My Mind Has Been a Mess Lately

“You could have all the crazy thoughts you wanted,
as long as you smiled and kept them to yourself.”
–Mara Purnhagen, Past Midnight

My mind has been a mess lately.

The teachers and students have all gone home for the summer; most of the office staff is on vacation, and the school building is shadowy and eerily quiet.  I’m down to the last couple weeks of my 30-year career, and even though a few last-minute jobs have required my attention, most of each day is being spent cleaning out my desk, cleaning out my file cabinets, and cleaning out my computer files.  I’ve sorted and purged, sending countless bags of papers to the recycling bin, filling three large trash cans (so far) with “stuff” that isn’t worthy of recycling, and filling nine large boxes (so far) with more stuff that I simply can’t imagine parting with–college research papers, pictures of former students, books I may want to read again someday, and a large assortment of dusty knick-knacks that will most likely stay boxed in a basement closet because I have no room at home to display them.

This has been much harder than I had expected it to be.  I had thought cleaning out and throwing away so much accumulation would be a liberating, joyful experience–and it was in the beginning–but with the emptying of each drawer and the filling of each bag has come the sad realization that a very important part of my life is nearing an end, and such realization has been more than a little depressing.  I have tried explaining my sadness to a few friends and family members, but since all of them have many more years of employment facing them, they have neither understanding of nor sympathy for my “plight” and no time or patience for my whining.  Suck it up, woman . . . get over it . . . quit your crying . . . and honestly, if I were in their shoes, I would probably be offering the same advice.

And so I’m trying (to suck it up, that is).  I have put aside my Adele and James Taylor and Nina Simone for now–daily companions who may have been dispelling the quiet, but they sure weren’t taking me to my happy place.  Instead, I’m rattling the windows with Queen and Def Leppard and Pink Floyd, hoping to relieve this feeling of being “Under Pressure,” bordering on “Hysteria,” with music so loud and familiar that I can become “Comfortably Numb.”  And I’m trying to empty my mind of all the sadness of days forever gone and all the fears of uncertain days ahead–and I’m trying to fill all that empty brain space with nothing but excitement for all the adventures that I’m sure are lying just around the next curve in the road.

A different problem is emerging, though:  As I attempt to empty my brain and refill it, I can’t seem to focus, and there’s too much room and too much opportunity for a whole lot of crazy, weird (and, I hate to admit, stupid) thoughts to come creeping in . . .

Take for example my obsession with the canister of mixed nuts I’ve been munching on for the past few days.  The packaging proudly boasts “Less than 50% peanuts!”–but how do I know that for sure?  I mean, it seems like there are a lot more peanuts than all the cashews and pecans and almonds combined.  Is that percentage based on an actual nut count or on weight–and does anyone in the food industry really monitor such claims?  And why do I care?  (Because I ran out of cashews two days ago, that’s why.)

And why are so many simple words mispronounced?  I’m sorry, but it’s “siren,” not “sireen,” and “wrestler,” not “wrassler.”  Please don’t tell me about your fears of a “nucular” attack (I’m more concerned about the possibility of a “nuclear” one), and I don’t want to know about your “prostrate” gland (but I will sympathize over your “prostate” woes) or your dad’s “Altimer’s” disease (there’s no “t” in Alzheimer’s–I promise). And if you tell me you’re headed to the “liberry” to check out a book, I’m going to encourage you to look that word up in the dictionary while you’re there.

Okay, stepping off that soapbox for a while . . .

Why can’t we pick and choose where we lose weight?  When we’re trying so hard to make certain anatomical features smaller, why must all parts of the anatomy be affected?  And wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply re-distribute some of that weight from one location to another? If the U.S. Department of Agriculture can give researchers at the University of New Hampshire over half a million dollars to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows, and the U.S. government can spend over $175,000 determining if cocaine use makes Japanese quail engage in risky sexual behavior, then why can’t we allocate a few tax dollars on figuring out how women can non-surgically make some body parts smaller while making other parts bigger?  I’m betting that millions of taxpayers of both genders would be quite supportive of that government funding. (And by the way, I’m not exaggerating–those figures came from Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, in  Wastebook: A Guide to Some of the Most Wasteful and Low Priority Government Spending of 2011.)

And then there’s the lead story on many of yesterday’s “news” broadcasts:  It seems that a turtle couple is “divorcing” after 115 years of wedded turtle bliss.  Apparently their Austrian zookeepers first noticed something was amiss when Bibi tried to rip hubby Poldi’s shell off his back–and then continued to attack him even after their handlers provided couples counseling, plied them with aphrodisiacs and encouraged them to play games together (I’m not kidding).  Now, I can understand Bibi’s frustrations–115 years would be a long time to spend with any man, especially one who probably shows up late for every meal and is a little slow on the uptake (if you know what I mean).  But I’m wondering why such a sudden turn of events–do even female turtles occasionally take a twisting, turning, spiraling ride on the roller coaster Hormone Hell?  (And if so, I can understand that, too.)  Will Bibi regret her behavior next week–or will she even remember it?  And, by the way, who decided these two former lovers were “married” in the first place?  Did an appropriate authority figure actually perform a ceremony and issue a license?  I want proof.

