Balancing The Forces

It has been a year now since I have semi-retired. Friends ask how I’m doing, what it’s like.

The truth? I’m a living science experiment. My semi-retirement is an example of centripetal force and centrifugal force.

Centrifugal force is that force that pushes an object away from the center of a rotating object. If you’re on one of those carnival rides that rises and rotates, it is centrifugal force that pushes your chair away from the center pole as you spin. My retirement is my centrifugal force. It makes me step away from the center, reluctant to involve myself in things that aren’t worth my time. It keeps me inoculated from office politics, and places me in the middle of huge swaths of solitude. It makes me grateful that I will never have to willingly spend time with a twit again.

Centripetal force is what pulls things toward the center of a rotation, keeping it neatly moving in a circle. Back to the carnival, it is centripetal force that keeps you in your seat when you’re suspended upside down at the top of a roller coaster loop. It’s the “semi” in my retirement that keeps me coming back to the center of action, getting involved in writing groups, taking cooking classes, taking an interest in local politics. Perhaps it’s ego, but the sting of answering “Nothing” to the query about what I do for a living keeps my calendar filled.

But here’s the key. If you read about these forces, there’s an important clue in the definition: “In a properly rotating part, such as a wheel, both forces must be equal. If the centripetal force is overcome or ceases to exist, the wheel will ‘explode,’ the parts flying off in all directions.”

So what is semi-retirement like? It’s trying to find the balance so the parts don’t fly off in all directions.

This post was originally featured on Helen’s blog, Stilettos Not Required. Photo via



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