All my life I have lived in the centre of a whirlpool of fear – fear of bullying, fear of failure, fear of social ostracism, fear of girls, fear of debt, etc. Add to that fear of Soviets and savages and spiders. It’s amazing I made it out of the house some days – it was probably worry about Russians with tarantulas under the bed that got me out of the place.
Well, that was then, this is now. I was young, and then middle-aged, and now I’m not. The fear of business failure was cured by failing – and then living comfortably – and the spider phobia went early in the piece when I started swatting redbacks with my thong. These days being socially ostracized is positively relaxing and debt is expected of us anyway. Girls are still frightening, but I am taking them in small doses and the nervousness is wearing off…
I still get to worry about random attacks of intruders or the collapse of bodily health, but even here the terror is not as great as it might be. There are sensible precautions one can take, and at this age there are a number of dangerous and dreadful options as well that are quite attractive.
The great thing is that you finally realise that no-one knows what is going on, or how to do it, or what they look like, or where it’s at. We all thought so when we were young and quaked or preened with the thought. None of us appreciated what we had half as much as what we thought we wanted – and it is only the fortune of time that’s brought experiences and objects to us to show whether they were worth desiring or dreading. In most cases, nothing was.
But now we oldies have a pretty clear vision of exactly what we don’t give a shit about. The delicate and gentle amongst us – and I include myself in this group – do not go shouting our disdain about to harry others. We merely do not attend, even when we are there. We may have bad ears but we can listen to internal music, and without Apple products either.
Don’t believe me? Look at the ol’ folks on the bus or train. They are the ones enjoying looking out the window or laughing at you as you bend over your mobile phone. You may have no idea where you are and what you look like, but they do.
I’ve tried. With limited success.
When you are young you attempt this for a variety of reasons – the chief one being the period of time before you actually go to sleep. You hope to be busy. If you are lucky, both of you can occupy yourselves profitably in this period, and the less said about that the better. Mind you, if there is money involved in that profit, one of you is doing it wrong…
But after that period in your life, the time spent in bed – the bit where you actually go to sleep – can be increasingly difficult. If sleep is wanted, and needed, you require a few simple things; warmth in winter, coolness in summer, a reasonable silence, and lack of movement. As you get older, these become less likely.
Oh, you may be as much a problem as her, and the equation equal on both sides. I’ll leave you to decide who is the culprit. You may wish to set a night-vision camera in motion at dusk to record who steals the covers, thrashes around like a squid, or snorts like a Union Pacific Mallet locomotive going through Ogden. Then replay it to accuse each other. It will be concrete evidence but you’ll never convince the other party that they are guilty.
The chiefest conclusion that you can come to about adults sleeping together is that the old American sit-com TV shows with the parents sleeping in twin beds instead of a double were not as ludicrous as they seemed. They eliminated at least two factors in the blood-shot-eye battles – movement and covers. The noise of snoring, snorting, gurgling or moaning was still there. Fortunately our hearing declines after 60 and this became less of a problem.
The wild card is provided by children or pets who insist on entering the marital bedroom and hogging the marital bed. Neither class of creature respects privacy, personal space, or the need to avoid flatulence. And they have the infuriating habit of sleeping while they prevent others from doing so. It is the reason dog-whips were invented, and recently I found out that you could use these on dogs as well.
You know – that…thing. You remember – all those years they took that thing away from you. Your teachers did it using the school system. Then your employers did it. All those years.
” What thing? ” I hear you say? ” What’s missing? I got good marks in school and I got a good job. I’ve been going to it for years. I’m still going to it every morning. ”
And you’re coming home from it every evening, with a bit of luck. You’ll need a fair amount of money to do this – money for bus or train fare or money for the car and all its expenses. And you’ll be busy for a while. If you commute from an outer suburb into a city centre or ravel across town on the freeway, you’ll be spending time waiting on platforms or standing on a crowded vehicle as it grinds between stops. You’ll be banked up at the freeway on-ramp and then again at the off-ramp. If it’s cross town you’ll get to see many lights. Red, green, yellow, and then repeat…
The thing they all took from you was the time of your life. You didn’t have it sailing or fishing or dancing or reading novels. You didn’t have it in your hobby room or in bed with your partner. You didn’t have it in the garden or the library. You had it on the train platform or the bus stop or in the car and then it was gone…
You won’t get back the thing they took. But if you are smart you’ll figure out some way to stop giving them any more of it. Sell from home, write from home, invest from home. Make your food at home. Or do it at such a short distance from your bed that you can walk to where you do it. Then you can use the thing to your own advantage.
I’m being sort of smug about this as I have retired and am in the years of play again. I do have a once-a-week bout with morning traffic when I go to my hobby club but I can avoid it on all other occasions. I am not saving time – I’m spending it in the best way I know how.
