Sometimes I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe, one in which I’m no longer a person. The world has also changed, seemingly irretrievably, into a place without any kind of safety, security, and surety.
Mum used to complain to me, from time to time, when she was retired from teaching, that she felt invisible, of no consequence, and therefore, of no value to anyone, including to herself. I remember telling her that, of course, she had meaning and value, at least to her children, and that we value her for her wisdom and accumulated life experience. I believe now that my comments were, at best, well-meaning but false.
Feelings are not facts, although they weigh us down as if they are real. I am going to be celebrating my sixty-fifth birthday in less than a month. Supposedly this means that I should be enjoying the opportunity to retire from active working life, and into a pleasant meander down the road of a new journey, not so bound up in ambition or goals.
Instead, I head into retirement with serious complications of diabetes and COPD, chronically exhausted, in constant arthritic and neuropathic pain. My professional life is in disgrace, and my finances are completely destroyed. My marriage is a shambles, a mere shadow of meaning and purpose I believed it to be. Whatever self-esteem I once enjoyed has been systematically eroded to the point where I have become self-effacing and ashamed.
Accomplishments once achieved with pride, are now rued as pointless, as they were not sustained, nor followed up with long-term success. Professional competence and pride in my knowledge and skills are now the pathetic memories of a fallen champion.
I have crashed and burned before, and arose from the ashes to take on new challenges and build a life again. I’m told by professionals that I need to let go of the past, forget my shortcomings, and learn to live with my current life and health circumstances. In short, I need to refocus on a new future. Build again a life worth living, a life into which joy and laughter can once again be a part.
There is still much of value in my life, and turning to those people who continue to befriend me and support me is a part of that future. Gratitude for what I have now will be a good start.
Still, it is difficult to look around me and see a landscape filled with characters I don’t recognize and don’t think I really want to get to know. What would be even more helpful would be if I could find a mirror that shows me the man I once thought I was. The mirrors in Wonderland show me a person I scarcely recognize, and who I really don’t want to be.