From a Couch – Sunrise over Miami Beach
It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a month on a couch. It’s been 40 years to be exact. It was because of a new teaching job, my first one, that brought me to a couch back then. It was the beginning of a job in a land I had never been to before. I lived on the couch of a fellow teacher. That’s how desperate they were for a teacher. They offered a couch until I could find my own.
Fast forward 40 years and here I am, finding myself once again on a couch. In the past month that I’ve been on this couch, a school year ended, a teaching career ended, four weeks of caring for a daughter while she recovered from life threatening surgery has come and almost gone by, I met and took care of a puppy, experienced intense heat like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and now, finally, I realize that I have retired. I am not going back to a job. That relief is just beginning to come. The realization of all this came while I spent many a night on a couch overlooking the Miami skyline.
It’s funny how far away this whole experience in Miami is from the life I lead. Yet I find unlikely similarities to the life Erin grew up in. Yesterday she pulled me to her view. “Look at the light,” she said. “Look at how we can see the rain coming. Look at the colors of the clouds and how different they are.” A vivid memory of when she was young was before me. She grew up watching rain approach, clouds change color and move across the sky, and embracing colors of a sky full of sunrise and sunset in clear view. While she may not want to admit this similarity, it’s there. She spent her early years living on top of a hill with a view that went clear across Maine to the White Mountains in NH. Many of us often think that we shed the early life we led. Sometimes very intentionally. Yet here she is, again high up in the sky looking across the land below and seeing a landscape that goes for miles.
Views from a couch can alter the world we see and how we observe that world. Beds are usually comfortable, providing a safe respite at the end of each day. But views from a couch are often due to transitional events. Events that may leave us feeling unsettled, unsure. But this view from an unexpected couch also provides an unexpected opportunity to see life through a different lens. There’s something to be said about putting ourselves in situations that leave us feeling a bit off guard, open, vulnerable. Couches often do that. So during what is only my second real couch experience I find that this vulnerability leaves me reflecting and evaluating where I am in my life. A month ago, with the comfort of my home bed, I was feeling a variety of uneasy feelings regarding the notion of not working and being retired. Let me tell you that those feelings have slowly slipped away into the pillows of the couch I sleep on and the view I close my eyes to.
As we prepare our return back north I find a sense of calm relief and anticipation to start this new life of retirement. I also find myself wishing a person didn’t have to work their ass off for 40 years to experience this. Our society’s work to life ratio is all wrong and I hope that the generation coming of age today can see that more clearly than we and our ancestors did and that they can change that. Because our young families need that. They need their time together so they can develop a more healthy community rather than a more stressed one. I believe the mental health of our future society will depend on this.
May you have the opportunity to slow down, look up at the sky, and enjoy the beauty it has to share.