When a new wave of disappointment or depression rolls onto the shore of my existence, I struggle anew with the reality of what Parkinson’s Disease has taken from me. Even with advanced degrees in music, vocal pedagogy and organ, I can no longer coordinate the complexities involved in playing my beloved instrument. The muscles that make up my voice are affected, so I can no longer sing solos. I am a National Board Certified music teacher, but I can no longer do the multitasking that is part and parcel of any classroom position.
There is deep-seated grief over what is lost, and sometimes it rears its ugly head, threatening to derail the good things that are part of retirement. These days, that grief is close to the surface, and tears flow surprisingly easily. The cause of this recent flood is worth exploring. Perhaps, today’s ruminations will become tomorrow’s reminders . . .
We are in the throes of a fairly large remodeling project: we are turning our “great room” with its tiny half bath and laundry into a master bedroom suite, complete with walk-in closets, handicapped-accessible bathroom, and more convenient laundry. In true domino style, this has led to reorganizing a myriad of drawers, sorting through files, revamping crafting and photography areas . . . and making decisions about all that “stuff” I brought home from my classroom 16 months ago.
When I took that “Loneliest Walk” (You know, the one with the final box of your things, walking out of your office or classroom space for the last time, making your way across the parking lot alone, while newly-former colleagues continue working inside.) . . . When I took that walk, I took everything that was mine home. “You never know,” I reasoned to myself, “DBS may work so well that you can do everything you could do before. Better to keep all this ‘stuff,’ just in case.” So, all things “classroom” were stashed in every imaginable nook and cranny. Books were crammed into already packed bookcases. Boxes and files of lesson plans and resources crowded around my home office desk, and then overflowed into the garage. And, there they have remained, untouched, for 16 months.
So, now, as the need for revamping space arises, the reality of my current situation takes on new meaning. I have avoided looking at those files and boxes every time I’ve been near them. I knew the time was coming to make decisions about what to toss or give away and what to keep. I knew this process would really be about letting go, permanently, of a dearly beloved career – of a precious identity that suited me ever so well.
It is quite easy, in the midst of this pity party, to forget those things that brought so much angst as part of that job. The “Someday” mantra that I used to chant during those times is taking on new meaning: “Someday” is today!
So, today I choose to savor all those things that I looked forward to: it is 8:00 a.m., and I am still in my robe, leisurely drinking a second cup of coffee. I have time to watch the sun arise, gradually filling the yard with light and color. The water in the birdbath is stiff, but I am warm inside, by the fireplace, in my easy chair. In a few moments, I will enjoy breakfast at the kitchen table, engrossed in a new novel. There will be time to listen to my husband, preparing for his day as he thinks aloud. The mad scramble of scraping windshields when I’m barely awake, swallowing breakfast whole from a mug as I scurry to the school, hoping the police aren’t on duty yet . . . all that and more is left in the past!
Today, I am listening to my favorite music as I sort things out. Today, a large bag of classroom necessities is headed out the door to help a fledgling teacher (She is too young to understand that I am letting go).
Today, I am determined to focus on the things I can do, rather than on what I have lost. I will acknowledge the good in my life, allowing the losses to flow around and beyond me into time passed. Today, I embrace the beauty and serenity of a rocking chair – no longer the symbol, for me, of senility, but rather a badge of courage, wisdom, and determination – a symbol for what just may become the best part of life.
Today. It’s only one small segment of my sixty plus years. But it’s all I’ve got. Reality dictates that tomorrow or next week or next month I will have to fight this battle all over again. But I accept Today as a gift. Perhaps, I can use it wisely.