In my retirement years, I have totally changed personalities, or maybe I have found out who I really am. Does this happen to everyone? “Retirement,” of course, is a catch-all phrase that means I am writing books now on my own time without a seven-to-four job. In those earlier working years, I was a terribly organized morning person. Now I seem to have turned into an afternoon person who is rapidly becoming totally disorganized. For some reason, my entire character has changed since I became an empty-nester, non-traditionally-employed, independent writer. How did that happen?
Years ago, I raised three children and taught high school English in a small town. Most mornings I revived the children, fed them, and went to my job by 7:00 a.m., leaving them to walk a short distance to school. That all changed the year my older son was a freshman in high school. I joined a carpool that took four boys to basketball practice at 5:45 a.m. We had it down to a science. One day a week, at 5:30, my alarm went off, the coffee started dripping, I grabbed my sweatpants and sweatshirt by the bed, ran a brush through my hair, and tripped down to the kitchen. My son had my cup full of coffee with the lid screwed on, and he handed it to me with the car keys and my coat, and away we went. Chirping cheerfully about the weather and the day, I didn’t notice that the boys were pretty quiet. Finally, my son said, “Mom, we don’t want to talk or listen at 5:45 a.m. Just try to drive and not talk.” Oh.
A few hours later, I was fearlessly teaching a class of twenty-five teenagers who were reading Emerson, Thoreau, Twain, Dickens, or Tyler. American Literature at 8 a.m. Motivated and full of energy, I worked very hard to convince 16-year-olds that these classic writers had something to say for their own lives. And I believed that. As the day wore on, these readers were followed by classes with research papers, MLA formatting, essay writing, and speeches. By 4 p.m., it was time for more car pools, cooking, dinner, homework with my own children, and paper grading, often until 2 a.m. The next morning it was time to start all over again.
It makes me tired just reading about it.
A morning person—that’s what I was. Me. Ms. Organization Plus.
Enter retirement in 2011 and the real life meaning of “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I had taught at the college level the previous ten years, a schedule that didn’t start until 9 a.m., three days a week. This permitted me to slide into my slipshod ways. It was a transfer station on the road to disorganization and total personality change. At the time, I didn’t realize I was coasting down this hill to my current life. The world was the same, but I was changing.
Today, writing mysteries and marketing them, I am up whenever I wake up. The alarm clock is no longer a staple of my life. My children are all gone with working lives and children of their own. I start the coffee, sit down in my bathrobe to read the newspaper and watch the morning news, and generally wake up very—I mean very—slowly. By ten o’clock, I hopefully have showered and started my day, but occasionally I’m still reading the newspaper. By noon, I am usually at my desk in my office, writing.
Unfortunately, my days of highly organized are also over. This is what my desk looks like currently, and I’m considering cleaning it off so I can find the bill I should have mailed yesterday. I know it’s there somewhere.
When I think back to this description of my earlier mom days, I sometimes get a bit of nostalgia remembering my children and our lives together, my crazy hours, and my total exhaustion.
Then I look at my messy desk and sigh.
Then I smile.
P.S. For my three children: Don’t read this post or you will realize that the highly organized, driven woman you grew up with was not really your mother.