I just retired, not because I was able to, but because I had to. It’s weird not working and not having the pressure of a long day, followed by a long commute. I worked in a law office with plenty of pressure and high profile people to cater to. I was an executive assistant, and very good at it. At least I was very good until a couple of years ago. I started having huge memory lapses. Scarey lapses, like when I came across a letter I wasn’t sure I ever mailed. This became so frequent in fact I thought I was going crazy–remembering things I never did and forgetting things I did. My boss was catching a lot of errors, stupid errors.
I was taught from a very young age to go to work and to work hard. With the state of Social Security the past 20 years I never really planned to retire. I always imagined myself at 70 still working. Not that it was what I wanted–who really wants to work–but I was going to do it. Besides, my husband, ten years my senior, would retire first and my income for the next ten years was then going to put us in retirement heaven. Like John Lennon says, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” and things don’t always work out like you thought they would.
I knew it was my MS and medications that were causing this. I cut back on my pain meds. I rearranged my desk to optimize my limited space. I created follow up files. I created checklists. Lived by the stickynotes and To Do lists plastering my desk. I had my memory evaluated and took classes to improve it. Still, mistakes were made and I kept forgetting things. A law office cannot afford to forget things and I knew my time of working was coming to an ignoble end. It hurt.
There came the day, though when I knew it was over. I called my husband and cried, telling him I couldn’t do my job anymore. He was wonderfully supportive. “Do what you have to do,” he told me. And I did. I wrote a resignation letter the next morning.
Now I’m a retiree. I’m having some trouble with it still, but it’s only been three months. I feel lazy and self indulgent I make up tasks to do just to make sure I do something useful everyday. I try to take the dog for a walk or run a couple errands, water the plants. Today I didn’t do anything useful. My legs have decided they are more retired than I am lately. Its a drag, but I know it’s the MS and all I can do is wait for the feeling to pass.
I’m trying to be comfortable being at home. I have trouble balancing my time, and find myself lost for hours on the computer. I’ve made my peace with having to retire–at least I’m working on it. I won’t say I miss work, but I miss the sense of being needed, and the human interaction. Since retiring, my social circle has become very small. Now I find I need to spend some time cultivating a new one. Filling my hours with old hobbies and trying to do new things. When you have trouble remembering, learning to do new things can take a very long time. I’ve got nothing but time, now.
MS is teaching me humility and patience. Both with myself and others. I’m more patient in line and friendlier now that I feel I have the time to be. Too bad I felt it took too much time to say hello to the cashier at Starbucks. Maybe it’s just the lack of constant pressure of working, but I like saying hello to the cashier and talking to the teller in the bank. Oddly enough people seem to respond to kindness and caring. If we could all just retire, we’d all have time to be nice again. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all retire?