Exit Stage Left

03 Mar

Do you know what I’ve discovered?    There are 7 major transitions in life, barring a religious conversion, barring any unforeseen mayhem such as war or the world coming to an end, or barring Jesus coming back sporting a T-shirt that says:  “Listen up everybody—I’m back and I’m majorly pissed!”  IMHO there is:

  1. Birth
  2. Marriage/divorce
  3. Having children
  4. Menopause/male mid-life crisis
  5. Becoming empty nesters
  6. Retirement
  7. Death

I’ve completed the first five transitions, and I have two more weeks to go before I exit stage left and enter transition #6 from my job of 14 years that I really enjoy.   It has been interesting watching the reaction of my co-workers to my retirement announcement:

“Listen up, everybody, I’m blowin’ this Popsicle stand, and I’m going to become an entity!”

Each person starts with the same opening line: “Gosh, you’re so lucky, and I’m so jealous—I’ve always wanted to become an ‘entity.’  What exactly is an entity?”   They go on to ask:  “Are you excited?”  Then I watch their eyes widen and the inside voice of their thought-bubble say to their souls:  “I sure hope she knows what the fuck she’s doing, because she’ll never get another job like this. She can’t possibly have enough money to retire at such a young age; what in the hell will she do in the future—work at Wal-Mart?”  Their outside voice says:  “Anyway, you can always get a job somewhere if the writing thingie doesn’t work out.”  Their personal fear of the unknown is palpable.

Retirement Savings raymondjames dot com

To resist being pummeled by their fear, I remembered two things:

  1. I’m younger looking than I really am (thank God, Black don’t crack!), so I don’t have as long on this Earth as they think.  In other words, time is of the essence.
  2. Transitions—from birth to death—are only for the learning, not the be-all or end-all of the journey.  I know this because I’ve been through five other transitions—none of them was the destination—all of them were my personal journey of spiritual growth.

So I go to my happy place which is usually repeating the courageous lyrics of some well-worn spiritual (“Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel—then he will deliver poor-ass me”) or a country music tune (Donald Alan “Don” Schlitz, Jr’s “The Gambler,”), and I try to propel my spirit away from their anxious auras:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,

Know when to walk away, know when to run.

 You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table,

 There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

But being asked the same question in the same manner, day after day, will start to wear down the nerves of Jesus, and before you know it, fear begins to seep in—other people’s fear.  Consequently, I started thinking about all the rejection notices I’ve already received for my manuscript, how the publishing industry is dying, how even if you get published your book will most likely languish on the shelves, how there is already a plethora of opinionated black women on the scene dispensing “Mother-Earth” advice to the culture (Oprah, Whoopi, Wendy, Iyanla), and the Supreme Court has ruled that we can only have four such black women like this flooding the airwaves with their opinions at any given time.  (Just kidding, trolls; save your hate mail!)  All these realities make me want to run back into the comforting arms of my employer and beg to be kept on until I’m 102 doing anything, even if my soul shriveled up in the process.  That would be safe; that would be predictable.

snoopy rejection III

Retirement Writer mysteryreadersinc dot blogspot dot com

And when I am awash in the worries of others, I become a cast member in my own “Amazing Race” episode, and I start to dream.  Two nights ago I dreamt that WW (my husband) and I were stranded in the hinterlands of Alaska (if you knew me, you’d know that being stranded in Alaska would be my definition of Hell—especially if Sarah P. was anywhere within 100 miles of me).  We were told by some amorphous voice, which sounded suspiciously like Sarah Palin’s, that the only way to get to our next destination was to pilot our own plane out of there.  There was only one problem:  neither one of us had ever flown a plane before.  Also, the rules stated that we could not both fly in the same plane—each person had to pilot their own aircraft.   After much consternation, a retired old WWII pilot volunteered to help WW fly his plane since it was bigger and more complicated (a 12-seater that was won by a coin toss that could make it all the way to New York City).  I was given a 7-seater plane (all they had left) that could just make it to Seattle, but if I lived I could hop on a commercial flight to New York.  WW’s plane took off first and after a lot of spinning around on the tarmac like a dog chasing its tail, I managed to get my plane aloft.   I watched WW’s plane scale the high mountain in front of us, but no matter what I did, no matter how I maneuvered, no matter how much I cried and prayed, I couldn’t pull my plane up high enough to fly over the mountain.  To say I lost the nightmare game would be an understatement.*


Shaken, but not deterred, I went to work the next day determined to shake off the fear-fest that I kept running into.  After all, I knew that the remarks from my co-workers were made out of genuine concern for me as well as the thought of what they too would someday have to face.   All my “counselors” could hear the voices of their mothers and fathers decades ago saying to them as they went off to college:  “Pick something to study and an occupation that you can make money from, not something that tickles your fancy.  Tickling your fancy won’t pay the bills, young lady.”

But that night, I dreamt again.  This time it was about Death.  I had skipped retirement completely and was now headed to the great beyond—whether Heaven or Hell, I could not tell.

