New Mailbox

Well, it has been almost two weeks since my last day of work. That was called my “termination date,” which strikes me as an ominous term. We now have a new mailbox because we moved in June. The mailbox is a sign of moving away from the old way of life and moving toward a new life as well as a new home. A new beginning follows the termination.

There’s a lot of stuff coming to the new mailbox on the curb outside. We’re getting a mix of new things in the outer mailbox—the same is happening in my inner mailbox. Sorting the mail in both is definitely a challenge right now.

I’m still working out how things will be in the new home, and in the new life stage. I’m wrestling with a lot of new goals, both practical in the outer world and psychological in the inner world.

There is good news in the mailbox, and some not so good. Retiring meant moving away from a daily work schedule which kept me occupied and focused on being a specific kind of person for a long time. I was a psychiatric consultant in an academic medical center. I played a specific role, had specific tasks and challenges which brought specific rewards and frustrations.

That mailbox was always crammed full of stuff and, while a lot of it was good news, some of it was junk mail. I was often rewarded for my work as a consultant and as a teacher. On the other hand, my focus was frequently on work, which left an imbalance elsewhere in my life. Work itself was often full of obstacles.

Now, the new mailbox is full of surprises. Many of them remind me I have a new skillset I need to develop as a retiree. The junk mail consists of things like anxiety about the change in my identity (fireman to retiree), boredom, and frustration over the need to learn how to fix a loose faucet handle instead of catatonia.

There will always be psychological junk mail. The thing about that kind of junk mail is that I can’t just toss it in the garbage. In the last month, I’ve lapsed in my mindfulness practice because of all the tasks of moving and making the transition not just to another home—but to a new identity.

I’ll be working on getting back to mindfulness, although I remember the message sent by the UIHC director of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It was prefaced by a quote:

“I am thankful that thus far today I have not had any unkind thoughts or said any harsh words or done anything I regret. However, I need to get out of bed and so things may become more difficult.”

Sylvia Boorstein, Mindfulness teacher and author.

My mindfulness mat is rolled up in a room downstairs. My mind is also rolled up—tight around thoughts that are impossible to avoid or deny. Another quote from Sylvia about self-talk:

“Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax, take a breath. Let’s pay attention to what is happening; then we’ll figure out what to do.”

Sylvia Boorstein, Mindfulness teacher and author.

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