Wednesday, September 26, 2012

what early retirement feels like now that I am into it

I wrote this here in my blog rather than my journal because it is more about the meaning or trajectory of my life.

I began writing such things here in early 2010. The last entries were almost a year ago, the end of 2011. I never knew it would happen when I started the blog in Spring of 2010, but just a few months later, in the summer of 2010, at age 56, I began the process that I now call my early retirement. I had been planning such a thing since 2001, but I didn't realize until after it happened that 2010 would be the year.

2010 and 2011 turned out to be amazing and exciting and quite scary at times, as I recorded here and in my journal. But this summer of 2012 it gradually became obvious to me that I am done setting up this new life and now I am just living it.

I am paying close attention to what my days are like now, because this is such a different life from the one I lived for 32 years, from 1978 until early 2010. For all those years, I worked at least 40 hours per week, sometimes much more, sometimes combining work with college. Long commutes also added to the time committments to these "jobs" most of those years. The hours of the day when I had the most energy all went to working for others to get paid.

Until now, I did not realize that who I was for those 32 years was not neccessary "me" but an adapted me -adapted physically and mentally to functioning in the work schedule and the work place.

For example, in terms of diet and health, I simply experimented in the early years until I discovered methods that maximized my ability to function while I was at work, and then stuck with those diet and health habits all the way to 2010, never seriously questioning if they were really good for my body, because my ability to make and save money was so much more important to me. I now believe those adaptations were not good for my body in the long run.

I now also realize that the percentage of my mental energy evry week that I committed to problem solving at work was very high. This is obvious when I consider how much reading I am doing now. I am amazed at the number of books I have read this summer. It is probably almost ten times the number I read per summer during the 32 years I spent in the "labor force". Apparently I have always been a reading junkie, but I never knew it because the part of my brain that enjoys books was tired by the evenings and weekends when I had free time.

So, is that the story of 2012? -For the first time in my 58 years, I've become a serious health and diet nut, and also a book worm?

No, that's just some of what I am discovering.

I'm also experiencing for the first time since I was very young cravings for creative and mental challenge. All the reading I just described is related to this, but it is clear the craving requires more than just reading.

It seems to require me to be sketching designs and then analyzing them. What a shock! My college degree was Mechanical Design, and for the 32 years I worked, I was in either design or technical art. -Of course I still crave those things. I was wrong in thinking that I had become bored and burnt out by them. What I was really sick of was not the work, but the inability to dictate my own schedule and do my own dream projects.

In fact I think I am discovering that I have an urge to refine, patent, and manufacture some things that I've invented in the last few years.

But, as I said, I am still discovering what my true state of health is, rather than my state of health adapted to working long hours for a company.

I am coming to believe, based on some medical tests I did this summer and on other observations and reflections, that my strong tendency toward pollen allergies has been the cause for all the "secondary" health problems I've suffered from all of my life, including depression, episodes of fatigue, and the bladder discomfort (interstitial cystitis) that has become a serious problem lately.

The latter disorder gave me the major scare a year ago when I thought I had cancer, followed by the euphoria when I realized I didn't, coinciding with my bladder symptoms disappearing.

I have not written about it very much, but that nice situation did not last. By January of 2012 the bladder symptoms were returning and they've been bothering me almost every day since. Now I've learned that periods of remission are common for persons with interstitial cystitis but the symptoms rarely go away permanantly.

My belief is that the constant strain on my body caused by the pollen allergies year after year weakens the adrenal glands and that sets off the chain of events that cause my secondary disorders (bladder, depression, fatigue, etc.)

My urge to start patenting and making things I've invented comes right up against all of this:

-I don't want to start something like that unless I know my health is good enough to make it successful.

So that's where I am at this moment...maybe wanting to start a new chapter in my life, but not ready to until I spend as long as it takes to know whether I can be healthy enough. I am optimistic.

However this plays out, it feels good to be writing again. Every year I do very little of it in the summer but it is now late September and the urge to write is back as strong as ever.