Clark Kent has left the building

Perhaps you have a secret identity … perhaps we all do. 

I have watched Superman most of my life, starting with the 50’s TV show – black and white repeats at my Dad’s house with the “mole men” and other threats to humanity.  Later, taking my little brother to see Christopher Reeve – about a year after Star Wars, sitting in the theater at Tyler Mall in Riverside – I remember it so clearly, it’s amazing.  Since then, it has been a parade of actors, some pretty bad movies, a few good ones.  They all shared one fascinating ridiculous pretense – that when Clark Kent left the office, no one recognized him as Superman – usually just because of a pair of glasses (although I guess the colorful tights might have distracted some).   No kid wanted to be dull, forgettable Clark – they wanted to fly, be faster than a speeding bullet, and muscles til next week.  I particularly wanted to have destructo vision – still waiting on that. 

But, whenever Clark was gone, no one wondered where he was, usually.  Even smart Margot Kidder set aside her suspicions.  He never seemed to miss deadlines or have performance reviews, or worry about job security.  

And of course, he never retired.  

Perhaps these days you dream of retiring, not having to go into the office (although right now that may be a few feet away from the kitchen), being “free” to do whatever you want.  And, you may worry about money being enough, or health insurance – I did.  My plans didn’t include retiring before 65 – but I reached a point where, for a lot of reasons, I made that choice.  I took the leap – without a cape, without the ability to fly, and without a job – it was just time to stop looking and move on.  This month, my first “early social security check” will arrive, and hopefully that will cover my health care for the few years left before Medicare kicks in – if those programs survive.  And, of course – if I survive.  That IS my intent, but … hey, is your 2020 going as planned? 

What I didn’t realize in this process – from the point where my job search, my dream career in my new home, didn’t seem to be “taking flight”, to the soul searching about budget and goals and what would be best for my new marriage and our lives together – is how much my sense of who I am was tied up in my job.   That it was … my identity.  So much so … it surprises me. 

The past few weeks I have been shredding.  Not the “muscle building” kind, the paper kind.  Destroying records of my past – financial reports, resumes,  representations of the care I put into my work over the decades.  Job reviews, applications; cover letters, offer letters, acceptance letters – resignations.  Going back to the 80’s when I never EVER would have predicted where I would be and what life would look like now.   They all become pieces of trash.  Decades of records that have no ongoing purpose.   

Then, I finished going through my hard drive deleting files … deleting the electronic footprints.  My career, all the efforts to convince someone to hire me, all the reports to demonstrate my contributions; the reference lists that, for the most part, were never called.  It is sobering, a reminder that we have to sell ourselves to strangers, to package our skills and strengths and make it a glossy ad for everything we offer to solve the needs of our employers.   Stacks of “certificates” to show I completed my required education for professional licensing going back more than 35 years … now, all – meaningless.  All those bytes of energy, effort and stress – Zap!!     

The eternal wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes ….

What remains? Of all the things I did in my jobs, the ones that matter most are the lives I touched – the people I hired, or worked alongside to help, to coach, to encourage.  Their careers, their families, their dreams continue, and I am glad I could be a very, very small part of it.  I am also grateful to everyone who had faith in me – in my potential, my contribution – usually they believed in me more than I did myself, hopefully I delivered on their expectation – but whatever the outcome – the door is closed, the desk is cleaned; the “trash” file on my Mac with the old files is empty, the shredder refuse going into the blue barrel. 

That identity – what was so central to my being for decades – is now, just a memory. 

Every stage of life – retirement, unemployment (I’ve been there), every door waiting to be opened –   holds an opportunity to become – maybe not a superhero, but, to go after your dreams.  What I have now that I didn’t while working – is time.  You can earn money, but you cannot earn – or buy – time.  That clock is ticking, and no one knows the final closing time.  What do you want to accomplish before you “leave the office” of life?  If you don’t know that tomorrow will come, how do you live today?  

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping … into the future ……

Perhaps it puts things into a bit of a different focus; maybe not.  I am certainly adjusting my focus (again, where is that destructo vision, please?).  In all this I remind myself that I have much to be thankful for, and the opportunity to share, with my love, good things ahead – quiet good things at home daily, and hopefully, adventures yet to come, in places we now only dream of visiting one day, together.  I am no longer defined by a job description or pay rate, there’s no resume on file, and pretty soon, the suits, ties and Florsheims will go to charity.  Like Clark Kent, I have left the building, but I have no phone booth to change in, no secret identity – but I get to form a new one.  NormL, the new release.  I get to work on choosing it, within limits.  And that is pretty cool.  I hope you too will see that your future still holds amazing promise. 

Will I fly?  We shall see.  But so far, I haven’t bought a cape.  

Look, up in the sky …. who knows what you might find, defying gravity?

Forgetting what was not

Wow, April is just barely half over, and it’s already been a very busy month!  We started off with our monthly “Mah Johng” group dinner and play – it’s not the easiest game to win but we do have a lot of fun and have made new friends there.  Then we attended a wonderful live program at the newly restored Presidio theater – a tribute to Billie Holiday – preceded by a delightful dinner at “our” restaurant, Arguello’s (we had our wedding near both).  The following Tuesday, I finally saw the famed “Book of Mormon” which Bob had seen more than once – it was hilarious, and we really had a great time.  The next weekend brought the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate park – I had volunteered to help with a very memorable “AIDS Quilt” display and will share those pics another time, it was very moving, and I am so glad I could support it. We enjoyed a visit with our friends from So Cal that same weekend, and took just a few days off before seeing a local production of the 50’s musical, the rarely seen “Pajama Game” by 42ndstreet moon – I had seen it once when my 6th grade class went to the Corona Civic Center to see our teacher, Mr. Compton, in the lead role.  Love that “Hernando’s hideaway” number!  Bob enjoyed the NY Met Opera streaming of Tosca, one of his favorites, and this weekend we will be attending the SF Symphony as they welcome a very special international orchestra – part of our subscription that has really been a great experience.  We really need a break from all this fun!   Before the month ends, we have a special tour of the Sales Force Tower complex by SF City Guides, a weekend getaway to nearby friends, and yes, a dentist appointment (ugh!)

Of course … all that was only on our calendar. They were our plans for the month – but, they never happened.   Most never will. Along with your plans and all the routine, ordinary events of what we considered everyday life. What we took for granted.

When I established this blog several months ago, I wanted to share my thoughts about life as I dealt with constant changes.  As I became the “new Norm L”.   But just weeks ago, no one really envisioned how drastically life would change and how soon.  Now, it seems like there is some sort of expectation that people want to hold on to – I know I do – that things will “return to normal”. 

Time to let go of that expectation, at least from my perspective.

In order to take hold of something, first, you must have a free hand.  Letting go of hopes, expectations – long held dreams and goals – is almost like a loss.   But letting go of what your life was already like – all the things you took for granted, that seemed guaranteed to just be the way they were forever – that is a different kind of difficult.  My friends, we MUST face that challenge, individually and together, to build a new life that has meaning.

Our future will be much better, and we will find our way to it easier, by not expecting it to be “what it used to be”.   What do you, or I, need to release from our expectations?  Maybe that is worth thinking about for a while.  Because being a prisoner to what “ought to be” prevents us from enjoying what is, and what can be.  It takes strength to hold on – and strength to let go – but it takes wisdom to know when to do either. And faith.

It is not easy to practice gratitude for things that aren’t the way you want them to be.  But for me, this is the time to do just that.  To be thankful in the midst of all this, to express hope for an uncertain future – that is a light in the murky greys ahead.  A light for now, and for tomorrow.