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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Looking Retirement in the Eye

I have been thinking about, and looking forward to, retirement for a long time. Not having a rigid schedule to keep, not having to get up at 5 a.m. to exercise and walk the dogs, not having to cram my grocery shopping and other household chores into the all-too-short weekend, and having time to write, take pictures and explore all make the thought of retirement very appealing.

But now that retiring may be a reality in just a couple of months, it suddenly appears a bit less desirable. The significant cut in pay, moving to a new city in a new state, setting up house, learning my way around the city, finding a new doctor, dentist and veterinarian, making new friends -- these realities now seem more than a bit challenging. I've moved before, of course: from Illinois to Maryland and back; from Illinois to California to Texas to California. I even lived in Moscow (yes, the one in Russia) for several months. But things were different then. In some cases, I was married. In others, I was familiar with the area to which I was moving. In all cases, I was considerably younger than I am now. Sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor of my house the day before heading off to my new residence was OK then; not fun, but OK. That isn't even a consideration now, with the bursitis pain in my hips. I'll have to rent a hotel room for my daughter, dogs and me.

Now I am the single mother of a 16-year-old daughter. The responsibility of arranging the move and all its accompanying requirements (setting up utility services, Internet and cable television, registering my car and getting a new driver's license, and deciding on a new medical insurance plan, among other things) is squarely on my shoulders. Of course, I have done all these things before, and I can do them all again. One critical thing still needing to be done is to find the right high school for my daughter.

My daughter will help, and I plan to have professionals pack and move our household items. But we will have to clean our current house to get it ready to go on the market. There is yard work to be done, and the dogs still will require care and attention. Then we have to cram everything we want to carry with us (things the movers won't take such as household cleaners, indoor plants, clothing for the 2-day drive to New Mexico, dog food and bowls, etc.) into my not-so-big car, while leaving at least a little bit of room for two 45-pound dogs.

I have already spoken to my daughter about all the stress we will both be under. I hope that by making both of us mindful of the stress, we will be less likely to lash out at each other. Retiring is in itself stressful; work has been a major part of my life for more than 40 years. My income will drop dramatically. Moving to a new home, even a desirable one, is incredibly stressful. All the work involved in unpacking and setting up a new home is always daunting. But I am lucky, in that my daughter loves to clean and organize, and once she gets started, I just stay out of her way!

There also is a positive side to all of this, of course. I love New Mexico, and I have bought a house that has (as far as I know so far) everything I want in a house: 1 story, nearly twice as much room as my current house, a view of the mountains from the master bedroom and great room, a large kitchen, lots of light, southwestern design touches throughout the house, a large garage, a covered rear patio with fire pit, an enclosed courtyard at the front of the house, and a 1/2-acre lot. And I can't forget the beautiful blue skies of New Mexico. We will be an hour away by car from Santa Fe, even less by train. Old Town Albuquerque isn't far away, as well as the lovely village of Corrales. The Rio Grande is nearby, and we will be about 90 miles from the beautiful Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve. Our new city has all the shops we enjoy, including Trader Joe's. And there are so many historical sites and wilderness areas I want to explore.

I am a list-maker, so I've started making lists of things to be done and people to notify of our new address. I've also started counting down the days until my projected last day of work. As the days click down oh so slowly, it becomes harder and harder to go to work.

Time is moving slowly, but the finish line should be well worth the long time it has taken to reach it.