ME:                        Excuse me, please, where am I?

DEATH:                 For lack of a better word:  Purgatory.

ME:                        How can that be?  I’m not Catholic.  I don’t believe in Purgatory.  In my belief system, I go straight to the top.

DEATH:                 Seriously?  Did you ever think you might be wrong?

ME:                        Hell, no!  What’s the point in having a religion if you might be wrong?

DEATH:                 Oh, this is sweet!  This will be a good one for my blog titled, “Another one bites the dust and is surprised to find out she didn’t have all the correct answers”!

ME:                        You have a blog?  Does the whole damn world AND the underworld have bloggers?

DEATH:                 Does a bear shit in the woods?

ME:                        Fine, Mr. Smart-Ass!  Can you at least tell me what I’m doing here?    I had no warning, and I don’t even remember going through transition 6:  retirement.

DEATH:                 Warning?  Your entire life was a warning that I’d be dropping by at some point.  You knew transition #7 was coming—it waits for no man.  My orders were to pick up a mouthy, slightly chunky, blinged-out diva who was retiring in a couple of weeks, but whose time had come to an end.

ME:                        That’s the point.  My time didn’t come to an end.  I never got to retire.  I didn’t get my book published, and I didn’t become a humorous, joy-spewing, life-enforcing motivational speaker.  Look at all the millions of people I didn’t get to encourage in their life’s journey.  You interfered, you S.O.B!

DEATH:                 Hey, hey, hey—don’t blame me.   From what little I could see, you got all wrapped up in other people’s fears and “what ifs,” and you got frozen in place due to fear of the unknown and the naysayers. You thought you could take protected incremental steps rather than leaping with full abandonment into the great unknown to explore the rest of your pathetic little life.   You assumed you had more time than you did—big mistake—huge!

ME:                        You mean I should have exited the stage when first given the opportunity?

DEATH:                 Yep, stage left no less.

ME:                        Would I have reached my goals?

DEATH:                 How the fuck would I know?  My name’s Death, not God Almighty.  Speaking of which, you’re being summoned to give an account of your life.   Get that spirit moving, because its best not to keep the powers that be waiting.


I am discovering that I’ve always known when to “exit stage left” at any given point in life—most people do, but not everybody listens to that still small voice in their inner being.  And the couple times that I have ignored that instinct and overstayed my welcome, those times have been my most regrettable mistakes and time wasted that I’d love to take back again.  It takes a lot of courage to move on to the next level and walk into the unknown, but refusing to do so is not living—its treading water, and once you’re tired, the end result is that you drown.  All I know is that there is never enough time, never enough money, and never enough daylight to do everything we want to do.  But because I am fully aware that it is later than I could possibly imagine, I must take a giant leap into that wild abyss and explore what lies ahead.

Calvin and Hobbes lets go exploring

Calvin and Hobbes||Cartoonist Bill Watterson


“Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’

Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.

‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,

And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

Songwriter:  Donald Alan “Don” Schlitz, Jr.

“There are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom.” –Michael A. Singer

“It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second. While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.”Michael A. Singer from The Untethered Soul

Fear of the unknown mylifeasafocusgroup dot com

*The dream about the airplanes was an actual dream that happened a couple nights ago.  The discussions with Death were not—praise God!

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

27 responses to “Exit Stage Left

  1. becomingcliche

    March 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    You will do this thing. I have no doubt!

    I, too, am facing the uncertain and rapidly changing publishing world. It’s daunting, but like you, I’m trying to tune out the naysayers. Here’s to a fantastic tomorrow!

    • etomczyk

      March 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      Definitely, BC. Let’s raise a glass of great possibilities in the future for both of us.

  2. georgefloreswrite

    March 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Another excellent post, Eleanor. You totally rock! May the right deal happen for you.

    • etomczyk

      March 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      George. Thanks so much! Wishing you the best as well. Take care, my friend.

  3. Valentine Logar

    March 4, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Fear is a terrible thing, chokes us all at one point or another. You are an inspiration for not only facing your fears but showing the rest of us how you are doing it (with humor no less). There are many ways to get published, you are so right the world is changing, but there are many ways to get your words out there and do it so people will see them, read them ultimately you will reach your audience. Authors are doing it every single day. I have faith in you.

    • etomczyk

      March 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Val: You’re such a sweetheart. Thanks so much for the spot-on encouragement which I’ll really take to heart, my friend. All the best.

  4. imagesbytdashfield

    March 4, 2013 at 7:36 am

    I am sure you will get into something that will keep you going and going…I do love the quotes you find (and of course the cartoons). We both need to keep plugging away at the star we are reaching for.

    • etomczyk

      March 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      TD: so true, so true. It really helps to know there are others like you working so hard to have their creative voices heard who are so talented. The least I can do is never give up. Thanks for the great encouragement.

