birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

By The Light of The Fiery Skull

The subject was first broached after the birth of my second grandchild. Sacha's first birthday party. "Retired yet?" I must have done a double take. I was 58 at the time, and felt in full swing!

On the spot, this led to a mini downward spiral. Inventory time. First, vanity. I had taken pretty good care of myself, and had invested in my skin. I wondered, is it my silver gray mane? Is there something they see that I don't see? I did not feel washed up.

I made a polite answer to our very good friend of the family. Explaining (mildly defensive) a bit about the nature of my psychotherapy practice, and how consultation was also part of what I do, blah blah blah. And now, I had more time for swimming, blah blah blah. Introverts are bad at small talk anyway.

I smarted for awhile.

But since then, the subject rears its head in conversation, especially as my husband retires this summer. Somehow, the assumption is we are doing this in tandem. ?!

Definitions of retirement interest me. I like to query people I know, love, and respect. Once, at a women's gathering during a lunch break, a colleague from Mexico brought a worldly perspective to the subject. "People in Mexico, don't retire, they work until they are dead." I bounced off the truth of her statement, which led me to feel my first world problem in a new way.

A discussed this with a teacher of mine: Ann Skinner (beloved voice coach). You can count on Ann for steely blunt truth and understanding with a smile. She referred to her own retirement as a sabbatical. She works now and then, and I assume, does only what she absolutely wishes to and no more. But not done.

So, this begs the question about work, and what is it for me? And then, what is retirement about for me?

Clearly, I was called to do what I do as a psychotherapist. I am the protagonist in my own fairy tale. Like Vasilisa, by the light of the fiery skull, I have followed that light and fulfilled my tasks. Or, have I?

While I have down shifted my work life to a handful of hours per week, I have this sense there is something more to do. I have floated in this liminality for a few years now, and am still loathe to call the next thing "retirement".

Like Vasilisa the wise, the beautiful, the brave, I have yet one or two more tasks to fulfill and complete for the Baba Yaga. Then, with the doll in my pocket, I can go to live in a house in the woods with the Crone, make my own linen, and maybe unite with my prince.

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