Saturday, March 26, 2016

Moving forward, or trying to...

Our house is full of the "stuff" of our lives. We are ready, and in fact we have begun, to divest ourselves of this stuff--clothing we no longer wear, papers we no longer need, possessions that are cluttering up the place so there's little space for new endeavors. But it's slow going.

Inside my head, this clearing is a rite of passage, part of my continuing transition from working (and heavily volunteering) to retirement, or the next phase of retirement. Last week, for example, I finally tossed the last of the work-related files I'd been saving. I suppose I always knew I wouldn't need them, but they represented so much thought and effort that it was impossible to walk away without at least a few. Now retired five years, I was happy to march those papers out to the recycling barrel. Similarly, I had stockpiled a resume and work samples in case I wanted, or needed, to freelance. Opportunities were out there, but I decided almost immediately that I was no longer interested. Tossing the stack of samples--five years later--made it official.

The thing about sorting papers is that it's almost impossible to do without reading through them. So we are reminded of triumphs and struggles, of people who helped us and people who didn't, of projects we intended to undertake once we retired. Having walked down memory lane, as contained in my desk and file cabinet, I've learned two main lessons.

I have very little interest in keeping records of my past life, be they related to work, finances, health, whatever. Of course I keep what I might need, but my definition of "need" is a lot stricter than it used to be.

I am ready to get on with my life, and one big commitment seems to be standing in the way. I have projects all over the place, in various stages of readiness, and they all require two things: space and time. I have sewing projects promised to the grandchildren; boxes of old photos to scan, color-correct, and share; a counted cross-stitch I started a dozen years ago; a new interest in knitting and crochet; a back porch to design; music playlists to organize; birds to discover; a blog to rejuvenate, and so much more. Plus a growing stock of items I plan to sell on eBay, some of which I've already photographed and written up.

All these projects are calling to me. But before I can respond I have to make space and time. And the element taking up the biggest share of my office space, energy, and time is my commitment to the carousel and the nonprofit organization that cares for it.

When I wrote last week's post about the graphic design project from hell, my frustration was only partly with the technical difficulty of the work. The project had gone on, episodically, for weeks. How-to books and sample pages and notes buried everything else on my desk. I became resentful. I began to rail against it. I wanted to walk away. I wanted to sew and knit and clean out closets, and get on with getting on, and let somebody else worry about promoting the carousel. And in fact, I will--but not today. Peter and I will both retire and our executive director, in the job for a year now, will take on or delegate work we have been doing. But there is much to be done before we retire, and in the meantime I really do enjoy working collaboratively with our staff person. For a while yet, I will do whatever it takes to get the project done.

In the past several days I have finally cleared the scrambled piles on my desk, arranging things in folders: red for carousel projects (e.g., display panels, Facebook page, new website) and yellow for personal ones (e.g., porch, taxes, eBay). 

When the time does come to walk away from the carousel's management, I will be a little sad to leave behind what has been a consuming and highly rewarding family commitment. But I'll be ready for all the new projects in their newly organized spaces. In fact, having cleared a bit of space, I'm pretty sure I'll find some time for new projects as well as old ones.

Spring flowers above from Como Park conservatory 2013


Terra said...

I like your attitude to de-cluttering and making it possible to pursue new interests if you desire. It sounds like the carousel will be in capable hands.
Retirement has many sweet moments, I find.

stephen Hayes said...

As the years go on it becomes ever more challenging to marshal energy and focus on the things that are truly important.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I still have my notebooks form the museum, I kept daily journals and they are full of info. They called me last winter with a question and yes the answer was in those daily notes!
I sense that you are such a good and gracious volunteer that they will rely on you for a long time.
I am cleaning out "stuff" too. I did ebay for awhile and moved lots of "stuff." It takes so much time.
Happy Easter!! :)

DJan said...

You are always busy with projects big and small. I don't think that will change, but I do find it wonderful to hear all about your life. I'm grateful for you today, Nancy, and hope you have a fine Easter Sunday! :-)

Pauline Persing said...

I know the feeling. I can sort and dump for a period of time. Then I find myself backing off. After a break, I get back to it again. Good luck with your sorting and dumping.

Sally Wessely said...

You really spoke to me today. I also am sorting out and trying to decide which projects I want to consume my time, and which ones I will kiss goodbye or simply let slip through the crack.

Retirement is time of continual self discovery. We think we want to retire so we can do thus and so and then find we no longer care to do thus and so. I have guilt feelings over mess of papers I have. I think they must be organized for some reason. I know they don't, but... I also look at the past project and remember, but my children will never care. "Why did she save all of this?" I hear them say.

I'm getting there. Things are being slowly cleaned out. It is a process. It is also self discovery. It is good to know I am not alone in this.

By the the way, congrats on all you have done on this carousel. Truly, you have done a wonderful thing. Now, let it go knowing it was a great ride but it is time to move on.

Jeanie said...

I could have written this post, Nancy -- your words and experiences so echo my dilemma these days. So much I want to do (and manage to do, because girls just wanna have fun) but SO much to purge and sort. Like you, I have those work files and I'm thinking "would I really put ads or articles I did 20 years ago in a portfolio for a job today?? Of course not! Yet, it is hard to part with them -- or with files of clippings of anything from interesting articles and people stories to stuff about me or family. What needs to go to another generation? What art supplies will I really ever use? What CDs and DVDs will I ever listen to or watch again? A huge dilemma.

So, we keep on keeping on -- moving the piles, getting them organized and hopefully tossing out a good deal of it! You'll make it, Nancy. So will I. And along the way we will still have the time for things we love because we will make that time. Your sewing and carousel. My art and writing. Whatever it is. One step at a time!

I salute you for going at it full force. I think I need to ramp up my game.

Anita said...

Every time I read a post on this subject (organizing, getting rid of clutter, fulfilling passions), I'm reminded of how much I need to do. It is an ongoing project; however, I'm inspired when others speak about it. If I throw away one item because of your post, you can pat yourself on the back. :) And I will, so give yourself a couple pats.


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