darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The one-year mark in the don't-work-no-more phase of my career has come and gone, and I find that I want some structure back in my life. I feel ready to emerge from my cave a little and reconnect, too.

So maybe I can do a post a day for a month.

Boy, am I rusty. Whew. Let's see... [self-censor kicks into high gear: "No, that's unoriginal. No, that would be whiny. No, that sounds like a commercial..."]

Screw you, self-censor. )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's been five years since I got the sudden wild idea to buy a bike. Since then I've lost 65 pounds, sold my car, reduced my transportation expenses to $75 a month, let my driver's license lapse, and, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, retired1.

Five Years By Bike, in lists )


Apr. 11th, 2014 06:20 pm
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Empty Room)
I can't decide whether the best invention ever right now is kneepads, utility knives, audiobooks or ibuprofen. All of these have played major roles in my life the last few days.

It's a good tired )
darkemeralds: Hellfire and tormented faces with caption Yay Hell (Yay)
I still feel like I'm just on vacation. Today, as I begin my fourth week of retirement, I officially exceed my previous record for most consecutive days off work since 1989.

I was doing the night-owl thing to an unhealthy degree the first week or two, but that's wearing off, and today I actually got up a little before 9:00 a.m. That seems a decent hour for getting out of bed in the morning, don't you think? Civilized.

Everyone who recommended taking plenty of time before imposing a new structure on myself: you were so right. Thank you.

And as to how I'm spending my time? [livejournal.com profile] roxymissrose Someone whose name shall be crossed out in a transparent attempt to point blamey, blamey fingers, mentioned re-watching "All Hell Breaks Loose" (the last two episodes of Supernatural Season 2) and was all OMG it's still so powerful and amazing, so I was going to Netflix it and then I thought what the hey I'll just watch all of S2, and now...

...Now I'm having a heart attack all over again watching the Impala get smashed into by a semi, and Sam is yelling "DEAN!!!" and the helicopters are coming, and I'm remembering how absolutely great this show was and why I've been such a fan all these years.

(And wow, Jensen doesn't age.)


Jan. 16th, 2014 08:27 pm
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I've never been able to stick to an "exercise program," (bleh) so changing my transportation mode from passive to active was perhaps the greatest stroke of genius I've ever had.1

For the last four and half years, my daily eight-mile bike commute to and from work has been what gets me off my ass--the only thing. I was a little worried that retirement, in removing my biggest transportation need, would find me slowly melding with my armchair, never to budge again.

Instead, I've discovered that I'm riding my bike more than ever.

First of all, I have time to bike to destinations that, when I was working full time, would have taken too long. I have time to figure out a safe route to a new place, to get a little lost2, to go in daylight, to choose my weather.

And second of all, I don't have to get everything done in one go on Sunday. I can make multiple trips, any day of the week. Whoops, forgot toilet paper? Four miles round trip to Fred Meyer. Return a book? Branch library across town. That fabric store that's out in the semi-urbs? Worth a shot.

Today I rode clear out past the ring of freeways to an acupuncture appointment that has always previously been a train trip. From there, since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by my sister's--the one I don't see as much of because she lives "out there"--and pedaled home again in the gathering dark, for a 19-mile day.

View Bike to Lynne's in a larger map

1 Selling my car was an important part of everything. Side note: my driver's license has expired and I should probably do something about that. I could ride my bike to the DMV. :D

2 Sometime since I first starting biking, Google has added voice navigation to the bike layer of its maps, and it's awesome! Now I just need an app that has Paul Bettany's voice saying, "In six hundred feet, turn left onto the I-205 Bike Path. No, left, madam. The other left. That's it..."
darkemeralds: Jensen Ackles in Regency Attire (Restraint John)
Yesterday evening I went to a lecture at the Oregon Astrological Association* and then, because it felt like my day was just getting started, stayed up reading and goofing around till 4:00 a.m.

Of course, today I didn't wake up till almost 1:00 in the afternoon, and only a good hard stare at my phone told me that it was Saturday.

I've written 5000 words of backstory for two secondary characters who need work in the Restraint rewrite (Uncle Martin and Mr Braithwaite--I really wanted to find out how they met). This has meant revisiting old research into the Napoleonic Wars, George IV, Brighton, and smuggling on the Channel coast.

In other words, I'm basically just goofing around and enjoying myself.

Who here uses Scrivener? Can anyone describe to me what its advantages are? Other writers wax fannish over it, but I'm frankly finding it unintuitive and more frustrating than exciting. I'm limited to the Linux version, which may be hobbled compared to the IOS and Windows versions, but before I give it up, I'd like to know what I'm failing to appreciate.

And now it's 2:00 a.m. Almost bedtime. :D

*The subject was the Tea Party and the GOP, and it was fascinating.
darkemeralds: Doge meme with captions Wow So Leisure, Many Freedom, Such vacation (Lady of Leisure)
I sort of saw this coming. I mean, the question when you're about to retire is "What are your plans?" My answer has been, "To do nothing for a while and see what develops."