Speaking of items in the news, I was intrigued this week by a story about a tomato-throwing festival near Bogota, Colombia.  Over 20,000 people threw 15 tons of ripe tomatoes at each other for two hours.  Okay, call me crazy, but I think that sounds like great fun–except how do they keep the tomato juice from squirting into their eyes?  In none of the pictures did I see anyone wearing protective eye gear–wouldn’t that juice burn?  I wonder the same thing every time I see celebrating athletes spewing champagne bottles in the locker room (and what a waste of good champagne).  I most likely will never attend a tomato-throwing festival or participate in locker room antics of any kind, but I am determined to take part in a winery’s harvest-celebrating “stomp and chomp” one of these days, delighting in the feel of those little red grapes squishing between my little pink toes and splattering up my legs (but not into my eyes).  Anyone want to play Ethel to my Lucy?  C’mon, it’ll be fun …

If I screamed at the top of my lungs right now, would anyone in this semi-deserted building hear me?  And by the way, wouldn’t screaming from the bottom of one’s lungs produce a stronger, louder, more effective roar?

Could Burger King’s new bacon sundae possibly taste as good as it looks?  And why didn’t I think of that? Can a few moments of salty-sweet bliss justify the cholesterol spike?  Why, yes, I believe so . . .

Why is it that if I make a complimentary statement about an athlete or celebrity whose talents I admire, someone always feels the need to point out to me that person’s “flaws”?  You do know he’s an alcoholic, right?  I heard he’s had two DWIs!  And I heard she’s an atheist/a lesbian/a Trekkie, and she got caught cheating on a math quiz in 1972!  Seriously?  We all have flaws; we all have skeletons in our closets; we all have certain characteristics and traits that don’t exactly jive with others’ mindsets.  I don’t need role models, and I’m not looking for godparents for my children; I’m simply admiring another person’s abilities, and I should be able to do that without the interference of someone else’s moral judgments.

I wonder if any of my friends have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that I could discreetly borrow (strictly for research purposes, with no moral judgments attached)  . . .

Why do businesses post signs that say, “Gone to lunch–be back in half an hour”?  If I don’t know when you left, how do I know when that half hour is over?

And why is it so easy for me to fall asleep in my sweaty, leather recliner with a television blaring in front of me and a light glaring overhead–and so difficult for me to fall asleep in my comfy bed in my dark, quiet bedroom?  Could it be that I’m lying awake at night, worrying about a recent health report claiming that people who are otherwise healthy but who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a greatly increased risk of stroke?  Yeah, that’s probably it.

What are the chances that the spider that just crawled from this empty box and skittered behind my desk, disappearing beyond my stomp and out of my sight, will end up in my purse or camera bag before the day is over?

Should I throw away all the confiscated items in the back of my bottom desk drawer (the handcuffs, for example), or should I leave them for my replacement just to make him wonder?  It’s tempting . . .

So, yeah . . . I told you my mind has been a mess lately–a crazy, weird, jumbled mess.  Did you think I was kidding?  I am ready for this transitional phase to be OVER and for the next chapter to begin, to leave behind the stifling, quiet confines of this cluttered, concrete box and leap into the wide open spaces of the beautiful unknown–and I’m sure my friends and family are even more anxious for me to hit the road and leave all this craziness behind.  Patience and forgiveness, please . . . I’m almost there.

I’m convinced that Burger King’s new bacon sundae will make everything better.

About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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18 Responses to My Mind Has Been a Mess Lately

  1. emjayandthem says:

    Sorting through stuff is exhausting on any day of the week — sorting through 30 years of stuff where most items signify a time, a place, a person? No wonder your drained and no wonder your mind is rebelling.

    Do you have the option to slog through this in chunks of time? Can you set a timer? Say 90 min then a 1 hour bike ride?

    Cheers to you!! I can feel that anticipation of your next chapter just looming around the corner 🙂

    • Thank you for understanding, MJ! I do “slog through” in chunks–it is too overwhelming otherwise. I haven’t tried a bike ride in between chunks yet, but that’s an excellent idea. Instead, I walk around the building every once in a while, and sometimes I go outside with my camera for a brief photo shoot of whatever catches my eye. I’m slowly getting there–and once I do, wheeeeeeeee!!

