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Friday, August 13, 2010

Lost and Found

I've been feeling a bit adrift lately, and I realized that I have lost myself. This is somewhat surprising, since I feel very much at home in my new house and in New Mexico. I love the high desert, the mountains, the brilliant blue sky, and the local culture with its blend of Native American, Anglo and Hispanic influences. I've been retired for just more than 2 months, so one would think that without the daily grind of work, I would find it easy to be myself. Not so.

Since my daughter has been home (she got home a couple of weeks before we moved after being away for a year), my life has been filled with moving, unpacking, ongoing, repeated phone calls to insurance companies and service providers, and driving. So much driving. On three consecutive days one recent week, I made four round trips to take my daughter to the animal shelter where she volunteers and to volleyball camp. That was in addition to trips to the grocery store, post office, mercantile and gas station. Even keeping this house clean seems to take more effort than in the past. Dust bunnies proliferate on the dark laminate floor in the living room, and keeping things picked up is a never-ending process.

So although my days are busy, they are far from fulfilling. I've done a little bit of writing on my book, and I've written a couple of blog entries. I have taken a lot of photographs (this area is a photographer's dream), but what do I do with them? I have some good pictures, but they're all just sitting on my hard drive. I tried selling some of my images via a Web site, but after paying for the site, I sold not a single image over the 12 months the site was active. So my creative outlets aren't exactly what I had hoped for. Both photography and writing are highly competitive fields, difficult to pursue professionally.

I find that I am happiest when I am either exploring a new place or walking or hiking outside. I also enjoy riding my bicycle early in the morning, before the heat gets oppressive. School started this week, so I will have more time to myself. My daughter takes the school bus to and from school, so once she leaves at 6:45 a.m., the day will be mine until she gets home around 3 p.m. I plan to do a couple of fun things every week: driving to Santa Fe for the day, volunteering, hiking or whatever else appeals to me. I recently joined an on-line hiking community called All Trails, which I hope will provide me with information about local hiking trails, group hikes and other outdoor events in which I can participate. I'm also putting together a list of interesting places to visit within easy driving distance of home. Today I visited Coronado State Monument, which in reality is the ruins of an ancient pueblo near the Rio Grande River. I spent a couple of hours exploring and taking photographs.

So I'm finding that I really have to work at enjoying my retirement. As a newcomer to this state, I have to make an effort to get connected with others. And that is a challenge for me. It's so easy to just stay home, which I love to do. I have always loved being a homebody, and getting connected takes a lot of mental effort on my part.

It's also hard being a single mother. It's a huge responsibility, especially with a daughter who needs lots of attention. And with two dogs in the household, there are always things that need to be done: brushing, nail trimming, vet appointments. It's so easy to lose oneself in caring for the others in the family. Like so many other mothers, I put myself last. I take care of everybody else first. If there is time or energy left over, I do something for myself. But I am learning what many others have learned before me: I am worth the effort it takes to do something nice for myself. I deserve to have fun. I am not just "Julia's mom" or the person who drives her everywhere. I have qualities and talents to offer the world, too. And I deserve to be happy. So after feeling miserable and sorry for myself for 24 hours, I decided to do something positive. My first step was joining All Trails. The second, and harder part, will be actually going to a group hike.

I tend to do things in a methodical way, cautiously and incrementally. But I will get there eventually. I've been buying new clothes for the 'new me,' and I'm still thinking about where I want to put my volunteer efforts. Several things are possible: adult literacy, animal work, food bank, open space alliance.

The search for the real, retired me will be an on-going process of self-discovery marked by trial and error, progress and set-backs. It's always interesting to find out what life has in store for me, and what is just around the corner.