Friday, October 28, 2011

I Am What I Am

It is very interesting to be "retired".  In previous blogs, I have talked about the ideas that are elicited by this word, but it is a very unique experience to go through.  When I turned 50, I rejoiced in the fact that I liked myself, and I didn't care a lot about what others thought about me.  I was my own woman who had accomplished a lot in her career and life.  I didn't have my youth, but I had my experiences and the wisdom that came from them.  I liked that!  However, now that I am "retired", I am finding that I am at times a bit insecure about myself!

Let me start by saying that I have wonderful friends.  However, most of them are much younger than I am.  I also have a husband who is the same age but very physically fit.  I, on the other hand, am not!  Intellectually, I think I'm doing great, but I am a very quiet person.  I am not dramatic, beautiful, funny, clever, or particularly social.  I am a true introvert!  Many people think that introverts don't like being with others, are socially awkward, or can't speak in front of a group.  I was a teacher.  I was a high level professional who addressed a room full of people easily.  I was a human resource professional who liked working with people.  So, that is not a true definition of an introvert.  It is all about how you re-energize!  

My husband is very quiet but he is truly an extrovert.  He gets jazzed by being with people!  He loves groups of people and is very comfortable no matter what-even if he doesn't know anyone else there.  This gives him lots of energy.  I, on the other hand, prefer small gatherings, talking one-on-one and parties where I know most everyone.  Parties and new people exhaust me!  I am friendly, smiling, can hold a conversation, enjoy myself, but it saps my energy.  I need to be alone to recharge!  

As a result, alone time is very important to me.  However, I am finding that I now have too much (I can't believe I am saying this) alone time!  Working provided a nice balance: seeing people during the day, recharging at night.  Granted, it was sometimes hard to socialize on the weekends because I needed more time alone, but I did have a better balance.  

My friends are lovely!  They are open, giving, smiling, energetic, clever, funny, attractive, sexy, make-you-feel-good people. Now that I have enough time alone to recharge, I am eager to socialize on the weekends.   I just feel boring and uninteresting.  A term that was used at work a lot in the last few years was "value added".  In my retirement, I started wondering what value I add, and then I had a moment that has seemed to bring my balance back!

Have you ever seen "La Cage Aux Folles"?  My husband and I recently saw the Broadway Tour of this musical.  We had seen it many years ago, and I loved The Birdcage which was the movie version.  However, this time it spoke to me in a different way.  If you have ever seen it, you know that there is a riveting, emotional scene at the end of Act I where the much-maligned character of Albin sings "I Am What I Am".  The words to the first verse are:
I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It's my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in.
Life's not worth a damn,
'Til you can say, "Hey world, I am what I am."

This is how I felt when I turned 50.  This is how I again feel about myself.  I am a great believer that you have to be aware of the world around you, because there are messages and lessons for you if you look for them.  I believe that this message was there for me as a reminder.  It seems to have reset the balance for me.  So, here I am; take me for what I am-no more and no less!  Be joyful in who you are and in the world around you.

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You a Worrier?

We all have worries.  It is certainly a necessary part of life.  If everything was wonderful in our lives, I don't think that we would appreciate the good times-the JOYS we find in our lives.  I don't think that we would make good decisions.  I also think that it exercises our cognitive skills as we determine options, analyze their effectiveness, and decide on a course of action.  So worrying can be a good thing.

I love people, I love to watch them, and recently I have found it interesting to analyze how they handle worrying.  My dad didn't worry very often.  Instead, when he did have a problem that needed resolving, you could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he examined the issues.  Once he found an action strategy, he carried it out and moved on with his life.  I think that most of the time he was very happy.  My mother, on the other hand, was a master worrier.  She worried about everything-even those things that she could do nothing about.  I remember being amazed that she worried about not having enough water while living in Arizona or thinking about getting earthquake insurance in the Midwest.  Don't get me wrong.  My mother was a very reasonable, intelligent woman.  However, her emotional makeup made worrying an integral part of her daily life.  I didn't understand it when I was younger. In fact, I can remember being upset when she would worry about me even after I reached adulthood.  I thought that it was because she didn't have enough faith in my ability to manage my life.  Years of experience have now given me a totally different viewpoint.

I have often thought about my approach to worrying.  I would frequently have issues to resolve related to work just like my dad did.  I felt that I was like him in my approach, as well.  I would stew on the problem, identify solutions, and decide how I wanted to solve the problem.  Once that was done, I let it go and moved on.  I have always found making decisions easy; I am decisive.  However, now that I am retired, I have had more time to analyze my style.  I am surprised to find that I am probably a combination of my parents' worrying styles.  I think that is because I am a mother AND because I now have time to worry.

As a young mother, I worried about my children: were they safe, were they well, was I a good mother?  As all mothers know, it is just part of the mantle of motherhood that we assume when we have a child.  Interestingly enough, fathers don't appear to suffer from the same effect.  Don't get me wrong: they do worry about their children, but they use my father's approach to deal with it and throw it off.  I just think that mother's have worrying down to a science!

As a recent retiree with grown children, I am finding that I worry more now that I am home.  Of course, I worry about my children.  (Shades of my mother!!!  I now understand that she DID believe in me and my abilities.)  I certainly believe in my children.  I am proud of the young adults they have become.  However, I still worry about them, and I think it is because I have time to worry.  When I was working, I didn't have a lot of time to worry about things.  I also know that if I was worried about something, I got a break from it when the workday took over.  Now I don't get a break from worries, and it is a challenge to step out of it sometimes!  Now I understand why my mother worried so much.  She didn't have an outside job where she could get a break from her worries.

I am finding that I have to learn new strategies to escape from worrying.  Writing helps me a lot so I may be writing more blogs in the future.  Being with friends, hugging my granddaughter, talking to my children, cuddling with my husband all help. I am even playing more games than I used to play.  Most importantly, I am taking time to find joy in my life.  This is the first year when I have had time to enjoy the fall and its beauty.  I am enjoying cooking (made freezer jam for the first time!) and finding new recipes.  I realize that worrying can be a healthy part of life.  We just need to find a balance by also finding the joy in our lives.

Have you found your joy today?