I’ve already used the opening lines from Dickens A Tale of Two Cities in a post on my blog. But it’s amazing how often those words can be applied to one’s life. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
With those words Dickens perfectly sums up my very first semester of teaching during the winter of 1985. The best of times…in that I finally had a full time teaching job; I was over the moon about that, so keen and excited to go to work each day. The worst of times… in that I worked day and night, literally (I taught 2/3 at day school, 1/3 at night school.) It seemed as if I never stopped working.Teaching is a hard job, especially so at the beginning of one’s career. Plus, I couldn’t afford a car and it took me two hours and three buses to get to my day job, two buses from my day job to my night school job and then two more home after night school, all during a very cold and snowy winter. So I was always tired, always sitting on a bus or waiting for a bus, and always wading through snow…. or so it seemed.
Ah well…I was young and keen, and soon enough it was spring, and I had met my husband and, well…the rest, as they say, is history… I wrote about all that in my very first post on this blog. You can read about it here
I retired from teaching a year and a half ago. That was tough. I loved my job; I threw my heart and soul into it. And I loved it right to the end. But I knew I was ready. I’d prepared; I started to scale down my commitments two years before. I resigned from board-wide committees and gave up several school-based extra curricular activities. Then in the last year I resigned my headship, and in my last semester taught only a two thirds timetable.
I made a perfect exit. With a fabulous surprise party organized by three lovelies whom I had worked with and mentored when they were fledgling teachers, a luscious department brunch attended by all my favourite “peeps” (as I was wont to call them) and the official staff goodbye party with lots of laughs and funny speeches…. and tears (not all mine.) Perfect.
|My speech at my staff retirement party. Telling funny stories, waving my hands and tearing up.
Off to my new life. Then the day after my staff retirement party and final farewell, my very athletic-skiing-canoeing-hockey-playing Hubby was diagnosed with a major heart blockage. This was the last thing we expected. But s**t happens, right? And, as Scout says in To Kill a Mockingbird, “thus began our longest journey together.”
So my retirement, at least initially, was not the “best of times” as anticipated. The winter of 2013 definitely was the “winter of despair” for us. But now, after a long recovery, Hubby is back doing all the things he loves, and we started travelling again last winter. Yep, all is well. We’re living the “Pura Vida,” as they say in Costa Rica.
Definitely the “best of times”…except for … well… the slippage.
Let me explain. Keeping fit has been an integral part of my life for the last thirty years. I had, after all, married an athlete/phys.ed. teacher who was very supportive of my efforts – my very own personal coach. So, I ran for years until my knees gave out. I joined a gym for a few years; then we bought gym equipment and had it installed in our basement. I learned to canoe and ski, which we do together… along with cycling, hiking…and whatever.
And while we’ve had tons of fun doing all these things, being active has its challenges.
Example #1… That’s me below in Algonquin Park on a canoe trip sometime in the 80’s. I’m trying to finish the last of my breakfast which is impaled on my fork… and shelter from the rain under the tarp…and I’m definitely NOT having fun.
Example #2. Me…on Mount Kosciuszko in Australia in 2008. The reason I’m walking like Herman Munster is that the wind was so strong it almost knocked me over. Later it rained. Enough said.
Example #3. Me and Hubby hiking in the CairnGorms in Scotland in 2005. We hurried to take this shot before the mist descended. Then it did. Hubby has another shot of me where all you can see, really, are my ankles and feet. Then it rained.
Example #4. Doing a canopy walk in the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica in December 2013. I’m soaked. Of course it rained. We were there weren’t we?
Example #5. Hiking King’s Canyon in Australia in 2003. It didn’t rain. Weather was beautiful, as a matter of fact. We were on a 3-day outback safari; we camped in permanent tents, had wonderful suppers around the campfire…. and had to get up at 5:00 A.M. each day to drive to our next destination and still fit four hours of hiking in before it got too hot. Five o’clock….A.M.! And each morning the guide strolled between the tents shouting “Wakey, wakey, wakey.” I muttered to my husband the last morning, “He doesn’t know how close he is to death right now!” In our photo album Hubby has annotated this picture with the caption…”Don’t jump! You can sleep in tomorrow!”
No, weather does not hold us back. (Nor early mornings, for that matter.) As my husband is fond of saying, you can’t let weather stop you from doing what you want to do. I’m lucky that Hubby is so determined to stay active; I have to stay in shape just to be able to keep up with him. And years of keeping up with him has fringe benefits with respect to good health, positive state of mind and being able to fit into my jeans. Or it should have.
But despite one’s best efforts, the body changes and all my hard work at staving off “slippage” can not stop it. At age 28, I weighed 125 lbs. Then as the years crept by… 130 for a while, then 135 for a few years…then…138… well, you get the idea.
And then I retired. And the fact is folks, that teaching is a high energy job, and motivating a room full of teenagers… talking, organizing, waving one’s hands around while telling stories that are mostly relevant to the lesson, running up and down stairs and up and down hallways… burns a lot of calories.
While retirement….does not.
Even though I found I had a lot more time to work out… we cycle more, I pedal my exercise bike more, I started skating last winter…. when I’m not working out…. I’m, well, sitting. Sitting for that hour in the morning with my cup of tea and a book, sitting for that other hour in the late afternoon with a cup of tea and a book, sitting at the computer writing this blog….all adds up to a lot of sitting.
So I have to do something about that. Diet is not the problem. We ate a pretty healthy diet before Hubby’s heart problems; now we eat a really healthy diet.
Nope… I just have to find a way to get moving. And not get injured in the process. This is the real challenge with staying active.
Like many of you know, I’m sure, being active can hurt. I’ve had physio over the years for problems with knees, upper back, lower back, etc etc. As a result I have a pretty good understanding of what I can ask my body to do and what I can’t. For instance, I can cross-country ski two days in a row… but a third day will kill my knees. Too much paddling hurts my upper back… years of marking have taken their toll there. And thanks to physiotherapists, I know how to manage these problems.
So (clap hands briskly here) it’s time for a new plan. Oh, I love planning. Moving my butt more will be my fall project. A new beginning, again, fitness-wise.
I mean… if I can handle a difficult class of 36 fifteen year olds … if I can survive the rain in Algonquin Park and gale force winds on a mountain in Australia… what’s a little slippage, eh?
And lest you think that it will be all work and no relaxation… I’m sure I’ll still find time for that glass of wine after a hard day fishing… or cycling…or whatever.
|Back country fishing in the Yukon, 2006
Trust me….it won’t be all work and no play. And slippage or no slippage… I’m determined that retirement should be “the best of times.” Just with a little more movement that’s all.
How do you stave off “slippage?”