  2. RayEtta says:

    You are doing fine. There will come a day when it all comes together for you and you will look forward to each new day and new thing in your life. You have had an important and I think a rewarding profession and anyone would be apprehensive. You are on the right track. Your physical activities will be a great help. I was in awe of you on the bike. I am also in my retirement hoping to get back in shape enough to take up an old activity that I loved. I myself was relived after 45 years of work to not have to anymore. In my case though, I had jobs, not a career. I wish you well and you will get there. By the way sleeping problems hit almost every woman I have talked to about that topic. Around 50 it starts and I am still dealing with it.

    • Thank you, RayEtta. I know the time will come when it all falls into place–I just hope for my sake and for the sake of those around me, that time comes soon! And riding my bike helps with the mental and emotional challenges as well as the physical–I hope you can give it a try. And as for those sleeping problems, I know they are an unfortunate (permanent?) reality, but I would give almost anything for an occasional night of restful slumber. Ah, well …

  3. Oh, oh, oh! Pick me! Pick me! I’ll be Ethel!

    Happy retirement! My move and all the merging, purging, and packing it required still haunts me a year later. I’d much rather have a squirt of tomato juice in the eye than think about it. I feel your pain, though I can’t relate to a career spanning thirty years (congrats!). As weird as it may seem, a wandering mind is probably standard and healthy. It’s definitely amusing for this reader, so thanks for the great post. Hang in there, and start planning all the wonderful things you have in mind for your second life. I think you need to blast some Vanilla Ice to get you ready for the karaoke bars!

    All the best,

    • Ha! Your response made me chuckle, AA–thank you! I bought a new “retirement” car a week ago (probably fodder for an upcoming blog), and I’m lovin’ the satellite radio that allows me to listen to classic rock on every drive–haven’t run across any Vanilla Ice yet (maybe he’s on the “pop” station?), but I’m definitely honing my karaoke skills. 😉 I don’t know exactly where you’re located in the D.C. area, but when my friend and I visited recently, the friend we were staying with took us to Barrel Oak Winery ( in Delaplane, Virginia–it was a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere, and I know they have a “stomp and chomp” in the fall–you should check them out! And who knows, maybe I’ll see you there … 🙂

      • I’m not familiar with the winery, and will definitely check it out. Honestly, I had never heard of “stomp and chomp,” either (or neither?). It’s a whole new world! Thank you!

      • It’s a really cool place–family and dog friendly–and has been nationally recognized. Another of our friends was working there, but I believe he has become a part-owner since then. His name is Andy Melton; if you go, tell him I sent you!

  4. Sue says:

    Leave the hand cuffs!!!
    Keep reminding yourself that it is time to stop & smell the roses. love, Sue

    • Thanks, Sue–I think I may just leave them in the same spot I hid them in a couple years ago so it may take a while for them to be re-discovered (and won’t he be puzzled then!). Thanks for the reminder and for your continuous support …

  5. Kip Light says:

    I empathize with your discombobulation. In time the changes will become more friendly and less unsettling 🙂 A sudden change will take your mind places it never knew existed (like the weight versus count dilemma). Time will make you look back on this and wonder “what was the big deal?”, as it does to many of our traumatic changes. I wish you abundant peace and godspeed adjusting to the changes. Cherish the time and do all those things you never had time for previously.

    • Thank you, Kip, for the kind words and good advice. The sadness I’ve been experiencing caught me off guard, but I know I’ll get through this–I’m a pretty tough ol’ broad–I just hope I do so with my mind still intact. I have so many activities planned for “after” that I just need “after” to hurry up and get here!

  6. Zac Eubank says:

    I think a lesbian, atheist, Trekkie could be my new best friend. Those are not flaws.

  7. Jamie Adams says:

    WOW! Dang your mind is all over the place!!! You need to relax!!! As for the turtles, maybe he wasn’t responding to her in a timely manner…. I hear females of all species hate to be ignored. After 115 years… enough already. HAHA! Great story… now, have a glass of wine.

    • I think there was a compliment buried in there–thanks. And I’m guessing from your comments that you have a lot of experience in the “annoying females” category–shame on you. You’re old enough to know by now that all women want the same things–to be listened to, to be given your undivided attention, and to be worshiped, respected, admired, revered, idolized, and poured another glass of wine … am I leaving anything out? 😉

  8. bronxboy55 says:

    Your confusion of feelings is perfectly understandable, Karen. Three decades is a long time, and dramatic change is always jolting, even when you can see it coming for months or years. But this post is more solid evidence that you have another lifetime of brilliant writing ahead of you.

    I’d keep the handcuffs.

    • Ha! If I keep the handcuffs, years from now my sons may find them among my belongings, and then they will wonder about their mother … 🙂

      Thank you, Charles, for your continued encouragement and support. When July finally gets here and the days are stretching out before me, I hope to get started on that self-publishing idea …

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