Left Behind

Left Behind

“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.” — Jerry Seinfeld

I spent the morning purging my closet, rearranging what to take and what to leave behind. Our snowbirdism officially begins on Monday, when we head south for the winter. Mike’s golf clubs, some Chicago delicacies –two frozen tubs of Italian beef, a couple jars of giardeniere, packets of Frontera mole sauce–, piles of sandals, shorts, and tee shirts, the computer, and some cute new lanai throw pillows will be smooshed into the car Clampett-style for our two day trip.

As rookie snowbirds, figuring out what goes and what stays takes some thinking. Stuff I don’t wear either here or there ended up in a Goodwill-bound bag. But what to pack? No wooly sweaters, no winter coats, no boots – yippee! Black suede pumps? Scarves that aren’t fashion accessories, but a preventative for frozen nostrils? Those twenty long-sleeved tees that I layer under sweaters? The fuzzy Dearfoam slippers? A cozy robe? Left behind.

Left behind. Some of my life falls into that category, too. Stuff in the discard pile: Professional responsibilities. Weekly Grandma days. Weekly shopping excursions with my eighty-nine-year-old mother. Book club. Lunches with old friends. Meetings for a glass of wine with the Baker Babes. Writers group. Some soccer games, dance recitals, swim meets that could use a grandma in the stands.

We’ve dipped our toes into snowbird life before. For twelve years, we’ve been flying down to Sarasota for little snippets of time. When I was no longer tethered to a school calendar, the snippets stretched – three days turned into five, seven days turned into ten. Last year, freshly retired, we tallied a total of twelve weeks spread over six months, an all-time high. We even stayed for one seven-week stretch, when I read a lot, lolled at the pool, joined a card group, went for walks on the beach, made some new friends, trained to be a literacy volunteer, and settled in. That polar vortex back home? Missed most of it.

Now, we’re off for the whole winter. Except for the month of December, we’ll be there until May. The stereotypical retired couple moving to Florida? Yup, that’s us, I guess.

I’ve been responsible, organized, and task-oriented my whole life. I’ve been busy, real busy. One thing I’ve learned: busyness is not a virtue. So, I’m giving myself some pep talks about this life transition. Give yourself a break, Ellen. Ditch that little shroud of guilt that you tend to wear if you sleep in a little, spend an afternoon reading a book by the pool, or fritter away an afternoon playing iPad Scrabble on the lanai while others are hunching their shoulders against Chicago’s brutal cold. Walk the beach or the Ringling Bridge, and love every step. Soak up the sunshine – slathered in sunscreen, of course–, admire the palm trees, and delight in the sandhill cranes that mosey through the neighborhood. Take a writing course, just for fun. Tutor, because you love it, not because it’s required. Find what you enjoy, and enjoy it.

One more thing that’s getting left behind? The feeling that I Have To (fill in the blank).

Now, let’s hit the road.

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