A Day in the Life of a Newly Retired Senior Citizen

Today, while standing on line at Wild By Nature to get my pricey fresh produce and whole grain substitutes for pasta, I learned from the checkout girl that I am eligible for a senior citizen discount. I’ve been shopping there for a while so I wondered why no one had ever mentioned it to me sooner. It’s 10% off the total which does add up, especially when the wild (previously frozen) salmon is $16.99 per pound.

When I retired last June, I really had no idea what it would be like to not have a job. I was worried about not having anything meaningful to do. Boy, was I naive! (Many of you by now know I was immediately diagnosed with late-stage cancer, treated for it and declared cancer-free two months ago.) The past two months I have spent learning about retirement. Here’s what I’ve learned: I don’t know how I had time to work! Many seniors say this and now I know what they mean. Let’s consider a typical day for me now.

Today, Monday, I got up around 10 am (we are nightowls in my house) and ate a quick breakfast of a peanut butter and blueberry jam toasted English muffin. As soon as I tossed that down the hatch, I woke up my daughter who had asked me to accompany her to a visit to her new orthopedist for her problematic knee and shoulder. We both quickly got dressed, tidied up the kitchen a bit and off we went.

We didn’t have to wait long to see the doctor and were in and out in under an hour. My daughter was given a cortisone shot in her problematic knee. so she asked me to drive her home to rest. I had a few errands to do so I headed for town after dropping her at home. First I drove to the German bakeshop to pick up some chocolate bunnies but I had forgotten they are closed on Mondays. I continued up the road to the local beer distributor where I got a kindly man with a Mexican accent who works there to help me find beers with chocolate for my husband. He’s a beer enthusiast and would rather find a good chocolate stout in his Easter basket than candy.

From there I drove on to the local Marshall’s where I returned some flip-flops which I loved but decided I couldn’t keep because the thong between the toes was too painful rubbing against them. I cast my eyes around the store a bit, told myself I needed to get home and left the store. On the way back home I stopped at the bank to deposit a check and get some of that great free $$$ that comes out of those automatic machines.

I had two stops left to make. I headed across town to the local Wild By Nature, our pricey health food store. I go there for certain things I can’t get anywhere else and which my doctor has told me I should be eating to restore my immune system and my health. I cruised around the store for about 45 minutes…there are always a lot of temptations there…bought what I needed and many things that I thought I needed, like that salmon, and got back into my car.

On the way home I swung by the pharmacy to pick up the medication the doctor was supposed to have electronically ordered for my daughter’s knee pain. They checked and found out that he had reordered a medication she had told him made her sick. I guess he forgot or wasn’t listening to what she said. (Not so unusual these days, sigh.)

Finally I reached home at about 2:30. Then I had to unload the groceries and put them all away. By that time I was starving. My daughter asked for a bowl of the chicken soup I had made over the weekend so we feasted on that and sea salt chips with artichoke hummus. Yum!

Next I had a huge basket of laundry to do, so I carried that downstairs to the laundry room, sorted out the whites and darks and got a load of jeans underway. Then I came across the basket of towels I hadn’t had a chance to fold the previous day so I hauled that basket upstairs to the bedroom to fold them.

Suddenly I heard the mailman’s truck going up the street and I knew that in about 5 or 10 minutes he would be delivering our mail. I had wanted to send an Easter card to my son and his girlfriend living in Brooklyn, but it needed to be sent today to get there before she leaves for Boston on Friday to see her family for Passover. I ran up to the bedroom again where I keep my stash of cards, dashed off a quick message, sealed the envelope and stamped it. The mailman was only two houses away!

At that point my daughter suggested we take a walk since the sun was trying to make an appearance on this otherwise cloudy day. She felt she needed to walk her knee a bit and I am under orders from my doctor to exercise an hour a day! Off we went to the park which I have written about in several posts this month. We were amazed by the burst of activity we found there. All the creatures were in the process of mating. The ducks and even the gulls were beating their wings against the water in a mating display of some sort. The swan was sitting peacefully on her giant mud nest with her neck wrapped tightly around her body and tucked in so you couldn’t see her head. The muskrat we spotted last year was back! My daughter saw him scoot across the pond and under some rocks at the edge. And then…the piece de resistance! She also spotted the gargantuan snapping turtle in the shallow part of the pond. I noticed that he was accompanied by another turtle and he was trying to mount her. It was quite a sight, but he did not succeed. My daughter wondered what it must be like to have no other choice than each other to mate with every year in this small pond.

I walked an additional loop around the pond and we returned home. At this point we were both tired. Actually, I was exhausted as I often am by 4 or 5 pm so I sat on my recliner in the living room and looked at a few magazines. But I soon realized I was too tired to even do that, so I closed my eyes and the fatigue washed over me like a blanket. About an hour later, I opened my eyes and realized it was getting late and I needed to get dinner ready.

Putting together dinner involved chopping minicukes and tomatoes for cucumber salad; getting a baking pan ready for the frozen rosemary dusted red potatoes that would go in the oven, and rinsing and seasoning the wild salmon I had bought earlier. In addition, I had bought a delicious looking garlic focaccia bread for my husband and daughter to also put in the oven. I had to settle for fresh string beans with olive oil and lemon. No extra carbs for me…cancer loves carbohydrates!