      • etomczyk

        March 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

        TD: WW and I were literally barreling down the highway while I answered my comments and every time we hit a bump the auto correct engaged and changed the spelling. What a hoot! I’m sure there are more! 🙂

      • imagesbytdashfield

        March 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

        Were you two “ridin dirty”? LOL

      • etomczyk

        March 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm

        TD: You are a riot! If we lived near each other, we would be holy terrors together! (You know that is one of my favorite songs, don’t you?) I sing it at the top of my lungs as I fly down the highways and the byways in my navy-blue, pimped-out minivan with, top-grade navy-blue leather seats, remote doors, and 10 speakers (got to have the easily converted van to carry my plants for my garden) blastin’ my tunes: “They see me rollin’, they hatin’, patrollin’, they tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty. . .tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty, trying to catch me ridin’ dirty. . .” Ha! (I once asked WW why other cars in front of me would pull over, let me pass, and then get back on the highway many links behind me while giving me the finger? He just slammed his face in his hands and shook his head in complete and utter disbelief–LOL!)

  5. Sondra Smith

    March 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    One of the hardest lessons, is to not fear change. I am still working on this one! I do know that to embrace change and not fear it, is to live in true freedom. It seems that just when I am comfortable, enjoying the comfy chair, life looks at me and says hmmmm lets shake this up. The chair is turned over, and I am sitting on my ass, wondering what the hell just happened.
    I will tell you I am not happy looking at your list! I am also at the retirement bullet point on your life list and there is only one more left! I would like to prolong that change for as long as possible.
    Once again E, you put into words and painted a picture that we can all relate to, ponder and take it in, bravo!

    • etomczyk

      March 10, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Hey Sondra. Thanks for the wonderfully supportive words. You’ve been such a great friend through all of this writing journey. You’re one if the reasons I know things are going to be okay! Take care, my friend.

  6. talesfromthemotherland

    March 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I’m pretty sure, that if your publishing dreams are to stand a rat’s ass chance, you need to add a new #7: Post retirement adventures. No doubt, with you Eleanor, it will be an adventure! I for one can’t wait to read your story. Like Becomingcliche, I’m right in the midst of all this publishing stuff… I just need to get off my duff and Nike the bitch! For real. I am holding myself back, and need to get past all of my fear (I so hear you on that!) and do it. Own this retirement friend; you are on fire!

  7. momshieb

    March 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Well, I can’t wait for you to get out there and start giving those inspirational speeches. I’ll be right there in the front row, soaking up the wisdom.
    You’ll do it; I have no doubt!

    • etomczyk

      March 11, 2013 at 5:50 am

      Thanks Momshieb for the great shot of encouragement. Let’s just say, I won’t fail for lack of trying, that’s for sure. Take care.

  8. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer

    March 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I think we all think too much. Just do what you feel like doing, and that’s that.

  9. Elyse

    March 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    You go girl! And the critics? They’ll learn. And when you meet them in the future, you will remember what jerks they were, and you will smile knowingly. As they say, success is the best revenge.

    • etomczyk

      March 11, 2013 at 5:39 am

      Elyse: From your lips to God’s ears, my friend!

  10. aFrankAngle

    March 7, 2013 at 8:21 am

    E-Tom …. You embrace life, so retirement or not is no big deal … neither is death on the doorstep. Loved your conversation with Death! … and as for you mention of SP, you did well … no counseling needed.

    • etomczyk

      March 11, 2013 at 5:38 am

      Frank: I was hoping you approved of my SP moderation. 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement. I am looking forward to this new adventure. All the best.

      • aFrankAngle

        March 11, 2013 at 6:46 am

        You did very well!

  11. nonnie9999

    March 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    you missed a step, dearest eleanor. after retirement, you get to take advantage of cheaper movie tickets and the senior citizen menus at restaurants. dinner at 3 and never worrying about turning off your turn signal. celebrating all the times you almost but didn’t break your hip, and, best of all, looking better than your friends who are the same age.

    p.s. i want a signed copy of the book. 😀

    • etomczyk

      March 11, 2013 at 5:24 am

      Nonnie. You are so correct! The other night WW and I were talking about going out to dinner and he said, “let’s go to the new restaurant because I have a coupon,” and I said, “but let’s not eat past 6:00 because now adays eating late gives me bad gas.” Oh, for God’s sake: who are these old farts?

      P.S. Since I consider it an honor that you read my humble blog: a signed copy of the book is a deal! 🙂

  12. Kirsten

    March 11, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Let the adventures begin!!!

  13. Lindy Lee

    March 11, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    #7 is the worst in your list of life’s passages for sure but it’s not actual death that mortifies me–
    it’s the way death will come & how much torture will be involved.

    BTW, I’m hopeful that retirement will afford you more time to write more of these entertaining posts…

    • etomczyk

      March 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Lindy Lee: I know what you mean about death. The process is the formidable part. But hopefully neither one of us will experience that for many years.

      Thanks so much for the gracious kudos about my writing. I really appreciate your wonderful support. ET


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