Thursday, August 17, 2006

Re-regulating the body

There's a lot to consider when you go through sudden retirement. I changed my life before, so I knew what was ahead, but I'm still surprised by the force with which your body takes over if you let it.

My schedule was demanding- up early and I'm one of those people who spring fully alert from bed and within 5 minutes is on the move 110%. So the early morning part was natural to me, but the go-go-go all day, eating a sandwich if I'm lucky or a handful of M&Ms and some coffee if not, does take its toll. Then head to a night meeting, which lasts for a minimum of two hours and once, a record of five. Sometimes, if it's Tuesday, I go back to the office afterwards to write up the meeting. Get up early the next day and start over.

Once I pulled a 21 hour day, a few times, an 18 hour day, but most averaged 12-14. I worked Saturdays and Sundays, too. Saturdays out in the community taking photos at events and Sundays at home pecking away at correspondence or paperwork.

For a while I had a second job at the Post Office, delivering the PO box mail. It was a good paying job, I got about 25 hours a week and that included all day Saturdays, and it got me through my divorce. Know what my job was on Fridays? I delivered the Gray News! Talk about irony. Even though their office is in New Gloucester they have a PO box in Gray. Working at the PO was great, and the folks there are great too.

For four years I drove around the papers myself to all the drops, so that was pretty stressful on my back. Wednesday evenings I'd load 1200 pounds into my car and then unload 600 of it at the PO, and I would deliver the rest myself. It stressed my back, getting in and out of a low car 62 times every Thursday, slinging two or three 10 pound bundles of newspapers into and out of the car. When not delivering, my body would be contorted into an uncomfortable chair at a desk for 12 hours straight. Ouch.

My natural rhythm would be to slow down in the evening and go to bed early, so the long nights staying alert and interested at meetings were especially difficult for me.


Voluntarily leaving the paper and taking this time in between jobs means I give my body time and space to recalibrate. It's a gift I am glad I can afford. The first week I slept a lot. You do work up a sleep debt, which, according to Wikipedia, "is a term to conceptualize the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. A large sleep debt, for example, would suggest that a person is mentally and physically fatigued due to insufficient sleep." I had been sleeping rough, awakening several times a night, and sleeping fitfully in between. Now, I sleep through the night, and for 7 hours. And I wake up refreshed.

I took a lot of naps, too. When my body wanted to sleep, I let it. That helps- letting your body recalibrate to what it feels natural to do. Now I don't need naps and I stayed up until 10 p.m. last night. Not that fatigued dragged out kind of tired, and falling asleep on the couch, but nicely tired.

Clearing my mind of extra stress and worry helps too. I can think now about other things. I can feel my brain, like silly putty, stretching into new and different corners of my mind.

It'll take about a month to recalibrate and then I will be ready for the next thing. Whatever it is!

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