My husband arrived home at 7, just when dinner was nearly ready. We ate, I cleared the table and put some leftovers in the fridge. I stacked the dirty dishes for him to wash. He always does the dinner dishes unless he has another chore to do.

I had one task left for the day…to write this post. I knew I would be too tired to write anything after an hour or two of tv, so I am sitting here typing my final words for this amazing month of writing we’ve all been doing.

Wait! I just realized I never unloaded the washing machine so I must do that before I change into my pjs so my daughter will have some jeans to wear tomorrow. A day of multitasking…which I am sure will sound familiar to many of you. They say a woman’s work is never done. I can add, “Not even in retirement!”

Yoga with a Chair

I have been a believer in yoga for much of my life. When I was in my mid-20s, living in NYC and very stressed out for a lot of reasons, I attended my first yoga class. The release I felt from that first class was amazing and I immediately drank the Kool Aid!

Over many years I have joined yoga classes intermittently, usually to try to relieve some kind of physical ailment. I like the way yoga practice pays attention to both the mind and the body because I believe they are completely connected, or at least have been in my case. I am not a hard core yogi…in fact, physically, far from it. I find it hard to pay attention to my body when time is limited. I tend to live more in my mind, but my body has suffered as a result.

That all came to a crashing end this past summer when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had just retired and signed up for my first senior aerobics exercise class and was very motivated to start paying more attention to my health. A couple of days later I developed a pain in my groin, and the rest is history. I soon learned I had cancer of the lymph nodes in my groin. Thank goodness I took the exercise class or I might have found out too late.

Fast forward to almost nine months later and I am back in a yoga class. But this one is different from any other I’ve taken. This one is for people who have restrictive physical conditions or who are entering the “golden years” and struggle with limited flexibility. My body is a wreck from all the chemo treatment; I often feel like someone has beaten me up. Every joint aches. I knew I needed a different approach to exercising for now.

Luckily I live in a town that has a lot to offer…Huntington. So I signed up for QiGong (see an earlier slice), which is new to me and very challenging, and this Chair Yoga class. At first I felt a little awkward about joining because I knew I was identifying with a much older crowd. And I was right…everyone is my age or older. But after the first class I realized I was exactly where I needed to be with a kinder, gentler yoga class and a sympathetic teacher. These women have already become my role models for keeping myself healthier as I age.

And what about the chair in my title? Well, we do many of our positions sitting in a chair which is tremendously helpful when your joints are in pain and you have difficulty getting on and off the floor. The positions all mimic true yoga positions but are adapted to less limber bodies. We also sometimes stand behind or in front of the chair to practice other positions using the chair as a support to lean on. I am now in love with this class. I am ready to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE CHAIR YOGA!

QiGong…Not for Sissies!

They come in all sizes, shapes and colors.  They wear stretch pants, sweatsuits, jeans and yoga pants.  It doesn’t matter if the parts or colors match as long as they are comfortable.  The socks are the funniest part of all…I have never seen such a variety of goofy socks! They tend to chatter too much before class begins, but they eventually do settle down as our teacher begins the session.

This is my QiGong class which I started attending about two months ago.  Because it is a late am class, it is filled completely with seniors like myself.  I had imagined it differently, but what was I thinking?  Of course…who else is available from 9:30 to 10:30 in the am on Fridays?  I thought it would be so cool to learn an ancient Chinese form of combined exercise, breathing and meditation. It never occurred to me that it would also appeal to other Baby Boomers, but it makes sense.  Boomers have led the curve in everything new that seniors only a generation ago would never have attempted.

Now, several months into the class, I am beginning to be more graceful and less exhausted by the practice session.  At first, I had to be so attentive to these intricate hand and body movements that are designed to flow easily from one to the other to channel the chi energy flowing through our bodies that all my energy was spent on concentrating and trying to maintain the flow.  Meanwhile, I am surrounded by those who are obviously in better shape than I am, but also others who are far worse off.  A man who usually stands in the spot right next to me is not flexible enugh to get down on the floor.  Others, like myself, struggle to get up from the floor. Some can use only one arm, because the other shoulder is locked in place.  Some have  knees that won’t allow them to bend or kneel in certain positions.  My particular weakness is balance.  I often seem to be one of the few who can’t maintain a one-leg standing position for more than 10-20 seconds before I awkwardly topple out of position.

For the most part, no one really watches anyone else because we are all too busy trying to assume the new position we are being taught, or trying to remember what comes next, or, like me, trying to keep from losing my balance.  I have chosen to be here, in fact, because of this nonjudgmental feeling.  We are all struggling with our own personal demons, physical and mental, and have come here to try to improve  our own weaknesses.   Today we began a new session, Part II, and the room had only half the number of people it had during session I.  Some may have dropped out, some may be vacationing in warmer places…but I worry about the man who stood next to me.  Is he ok?  Did he drop out because there were so many things he was unable to do in the class?  Or has he taken a turn for the worse?  These are the kinds of concerns  I have now.  It’s not about the clothing, or the perfection of my form…it’s more about believing that this very ancient practice will help me and the other participants to become stronger and less stressed and, most importantly, healthier. And, for me it’s also about the socks!