[Following is the sligthly revised text of the Winter Solstice 2013 newsletter I recently mailed out to friends and family.]
By far the biggest change that 2013 brought to my life was my decision to end my 31-year-long career as a working librarian. I’ve spent most of this year reveling in the added time and energy that this unprecedented freedom from a full-time job has produced. I’ve been blogging about what retirement’s felt like since it began unfolding in mid-March, so if you’ve got an Internet connection, you might’ve already read what I’ve had to say about what this still-new adventure has involved from a psychological point of view.
The most significant – and to some extent unexpected – upshot of having retired is that, nine months into it, I continue to enjoy doing things – actually, doing everything (for example, writing this here letter!) – at a more leisurely pace than holding down any full-time job allows. I’m still relishing the extended respite from no longer having to be so…efficient…with how I expend my time and energy. I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to spontaneously re-sequence according to my current mood or energy-level whatever I decide to do each day (or doing what must be done) instead of aligning every chore or activity with the limitations dictated by a work schedule. Perhaps I’m still afloat in the blissful “honeymoon” phase of retirement, but it’s a fact that I wish I’d decided to retire sooner! (And maybe would have if it hadn’t taken a full year for my financial advisor to convince me I could afford to.)
So far, retirement hasn’t resulted in a sudden rash of new projects or (alas) more traveling than usual, or even in a major shift in my interests or activities. Apart from how those facts relate to financial constraints, a contributing factor has to do with my intensely enjoying – more than I could when I was working – merely hanging around my house and modest garden during the daytime.
In addition to staying connected with the world of libraries as a lifetime Frequent Library User, I’ve continued attending a second consecutive year’s worth of monthly meetings where a lively group of local librarians, archivists, and activists dream up ways to encourage more lesbians and gay men to donate their letters, photos, etc. to local archives. I’ve also agreed to serve yet another term as the volunteer librarian of the local Quaker congregation’s library.
Another unchanged-since-retirement weekly activity has been a fourth year of attending my much-enjoyed Tai Chi classes, superbly taught by fellow Candler Park denizens Cate Morrill and Harvey Meisner. I also continue to attend many of the monthly potlucks sponsored by the Atlanta contingent of Gay Spirit Visions, an organization that I had a small role in helping to establish 25 years ago.
One of these GSV potluck attendees (and also a fellow gay square-dancer), Brad Pitts, has been living at my house since this past February as he works toward obtaining his permanent residency status for living in England, where Brad’s British husband Andrew lives. Before 2013, I’d never shared a house with anyone except a Significant Other. I’ve been glad for Brad’s easy-going company. Besides being a good-natured and and interesting fellow, Brad’s also been an uber-considerate house-mate and his companionship has doubtless eased the adjustment from my full-time employment routine to the radically different rhythms of a Retired Person Living Alone.
Inexplicably for someone who was looking forward to more post-retirement gardening – and for someone who timed his retirement for early spring precisely for that reason – I didn’t spend as much time in the garden in 2013 as I did in many previous years. However, I did this year embark on a delightful new garden-related hobby: backyard birdwatching. I’ve been scrutinizing several recently-purchased bird-identification books, and enjoying since retiring an exponentially-increased number of opportunities for noticing these tiny visitors to my yard – most often to the squirrel-proof birdfeeder my friend Roger generously donated to my growing collection of these bird-luring devices.
Despite my resolve not to prematurely encumber myself with too many new post-retirement obligations, I have been attending the local senior center’s weekly lessons in calligraphy and beginners’ piano. I also enjoyed taking a second calligraphy course this year – alas, only six classes long – taught by a master calligrapher who happens to be a fellow attendee of the local Quaker Meetinghouse.
As in previous years, most of my out-of-town traveling this year was devoted to periodic mini-vacations from my McLendon house and garden chores at the extraordinarily peaceful cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia that I’ve co-owned now for 13 years with several friends. Although I haven’t spent more time at the cabin than I did before retiring, I am planning to spend an entire week there at the end of 2013. I’m especially looking forward to that visit because I’ll be sharing parts of it with several close friends, and sharing all of it with a comrade from the aforementioned local Gay Spirit Visions group, a delightful man with whom since early October I’ve been spending quite a bit of quality time.
Other than monthly getaways to the mountain cabin and a long weekend with friends at their home on Florida’s St. George Island, I also treated myself to two more lengthy out-of-state trips in 2013: ten glorious days in Mexico in mid-April, and another ten glorious days (including my 65th birthday in July) in California. In October I joined some friends for an all-day excursion to southwest Georgia to visit Pasaquan, the bizarrely-adorned estate of an eccentric Georgia artist who died in the mid-1980s. And in November I traveled to Washington, DC for another visit with my friend Terry.
Nine months of retirement living has resulted in my more frequently realizing the extent of my continuing good fortune. A few examples:
- My family members continue to be in good health.
- Apart from some annoying post-retirement weight-gain, my own health at age 65 remains excellent. (I’m particularly mindful of this usually-taken-for-granted fact because several far-younger-than-me personal friends, or people dear to my mom or my siblings, died unexpectedly this past year.)
- I enjoy the enduring fellowship of my friends, a few of whom I’ve known now for over fifty years. This past year, I also happily reconnected with several former friends I’d lost touch with. And I somehow managed to meet in 2013 a few people new to me who are congenial, intriguing, admirable, or otherwise fascinating.
- The comfortable cottage-sized house I moved into 20 years ago this month continues to suit me to a T, as does the beautiful, amenity-blessed neighborhood where my house is located.
- I can still get excited when beginning a new book, finding an exquisitely-written poem (or piece of prose), watching a new play, noticing a beautiful plant or bird, hearing a piece of music new to me, taking advantage of my weekly opportunity to do a bit of dancing, or visiting – or merely looking forward to visiting – some faraway place I’ve never visited before, or re-visiting places (far or near) I feel especially drawn to.
Life has been especially delicious for Cal in 2013. May it be so for you in 2014, and in many years to come.
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[I’ve posted to the Commonplace Book section of the sidebar a “meditation for the 2013 Solstice Season” that I included in my annual newsletter. I’ve posted to the blog’s Constant Reader page an overview of the 52 books I finished reading in 2013.]