It has been more than four years since I retired from a full-time academic position, work that consumed my time and energy and brought me into contact with students and colleagues in many locations. I loved my work, whether it was teaching in the classroom, conducting research, or disseminating the results through publications or speaking engagements. But work alone never defined who I wanted to be as a person of faith, or as a mother, or as a fellow traveler on the journey we call life.
Retirement confirmed that for me.
But, unlike many, who I recall used to say after their own retirement, “I don’t know how I had time to work,” that I do know. Before retirement, I was often in a hurry, rarely lingered over breakfast or lunch, seldom read for hours at a time something that was not work-related, or just sat and looked at my garden or another favourite vista with no explicit agenda. Now, often, I can do things at the last minute, or change directions or plans without much difficulty. There is a lot to like about this season of life.
When Cathy asked me to write a blog, I decided that I’d share some things on my heart and mind as I am experiencing them now. I care as much about the suffering created by intimate partner violence as I ever did, I grieve about the way that the religious have often relegated talk about abuse to the back burner and turned their hearts and minds the other way, and I rejoice when others have found the courage and the resources to leave a life of fear and battery behind.
Here’s what I have been thinking about lately…
- I have a new grandbaby, Ellie, who was born to my younger daughter Christina and her husband Sean on February 6, this year. Welcoming a new baby into the family has been nothing short of wonderful. Babies are hard work (just ask their parents), they bring new worries and concerns, they deprive the adults of sleep and relaxation, but they add so much spice and excitement that it just bubbles over in so many ways. Of course, I am aware that this does not happen at the birth of every child, and that reminds me again of the important work of RAVE and other agencies to ensure that every family is a safe one for children to grow and thrive.
- A few weeks ago, Christina, Ellie and I travelled to Toronto to visit my older daughter Natascha, her husband Jaron, and their growing family (Aeris 6 and Alister 3). Introducing the cousins to each other and watching their excitement and bonding was more than worth the hassles of contemporary air travel. Distance and COVID have made family togetherness a challenge these last few years. Women experiencing abuse are often deliberately separated from the emotional and physical support of the extended family network. Once again, through my own life narrative, I was reminded of the many ways that a strong and supportive family help each other.
- We are in the process of selling our home of 30 years and down-sizing our living arrangements. Have we ever accumulated a lot since we bought this big, old Victorian house! There are things that belonged to my grandmother, and my great-aunts, my mother and father, as well as all the things associated with different aspects, and stages, of our own lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. Boxes of pictures (pre-phone days), school report cards, art work, and athletic equipment are the legacy of our own families, there is china, crystal and silver that has been passed down from family, and of course, Dave and I have data dating back to our earliest research initiatives. Besides all the actual physical and emotional work associated with down-sizing, there is the reminder of what was important. It is vital to stop and think about that. Memories and the people they represent are what we are left with at the end of the day. Houses are just temporary places where they are sometimes held when our minds are too clogged up with to-do lists and other life necessities.
- Books—we have so many of them. They inhabited our offices at the university and our home. Reading the spines tell you a lot about who we are and what we think is important to know. And, I admit, I am very attached to books. The ones I read, and the ones I have written. Giving books away is much easier for me than discarding them (er, rather recycling them). But, parting with many of them is something I must do. So I began to think about how important reading has been to my life and to my journey, really since I was a child. It opened opportunities and satisfied my curiosities. I have been re-reading some of the poetry of Mary Oliver recently and I must say there are few things more satisfying than to end the day with her.
- I am blessed with many things in my life but at this time of change I am very thankful for my friends—those who have been there over the long haul. We all know that you can’t make new “old friends.” While it is right and good to be always open to new faces and new friendships, there is something very endearing about those few people who know you well, have walked the rough paths by your side, and still come, and laugh, and cry, and eat, and bake together, when you call out to them.
Nancy Nason-Clark, 2 June 2022