We were watching “Wedding Crashers” and a line in there says that, “True love is your soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another” and I have to say Keith is likely my counterpoint at every turn. I would not say we are opposites- being married to someone who doesn’t share your core values would be insurmountable, but we really do have very different perspectives on the world. And now that we literally spend 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week, it’s a very distinctive relationship juggle. Some people would think raising kids together would be the hard part. Trying to find time and energy between dance, soccer and seemingly endless taxi services. Others might see the career of a scientist and a principal, demanding of time, mentally draining as a difficult tightrope to walk. I’m pretty certain any staff member that ever reported to me would confirm that I lived in a school building from mid-August until the sacred September 30th count and my closest gal pals could fill pages of blogs about my life when Keith spent week after week on business in Europe or Asia. In retrospect, which does offer amazing clarity, I have literally no clue how it is we managed to keep 5 kids alive, work until we got pensions and stay married. Yet, this nomadic life- the physical morph from 5500 square feet to 500 is like a marriage surviving the space of a cage fight. In the past 5 months, we have never been apart for more than a few hours- our soul’s don’t just recognize one another- we know about one another’s digestive cycles.
It’s this unexpected chapter that has made me embrace and be very grateful for our differences that seemed in the past, to be hurdles when we could only fit in time alone every now and again. We kind of have a life of daily perpetual dates. He is my doubles partner, my workout companion and my recliner buddy. I am the cook and he is the dishwasher. I take early morning walks with Xena, he does after dark walks. He kicks ass in the long game on the court and I’m way better at the net. I worry endlessly about the kids, he believes firmly we have done a good job and they will all figure things out. He watches the news and let’s political insanity get to him, I have a series of routes to Canada preconfigured. He is the peacekeeper among the kids and I’m the one who offers life’s vivid reality and sends the care packages. Yet, there is a terrifying piece to all of this in that we have 5 kids who are extremely independent; none need us- in fact, I worry myself frequently that if we didn’t call- we’d never hear from them. Thus, we are an entity of just two and I am just not sure how one could exist without the other. And that is a road that is hopefully very far away, but true love has a crossroad- thus mentioned in your “until death do us part” vows and the thought of having it and losing that person is paralyzing even in just consideration. We filled our lives and continue to on this journey, with amazing people that are awesome to have in our world, nevertheless each night as we settle, as just two, into our mini world, I genuinely appreciate that I have something very unique in a man, a partner, that balances out who I am- if I could just stop time and aging, my fairytale might work out.
Someday I want to write an actual novel. People used to ask if I’d write about being a Principal, as I seem to have a plethora of stories of students, families and staff; some comical, others tragic and sad. However, turning on any news station provides you with more than enough insight into what educators see evolve in their classrooms daily- I think my novel should be more along the lines of creating the imaginary lives I design for strangers I come across daily. As we are facing people on this journey from every walk of life- I often entertain myself with a running dialogue of their worlds. Other times I have an actual dialogue going on, as I have really become addicted to digital books- in this case- Audible. I find listening to a book while I work out keeps my head focused on the story and not on my body telling me it’s ready to be done. I often have on a wireless headset as I cook, while we set up or break down the RV and when I have no interest in a TV show that Keith’s chosen. It has become a great way to avoid salespeople chatting me up in a store, makes grocery shopping more entertaining and walking the dog early, just fun.
As I am typing, we are traveling, taking two days to stop by The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, in route to our destination Casa Grande and likely ten plus hours in the truck. This means I have on a book- playing with one speaker in my ear so Keith can chat me up or I may check an exit for him. It’s like having a surreptitious world going on in my head, while I politely acknowledge a pretty mountain range he is pointing out, open a water bottle for him or recognize his annoyance at some else’s bad driving. And it amusingly reminds me that there are moments when I’m listening to something steamy, hearing clearly as a lusty biker licks the very willing stranded lady motorist from head to toe while I’m participating in Keith’s debate about how much air should be in the tires- an audible book keeps you in an imaginary world that is secretly all yours. Other moments, I am listening to Amy Poehler and I break out laughing loudly while waiting in a long WalMart line or I start to cry while picking up dog shit as the Protagonist in a Hildebrand novel is finally cancer free. At times it’s easy to get caught up and to forget you are covertly in two places at once, but I love the company of the colorful fictional characters. Someday I’m going to put my ideas together and create worlds in which others can disappear. In the meantime, I’m going to go back to my earphone to see what else the biker has going on beyond his leather chaps, all while dutifully watching the road for rogue Elk, which Keith has just pointed out is a problem on this road.
Writing on a picnic table, sitting outside the RV in the warm New Mexico sun and I keep thinking that I should be in a hurry to do something? I ask myself, even after nearly two years of my pre- retirement normal life of leaving the house at 6 and trying to be home by 5 ended, if I have accomplished enough today. I really wonder if it’s just me or if that sense of needing to make and check things off a list ever dulls. On the flip side, never before have I not set an alarm for weeks at a time and I want to celebrate that small shift. Keith seems to have no issues with a life of leisure and he had an equally demanding career. I marvel at his absolute disregard for urgency or sense that time is an indulgence not to be overlooked. For years, I was the psycho wrapping Christmas gifts until 3 am so that they would be ready for the tree to go up- the first Sunday of December each year, the sadist who set a 4 am alarm to disinfect the washer and dryer so as to not compromise my self sufficient laundry duty offspring, and the principal who sent 2 am emails and wrote evaluations until it was too late to string words together. Upon making the decision to retire, I was exuberant that all of these things would be history and my world of dancing in the sand to Jimmy Buffet, yelling “salt, salt, salt” with my margarita sloshing merrily, would be my norm. Am I just not capable of that?
My roommate, my lover, my “it’s your turn to walk the dog” partner and 24/7 live in best friend, claims that I create work for myself. Do not misunderstand, I am a champion of having a good time- there are currently 12 videos out there documenting such events. And although, my children have told me, no one is interested in our nomadic cinematic endeavors, we have gathered a little audience who seems to enjoy the edited version of the adventures. Truth be told, that has become a great source for me having a marginal purpose beyond, seek fun, eat, exercise and sleep. I wish there was a measurement of when the shift from overload and chaos transcends to deep breaths of appreciated relaxation. After all, I’m sitting here with my dog cuddled around my feet, birds eating out of the feeders I set up tableside, a soft warm wind blowing as I type. My day’s agenda at this moment consists of going to the gym, starting to pack up for Arizona, perhaps cutting up veggies form the farmer’s market and some hiking in the foothills. Am I completely mad that I might mentally crave an occasional heated staff debate, a tension riddled meeting or a need for me to create a well-crafted memo about anything? My latte is getting cold….wait, perhaps the coffee machine needs cleaning?
Thanks for joining us!
We are a newly retired couple from Delaware (Keith is originally from England) who decided less than a year ago to sell the home where we raised our five kids ( now ages 21-30), buy a 43 foot 5th wheel RV and spend at least a year traveling across country having adventures and seeking out where it is we might want to retire when we grow up. As we are social creatures by nature and found social media to be by far the best way to stay in touch with family and friends, thus we morphed into Empty Nest Nomads as a way to have an identity in this vast digital existence. We video log our unique and often comical quests on our YouTube channel and Jenn, a former principal and lifelong writer, is blogging her perspectives as we go.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — I. Walton