. I just hate that! So let’s say I am trusting that I’m heading in the right direction, and that I’m cautiously optimistic about the journey.

When life has dealt hard blows – and it does to absolutely everyone – at a certain age, after bearing so many bruises, it’s hard to trust anything or anyone. I think I’ve gotten better about trusting myself, and I have an inkling that the “universe” or “spirit” I make my pleas to is within, but I’m not sure. The consensus is not in on that yet, right? So many religions and beliefs and they all have credence. Hard to know who’s correct, and who’s just making it up as they go along. Probably a combination of all, like the elephant in a dark room; everyone has a hold of a piece, but no one is able to see the whole or how they all fit together.

So I’m comfortable with not knowing or naming what “that” energy is. What really matters is learning to trust it. That’s been my stumbling block all my life, and it’s not any easier now, I’m sorry to say, especially when things fall apart all at once and my carefully constructed life becomes a pile of rubble at my feet. I think probably I’m just along for the ride this time – on hand for the journey because I need to get to the same place, but not in the driver’s seat nor the main objective on this trip. That’s okay, though, because I think it’ll be worth it, even though it’s been a bumpy ride so far. I have a lot to gain and not much to lose, unless I fall apart, stay in the bathroom too long at the rest stop and get left behind.  (How’s THAT for a metaphor?)

So the only way to lose on this trip is not to take it. That makes sense to me. Stay in your seat, fasten your belt, and hang on. Take it one day at a time. Take snacks and frequent breaks and it’ll be okay. Most of all…trust. It may prove to be a detour and not the right thing again, but at this point I can’t tell. So I have to trust that someone or something knows where we’re going and that we’re going to be okay when we finally get there.

It’s so hard, and the anxiety is rough, but I’m getting through each day and not looking much beyond that. The lesson continues and I’m trying really hard to learn.