Learning how to be retired is just like any new job. There is a learning curve. Learning how to be retired in an RV adds another twist that complicates the process (but more about switching from a house to an RV will be in another post).
Sleep is new experience
Little did I know, when we left Steamboat Springs, CO, in early November, how exhausted we were and over-scheduled our lives had been. For the past 40 years we have gotten up at 6:00 AM (or earlier), jumped out of bed, and hit the road running.
In the Mazzola’s years (the restaurant we owned for 20 years), there was a time when we had to be at the restaurant BY 6:00 AM in the winter to be ready for Powder Cats (back-country skiing from a snow cat). We packed their lunches, served them breakfast while they had their orientation meeting, and sent them on their way before 8:00 AM. In the summer we did the same thing for a rafting operation. While raising kids, we had to have them to school by 8:00 AM (or earlier if we had community meetings to attend) before starting work at the restaurant. Post kids, school and restaurant, MainStreet Steamboat had early morning meetings several times a month. Often, both with the restaurant and MainStreet, the days started early and ran until late evening. Sleep was elusive. I would pride myself on getting by on 6 hours (or less) of sleep and being able function. I would keep pad and pen next to my bed to be able to write down thoughts and ideas. It was endless. Too much to do, so little time.
For the first two months after we left Steamboat, my brain was on vacation. It was so weird. I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to make any decisions. No original thoughts. No creative urges. No crafts, books, or desire to nest. My brain just didn’t want to work. I was at the mercy of the universe. After the first three days on the road, once my brain let down, I was able to sleep for 10 hours regularly every night, going to bed about 8:30 PM. I would fall asleep in the car or at the movie. I have never slept 10 hours in one night ( but maybe in two) in my life. It kind of scared me. Would this be the pattern for the rest of my life? This went on for two months. Then, all of a sudden, I turned a corner. Now I am waking regularly between 6:00 and 7:00 AM (without an alarm), staying up until about 10:00 PM, and feeling rested and relaxed. I guess I caught up on lack of sleep for all those years. My brain has kicked back in (thank goodness).
Togetherness has its pluses and drawbacks
Cooper and I have been together almost every minute of every day since we left Steamboat. When you are together that much, you see the same things, hear the same things and experience the same things. Because of that, there is really nothing to share about your day, nothing to talk about. It’s like our brains have become one, even more so than after the last 40 years of marriage. We can finish each other’s sentences, telepathically knowing what the other is going to say before they say it. Such great communication can sure put a damper on conversation. No need to say anything if he already knows what I am thinking. When we were both working, and had many hours apart each day, there were things to share. People we had seen, anecdotes to share, and inside gossip. No more. It is the rare time when I do share something that Cooper has not already thought of or experienced. When that happens, it’s like scoring a touchdown!
Because this togetherness was beginning to bug me, I started joining activities here at the RV park, activities that Cooper is not interested in. Twice a week I take a beginners’ yoga class. I took a gourding class where one learns to decorate, carve, burn, and paint gourds. Gourding is big here in Arizona. There is a book club that meets twice a month (for happy hour – :-). My favorite is the once-a-week Photography Club. I am (was) not a photographer when we got here, but I am really getting into it. Our son, Casey, even sent me an awesome camera to use instead of my phone camera – my only choice when I started. Cooper has been on a couple of photography field trips with us and is also taking more photos, so we can share that together. His pictures are generally different from mine – SCORE! I have met some new people in these smaller groups and can even remember a few of their names. Then I am able to introduce Cooper to them or share some of their stories. Cooper has met the guys who have rigs close to ours and is able to share back with me. We’re figuring it out.
Feeling like a fish out of water
It is so weird for both of us, not really knowing our neighbors or them knowing us. Having lived in Steamboat for the past 40 years, I know a lot of people and see them at the store, at events and on the bike path. Here, we don’t know anybody (well), so we kind of hang back. There are happy hour groups that meet all over the park but it is rather intimidating to just walk up and see if you can join. Many of these people have been coming to Desert Trails RV Park for years and know each other well. As newbees, we wear our nametags to most activities, but those that have been here don’t so much any more. I wish they would. They know each other but we don’t know them and they don’t know us. Now that we have been here for a couple of months, that “fish out of water” feeling is lessening, but I am sure it will still be a while before we are “one of them”. Everyone everywhere should have a name tag, especially for those of us who are finding it harder and harder to remember names. Now I know what it must feel like to be new to Steamboat, trying to “break in”.
I haven’t driven since November 6th
We left Steamboat on November 7th. Except for one short trip to the post office nearby, I have only been a passenger in a vehicle, never the driver. Whether it is with Cooper, or with Gail Hanley, or Bill and Sandy Morris, someone else has always driven. I have to say, however, I have become an expert at navigating our way around Tucson and to the outlying attractions we have seen. And, actually, its not me that is the navigator. It is Siri. I know how to turn on the Google Maps app and have her guide us to wherever we want to go. It’s awesome!
Speaking of driving, when we lived in Steamboat, things were only, at the most, 10 minutes away, and mostly 5 minutes. Here, everything is at least 30 minutes away, or more. It’s a good thing we only have one car (truck). If we were both driving around, just think of the expense. But, on the good side, even diesel gas is below $2.00 here (regular is hovering around $1.50), so that’s a plus.
Everything is much slower when one is retired
In my life BR (before retirement), my days were ruled by my Daytimer. Once I found exactly the right one, I reordered the same one every year. I like paper planners better than using Google calendar, or at least I did. Now I have a small calendar up on the wall of the RV, one with small squares of the one activity I MIGHT have to remember for any given day. I also have a printed paper calendar from the RV park on all the activities available, but now that I have found the activities I like the best, I don’t really need that calendar any more.
I mentioned getting up now between 6:00 and 7:00 AM each morning, but both Cooper and I drink coffee in our sweats, read the Steamboat Today e-edition on line, catch up on Facebook and Pinterest, and other things that totally eat up our time. We generally start about getting dressed around 9:00 AM and actually accomplish it by 10:00 AM. We try to have at least one activity a day, whether it is a field trip to learn more about the area, grocery shopping and errands, one of the activities in the park, or a day catching up around the RV. And if something doesn’t get done today, there is always tomorrow. It’s awesome to not be scheduled every minute of every day, juggling meetings and appointments, and spending any “free time” catching up on housework. No wonder retirees say they don’t know how they ever had time to work. Now I know what they mean. I am seriously getting the hang of this “retired” thing.
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