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Learning retirement

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

When I was younger and the children were younger and we were all working and chasing soccer balls, and managing swim schedules and school activities, there were many days when I would think about retirement. The vision in my head was one of carefree days and stretches of time with nothing on the calendar. I would do this and that which had eluded me during the days of juggling.

Those days were wonderful. All those activities were just right for the time and the family. But, now I am semi-retired. The days I had envisioned while in the throes of scheduling complications are semi here. 

In my mind, I had created a little retirement bucket list. Not the kind of list which signals thoughts of limited days in which to accomplish somewhat outlandish feats.  There was no jumping out of airplanes, climbing great heights to stand on the edge of the world or running a marathon.

     My retirement list included joining a book club, hand piecing and hand quilting a king sized quilt for our bed, developing a useful herb and flower garden and writing a book.  There are many other items on my wish list, relearning how to play bridge, baking consistently perfect bread and learning to restore stained glass windows. 

I should have retired when I was 40.

But, then I wouldn’t have understood the concept. I would have been driven to do those things.  Now, I just do whatever pleases me at a given time. Don’t misunderstand me. I am working on the items mentioned above, I’m just not obsessing. 

For example, in recent days I enjoyed a book discussion with a group of people with whom I was barely acquainted. The book was by an author unfamiliar to me, who was visiting town, thus giving rise to multiple opportunities to interact around the topic in multiple settings.  The occasion wasn’t exactly a book club, there is no requirement to read another specific book by a specific day and prepare to lead a discussion delving into the significant points motivating the author relevant to the social and political climate of our times. The hour, one morning, spent in conversation was completely satisfying.  It wasn’t exactly a book club, there could be future gatherings, or not.

I am free to return to the stack of books on my bedside table and the biography I am currently reading, which by itself is a retirement project. There is the one I set aside to read the book for the discussion and the one I return to because the subject fascinates me. 

And there is the quilt project. I am about half way through the required number of pieced blocks and have laid out the design so I know where I am headed.  In the meantime, I have figured out and cut out a porch flag quilt with the assistance of some expert quilt designers and have launched into a quilt restoration project, again under the tutelage of some accomplished ladies.  I am concentrating my efforts, though nothing is finished quite yet.

As for the garden. It is now March.  Last fall, between the raindrops and other interruptions, I did completely cover the designated area for the planned garden. I have been assured by those who know way more than I, that underneath all that decomposing newspaper and grass clippings, there will be a weed free patch of soil just waiting for me to plant whatever I desire.  I am learning. If the patch is weed free now, it will remain weed free as long as I don’t uncover it until I have the plant and trowel in my hand and I am standing over the spot. Plants, appropriately chosen and tended, will grow.  Gardeners know this. Gardens take time. The garden in Kenrokuen, Kanazawa, Japan, considered by some to be the most beautiful in the world, took 200 years to develop.  What a relief. I can take all the time I want and the job will always be a work in progress. If the patient fellow in the 17th Century was content to work at it knowing he would never finish the job, why not me, too.

     As for the book. I’ve got nothing. No philosophical musings on the evolution of my thoughts on characters to research. No story lines to explore. No planned work schedule to discipline my word production. No outline of a story beyond a list of phrases. Nothing.

So, here is the crossroad. The one really big item on my “when I retire” list which has eluded even the beginning of a process is sitting out there untouched. I haven’t even got a plan which  can be considered a work in progress, something to mark my movement forward. Nothing.

I’ve decided if that’s all I leave undone, so be it.  Who knows, there might be some stroke of inspiration one morning when I plop some herbs in my plot, or one evening when I’m making bias tape for my flag quilt.  Some pretty successful authors only produced one or two works of note.  Someday you all may be able to say, I knew her when…