Upon commencing retirement I read a book of essays by Michel de Montaigne that proved quite inspiring. It was one of the forces that impelled my to increase my daily weblog column output – his essays were the same thing to him – a way of propounding philosophy in easily digested portions.
One of the things he said about retirement was that it should really be retirement – from whatever occupation had formerly used up one’s life. If one were a public figure, one should become a private one. If a commercial entity, this should be foregone for a life away from the marketplace. I would suppose he might have added that if one were a conqueror or warrior it might be nice to beat the sword into a plowshare…or at least into a drinking cup …for the last portion of life.
I am drawn back to this reflection each week as I revisit the camera shop where I was employed. I do have a purpose for going there – to gather material for weekly reviews and columns. But to return to semi-familiar premises while having little to do with day-to-day operations is a little odd.
Drifting through with no responsibility is all very well – and it suits the semi-independent nature of my columns – but it is hard to know which is more disturbing; the changes made to the premises, operations, and staff…or the sameness of it all. I can see things that were genuinely foolish in 2008 that are still foolish.
My lack of responsibility also means a lack of any power – save that of sending in a bill once a month for the writing. And while I cannot be ordered about in daily affairs by the bosses, I can be by the employees – who have far more stake in the place than I.
This may be what a ghost feels like – nearly able to communicate and almost able to touch the living. But with a diminishing degree of care as time goes on.
In the last two years – as a retired person – I have been in touch with many of the people I knew whilst in employment. Some of them are now retired as well. In the case of two of them, I think they were subject to a form of adult bullying in this.
In both cases the businesses for which they worked underwent major changes – in one case bankruptcy and sale of the firm to a rival and in the other, establishment of entirely new premises. I hasten to add the firms concerned were separate ones in two widely differing trades.
In both cases, however, while you might have expected the new management in the one company or the old management in the new building to keep on their most experienced people, this did not prove to be the case. They fired ( retired ) the two people in question but gave as their reason complaints from other staff members.
I am not privy to any of their affairs, but I suspect this is bushwah – neither individual is dishonest or bad mannered. They could not have been as they were both concerned with their own forms of retail trade and dealt with hundreds of customers per week. I think there may have been staff rivalries that were used as levers to sack them. And I think it was a foolish thing.
But, folly or not, it would appear that what was intended as a kiss of death from the other employees may have turned into precisely the opposite. I regularly see reports of hobby activities, trips, and sporting ventures from the two chaps and I suspect they are having the time of their lives. They, like myself, are getting more accomplished now that ever before.
If they were sent to Coventry, they went first-class, and are enjoying the trip. Coventry can be a very pleasant place.
If the bed can spit me out, that is.
Retirement resets your clocks, that’s for sure. When employed away from home I was up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning for a drive to surgery or shop. 48 years of rise and flaming shine. Then the handshake, fountain pen, and valedictory speech…and the alarm on the clock could be turned off.
I was surprised just how quickly I dropped the early routine. It was no conscious decision – I just woke up when I wanted to wake up, and the want-to advanced to about 8:30 in the morning. I must say it has made a difference to how I greet the day. As the bathroom is not so icy and dim, neither am I. I can do my 20 minute ablutions cheerfully, then dress and make the bed before wandering toward the coffee pot.
I do have a place to go to – vital to anyone’s well-being – and it is this keyboard. I’ve four columns to launch each morning and I pride myself on getting them out regularly. The rest of the day may have work or travel or hobby activity, but you have to have that morning intellectual jolt to get going.
Oddly enough, I do not read the comics in the morning – they are a treat reserved for late afternoon – rather like an evening paper.
I do enjoy rush hour on the roads, however. Enjoy it enormously. Can’t get enough of not being out there in the middle of it. It is a daily joy to see the road ragers roaring by and to hear their screams as they collide with each other.
And I enjoy grocery shopping – because I can go when the tills are open and the staff are relaxed. So many foods to see. If only I knew how to cook them properly.
A question that is asked at our supermarket and DIY store checkouts every day. Oddly enough, the people or signs that ask it never really know how our spare change is actually going to be routed to the downtrodden – the answer they give when asked is invariably evasive.
It is not a new phenomenon. My parents were sponsors for a Korean orphan in the 1950’s – a young person supposedly named Park Chun Bok. They sent off money monthly to a charity that was meant to be feeding and educating the young person. I don’t know about food, but eventually some education was forthcoming – my folks found out through magazine journalism that the find they were paying into siphoned off about 80% of the money for ” administrative costs “.
Is this the case with all charitable contributions? One would hope not, but still…when you get a begging letter through the post – as I did this week – asking for money to support what is patently someone’s political ambitions…well, you start to wonder. It is at times like this that I wish we had a chip heater for our bath water to use up the spare paper and cardboard.
Do I ever give charity money? Not as much as once I might…but I still have some respect for several organisations. These are pretty self-effacing ones and do not live high on the hog. They just spend the charity money on the poor.