So here I am, a week in, with all the time in the world on my hands, and of course what develops is a mild case of the shoulds. It occurred to me this morning that there's an infinite list of things I "should" be doing with all this free time. What's at the top of the list varies from hour to hour, but it includes
  • Work on [____]
  • Finish [___]
  • Start [___]
  • Go and [___]
  • Decide on [___]
...you get the idea.

Trouble is, I don't really feel like doing any of those things right at the moment. Right at the moment, I'm on my second pot of coffee. I'm reading a so-so book that I wouldn't have taken time for in the past. It's rainy and windy out. The cat is asleep on the next chair.

So here's the big question: do I have the courage to follow through on my plan of making no plans until a plan comes and grabs me by the solar plexus and tugs me into action?

And while I'm trying to figure that out, should I maybe go out and buy some more coffee beans?
darkemeralds: Doge meme with captions Wow So Leisure, Many Freedom, Such vacation (Lady of Leisure)
Here are some of the unexpected and strangely immediate effects of Not Having To Go To Work On Monday.

Not just free time, but freed mind. )

I don't have to limit myself anymore to just the top priorities: work, food, transportation, sleep, and a thin sliver of stress-relief in the form of easy hobbies. It's like suddenly being wealthy after many years of just-above-subsistence. Or like moving into a house after living for years in a place not quite big enough to stand up straight in. Or changing into clothes that aren't too tight.

Things are opening up in such unexpected ways, and it's wonderful.
darkemeralds: Grafitti on the Steel Bridge showing two robotic figures and signed "The Fool" (The Fool)
Why the Cult of Hard Work is Counterproductive, an absolutely wonderful article by Steven Poole published in New Statesman a couple of weeks ago, goes into "why doing nothing may be the best thing for your well-being and your brain."

Though it's a British article for a British publication and doesn't even mention the word "American," it has a huge bearing on a discussion of American-versus-European concepts of work and leave time that several of us were having here on my journal a few days ago.

Stealing sick leave and other bullshit notions )

Poole takes on the very idea of productivity (tracing the word itself right back to its first use by Coleridge in the late 18th century), and pretty well demolishes it as a moral construct. He ends on this lovely note:

...it is not necessary to abandon the notion of “productivity” altogether. We all like to feel that we have done something useful, interesting or fun with our day, even (or especially) if it has not been part of our official work, and we might harmlessly express such satisfaction by saying that our day has been productive.

This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity – as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult – has nothing to do with its value.

Well worth the reading, and what's more, the comments are excellent and actually add substance to the article.
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Empty Room)
I quit making New Year's resolutions a lot of New Years ago--total recipe for failure, in my book--but given that this January 1 will also be the first day of the rest of my life in a more particular way than every other day of the world, I'm giving it some thought.

The thing that has given my life its structure more or less continuously since 1970 is suddenly going to drop away. My external motivation for getting up in the morning, grooming myself, wearing decent clothes, leaving my house, and (in recent years) getting exercise will be no more.

I don't yet have a clue what will replace it. In my limited experience of unemployment, the lack of structure is not my best friend. But the key word is "limited." Will a month of do-nothing nightowl-dom be enough for a more natural structure to start appearing? Two months? How could I know? I've never tried it.

What's more, the fact of having a job has been one of a very few connections I feel to "most people," a broad if rather shallow patch of common ground. Google Plus keeps reminding me to list my workplace in my profile, because without it, I'm only 80% complete.

So, what new scaffolding will I build to keep my life from dissolving into a puddle of undifferentiated time?

I have no idea yet. I should probably be terrified. Maybe I am terrified and I just don't know it. How does one feel at an event horizon?
darkemeralds: A bike in the dark, decorated with white lights, its wheel rims bright reflective white in the flash (Christmas)
Today is the last paid holiday of my career.

Though it's true that Americans don't take much time off compared to, say, Europeans, I'm still very cognizant of the generous plan my public sector place of employment has given me all these years; how many days they've paid me not to be at work.

From the very outset, when I was a just a wee Word Processing Clerk I (anyone remember those?), they gave me ten days of vacation, twelve of sick leave, and three personal days per year.

The vacation-day count has gone up along with the workload, so that when I turn in my badge next week, they're going to pay me for all the vacation I haven't actually managed to take for the last several years. That drop in the retirement bucket will make an audible splash, I can tell you.

As to sick leave...well, I learned an important lesson in my early days. A woman I worked with was singled out for praise because she had never taken a single sick day in, I forget, something like three years. Her reward? A free day off. It was obvious to me that she could have skipped the praise and had twelve paid days off in each of those years.

(Also, praising someone for the "virtue" of naturally good health is, at the very least, annoying.)

In short, I've never been afraid to "call in well" when I needed a mental health day. I'm pretty sure that's why a) I never climbed higher in the organization and b) the benefits of retiring at the first possible moment outweigh the big pay cut I'm about to take.

