Just Wear the Damn Girdle Already

Ever look at a picture of yourself and wonder – who the hell is THAT? Or, even worse – is THAT what I really look like?

Seeing yourself in an unflattering picture is ten times worse than hearing your own voice. That gravelly crackle, nasal honk or high-pitched whine that could not have come from you. Except it did.

I carry an extra 5 pounds (ish), and like most of us, I have certain body parts that I try to keep hidden so as not to frighten small children. My hated and squodgy belly has remained soft and rounded despite all of my efforts to crush it into crop-top-worthy submission. No toned, muscular, tanned and bikini-clad summers for this gal. Not exactly a tragedy in the grand scheme of things, but still.

My twp stepsons got married recently, and both weddings were lovely. One was traditional, in a lovely, wood-beamed, cathedral-ceilinged hall with a fieldstone fireplace and a dance floor, the other on a beach in Maui at sunset. Both were celebrations of love and family, and there is nothing about either one that I would change.

Except the pictures.

In those pictures, standing proudly next to the newly married couple, is a paunchy stranger in a red dress (traditional wedding) and a frazzle-haired, poochy-bellied frumpy grandmotherly-looking weirdo that I wouldn’t invite into my home, never mind my Maui wedding.

Its the only damn thing I see when I look at the pictures. That unabsorbed twin around my middle, waving delightedly at the crowd and wondering where the wedding cake is hiding.

I’m sure no one else noticed, and I know that people would tell me I looked great. And in the red dress, I did. You won’t get me to admit anything positive about the pink Maui disaster, so don’t bother trying. The bride was lovely and that is what matters.

I have a pair of Spanx, and I know what they can do. But I hate wearing them, especially in 85 humid Hawaii degrees, and opted to forgo the foundation for both weddings. I thought it better to let my midsection go commando, as it were, than to risk being caught pulling at the “foundation garment” to restore blood flow to my thighs. To my eternal regret.

So, when in doubt, ladies, wear the damn Spanx. A few hours of discomfort is far preferable to an eternity of poochiness on the living room wall.

Losing my Oldest and Most Loyal Friend

I said goodbye to an old and loyal friend yesterday.

It was just as heartbreaking as you would expect, and no easier than the last time I had to part with a beloved canine companion.

We had been together for thirteen years, through two moves, three job changes and the death of my husband, and through it all Tucker was goofy and maddening and enthusiastic and joyful and stupid and affectionate and, above all, my best friend.

But of late he had not been the dog I knew even two years ago. Age and Lyme disease had stiffened his joints, his hearing was mostly gone and I am not all that sure he could see much either. He struggled with the stairs, could no longer get into the Jeep without help and may have been in more pain every day than I knew.

He had become slowly and consistently more lethargic, sleeping up to 23 hours a day and being slow to get up for his meals, didn’t care much for walks anymore. He was afraid of the vacuum cleaner and other loud noises and spent most of his time following me from room to room or skulking around with his tail between his legs in reaction to some fright only he could hear. He was anxious and neurotic, and not at all the ferocious dog who treed bears in his youth.

But still.

He was not sick in the truest sense of the word, just old and slow, still happy to see me every day and content to just be with me. But he was not going to improve, and I didn’t want to watch him slowly become older and sicker, suffering needlessly.

So we took that final trip to the vet, and sent poor Tucker on his way. It was peaceful and calm and I sat with him till the end, stroking his velvet ears to reassure him as he passed. His steadfast heart was stilled, his grey muzzle quieted, and his uncertain eyesight faded, and as he lay there on the table, I felt every bit the executioner.

His love of porcupines notwithstanding, Tucker never did anything wrong except be a dog. He was house trained almost immediately, crossed the electric fence line only a few times and only in pursuit of a bear, never chewed or destroyed the house or my possessions.

Tucker loved patrolling his territory, lounging in the sun, barking at imaginary varmints and giving warning to the deer grazing in the field next door. He was an indefatigable hiker, a keen and lightning-fast hunter, netting several squirrels, a chicken or two and one very robust young rabbit that was neither fast nor smart enough to escape.

His was the first face I saw each day, the last each night, the face that would poke under my right arm when I was working on some project, looking for a hug and a smooch and a pat on the head. He was an attentive if unresponsive sounding board, and a joyous greeter, regardless of whether I had been away for ten minutes or ten days.

