I now understand. As soon as I clocked out for the last time, I started to breathe again. The race, the rat race, everything is fast-paced and there’s no time to breathe when you’re in it.
But now I have time, and I don’t know what to do with it. I sleep, I wake up, I make some coffee, walk the dogs, and the rest of the day is empty. I look at my clean house, but now it’s filled with pictures of glorious days with my growing children and how much I miss them. They grew up so fast, and no one ever realizes it until it happens. Everyone has their own life now.
The hamster wheel keeps spinning. Life went by too quickly. The whirlwind of working 60 hours a week as an ICU nurse, the whirlwind of raising three children, the whirlwind of watching my husband die a terrible death. And now, I stand here waiting to exhale. Everything has come to a standstill. I have many accomplishments, but I still feel sad and empty, not knowing where to go or what to do.
No one prepares you for retirement. All of a sudden, it’s just you, no more clocking in and out, no more children to raise, no more parent-teacher meetings, chorus, cheerleading, football, proms, or getting your children to college and out.
Retirement, the travel magazines that glorify the happy golden couple off to Hawaii, Paris, or somewhere else spectacular. Of course, they are in excellent health and will surely live forever.
There are four stages to retirement: pre-retirement, early retirement, mid-retirement, and late retirement. But reading about these stages and experiencing them are two different things.
Retirement has given me plenty of time to reflect on my life, relax, and decompress. I’ve had plenty of breakfasts and lunches with my old ICU buddies, and time with my children and grandchildren.
Retirement is a new religion. It’s so hard to decide what I should do next, what purpose I have. 46 total years as a nurse, non-stop, and it all comes to a halt.
Although I am comfortable and love waking up with no agenda and making coffee, I do get bored. But not bored enough to “clock in” again! I’m just emotionally jumping up and down on that imaginary trampoline trying to figure out what’s next!
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.