Besides, they don't buy back your unused sick leave. I'd've been dumb not to use it.

Back to work tomorrow for a few more days of toil in the fields of the System.
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Well, it's pretty much all over except the deletion of personal stuff from the hard drive, this career thing I've been doing for the last thirty-something years. Twelve days left, only seven of them actual workdays.

My immediate coworkers, honoring my request not to have the sheet-cake-in-the-conference-room shindig for me, took me out for a couple of drinks and fancy bar snacks the other evening. It was upbeat and pleasant, and comfortably detached. I liked it.

As several people have pointed out to me, these send-off do's, rather like funerals, aren't for the benefit of the departed leaver, but the folks watching you go. So we did the thing--there was single malt involved. And snackies involving duck and smoked seafood, so, yum.

And then, one of my coworkers, a young up and comer, announced that she's taken another job, and her last day will be the same as my last day, and she had no objection to the office shindig, and our supervisor asked if I would object to making it a shared going-away party and could she please have my name piped in frosting onto the sheet-cake alongside my coworkers...and coworker asked if she could please bake me an apple pie...

...and anyway, I'm on my way in to the sheet-cake-in-the-conference-room shindig after all. But at least the spotlight will only be 50% on me.
A sheet cake with frosting flowers and good luck script

Update: I went. People said nice things. I think it was okay. But I will never ever feel like I know how to do this sort of thing right.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Hi everyone. It's my birthday! Which, after 57 previous ones, isn't all that big a deal. But I took the day off work, had acupuncture, went out to breakfast-for-lunch, got my nails done, and came home in the very cold December evening to eat really rather a lot of French chocolate.

I was dreadfully sick last week--like bedridden-and-housebound for six days, miss-Thanksgiving-dinner level sick. It was mostly just the worst cold in the world, I think. At the nadir of it I ruptured an eardrum and had conjunctivitis in both eyes, so I was half-deaf and half-blind and it was generally awful. (Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar, diluted on a cotton pad and wiped along the lower lid, stings like hell but makes short work of the pinkeye, by the way.)

Long story short, I'm a million percent better now, though still a bit hearing impaired in the one ear. Back to breathing, sleeping, and riding my bike.

Hand of DarkEmeralds with silver sparkly nail polish
Birthday nails

Hardly any job left in my life now:
Retirement Countdown showing 25 days, 23 hours
Retirement countdown
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
Tick tock.

Computer screen displaying a large countdown clock showing 55 days, 5 hours, 55 minutes and 55 seconds
Retirement countdown
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
The very pleasant, cheerful bureaucrat who helped me fill in all the blanks in my retirement paperwork this morning shook my hand when we were done and said, "Retirement is such a different thing today than it used to be. You have a whole new life ahead. I wish you the best."

I walked back to the bus stop in the October morning, looking at the perfect sky and the yellow trees, thinking, "I want to remember this day." It was a big occasion. I felt like celebrating, but it was 10:00 on a Monday morning and I had to catch a bus back in from the suburbs and go to work. So I texted a couple of "Woo hoo"s to people, then rode downtown and got myself a four-shot mocha. Then I went to work.

Only 63 more days.

View of Chapman Square in downtown Portland on an October morning, with brilliant yellow ginkgo trees and a bright blue sky
darkemeralds: Screencap from Life on Mars with caption Welcome To The Team (Welcome to the Team)
With moral support and actual hands-on help from my sister and my good pal Todd, I've completed the application for my retirement.

I've assembled hand-filled-out documents (that's a throwback), account numbers, proof of birthdate, beneficiary information, and a spreadsheet of how the money's gonna go. Tomorrow morning at the ungodly hour of 8:00 I catch a bus to the distant suburb where the Public Employees Retirement System has its offices, and at 9:00 I file.

By 10:00 tomorrow it should be official: I'll be a woman of leisure of January 1. Now I just have to figure out how to continue focusing even a little bit on my job between now and then.
darkemeralds: (Now)
Do you ever feel like you're just...disappearing?

I have the oddest sensation lately that I barely exist. I'm sure my imminent retirement has something to do with it--one of my lifelong mooring lines is about to be cast off. I've never been very engaged with my work or my coworkers, and now I'm even less so.

I don't think that's the whole story, though. I can't figure out how to describe it. But, as we say in EFT, "if you did know how to describe it, what do you think you'd say?"

It's...hollow. Quiet. Becalmed. In a fog. When I home in on it, there's fear at the center that I don't want to look at. It's probably not a monster--more like a Dweller on the Threshold. (...there come cycles wherein the Dweller on the Threshold appears and confronts the aspirant, challenging his purpose and progress and blocking the door which leads to expanded life and liberation. The Dweller challenges the freedom of the human soul.1)

If I get the nerve to confront it, I'll let myself know. Meanwhile, have a pretty picture from my morning commute:

A view from the Eastbank Esplanade westward across the Willamette River in Portland on a foggy morning, with downtown buildings beginning to emerge into sunshine

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