And as thanks for thirteen years of being such a good and steadfast friend, I put him down.

I know that I should not second-guess the decision, it is one that comes to every responsible pet owner. In many ways it was the right one to make. But in the echo of a dog-free apartment, it is easy to worry that bone to pieces – no pun intended.

When my previous dog’s time came, I had a frisky, 6-month-old Tucker to ease the transition. Now there is only me, and I won’t get another dog for quite some time. However, I have to confess that it will be nice to be freed of the constant concern about what to do with an animal when travelling or working or heading out on a day-long adventure.  And if the day ever comes that I decide to leave Henniker, being pet-free does open many, many more opportunities when looking for an apartment.

So, I will grieve for my sweet and feisty Tucker, and hold close the many memories I have, both sweet and less so. In time, the quiet and empty house will fill with other memories and looking at the corner where his bed used to lay will not prompt a tight throat and rogue tear.

Happy hunting, my sweet Tucker. I hope you get ’em every time.

Changing Direction, Changing the Plan

I named this post the Year of Living Foolishly because almost everyone I knew thought I was making a huge mistake by leaving a corporate marketing job (and steady paycheck) without having anything else lined up.

There were a few friends dealing with similar feelings of job detachment and disinterest who whole-heartedly encouraged me to quit, but most were concerned about my future career prospects and lack of healthcare benefits, and rightfully so.

I had a reinvention plan, nebulous as it was in the beginning, and big dreams of living life the way I wanted to.

But I am not going to lie to you. Being away from full-time work has been pretty. Damn. Amazing.

Free from the constraints of business travel and spreadsheets and conference calls and performance metrics, my shoulders dropped away from my ears and I could breathe deeply – into the very bottom of my abdomen – for the first time in months. This mid-career change thingy felt really, really good.

Right after I quit, I did look for a new job. Truly I did. I networked, revised my resume about twelve times, enrolled in a LinkedIn course to learn the best approach to take to find that next great job. I didn’t admit it at the time, but I knew right away that I did not want to go back to the corporate world, or even a traditional full time job.

So – I relaxed. For four months. I visited people I hadn’t seen in a while, read six books in three weeks, pottered about the house and generally enjoyed myself. I took a trip to Maine with my sister and drove the RV to visit my niece at college. The holidays came, and I could enjoy preparing Thanksgiving dinner without squeezing it in between business trips. I shopped at the mall on a Wednesday at 11am without worrying when my next call was, and whether I had time to grab a bite before answering a call from my boss.

It was awesome, and as the weeks went by, I found myself enjoying being without a job more and more. Entirely too much, truth be told, but it was so NICE to truly detach from the corporate mindset and fully relax. Much more effective than the scant few weeks of vacation most of us are granted each year.

But turns out that the rumors are true: without the routine of a job, it can be VERY easy to stay in the house, on the couch, enjoying a responsibility-free lifestyle instead of getting back in the game. I never thought I would be subject to an “I’m-bored” mindset if I wasn’t working, so imagine my surprise to find myself watching YouTube videos all afternoon when the weather was bad and most everyone I knew was at work.

So, in October, I applied for a per diem position at a local hospital, returning to my roots as a medical technologist and generating a trickle of income. Just a few weeks ago, I took a part-time position at another hospital, working two 12 hour shifts per week in exchange for full benefits and a solid hourly wage.

Having solved the healthcare benefits problem, it was time to get serious, and put some real effort into a wisp of an idea that had been in my head for a while. I decided to become a freelance writer and marketing consultant, offering creative and business writing services and relying solely on myself for employment.

Yikes – than meant that I needed to actually DO something.

I created a website, started this blog, set up a Facebook page to promote the new business. I networked like crazy, sending out messages to all my LinkedIn contacts to let them know what I was doing and to ask that they keep me in mind. I read blog after blog from others who had made the same decision – to go freelance – and had succeeded.

And three weeks later, I am happy to tell you that……nothing much has happened. I did sign on to write resumes for a client, and got hired to blog for an RV site for pennies (but with a really nice author page and byline that I can showcase in my portfolio). I send out at least five pitches per day, and while I don’t have anything to show for it just yet, I am certain that my first real client is just out of sight, and will move into view when the time is right (hopefully before I run out of rent money).

It hasn’t been easy, necessarily, and I still have a ways to go before I can claim success. I have had to completely change my way of thinking about work, and motivate myself to work differently if this new venture is to succeed, but that has been part of the fun. I am still excited to sit down each day and work on a career path that will – fingers crossed – take me through to retirement.

