By Betty Fitterman
For the past six months, whenever anyone has asked what I did in my other life, I have answered, “I’m a writer.” This gave me a present-time occupation and station in life and put to rest any notions that I might be one of the idle retired.
Not that I’ve seen many of those in my travels. I’ve seen lots of retirees, to be sure, but they’re usually on the golf course, or batting a ball around the tennis courts, or shooting at clay targets, or working in stores in pleasant part-time jobs, or riding bicycles and motorcycles, or on top of their RV’s with the hose, saving the $100 it costs to have someone else wash your rig. Nobody is just sitting around.
But as my son pointed out over Christmas, my bike chain is rusted. My tennis racket is in storage. I haven’t written a thing since my Christmas blog, and then it was mostly pictures anyway. And there’s no way you’re going to find me on the roof of this rig with a hose. Put that notion out of your head right now.
So what have I been doing?
Nothing. Just being.
I’ve been reading, and driving, (and cooking and cleaning, okay, but that’s my choice, okay it’s not but I do get hungry and you can’t eat dust). I’ve been playing Scrabble on line, and solitaire too. And I’ve been thinking about life, and the passage of time, and the death of one friend, and the stroke and heart transplant of another long-ago friend. And I’ve seen an old friend, and met a new one. I’ve spent a precious two weeks with my son.
I’ve watched people dealing with the state of the economy. I’ve seen closed stores and talked with struggling business owners. I’ve seen a friend dump everything not essential out of his motor home to save on gas, and store his big car for the same reason. I’ve seen empty restaurants and deserted malls. Everywhere except in Dallas, where the oil business seems to be still profitable for most.
Still, it strikes me that we are really adept at coping. Life, at least to this observer, goes on.
And I am discovering that there is hope and joy in the simple things : the mountains of the West, the majesty of the oceans on both coasts, the sight of a jackrabbit scuttling among the saguaros. Some of the funnier signs people put up in front of their houses and churches. (Maybe it’s Divine inspiration, but some of the best puns ever are on church marquees.) I thank God and the internet recommendation for my Canon G9 camera, which has recorded many of these magic moments despite my bumbling photographic skills.
I’m going to send my nephew the pictures of the industrial cranes in Oakland that were the inspiration for George Lucas’ alien monsters in Star Wars. And my Christmas card next year will carry a special collage for all my friends. And if I ever get around to writing that book, I’ll have a visual record to jog my memory. Of course it makes John nuts when I drive with one hand and take pictures with the other, but once an opportunity is gone, it’s gone, I say.
There’s truth in Stop and Smell the Roses. This is the time of our lives when we should be collecting experiences and visions and memories. It’s a time for growth and expansion. Not the kind of growth that we experienced in the work force, or as parents, or for that matter, as young and foolish kids. We’re done with those jobs, although I think foolishness is a great state to revisit.
Now we have a chance to grow wisdom and knowledge. At our own pace, in our own time. It’s a gift that we are living now, to slow down and see the things we hurried past before. And if retirement includes a job, or going back to school, or volunteering, then so much the better. We will do all this in a more considered, more observant, more careful manner. We will continue to learn all that life has to teach us.
Retirement isn’t about the glass half-empty or even about the glass half-full. It’s about a new cup waiting to be filled, if you so choose. And that last part’s really important, the choosing part. Because when you have a choice between being and doing, and either way is fine, you find that being, just being, is good for the soul too.
And if not now, when?
About Betty Fitterman:
Betty Fitterman was in advertising for over 30 years before her retirement in July of this year. An award-winning writer, she was EVP/Creative Director and a member of the Board of Directors of Lintas Advertising until 1997, when she and her partner Frank DeVito formed DeVito Fitterman Advertising, which today is a successful agency serving blue chip clients like Johnson & Johnson, Ricola, ASCAP, Fujifilm and Arch Insurance, among others. To read her humorous observances on mobile living, visit her blog at http://adventuresinthebettybus.blogspot.com.