• A last hurrah

    I was having a conversation with my wife some years ago – the subject of our back and forth centered on the peaks and valleys of life in general, specifically, our life in general. It struck me that if you could plot one’s highs and lows as points on a graph, then naturally you would reach the summit somewhere along that path. Everything at that particular moment was looking pretty damn sweet, maybe the best of our lives. Strange, I don’t recall much of the conversation that followed, but it remains crystal clear in my mind the exact location where the revelation dropped while driving around that weekend.

    Roller-CoasterLooking back, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was dead right in my reckoning – on the road and in my head. We both had great paying jobs and all the offspring and associated members were reasonably happy with marriages intact and food on the table. We were at the top of the food chain and happy to be there. It didn’t feel especially special – it felt like, you know, normal.

    That was about seven years ago, give or take a few laps around the sun. Plenty of occasions to work on those x/y coordinates. I’m not saying the financial slide down from there to here was a big one, but sudden drops in altitude have registered in our guts from time to time.

    We finally came to terms with my early ‘retirement.’ Current speak for “no one wants you to punch their time clock so live with it, Pops.” It took time, but we managed to wrap our brains around this unpleasantness and made adjustments. Since that time, I’ve landed some contract work and the Washingtons have begun to flow in as much as out.

    Midway through last year, we hit another nasty patch of potholes, this time wondering if my wife’s present occupation would last till year’s end. It was like riding the last boxcar in a slow motion train wreck. You could see the inevitable, but kept wondering if you should ride it out, or trust to the roadbed to break your fall. We decided to risk the road rash. After months of searching about for other work opportunities, my amazing spouse was able to secure not one, but two offers. We put our heads together and made the easy decision. Our choice was an outstanding prospect – a gloriously large ice floe to clamber up on. We began 2015 with a sense of relief and renewal.

    I’m not one to let a good thing remain unquestioned, so I began thinking this might be another sort of last hurrah. Gravity does what gravity does and eventually tug overwhelms push. Sooner than later, things take a dip. This isn’t an ode to pessimism, more like facing and accepting reality. For the present, we were not only on a plateau, but a bit of a rise. Still time enough to appreciate the high before the slide. So I began tapping the keys, carving out some meaning of the moment by scratching black pixels against the blank white.

    It was a short reprieve, give-or-take a couple of months.

    Every so often you need a good slap across the head to remind you how tenuous the good times really are. Remember this, my children. Always be wary of companies that use acrimonious acronyms and never forget there be bastards and bitches forever banging at your door, waiting to crash your party. Without going into the particulars, a particularly nasty coven managed to barge their way into our festivities, long enough to blindside my wife with her walking papers. Gandhi, Christ and King deserved their fates more than she deserved this corporate twist of the knife.

    Hell of a way to start the first quarter of the New Year, right? Banner to bust in record time. So at the moment, we have more leak than boat, but we’re still dry. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not eying shopping carts for our next set of wheels. But we’ve had to table projects and dreams we’d just begun to unwrap before this latest shit-storm dropped down on us.

    We do have our health – though I’m hesitant to use that as our bellwether. As a gene driven fatalist (read, Irish-Catholic), I’ve come to understand that cliche as code for you’re pretty much screwed in every other department. That is, unless you don’t have your health and then you’re pretty much screwed straight across the board. This forced correction wasn’t in the plans, but it’s here and we’ll deal with it responsibly like adults, ’cause that’s who we are (or at least my wife, who has held the rank since birth, a fact I rely upon daily).

    So here I was, left with a half-written column and no place to go. Or so I thought, because something strange has happened. Somehow, in the midst of this maelstrom, our happiness uncoupled with our financial well-being. A proliferation of positive coordinates suddenly sparked an upward trend on another parallel graph. For all the supposed stress we imagined would happen in this scenario, things are remarkably calm, nearly serene. We sleep late, talk often and support each other to the fullest, confident that as long as we keep it together personally, things will go our way. As a couple, we’re doing splendidly, far happier now than when we crested on our financial ride.

    So in the interim, here’s to another last hurrah – our general happiness. Naturally, I’m glad it’s here and praying it will long life the recipients. Yes, there might be other opportunities, but for now there are no guarantees. Till then, I’m simply appreciating the good with the bad while I still have the wherewithal to discern the difference.


    • My husband and I are on the precipice of this… financial security vs. the psychological freedom of retirement. I used to fear retirement because I equated it with “getting old” and taking once step closer to the grave. Now, I am beginning to look at it a new way… retirement doesn’t have to mean sitting around and doing nothing. Retirement means I could write whatever I want, for as long as I want, have wine at 4 p.m., and, as you said…sleeping late, talking and supporting each other. The VALUE of your time begins to take a shift at this point in life… from dollars to quality.
      Your days are measured in tranquility and togetherness… not by the paycheck. In the end… which has the greater value? I am beginning to think the former.
      BUT… as you said… it is completely dependent upon good health.

        • Pat Rigley

        • May 6, 2015 at 8:54 am
        • Reply

        The times we get a late start in the day we tell ourselves this is for all those thousands of ungodly early mornings of tending to kids and long commutes. In a sense, paying back to our younger selves for all the self-sacrifice.

    Leave a Comment