Tales of Retirement
By Shirley Forton
Retired February 21, 2015
It happened without warning. “Everyone needs to come immediately to the meeting room.” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, validated by the look on our vice president’s face. Forty of the best colleagues I had ever worked with, and I – terminated! Organization in receivership.
As I start writing this article, and glance at the calendar on my computer, I realize this happened exactly 2 years ago today. There was no gold watch or plaque to thank me for my years of service, just a box full of ‘work memories’ and a wall hanging that said, “She who leaves a trail of glitter will never be forgotten.” As we all stood in the parking lot crying, disheartened and scared to death, I realized that I would probably never see some of these faces again. I felt profound sadness. As I drove home, the voice in my head yelled, “No, I’m not ready!” I had so much more I wanted to do and, wow, I needed to be better prepared. And by prepared, I mean old…. well older than I am right now, that’s for sure. I had made what I thought was a great future plan. This wasn’t it.
Okay, fast forward through the phone calls to family and friends, tearfully retelling the story over and over again. The grief that set in was indescribable. No one had died; why did I feel like someone had? And there was also this feeling of déjà vu. My sister had been terminated from her job, of more than 25 years, just 6 weeks before me. Can you believe it? What are the odds? The benefit, if there was one, was that she knew what I was going to be feeling, before I did. She was my confidante those first months, and a great shoulder to lean on. She understood.
Every morning, I continued to write in my gratitude journal, as I have been doing most of my adult life. I have so much to be grateful for. Unfortunately a successful career, with my wonderful colleagues, just wasn’t one of them anymore. It left a hole in my gratitude journal. I missed my colleagues. I would tell anyone who would listen, “Something bigger and better is coming my way. I can feel it.” I really did believe that. I have always been optimistic, always tried to look on the bright side and always believed in the law of attraction.
My life was proof of that. As the weeks turned into months and summer came to a close, that ‘something bigger’ hadn’t appeared. My belief was slowly being chipped away. I fought grim thoughts: What if there is no bigger and better? Should I go back to work? Am I too old to be hired? Do I really want to start another career? My ‘glass half full’ attitude had sprung a leak. My employment insurance wasn’t going to last forever. I needed a new plan.
Oh baby, what a surprise!
In September, our daughter surprised us with the spectacular news we had waited eight years to hear: we were going to be grandparents! Oh baby, is that the ‘something bigger coming my way?’ Not really a ‘thing’ at all, but a ‘who.’ Well now, that changed everything. I had always said that the minute I found out I was going to be a ‘Glama’ (Yes, I said Glama), I would retire, to spend as much time as possible with my grandchildren. Of course, I always pictured retiring by choice, not by termination!
Saying ‘yes’ to simplifying
So now what? First thing was to decide what I wanted my life as a Glama to look like, besides being filled with lots of crafts made of glitter and glue. And that included the decision that I didn’t want to go back to work. That decision meant one thing for sure; as much as I loved our beautiful home, which we had built just 8 years earlier, our mortgage was only sustainable with two incomes. I hated to give it up; I had put so much of myself into this home. It was my symbol of a successful career. I say ‘I’ because my husband would have been happy living in a one-room shack. I knew that it was time to simplify, declutter, and downsize our lifestyle. I had no idea what the universe had in store for me. I was flying by the seat of my pants, and pretty shoes, so to speak.
In the middle of an unproductive and lengthy house search, our granddaughter was born. All of the stress, anguish, fear, and concern over the future simply melted away. There is no other love like this. My siblings were so right; this was what the universe had planned for me all along. Everything had been leading to this. It was so clear now.
Somewhere between shack and showstopper
You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to find the four things we needed: half an acre, no neighbours, a house in need of renovation, and a large garage or outbuilding. After months and months of searching, we ended up moving into the rental that was attached to our daughter and son-in-law’s home. You see, all the homes we had missed out on, the offers refused, it was all leading us to where we were supposed to be. I get it now: the universe had been conspiring for me all along. I just hadn’t seen it. Once again, I was heading in a direction I had not planned.
What will the neighbours think?
Before we had moved into our kids’ rental, our daughter kept saying, “It’s not big and beautiful like your home, Mom. It’s just a rental.” She was right. It didn’t matter though, as we were not planning to stay. Then the craziest thing happened. Our kids had a plan – to show us how much sense it made for us to remain in their rental, permanently. Curiously enough, when we considered, we realized that all the things on our wish list were right there. But could we live so close to our kids? Did they really want that? “It’s nonsense. You’re crazy,” our family said. But maybe it wasn’t so crazy after all. We could buy a couple of homes in the area to rent out, giving my husband something to do once he retires. But the biggest hurdle would be converting the space. It was two stories, about 1200 square feet, which was big enough for the two for us. It was a rental, so we knew it would need some major love, and when I say ‘love’, I mean the kind that involves a sledge hammer and dumpster.
Ready, set, destruction
When I was growing up my father repeated many times to me, “You can do anything you want in life, if you put your mind to it.” All through my life, and sales career, I repeated that mantra over and over in my head. It is what led me to discover my belief in the law of attraction. It also lent itself well to any task which seemed insurmountable in my life. Like installing a built-in pool by myself, or tearing down all the walls on the second story of the rental, to make one big bedroom. My husband is a great renovator. I had learned a lot from watching and helping him over the years. He was still working full time and I was itching to do something. The job I was faced with seemed big, but not impossible. On September 28, I took a sledge hammer, reciprocating saw and a crowbar (yes, I know what those things are and how to use them), and had the best time! Smashing through the drywall and tearing down those 2x4s was unbelievably satisfying and very therapeutic. As I sat in the drywall dust and debris, I thought, “you’ve lost your mind – look at what you’ve started!” We slept in drywall dust for months, everything draped in plastic. It was a four-month project, but now it looks lovely – exactly the way I had pictured it in my head!
The second part of the renovation is much bigger and will take much longer. I’m so excited to start!
I would never have thought I could have such a fulfilling life, without a career. I am happy. I love living a life that is simple, uncomplicated, and focused on the joy of being a Glama. This is not the life I had imagined for myself – it’s a million times better.