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Cabin Fever

Garden in Winter

My to-do list has grown since retiring from my transportation career in 2009. The number of items on it was supposed to decrease yet it’s not.

After retiring that July 3, I engaged in life outside home in a way I hadn’t in a long time. I joined groups working on social issues. I joined the boards of some of those groups. I had a measure of freedom to pick activities from the broad palette found in a region with a large University town and Iowa’s second largest city. Almost ten years later I view that first retirement as a failure. I left a career and job but didn’t stop working.

This time, beginning with leaving full-time work last March and taking my Social Security pension, it is different. The stress of living paycheck to paycheck is relieved yet the to-do list sits quietly, awaiting action. I can’t get started and each day becomes a challenge to gain impetus on it. Why? I blame it on cabin fever.

“Retirement” is a story we tell ourselves in order to live. When I write, “career in transportation,” it stands for working 25 years in a series of jobs in that field. I worked to provide financially for our family. In quiet mornings of 2019 that narrative is stripped away leaving me mired in passing time. I have to work through it and get on track.

Part of the challenge is awareness. I’m of an age where every path chosen, every task undertaken, means another is pushed aside, maybe never taken up afterward. Perhaps it’s always been this way and I didn’t see it, wouldn’t acknowledge it. Choices made now have a different meaning — the bucket has limited capacity to hold our tears and sweat and I must choose carefully.

Of course that’s also some bullshit. That the door leading to the garage needs painting doesn’t go away. It will take several hours with buying supplies, prep, undercoating and finish. It can be fit into my schedule adding something positive to the quality of our lives. We only ever have the moment in which we live. There is no bucket of tears.

If I’m feeling cabin fever, not to worry. I’ve arranged start dates at the farms, and warmer weather will spark work on the garden. As warm as it’s been, I could work in the garden now, removing the weeds and fencing, organizing the plots. However, cold weather is coming, I hope. Once it gets below zero for a week, there is winter pruning to do… then a burn pile… then before you know it, back in the swing of things.

If we stay busy, cabin fever disappears. Our only challenge is to get started.

One reply on “Cabin Fever”

I kind of eased myself into full retirement. I chose a 0.6 time option the last few years of teaching. Then, was 0.5 time in a related job for a few more years. Now, I am busier than ever. One has to be careful going into retirement. There are so many things to choose from that can suck up your time and energy. I think I’m reaching a good balance. I like it.

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