Fitting In

Sam in uniformSam and I were finally able to go to the hospital after this week’s Snowmageddon to visit with patients and staff. It seems so odd to visit during the week. For the past couple years, we’ve been going in on the weekends and the energy is decidedly different. Since retiring in January, I’m still trying to figure out where my own energy resides. Luckily, people like the some of the ones I met Thursday are helping me figure it out.

We were assigned to visit the Senior Behavioral Health floor. We’ve visited before, but I’m never sure just what to expect. These folks can have significant issues. Some seem lost within themselves, others are warm, caring and loving examples of humanity interacting with an unparalleled charm. Willie was that patient. The charge nurse said Sam and I should visit with Ruth and Willie. Once the staff got their Sam fix, we moved toward Ruth who immediately told me she was a ‘cat person,’ having grown up with cats her whole life. Right away, I wasn’t sure how to connect with her and Sam seemed confused as well. I’m guessing her mental issues make interactions somewhat difficult. I was trying to coax out some other common ground we could share when Willie walked up and started petting Sam who was more than willing to garner his attention and began leaning against him…a sure sign he was enjoying this gnome-like man with twinkly eyes and a radiant smile. As quickly as he appeared, he vanished. Ruth’s disinterest in Sam was our signal to move onward. I touched her on the arm and wished her well, Sam nearly ripped my shoulder out of the socket to move into the activity room and see Willie who had relocated there. I’m always entertained at his ‘yea or nay’ assessment of people. He doesn’t judge people mind you, but is able to easily move on when necessary. I need to take notes about that dog so as avoid moments when my fumbling attempts to steer around them seem uncomfortably awkward. Being an introvert isn’t the easiest road to take when trying to connect with total strangers.

When we arrived at the hospital it seemed like everyone was racing around, updating charts, dealing with patients and seem more hectic than our weekend visits. Oh, sure the staff is always eager to meet Sam, but they don’t linger long…work calls. Their responses were short and to the point. There was little in the way of back and forth. Just statements like “stay out of rooms with iso-carts and the patient in #209 likes dogs.” On weekend visits, I’d often hear stories about former pets, the neighbor’s dog who was like Sam, the dogs their kids had, and similar stuff like that. This new paradigm has me feeling ‘outside’ of my previous existence.

Since retiring, I don’t feel like I fit in like I did before. Oh sure, my working friends and I still keep in touch but it’s different. Their lives are more work centered and our common interactions are diminished because we relate from a totally different perspective.

It’s odd for me to have Sam groomed in the middle of the week. Our MO in the past was to do grooming sessions on Saturday’s since we would only visit patients on weekends when I worked full-time. This is the second month where I had the luxury of scheduling a grooming in the middle of the week and easily be able to choose any date and time slot to coincide with our scheduled visits. Weekends were always booked well in advance so  future appointments had to be booked at the current one. That all changed with retirement.

I’m sure there’s an adjustment period getting used to not running in the hamster wheel, and no doubt I’ll get there eventually but for now, it feels out of step and off-balance rather than just squeaky and spinning fast. Like the new kid in school who is viewed as an oddity initially, we will eventually catch our stride and find balance. Till then I want to sit and chat with the Willie’s of the world who make us feel like a fluffy, dimwitted dog is the only thing that matters.

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in to a change in life circumstances?

Live, love, bark! <3

28 thoughts on “Fitting In

  1. Hi, I know just what you mean. When I first retired I didn’t have a clue what to do. I’d planned to do lots of things when I was at work, you know the daydream about “When I retire I can do this and that” but in reality once I had all the time in the world to do these things I just didn’t feel the desire anymore.
    So I took a little while out doing very little while I acclimatized to not having to go to work. It was like starting a new job, it takes time to adjust. Once I was more relaxed I then introduces a new activity as and when I felt like it or the opportunity arose. Gradually I was filling my days with things to do. Sometimes I introduces one too many new activities at a time so I’d take a step back and readjust again. Now a few years later I am so busy I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all I want and I am busier than when I was working.
    Having an animal is a good start as you can often find things to do centered around that animal, like you do with your hospital visits. Maybe there is an animal rescue center near you where you could volunteer, or a charity store where you could work a few hours a week. How about crafting?, do you have a Women’s Institute or group near you could join. Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Once you set your mind to it there is so much you can do but the trick is take it slowly and if you try something and you don’t like it you can always stop. But always remember the only person you have to answer to now is you. Good luck.

    1. Tackling retirement much like a regular job will probably serve me well. I tend to thrive with structure and once the weather warms up, will no doubt end up spending lots of time in the garden. I’ve begun looking at some craftwork (candle & soap making plus general art work) and turning it into a cottage biz. We’ll see how that goes and perhaps become more involved with the therapy work at the hospital. Thanks for all the suggestions. I started a list last night so hopefully I’m on the “road to recovery!” Have a terrific weekend! ღ

  2. I’m sure you’ll find your routine soon! My sis retired from teaching last June and it took her a while to figure out her new routine. At first she was very “but what am I going to do with myself all day?” and now she loves being retired and wouldn’t trade it! (She also has a new, mischievous puppy, who keeps her busy…)

    I really admire you for doing that – being an introvert and all. I’m introverted and shy, and while it sounds lovely to have a therapy dog, I also get a little anxiety just thinking about walking into those situations. You and Sam are awesome! And how cute is Sam in that little volunteer bandana?? If I ever end up in a hospital/home, I hope there are sweet doggy volunteers like Sam!

