I read somewhere recently that we make a mistake by letting our job be the core of who we really are—I think it was by food critic/food writer Ruth Reichel whose works I devour. She discovered, after the abrupt dissolution of Gourmet Magazine, which she edited, that for a time she didn’t know who she was. Without her job, what was she to do?
I didn’t retire until well into my seventies for much the same reason. I worried about waking up and thinking, in a panic, “What will I do today?” Unpleasant circumstances—okay, call a spade a spade—personality conflicts drove me from a job that I loved, made it so unbearable that I was having anxiety attacks daily.
My brother once said that I continually reinvented myself—through divorce, the empty nest, all those major life marks—and that’s what I did with retirement. I made myself into a prolific mystery writer, kept myself busy 24/7—well not quite. I do enjoy a good night’s sleep. But I was for a brief few years producing three books a year.
I have mixed feelings about this. I think my continuing involvement in the writing and specifically mystery worlds has kept my mind active and young (right now my body doesn’t seem to be cooperating but I hope that will get better). It would be disaster for me to spend das watching TV: reading would be better but much as I love to read, I couldn’t do it all day every day. No, writing has given me a reason to get up and move on with the day.
On the other hand, I don’t think writing is the core of who I am. I think at heart I’m a mom and grandmom. I used to always say I wanted my obituary to read, in this order, that I was a mom, a writer, and a publisher. I’ve always known how important my family is to me, but in recent months, when some health problems reared their heads, I’ve realized even more how important that is to me. My children’s care, support, and love has kept me optimistic, involved in improving my health. Writing can’t do that.
So, yes, I wake up every morning, anxious to get to my computer…and sometimes I wonder if my unwillingness to do household chores, etc., is simply an unfortunate computer addiction. But it keeps me in touch with the world. So I think I’ve figured out it’s not the core of who I really am, but it’s an important part.
Being a mother, a family member, is the core. And, hurray! My oldest daughter just told me tonight they’ll be here Friday for supper and to spend the night. The change in me? I’m not rushing to plan a meal—we’ll go out or bring something in. You know what? I’m happy with who I am, don’t mind I’m not a New York Times best-selling author. I had dinner plans Friday night, but I willingly cancelled them to be with family. That’s what matters.