More than the blinkering strangeness of the COVID pandemic loaded with fear and vituperation and the baffling denial by anti-vaxers and mask mandate resisters. More than navigating the unchartered waters of retirement amid the relentless creep of aging.
It’s easy, too easy, to blame my rising pessimism on social media. Before people gathered on Meta and in dark web chatrooms, we gathered in churches, mosques and shuls, in social clubs, and read newspapers edited by the biased. News travels fast, maybe a bit faster now depending on one’s means of gathering, and is laced with just as much disinformation. And maybe it’s natural for me, as the years leading up to my date of obsolescence shrink in number, to give up on the idea of seeing my goals for justice, licensing ownership of deadly weapons (as we now do for driving an automobile), unrestricted abortion and voting rights, environmental-recovery fortitude, and an overall release from selfishness, greed, rampant consumption, and social dictatorship (read Texas), be fulfilled.
FOMO unnerves me. I have already outlined my fear of missing the future. Now I feel the fear of missing my exercise (why are you sitting on the couch writing a blog when you need to take your four-mile walk today. Now. Yes. No matter how cold it is.) My fear of going over my calorie intake for the day (resolve to stop at two glasses of wine with dinner. Period. End). My fear of not remembering how to spell “obsolescence” (spell check warned me). My fear of re-reading (why are you reading “Gone With the Wind” again! More on this in another blog).
I do love being retired. The idea of having to be somewhere else at the same time on a weekly basis resurfaces in me a sickening dread. A dread of having to go to a place I didn’t like, where opportunities for having fun were scant, where tasks were unpleasant and often fraught, has plagued me since I started going to school. Sunday nights were black hours of despair. Monday mornings were sad, depressing and pointless.
I became numb to that over time. I conquered a crushing shyness to being able to give training sessions to audiences of 100. I had chosen a career where being on time was a life-or death requirement. Where showing up for my shift meant that others could go home on time. Where attention to detail (another flaw I’ve had to conquer) was essential. Where people depended upon me being there to recover them safely from surgery or be prepared to start CPR or help them and their families navigate a crushingly painful time. It is the lot of self-doubters to challenge themselves with unforgiving goals.
Now that I no longer am responsible for the above, I find that having appointments on my calendar—doctor visits, Zoom calls, City Council meetings—ruin my day. And I do have to have them on my calendar with alerts applied, or I just might forget to go and instead wander into the garden to pull some weeds or transplant the dahlias or pick tomatoes, or take my walk, or sink deeply into a book that is much better than “Gone With the Wind”. It’s as if a chunk of my skin is gouged out every time I look at the calendar and realize, “Oh, shit, I have to go have my cataract surgery this morning”. Ok maybe the prior language is a bit purple, but my reluctance to commit is bewildering.
Bewildering, but not depressing. News is depressing. Political disagreement is depressing. Movies like “The Lost Daughter” is depressing. (see my movie review here). But generally my “Pollyanna” sense kicks in, and I realize that re-reading isn’t so bad. There are always re-readable books, like “The Lord of the Rings” for example. And after every appointment, once it’s over, I can savor marvelous sense of relief.