Is It All That It’s Cracked Up To Be? #2


Yes, the passage of time can be tough, especially when one accumulates so much stuff. I was scrambling my brain for another word to describe the things, but stuff just hits the mark. 

Since I was facing retirement in a few months, I started with the easier stuff in my desk drawers.  I can’t possibly be emotionally connected to office supplies, can I? Maybe I can. 

I had highlighters of all colors. Same for Post-it notes. How many pens did I really need? I bought  my own favorite pens over the years, same with the Post-it notes and those highlighters. I also had these notorious sticky arrows of various colors. Oh how I adored those arrows! I could put them on hard copy police reports when I reviewed them years ago. Reminders of typos or awkward sentences or questions I had. Notorious I say because I periodically overhead team members talk about those arrows. “Sarge loves those arrows, huh?” “ My reports looked like an art project after she got to it!”

The officers that didn’t mind the arrow feedback or corrections would gather the arrows up and give them back to me for reuse. Some team members preferred to trash them. I didn’t take it personally. Now I wonder how much more money I could have invested in my 457(b)  (Deferred Compensation) account if I just settled for BPD office supplies. They certainly didn’t have nice pens or colorful sticky arrows for the members of the department. Ok. Let it go, Mary. Let it go. 

Ah pens. Yes, I held them too.

There were pens from companies, pens from retirement celebrations, pens from conferences, pens from other City of Berkeley departments, pens, pens, pens. There were a few pencils in there too. Dump in Free Box, Mary. No joy sparking. Occasionally a colleague would ask to borrow a pen. (Perhaps a little memory joy building) I’d open that top drawer, offer a few different pen options and say, “Oh, just keep it. I have a lot.”

Every time I moved to a new police assignment, it was an ordeal. I often said that we outgrew our building before we moved into it. I can certainly attest because moving from the old Hall of Justice to the Ronald T. Tsukamoto Public Safety Building was an ordeal. Each move meant some type of purging process, recycling, reuse and lots of confidential paper shredding. 

Curiously, this retirement downsizing I was doing didn’t feel like an ordeal. Throughout, I felt heavy, then light. I felt pride and self doubt. I felt loneliness and togetherness. I now welcomed each shift of those remaining police patrol days with a renewed hope. I reminisced with colleagues who were also friends. I took risks in conversations and I felt that my candor/humor/total irreverence often surprised people. I always had quite a bit of it, but I believe my coworkers were looking at me with a new lens. True, I was a bit more edgy. As they say, “What are they going to do, fire me?!” I still had a month plus to go to my retirement date then, so yes, there was a chance they could have. 

Is It All That it’s Cracked Up To Be? #1 


I could tell you that I took an intentional hiatus from writing. I could tell you that my absence was purposeful and planned. But I am not in the habit of lying. Avoiding the truth, Yes… downright lies, No.

Everything I jotted down in the last few months seemed sappy and self indulgent. I was lifted one day and down trodden the next. I figured no one would want to read all that. 

The truth is that I retired from the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) on August 12, 2017. When I went to the CALPers (CA. Public Employees Retirement System) office and signed my retirement papers in May, I was both excited and scared as sh$t. I hate to admit it but since 1994, policing had defined so much of me. It has reshaped my compassion and challenged my politics. During many long nights, it has consumed my thoughts while reinvigorating old wounds. 

I say that I couldn’t have asked for a better last day at work. That is not a lie. The shift was simple and sweet and full of exquisite surprises. It is truly the little things that mean the most to me. 

I think I did it right. I had a few months to plan. I had a few months to process emotionally. I had a few months to savor time with colleagues and my team. I had a few months to shed myself of so much “stuff”. 

During the final months, I reminisced about reading and following the book, “The Art of Tidying”. I started with my desk drawers in the Patrol Sergeants’ office. I created a Free Box and started dumping useable things in it…flashlights, office supplies, swag from other departments, conference lanyards and business cards. I held each item. Does it spark joy? Ahhh a sticker from a tactical gear company. Hmmm, does this spark joy? Naw, not so much.  I put it in the Free Box. 

One by one, I held the contents of my top drawer. Some conjured memories of years past, of accomplishments, the ups and downs of my career and of opportunities lost. Occasionally as I sat with stuff scattered on my desk, I would laugh out loud or tears would burn in the corners of my eyes. The passage of time is tough.