Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

I once read the following....

You wouldn't worry so much what other people thought of you if you knew how little other people thought of you.

One of the things I realized at the funeral home visitation for my mother is how few close friends I really have.  Only one person from my former employer came to the funeral home.  Several others who are long time friends stopped by and another who could not personally be there asked family members to stop by on their behalf.  I know many, many people but have few intimate friends.  This is largely my own fault as I am a very introverted and withdrawn person.  People seem to like me but I admit that I am not very outgoing.  Nearly five years after his death I still feel the loss of my friend Dennis.  When he was still alive we were very close and I had hoped that someday we would be retired together.  Three weeks into my own retirement I feel like I have fallen off the face of the earth.  This is not all bad.  I am truly loving my new lifestyle, especially my quiet mornings at home.  The neighborhood where I live is virtually empty of people during the daytime.  All I see is the occasional UPS or FedEx truck making a delivery.  If I am paying attention I might see the mailman walk past my window.  Even when I went to a public park on Monday it was virtually empty of people.

Am I lonely?  Not really.  Do I feel forgotten?  A little.  Over the many years I worked I was mostly in leadership positions.  People seemed to love me to the point that many acted like they couldn't work if I wasn't their boss.  When I announced my retirement some people seemed genuinely sad and a few others were stressed.  However, I learned over the years that people quickly get over you and they move on with their lives.  There is life for most people even if Michael Brown is not in it.

I will need to work on being more outgoing and engaged with life.  This morning I signed up for a meditation class at the local Passionist Earth and Spirit Center.  Last year I attended an all day Enneagram workshop there and enjoyed it very much.

Like Bilbo Baggins I am off on an adventure.  To have an adventure you must first leave your house.

The picture shown above of Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins hangs in my room at home where I spend most of my time and where these thoughts originate. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hermit Life

Each night on his MSNBC show "The Eleventh Hour" Brian Williams tells us what day it is in the Trump presidency.  Don't run away.  This is not a political commentary.  It just reminds me that today I am beginning the third week of my retirement from full time work.  The first week was dominated by snow, ice, and bitter cold.  The second week was dominated by the illness and death of my mother.  I am hoping this week begins my new "normal" which in many ways is a hermit life, at least in the daytime.  With that in mind it seems appropriate to return to some Thomas Merton.  Where to start with Merton?  I have read most of his major works and I don't think I have enough time in my life to read them again.  I decided to re-read a collection of journal entries entitled The Intimate Merton.  As I opened the book I immediately saw the following quote.

"I have always wanted to write about everything.  That does not mean to write a book that covers everything, which would be impossible, but a book in which everything can go.  A book with a little of everything that creates itself out of everything.  That has its own life.  A faithful book.  I no longer look at it as a book".  This was written by Merton on July 17, 1956.

If I ever get it together to finally publish a book of my own, this quote describes what type of book it will be.

At this time I am also reading Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr.  It is subtitled "The Search For Our True Self" and is a study of the illusions of the False Self and the seeking of the True Self.

Once I am home alone each workday, the first thing I do is sit in silence for about twenty minutes.  These early morning hours are my favorite time of day.  The early part of the day has always been my favorite time even when I was working.  Sometimes this time of day was shared with a co-worker who I was close to professionally and personally.  Coffee was always part of the relationship.

Shortly  I will go into the kitchen and make a pie for dinner.  Later in the morning I hope to begin the routine of walking in the park.  I can't deny that it will be challenging to leave my "hermitage" but I simply must start getting some exercise.  These last couple of weeks I haven't had much and I feel much older than I am.

By the way, this is Day 17 of my retirement. (smile)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Mother

After a long and difficult day yesterday, my mother passed away last night.  She survived my father by nine years.  I am my mother's first born child and I have three brothers and two sisters.  My mother lived a long life and was 88 years old.  As strange as it may sound I don't think I knew my mother very well.  We never had a truly deep conversation and she never shared any personal feelings or experiences.  I really don't know what she even thought of me or how I turned out.  We were not really close and the only compliment I ever received from her was for the eulogy I gave at my father's funeral.  Although we were not close our relationship was not hostile or estranged.  It just wasn't very deep.  Despite my own personal experience of my mother, some of my younger siblings and most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved her dearly.  She was a good person but I am sure she had her own issues and struggles like the rest of us.  I sometimes got a glimpse into these things but never completely understood their reasons.  I have learned over time that my parents generation had many secrets.  The next few days will be intense.  I expect many visitors to the funeral home.  My youngest son, who is a priest, will preside at her funeral mass and burial.  The last few years were challenging for my mother in terms of her health so I am happy her struggles with health and whatever other burdens she had are over.  She had a long life and a good run.  

