On a family trip one summer to Vermont we stopped at a familiar ski area to ride its’ alpine slide.
For the uninitiated, an alpine slide starts at the top of a non-snow-covered mountain where you sit on a sled, with a control stick between your knees, and guide your own ride along the twists and turns of a trail down the hill to the bottom.
The best part about this summer slide at Bromley Mountain is that it’s a triple track – described as “North America’s first triple-tracked” alpine slide, 2/3 of a mile long.
Triple Track means (duh) that each rider has three tracks to chose from. As I remember they were labeled – Fast, Medium and Slow – or maybe the three tracks had more clever names like #1 -“Speed For Teens”, #2 – “Active Dads” and #3 – “Moms Who Are Very Cautious.”
Whatever their designations were, I chose – no surprise here – the latter, the slowest but steady track, kind of my life mantra, expressed on the side of a mountain. My husband and teenage son picked the faster paths, then whizzed down the mountain on their own sleds.
They were waiting for me when I arrived, five minutes later, having applied my own s-l-o-w sled’s brake multiple times as I approached every sharp turn and fast straightaway.
That triple alpine track was made for me – I like to be in charge of my own ride. I love the opportunity to choose my lane. If only life was like that alpine track.
Lately I have been veering from lane to lane.
One day I am happily zooming around with multiple plans and projects, volunteering, lunching with friends, going to meetings. The next I am contentedly at home by myself – along with our trusty terrier at my side – thinking that nothing is better than being able to sit alone in a comfortable chair (I know, don’t sit too long! bad for your health. I get it) – and write.
I did not choose to retire from my law firm at age 60 – that was an unexpected decision made for me by the cardiac authorities. All of the articles on what to do to plan for retirement were suddenly irrelevant. I was plopped into it whether I liked it or not.
Three years have passed since then and I am still finding my way in what I call “semi-retirement.” Every day I either do too much – or I do too little. Finding the right balance, the right lane has been tricky.
I would love nothing more than to sit at a desk all day and write. I’ve written a few short stories featuring (what else) witty and worried women in law firm settings. Do I turn one of my favorite of these short stories into the first chapter of a novel? Or do I keep writing stories until I come up with a collection of them? Haven’t I set aside my childhood dream of becoming a published author for too long?
How ambitious those plans sound. And how self-indulgent. I now have the choice to spend hours doing what I love – while my husband is very much not-retired – (he likes his job, but loving it? you’d have to ask him.)
I feel responsible to be productive. So some of what I write is non-fiction and earns a (tiny) fee, and I talk and write about young adult mental health and get paid for that too – and next fall, if it happens and I hope it will, I may get to teach a class about the state of mental health on college campuses.
Do these small paying “gigs” add up to giving me the right to stay in the slow lane with my writing projects?
Will the guilt I feel when I sit down to write ever subside?
I think about this as I veer from “semi-retirement” lane to lane and then back again.