Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When the Lights Went Out: The Dark Side of Retirement

It was a typical Tuesday.  November 17th, to be exact.  Well not exactly typical.  I actually had to get up before my usual time of 9:30 because I had a meeting.  Yes, retired people still have meetings and, yes, I still hate getting up early.

We had been warned that it was going to be a blustery day, but off I went to my meeting, muttering to myself, "I'm retired.  Why am I going out in this awful weather?"  But the day was uneventful and I was back home and all cozy by mid-afternoon.

I actually like rainy days.  It's the wind I don't like.  We are surrounded by really tall trees, cedars and hemlocks, trees that aren't supposed to have very long lives to begin with and these trees were going on 100 years old.  Their root systems also don't run very deep, which is why they are called "Widowmakers."

We have had a couple of really bad wind storms where the wind howled so loudly it sounded like a freight train.  When the wind gets like that I am prone to sleeping downstairs.  I feel safer with an extra story above me in case a tree falls.

But on this particular day the wind didn't really seem to be that bad and by the time it was starting to get dark, it seemed to have died down.  I gave a sigh of relief.

And then it happened.

At 5:45 pm, first a flicker, then out went the lights just for an instant, then back on.  And then off again...for good. Nooooo!

I have a theory that if the lights go off and don't come right back on they are going to be off for awhile and that was the case.  In fact, they didn't come back on for another 34 hours.

I was not happy.

If you have been reading my blog posts about my retirement journey over the last two years, you know that I enjoy retirement mostly because I no longer have to do things I don't want to do.

My kids are married and successful, meaning they have their own homes and incomes, they don't live nearby, so it's OK for me to be selfish.

This may seem off-topic, but bear with me.  I read the book "The Madwoman in the Volvo" by Sandra Loh and blogged about it last November in my blog post "My Menopause."  In it, Loh talks about the detachment women experience in menopause and likens it to the detachment we experience when we are very young. When we are young, it's all about ourselves. But as our hormones kick in, we then become attached as we seek mates and have our children. But then when we are no longer able to procreate and our children have left the nest, our bodies and minds go back to being detached, not needing to nurture anyone but ourselves once again.

I think retirement is a little like that too.  Now that I am retired I don't need to nurture anyone but myself (Hubby doesn't count).  I can do what I want.

So anyway, that's just the long version of saying that when the power goes off, I DON'T GET TO DO WHAT I WANT!

The first few hours were OK even though it was dark.  Ever since my daughter sent me an article that said the Seattle area was the worst possible place to live if you were afraid of earthquakes (worse than California), because a BIG ONE was coming (worse than California), I had been hoarding emergency supplies.  So even though it was dark, we had flashlights and candles at the ready.  Huddling around the gas fireplace with a large glass of wine didn't seem so bad.

And it wasn't like I had to go to work the next day which would have been awful.

When you are working and the power goes off, you have to worry about getting up on time if your alarm clock doesn't work, fix your hair without a hair dryer or hot rollers, put on make-up in the light of a flashlight or in the car and run back and forth to the car to keep your cell phone charged.

But when you are retired that's not an issue.  You are old.  You can just go to sleep or read, right?


I thought I was doing just fine with my retirement.  I could do what I wanted. I had this blog, volunteer work, my dogs, Hubby, wine. I thought I was doing everything right and that I was A-OK.

But then the lights went out for 34 hours, and I was really depressed.

And the fact that I got depressed after 34 hours of no power depressed me even more.

It wasn't like I was starving in a third world country or a victim of those Paris attacks.  So why was I such a baby?  If I can't handle 34 hours away from my rituals and comforts, what does that say about me if something really bad happened?

We were not cut off from the outside world. We could hop in the car and go out to dinner every night, and we had plenty of food and supplies.  In fact, we have so many supplies that a friend once asked if we were Mormons.  And yes, we had our cell phones.

I could read by the light of the flashlight, drink wine, go out to eat, go to a movie, go to sleep.

Why wasn't I grateful for what I had and that it wasn't worse?

But, remember what I said about retirement?  It's all about doing what I want to do and that was not what I wanted to do. 

I didn't want to have to leave the house to go to a restaurant or a movie every night.

I didn't want to read by flashlight.

I didn't even particularly want to sit and drink wine if I couldn't watch TV.

I couldn't get over the fact that I was missing "Survivor" and the results show on "The Voice."

And that's the rub.

I realized over the course of those 34 hours that in retirement, I have become so accustomed to my little rituals and pleasing myself, that when I was forced to change direction and be flexible, I couldn't handle it, even if it was going out to eat at a restaurant on a Tuesday night.  I was so fixated on being inconvenienced, that I couldn't be grateful for what I DID have.

I wanted to be able to get up, fix my cup of tea, waddle upstairs to my computer, work on my blog, watch "The View," watch a movie in the comfort of my own home and not be so damn cold.  And I wanted to go to a restaurant when I wanted to go, not because I had to.

I had to come to grips with the fact that despite what I have done so far in retirement, I still have a long way to go. In my quest to please myself, I have become very set in my ways, narrowly focused and solitary.

And ungrateful.

And I don't like that about myself. That just screams old lady.  And I am not ready to go there yet.

That 34 hours of disruption to my routine was a wake-up call that I am in a retirement rut.

So what am I going to do about it?

I'm not sure, but I'm on it.  Being aware is the first step in making a change, right?

Two things I do know for sure, though.  

There is more to life than just pleasing myself and, when things go wrong, I need to be grateful for what's good, something that is particularly apropos for this time of year. 

(Happy Thanksgiving, by the way).

So it's back to the drawing board. 

I need to prepare for the next time the lights go out before they go out for good.

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."

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  1. Oh boy...been there...done that. Had a similar power outage, which is rare down here and in the first few hours I was ok. I called PG&E and got an update on restore time. I was very nice to the poor person who answered. After a few hours I was a raging lunatic.

    I also get the ungrateful part which I find myself doing or becoming more and more. I see you have something on you recent blog about Gretchen Rubin. I read her book, was able to see her at our local bookstore and bought her 5 year Happiness Journal. I wrote in that journal every night for a couple of years but even there I was using it to complain. Enter the 5 Minute Journal....this journal really helped me to focus on the good stuff with guided questions. I stopped a few months ago but want to get back to it. It helped me go to bed on a grateful and positive note. He has another journal coming out which helps with productivity...looking forward to that one too. You don't even have to buy it. The questions are the same each day and you can write in any blank journal. The benefit of the actual journal are the quotes at the top of each page but they are posted online.

    I am on my way to visit a friend but when I return I will get back to your l latest blog post..



    1. Thanks, sazzy. I am really interested in the 5-minute journal. Thanks for the recommendation. Thank goodness, my lights are still on! :)