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The Fog Thickens

Ever closer draws the day.

Have you ever been on a long run such as cross-country or a 10k or maybe even longer? And started it already tired or not at 100%? At some point you feel the need to stop – to rest. You know the moment is coming when your legs and feet will transition from a run to a walk and then to a stop. You visualize it, you anticipate it, you can truly almost feel the peace in your legs and feet without actually stopping. And sometimes, that is enough. I’ve been on many runs where just the visualization of stopping was enough to get me over the hump and to keep on running. But sometimes you know you just need to stop. I recall one run through East Providence – a practice run of 12 miles. I had brand new shoes and by the second mile my Achilles tendons were killing me, and they were bleeding by the 3rd or 4th mile. About halfway I began to dream of stopping and just easing that pain for a moment. It was just a practice run and it was just for a minute, so I began to look for the “spot” to stop and gather myself. The anticipation was intoxicating but as I slowed down and approached where I wanted to stop, people began to run past me. And that was unsettling. Practice run or not, it was torturous to know they were going to keep on running – stay in the race – while I was about to stop and watch them all go by. So I didn’t stop; I kept running and completed the course without resting my agonized feet. I just couldn’t allow myself to stop and let the others go by.

Today’s retirement analogy.

But of course, in life, in work, you have to stop at some point. It is the desired end; the goal. It is the finish line you set your sights upon all those years ago when you entered the workforce. Problem is, everyone’s finish line is in a different place, so you watch people “drop out of the race” as you plod along. And of course, as you approach your personal finish line, you do so knowing others will be continuing on and you have to watch them go past you.

I am in my personal final countdown to departure from the great race of work. I am 90 days from when the race ends for me. In fact, exactly 90 today.

The whole thing is like a fogbank. When you begin thinking, considering, retirement the view is clear. But as you get closer you begin to see “something” off in the distance on the horizon, just out of range of recognition. But as time follows its inexorable march forward, you find the view ahead is no longer clear; it is hazy, foggy, and shrouded with obscurity.  You can no longer make out the horizon and in fact, you find yourself standing in an occasional wisp of fog. Things appear and then disappear in moving, constantly shifting, and ever changing swirls of different degrees of fog. What was so clear just weeks ago is no longer even visible and your whole road ahead is being increasingly swallowed in a wall of ground clouds. Lacking and clarity at all you being to wonder if this was indeed the correct decision. You question every step as there is no clear path forward.

Walking away from a really good salary is hard enough. But you are also walking away from health care that is relatively easy to pay for with payroll deduction; no bills, no budgeting for it – just comes with each paycheck. But add to that the oh so volatile US economy, in fact world economy. The market uncertainty. Will my portfolio be adequate? Will the market buoy me afloat for long enough? Will social security pay me back what I paid into it all these years?

And what will I do? Seems easy to think of a thousand things you can do, you’d like to do. But that isn’t the challenge. I come home daily beaten and exhausted and filled with desire to get back the next day and fight some more. The tilt of the battle; the scent of the fight; the allure of the challenge. Those are the things that are irreplaceable in retirement, or at least so it seems. And maybe you find that after a while, those things no longer matter. I don’t know – I just can’t see that far. Too much fog.

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