I'm here at the beach for our annual Christmas Escape. I can't remember exactly when we started coming here to our friend's beachfront duplex three hours from our house but I think it was the year after my mother died having lost my father almost exactly a year before that. Once both my parent were gone we found ourselves free to stay in NC for the holidays instead of making the 13 hour trip to CT and the peace of this place healed me and continues to be something I look forward to all year.
I came down a few days ahead of my husband so I could have a little time to myself with just the dogs. This time of year only a few of the houses on the island are inhabited so I'm almost entirely alone, especially at night. I love it. I walk on the beach and let the dogs run and I take pictures with my iPhone and eat very simply. It's a gift I give myself, this time to just be. It's how I would always choose to end one year and begin the next.
I do have a goal for this time though. I need to finish up my video submission of my teaching for my CNWI (certified nosework instructor) status. I have done everything else required but being so feeble when it comes to selecting and editing video, I've put it off so long that I really have to get it done now or get an extension.
A few days ago as I was driving around town doing some errands I was struck, as I often am, by the feeling that I can't believe how lucky I am, how happy I am now compared to just a few years ago when I was still living a life that really wasn't fulfilling or fun. I knew that my job was a huge source of unhappiness for me but didn't feel I could leave it since I had already put in so many years toward my retirement and would not have been able to have health insurance (until the Affordable Care Act passed which was still very uncertain at the time) if I quit to become self employed. I would also have lost my pension which is miniscule but still nice to have.
But it's more than just not being trapped in a full time, windowless prison that's different now. I'm a different person because I get to decide how to spend my day and because I get to spend it with my dogs. Sometimes it's very stressful and not much fun but at least I can always say to myself that I made the decision to be doing what I was doing. It's been 2 years and 8 months since I retired and things have never been better. My teaching program is gaining students steadily and looks to continue in that direction. I have several very good petsitting, dog walking, boarding and training clients that keep me regularly employed and I'm finally making enough money to be able to afford appropriate vet care for my dogs which was the most stressful part of not having enough money.
Recently I was able to have Devon's spine, hips and elbows radiographed only to find that they see no signs of the lumbo-sacral disease he was diagnosed with when he was young (by a well regarded rehab vet). There were also no signs of arthritis or any kind of abnormality which was the reason I retired him from agility in 2012 (on the advice of another re-hab vet). So, since he's loving doing agility so much and since he's only 4 QQs away from a MACH, I've decided to keep running him until he either shows me some sign of discomfort or until I get sick of going to trials, whichever comes first.
Spriggs is still learning contacts because I'm so lazy and can't seem to be bothered to teach them but she's recently been exhibiting signs of maturity in her handling class that are pretty amazing to see. She's still too apt to rise to the bait if another dog starts something with her so I don't know when her agility debut will happen but I'm not in a hurry. We're having a lot of fun in class and seminars and I find attending agility trials tedious except when it's our turn to run.
Nosework trials, on the other hand, are fun and addicting and Zodi and I very nearly achieved her NW3 title back in October. It's Devon's turn to try NW3 next month and I can't wait to see how it goes. And recently I got to see many of my students achieve their first Nosework titles when I helped to host the first nosework trial in NC. What a thrill! Most Nosework trials in this area require a drive of at least 3-6 hours and many of my students' dogs are not great travellers due to reactivity/fear issues so this trial was their chance to test the training they've been doing with me for over 2 years and they were thrilled to see how well their dogs searched. We had to go out to dinner together to celebrate afterward which was every bit as much fun as titling myself.
My health is still good and I'm still working out three times a week with a trainer. Working out so regularly has made a tremendous difference to my state of mind as much as to my body. I have far less anxiety which used to require medication and I'm able to run better and farther than I could 5-10 years ago. I certainly have my aches and pains but so far nothing requiring surgery so I count myself extremely fortunate.
Even if you pressed me for one, I couldn't come up with a genuine problem or reason to grieve and it may be wrong of me but I can't help but feel that I'm finally--for the first time in my life--in a sweet spot that will have to end someday but hopefully not soon.
I hope every one of you who may be reading this will have a happy holiday and also find that sweet spot this year.