I’m just kidding….other than this upcoming surgery thing, life’s treating me pretty well these days. But the question that keeps coming back as I adjust to being on Social Security is this: now that I’ve been freed from the stresses involved with trying to obtain (and keep) gainful employment, what does the rest of my life look like?
I’m only 56, after all. If statistics are to be believed, I should have at least another 25 years ahead of me, and even if not, I’m still far too young to sit around waiting to die. There are things I can and should be doing to contribute to society; I just haven’t figured out yet what they are. To be honest, I really never expected to retire—I’d pretty much assumed I’d be working until I keeled over at the nurses’ station one night as I signed off on some chart. But that was not the way whoever is in charge of these things decided it was to be, and now that I’ve got all this time in front of me, I need to figure out what to do with it.
Of course, this is probably the best time ever to write the next great American novel. I’ve wanted to do it all my life. Only trouble is, I’ve discovered that I lack the imagination to write fiction, let alone the attention span to develop a storyline and see it through to the end. That’s a handy bit of knowledge to have right there, especially before I attempt a 50,000-100,000-word manuscript. Stephen King has no competition from this little corner of the world. Ha!
There’s always nonfiction, though, and while I think there are plenty of books about nurses, and plenty of books about bipolar disorder, there probably aren’t very many about nurses WITH bipolar disorder. I’m just not sure anyone would want to read such a book, which is why I haven’t written one. Then again, I wouldn’t even have to write it; it’s already writing itself right here on this blog. And people read it…..hmmm. I may have to take another look at that one of these days.
The other thing that strikes my fancy is becoming an advocate for people who struggle with their mental health. I mean, I know I already am one in a sense, but I’m talking about volunteering with a recognized organization such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and/or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). I’m not sure how a small-town girl like me gets something like that up and running, but it’s clear to me that there is an unmet need for support groups in my area because there simply aren’t any…..and I’m certainly not the only person around here who could use one.
But there is a reason I hesitate to leap into activism: what if people started counting on me to get things done, to always be there for them, to keep the lights on? This is part of why I can’t work in the first place—I’m too scatterbrained and I can’t handle having too much expected of me. If I could find a way of doing something with NAMI or DBSA only when I feel OK—and being excused when I don’t—I think that could be a very good thing.
So maybe it’s time to get in touch with these organizations and see not only what they have to offer, but what I may have to offer them. This could get interesting. Stay tuned.