    1. 🙂 As an introvert, I let Sam break the ice with patients. Luckily he’s such a pro at new adventures and thrives on doing ‘meet and greet work’ while I do what I do best, drive him there!

      As for establishing a new retirement routine, it probably makes the most sense to map out what I want to do as if retirement was a job. Structure should serve me well. Now if I can only keep the schedule on track and not get sidetracked. [wink]

  3. Hospitals at night and on weekends are definitely more mellow: fewer doctors hovering, no tests being scheduled, fewer surgeries. I can see why the weekday visit felt more hectic. While not retired, I am also in the middle of figuring out what is next, in which direction I want to move towards. A charge nurse the other day told me I should go to nursing school, a thought that had never entered my mind.
    There is so much to do and I envisage retirement as being able to fill time with everything I am interested in without having to worry about generating an income. But maybe it is more daunting than I think. As a not-yet retired, my only advice would be to focus on what makes you (and Sam) feels good and/or needed.

  4. Retiring is definitely a transition and you will lose touch with many people that were a huge part of your life. They key is to do what you love and what you always said you’d do if the day ever came when you no longer worked outside the home. Be warned though…TIME FLIES when you aren’t working!

  5. I have had lots of these in my life…going to college, joining the Air Force, every move to a new assignment, retiring, but the biggest adjustment was becoming a widow. In every circumstance, I did find my way. It just takes time to figure out what you want to do and then pursue that. It also takes letting go of some things, and people, in your life and finding new ones that meet your new needs and current circumstances. I think that was the hardest adjustment. You will get there. In the meantime, enjoy the journey. So glad that Sam is a therapy dog. I really want to pursue that for Tippy. I think she would be great with the folks in the nursing home that I visit. Just haven’t found the time to do that yet. It’s on my list. 🙂

    1. You sound like you’ve had a remarkable ‘journey.’ Trust me when I say pet therapy is truly life reaffirming. I say that Sam does all the work and I just drive, but I find I’m fascinated with people’s stories and lives. Sam is the conduit by which I get to hear them. I’m sure Tippy would be fantastic. People benefit sooo very much from the contact. ღ

  6. Prior to my retirement, I went to a pre-retirement seminar. It was a “working” seminar and the first thing we were asked to do was write down all the reasons we work. Well… money for one right? Conversations ensued and my list started expanding as I liked the satisfaction of a project working well; I enjoyed the social aspects of my work; I enjoyed working with some very specific people; I loved the challenge of new issues to resolve… and my list was quite long. We were then told to focus on our respective lists because those items were not only an important part of our being, but we had been relating to them for probably the past 35-40 years.

    The question was then asked – “How are you going to fill those voids in your life after you have retired?” It was a concept that had not crossed my mind but, with some thoughts focused in those areas, the transition took me about a year. Now I look back and think… I should have retired earlier! 🙂

    1. Those are terrific points, Colin. Thank you for sharing. Perhaps in my ‘spare time’ I should have that internal conversation and make a similar list. There is no doubt about wishing I’d have retired sooner. 😉

      1. Hi Monika – I think it would be an excellent exercise for you to. Once you recognize all those factors, you can figure out how to fill those gaps in your retired life. Anybody who thinks that they can move from a working/career type life style, to one of retirement, over the course of a weekend is delusional. In the short term, it is simply a vacation… but later? Sadly, I have known people who made no retirement plans and therefore had nothing to replace their reasons for existence. They died within the first year of retirement.

          1. A “new job”! What a great and appropriate perspective! I have never been as busy… but now I am now doing whatever I want to do rather what than somebody else wants me to do! 🙂

            1. Yup, I think that’s a good way to look at it especially if you’ve been ramped up for years. And you’re right…there is so much to do, and so little time now. But I’m certainly willing to take on that ‘job’ 😉

  7. You know in your head there will be an adjustment period. It will likely go on for a year, as you do regular stuff but differently. You’ll eventually move from fitting stuff in, to doing what you like and you’ll meet new people.
    You could actually continue to go on weekends just because you want to not because you need to. Having retired, I understand some of what you’re saying here. It can be uncomfortable to redefine yourself, but also rewarding. Big changes and you’ve made some, take what my old vet called some medicine…”tincture of time”
    In the meantime while things don’t feel right, sign up for a class or something you put off while working.

  8. it sometimes happens that I feel that way…. yes, like the new kid in school lol… but I’m sure you will find in even when it maybe takes a little longer than we needed as we were the new kids once :o)

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