“Hi Heidi, what are you doing?”
“I am organizing my new home office space, so I can start coaching families.”
That is how the telephone walkabout with my sister, Heidi, began. I was supposed to go to Atlanta to get in a real walk with her. But as I am recovering, and apparently, she is succumbing to this upper respiratory crud, we decided to talk on the phone.
Heidi has always been a refuge for damaged people and all animals. As a young girl she raised rabbits and collected friends who needed her love and acceptance. In college, she studied to be a special education teacher. But it wasn’t enough for Heidi to work in the special education classroom in the public schools. She worked with the severely emotionally and physically handicapped children in separate facilities. She loved this work. Any little breakthrough she saw in the children brought her joy.
Once she had her two sons, her focus shifted to caring for and encouraging them. She was involved in their school, and this was also a time when her creativity flourished. She quilted. She made porcelain dolls. Maybe she needed to have her own creative, feminine haven with all the male testosterone in the house.
By the time her boys had left for college, she had settled in Greenville, SC. With more time on her hands, she decided to open a bead shop in downtown Greenville. She created an atmosphere in the bead shop that not only drew crafters, but also drew people who needed a respite from whatever was happening in their lives. The shop became a place of healing and creating. Can you see the theme in Heidi’s story? Creativity and caring/healing. When she finally had to close the shop because of rising rents downtown, it was a loss that is still felt by some of her patrons.
Heidi moved to Atlanta about 5 years ago. As happens with any change or transition, it took a while to find her purpose again. A few years ago, she took a job at a residential recovery facility for people with substance use disorder. She recognizes the struggles the residents are dealing with. She told me she has developed more empathy and patience and less judgment through this work.
But now she is ready to move on. Retire is the word she used; now that she has turned 65 and qualifies for Medicare. She wants to work fewer hours, so she has more time for her crafts and self-care.
She has agreed to work part-time (20 hrs.) as a coach for an organization that coaches families of people in recovery. Her current place of employment has asked her to stay on part-time (another 20 hrs.) to continue her work with medical records.
Which is how we started the conversation, with her organizing a home office to use for coaching and possibly some remote work for her current employer. Time will tell whether this arrangement will give her the flexibility she is looking for in “retirement.”
One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. She wrote, “what is the gift that I should bring to the world?” Heidi’s gift has always been caring for the ones who need some extra care. In this next act of her life, she will be experimenting with her new arrangements. And she brings her gifts with her.
Oh, and the animals? Heidi has a pet gecko, Gordon.
She is actually a semi-permanent foster grandmother to Gordon. He will keep her company in her new office.