So, stay tuned, and SUBSCRIBE so you can get each update as I chronicle my Year of Living Foolishly.

I Quit My Job. Now What?

I mentioned in my last post that I left a lucrative marketing job without another job lined up, or a real plan. I only knew that I needed a change, and that I was unlikely to follow the corporate route again.

In the months before I gave my notice, I scoured the Internet for reassurance, reading blog post after blog post in search of proof that others who had also left good-paying jobs did not end up shivering in a damp and dusty corner of their parent’s basement, surviving on ramen noodles and weak tea.

I Googled every combination of “quit my job” and “no job after 50” and “am I crazy” and “without a backup plan” I could think of, wasting hours of my life and reading every post intently (and in some cases, more than once).

It turns out that many, many people leave perfectly good jobs for no other reason than not wanting to die of boredom or exhaustion, or to not miss the opportunity to challenge themselves by going totally against the norm. By doing something different.

Many of these confident risk-takers were younger, millenials or Gen Z’ers with more flexibility and an innate talent for all things digital, but a good number were in the same boat as I am: early fifties, with a wealth of experience, a healthy network of contacts, some savings and a desire to work – and work well – for many more years.

It was wonderful to read about people who, facing similar employment ennui, stood up (literally or figuratively) and exclaimed in a rousing nod to Peter Finch’s character in Network – “I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore!” (This I hope was done figuratively, and with an indoor voice, so no bridges were burned). They all seemed to be happy, well-adjusted, financially sound and very, very pleased to have made the decision to quit.

Still, it was a momentous decision, and one that took me several months to make. I weighed the options, asked friends and family for input, assessed my finances and then – finally – gave my notice in early August. The relief was palpable, and immediate, as if a leaded vest had been lifted from my shoulders, and I knew that I had made the right decision.

If you are poised on the precipice of making a similar choice, and need the same reassurance that I did, here is a list of some of sites and posts to check out. This is but a small slice of the volumes of information available, so do some research, as I did, to find the posts that have meaning for you:

So – take a deep breath, consider your options carefully, and leap, if your finances will allow it. The uncertainty will energize you, and take you in a totally unexpected direction, if you let it.

A Leap of Faith and Foolishness

So – five months ago, I left a lucrative marketing manager position with a major medical device company.

Most everyone thought I was being foolish, even with a booming economy and robust job market.

The job was a good one, and I walked away without a backward glance or second thought. AND I did so without another job lined up. Not even a hint of one.

I had simply had enough of hotel rooms, and airport lounges, late-night conference calls and evenings at the computer. That was not the life I wanted to lead; to me, the money was just not worth it.

I admit to being more than a little envious of those smiling, unstressed and apparently financially independent people flooding YouTube and Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest with images of their adventures. There they sit, on a beach or mountain top or lakeside bike trail, in the middle of the day, on a Tuesday, wearing sweatshirts and yoga pants and doing whatever the hell they please, whenever the hell they want to do it.

(Ok, so this IS me. On a small mountain, in Quebec, on a Wednesday. But I was on vacation. Doesn’t count)

Of course, I know it is not that simple. I know that every one of those relaxed and happy people has an income stream of some sort. But that seemingly carefree life beckoned to me, a clarion call of freedom, of renewed energy and enthusiasm, of a chance to do something outside the norm.

My people are not risk-takers. Like many people, we toe the line, get the job, pay the bills, climb the career ladder, grow our savings and do little that will challenge the safe and steady progression toward a well-funded retirement. If that routine proves to be mind-numbingly dull and uninspiring, well, suck it up buttercup. They call it work for a reason.

Financial security is important. I am with you on that one. But it has been five months since I walked away from that lucrative marketing position, and I have several irons in the income-generating fire and about 8 months of living expenses left in the savings as motivation. I have never, not for a moment, doubted that I will land on my feet.

Am I concerned about the lack of income? Yes I am, and I channel that concern into finding a path forward that will work for me. Will I be able to match the income I had? I hope so, but I will be happy if I can cover my bills, salt something away and have a bit of mad money each month. Money isn’t everything.

I took that leap of faith. Faith in myself and my ability to make a change, do something different, take a risk and see what comes of it. Because sometimes, you have to be a little foolish to get the big win.