Friday, January 19, 2018


Last Friday was supposed to be my last official day at work.  I woke up to a fast approaching winter storm.  I needed to go to the office to meet with my boss, clean out my desk, and say goodbye to my friends and co-workers.  When I arrived at work people were leaving the building.  A manager I worked with told me to do what I needed and then go home.  I did not know it at the time but my boss was stuck in Florida trying to get home.  My building was virtually empty of people.  When I got to the floor where I worked there were only two people there, one of whom was my ever faithful partner and assistant.  She helped me finish my packing and then we walked out of the building together.  I was happy that she was there and I was able to say goodbye face to face.  Throughout this first week of retirement I've had the thought that I really didn't have closure with my office, co-workers, and friends.  I feel like I didn't get to say goodbye.  When I went to work last Friday I expected to work most of the day and to be able to walk around and say my goodbyes.  The reality is that it feels like my entire work experience just vanished into thin air.  Some people in the office might feel this way about me.  I don't mean to sound arrogant but I know I was a well liked and popular person.  I think many people saw me as a "character" who was somewhat entertaining, especially when I was going off about some office process or task.  I exploited my old man/senior citizen grumpiness on a daily basis.  However, I think most people enjoyed this.  Who will take my place and say all the things other people are thinking but are afraid to say out loud?  If you are one of my former co-workers, especially if we literally worked together every day, I am sorry if we weren't able to say goodbye to one another.  Although I don't miss working, I do miss people.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


After braving the cold, the darkness, and the morning commute I returned to the warmth and comfort of my home.  As always my neighborhood is a very quiet and solitary place during the work week.  After brewing some African coffee that my wife gave me for Christmas I sat down for my morning meditation.  Although meditation can sometimes be a restless and difficult experience I still enjoy it most of the time.  Think of meditation as going to the gym.  It is a form of spiritual exercise.  It is not always pleasant in the moment but over time it is beneficial.  Of course there are also times when you really enjoy it and feel like you could go on and on.  This morning as I sat in silence I had the thought over and over how grateful I am for these days.  I feel like I am on an extended retreat.  The ice and the snow and the extreme cold increase my sense of isolation.  With all due respect to humanity I am loving my solitude.  Retirement is not a guarantee for everyone so I am exceedingly grateful that I have been given the means and the opportunity to retire from full time working.  Down the road I may venture into part time work or volunteering but for now I have been given the gift of extended and full time retirement.  I have often complained in the past that my life was spent meeting the needs and expectations of other people often to my own detriment and unhappiness.  I think I have earned the right to now be a little selfish and to focus on my own needs.    

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


One of my new goals is to meditate on a regular basis.  I have always strived to meditate on a regular basis but my practice has been erratic.  With my new found solitude and leisure I hope to be more disciplined about it.  What is meditation for me?  At this stage of my life it is simply sitting, being quiet, and breathing in the tradition of the Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and his book The Miracle Of Mindfulness.  For many years, while I was still working, my wife and I would ride to work together.  We both worked downtown, it was convenient, and it saved money.  I will still do this on a regular basis if for no other reason than to get myself out of bed.  Morning is my favorite time of day and the goal of my meditation, not to mention my retirement, is to be awake.  When the Buddha was asked who he was, he replied, "I am awake".  At this time my world is still cold and covered in ice and snow.  In a few days we will have spring like weather.  As the weather improves and real spring makes its annual appearance I will add walking in the park to my daily routine.  The circle will be complete when I arrange my day to also include an afternoon meditation session.  It is all part of the slowing down and calming down process.  When most people look at me they see an aging hippie and they assume I am a calm, laid back, not a care in the world kind of guy.  This image is not totally true or accurate.  I am someone who tries to always be calm and laid back but internally I am often not that way at all.  I am not always happy or content with my life.  Though the surface of my being may appear serene, on the inside I am often a whirling dervish of feelings and emotions.  I want to be calm, serene and happy but too often I am restless and agitated.  

Now I have to go defrost the ice maker.  I will try to breathe while I do it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The First Day

Yesterday was my first day of retirement.  I didn't feel retired.  I felt like someone who called in sick when I should have dragged myself into the office.  It was also Martin Luther King, Jr. day so my granddaughter spent the day with me.  I didn't see much of her because she is now a teenager who stays up late and then sleeps much of the day away.  In my part of the world we are experiencing winter and for now I am living in a very cold, snow covered landscape.  Once the weather warms up and the snow and ice melt I hope to go to the park every day for walks.  I did begin what I hope is a disciplined spiritual practice of meditation and reading.  My urge is to play rock and roll music all day but I am striving to start my day with silence and meditation.  I am enjoying my solitude even if I do feel a little bit guilty for not going to work every day.  Although I have wanted to retire for a long time, now that it is here I am finding it to be an adjustment.  I have spent much of my life meeting myself coming and going so having lots of leisure and very little responsibility is a new experience.  It is difficult to not think of my former co-workers and feel like I have abandoned them.  These early days of retirement remind me of retreats at the monastery.  When you first arrive at the monastery, usually on a Friday afternoon, you feel restless and agitated.  Your body and psyche are wired from your frantic life and the silence and solitude of the monastery is a shock to the system.  Over time you slow down, quiet down, and unwind.  About the time you are where you want to be it is time to go back home and jump back into the rat race.  Now that I am retired I am on a perpetual retreat.  My slowing down is permanent.  My life will be quieter on the inside as well as the outside.  My nervous system will calm itself down.  When one's life comes to a screeching halt like mine has done even a naturally contemplative person like me needs to transition from a frantic life into a calm life.