We often use the expression ” dodging the bullet ” to celebrate avoiding some horrid fate…and if you have been associated with as many amateur entertainments as I have, you’ll have a fair idea what a horrid fete is…
It is also a way of looking at life in retirement – the situation in which I now find myself. Two years in, and I have learned a few things:
a. You can sleep in, but only to the extent that the sun, the tradespeople, and the cat will permit. One or other of these will have you up to match their schedule.
b. You will get on your wife’s nerves. She will get on your nerves. Designate specific areas of the house where you can go to avoid each other for some portion of the day. The rest of the time will see a much better relationship.
Note: Wire, mines, and machine gun pillboxes are probably going a little overboard – just pick two rooms.
c. Your friends who are still working will be glad to see you, but on their timetable and their terms. They have busy lives to lead and may not appreciate you mooching about when they are exhausted. Be sensible.
d. If you do not need to go to the shops to buy anything, do not go to the shops to fill time. There are better things to do with it.
e. You can get a great deal of pleasure by listening to the morning and afternoon radio reports of traffic jams on the Freeway in peak hour. The best place to do this is at your kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee.
f. Use the special seating on the trains and buses. If you are a senior, it is there for you.
g. Wear out your old clothes. Wear them out by wearing them – out. No-one is looking and no-one cares. Just make sure they are clean.
h. Pursue that hobby. You may take it further than it has ever gone.
i. When people are polite and kind to you, be polite and kind in return. When people are not polite and kind to you, still be polite and kind to them. Repeatedly, and in public view. Until they get the message.
If necessary, help them along by explaining how to be polite and kind.
j. Expect some memory glitches. Where is my coffee? I had a cup of it started just before I sat down. No, seriously, I did…
k. As an older person, you may not sleep as well as you used to. Since you do not need to rise at 5:00AM to chop down trees, you needn’t go instantly to sleep at 9:00PM. By all means stay up late and read new books.
l. Expect former work colleagues to forget you. It is not a sign of disrespect – it is just the pressure of new demands that continues to flood into their lives. You are out of that pool and need not re-enter it.
m. ” Annual Holidays ” and ” Vacations ” might seem less valuable now – now that each day is free. This is a perceptual trap.
Certainly, the desperate relief of pressure that you used to feel when you got your annual week or two weeks is gone. But it was never an easy thing – it used up the first three days of any break you had, and there was always the nagging fear that you might be called back into work. And the feeling of impending doom when you thought of the re-start date coming closer.
No more. You cannot be doomed by former workmates and bosses. They are busy dooming each other and you are out of the blast circle. You are, quite simply, free.
Soooo…about the annual vacation business…
Why does it have to be annual? Why can’t it be every 6 months? Why can’t it be three days in the middle of the week now? No reason at all, save the monetary aspect. And does it have to be a big, annual, pressure-relieving, pressure-inducing, official escape? Can it now be a small pleasure jaunt?
Of course it can.
Give up the idea of the ” vacation “. You have nothing to vacate. You have time to spare, and time to fill. Fill it with something good – something new, if you like new, or something old, if that is your comfort.
Go see what you like and do what you like. If you don’t know what these two things are, now is the time to find out – go and do a wide variety of things and see how you feel. You might discover you’re a beach sitter who loves the nothing life. or you might hate it. You might find you are a planned tourist – or you might just like a pub chair and a book. You might find anything, if you go and look.
Be careful. You might find yourself being happy…
n. At the age of retirement, you get to mentally review a lot of things.
No, I still do not know where flies go in winter – I am just content if they stay away from me in summer. But you get to review the people you are in contact with and decide whether you wish to stay in contact with them. You really do have a choice.
I’ve made my own list of people I wish to remain in contact with. I’ve also made another list. Neither require dramatic action – I seek the company of people on one list and avoid that of people on the other. The basic result is an increase of happiness for me. That achieved, I am a better friend and companion. Of course chance may throw me in or out of contact with either lot, but I try to remain calm about it. I am a reader of P.G. Wodehouse and the character of Jeeves is a great assistance in some situations.
m. At the age of retirement, you can eat and drink less than before. Heavy consumption is unpleasant. But you can still appreciate good food and drink, and as you are taking less of it, the little you do have can be of much better quality.
It can be cooked and served professionally, if you’ve got the money. If not, you can prepare it yourself and enjoy it in your own home. This has many advantages; you need not eat impossible melanges of modern food – you can stick to classics. You can experiment with flavours – with no scowling chef bullying you. You need fear no wait-staff with bad attitudes – you can be smarmy to yourself, and need not leave a tip.
n. The coffee. I found it. It was by the telephone. Why didn’t you tell me it was by the telephone?
o. You will get scam phone calls and computer messages all the time. Of course you will never fall for them, but you can spend some time playing with the criminals who perpetrate them. They regard you as a gullible old fool, who can be cozened and bullied into letting them have access to your financial secrets. They are vogelfrei…
I find it best to be ready – if you’ve a quick wit you can have some marvellous fun. In the past I have sung Broadway songs to one, shamed one with religious sermons, convinced one that they had been patched through to the quarterdeck of a Navy ship docked at Fremantle harbour, and demanded the delivery of white phosphorus howitzer shells from another.
I have refused life insurance upon the grounds that I was a train robber and lived too dangerous a life to get insurance, and kept another going for a half-hour on the basis of being a kindly and bumbling old fellow who was nearly succeeding in doing what they wanted on my computer, but not quite achieving it…
Of course, if I am frying bacon at the time or fresh out of the shower I am brusque. I’m pleased that a workmate was able to teach me a series of Croatian swear words, and I wish that someone could supply me with a similar list in Hindi or Arabic.
p. Speaking of computers, you may find out many new things that you did not know with these. You will also find out that the computer does not know many of the things that YOU know. And much of what you do know, you can recognise as being distorted, false, or foolish when it is spread out on Facebook, Twitter, or innumerable private websites.
The fact that you know better in some instances should give you cause for pause – if the almighty computer got it wrong in something that you know the truth of, you should also suspect that there could be many other instances where it is wrong.
You still have a public library, and you still have your native intelligence. These do not get hacked. Use them.