Monday, July 26, 2004


JULY 23, 2004

For me, there’s lots of time to think.  Of course it’s not this way for every retired person...there are those who begin a second career or get a job at WalMart, or take up a hobby that’s been long deferred.  We won’t even talk about those people who never retire…or maybe we will….

What started me thinking (THIS TIME!) was a conversation I had with a friend in the states yesterday.  She’s a few years older than I am, very active, still working.  Her husband is a very successful businessman, and I really don’t think she would have to work unless she wanted to, which she does.  The thought of not working and doing “nothing” has absolutely no appeal for her. 

The company her husband works for was recently bought out, and for a while they both figured that he would be laid off.  That possibility is still there, but not as certainly as they had first thought.  Since he must be in his mid to late 50’s, and has worked for this company a long time, if he were to be laid off, I’m sure there would be a very generous severance package. 

For many people in his shoes, this would signal the end of their working days….an opportunity to be seized and savored.  My friend told me that if this should happen to her husband, she just can’t’ imagine him not working.  She said she can’t imagine him EVER not working! And the thought of the two of them being together 24/7 was not appealing.

This isn’t because they have grown apart or fallen out of love…quite the contrary.  This is just something that she doesn’t think would work, and if you had asked me about that same possibility for me and Art, I would have said the same thing.  While absence may make the heart grow fonder, familiarity DOES breed contempt. 

So far, Art and I have done okay, with no more than an occasional heated disagreement, and we had those in the states too.  But here we are, with every day spread out in front of us like a blank newspaper each morning.  Should we read, or go for a walk?  Water the garden?  Maybe straighten up, run the vacuum, try to tame the never-ending dust?

Art is so dedicated and disciplined; he studies his Italian every day for at least three hours.  I usually read, or write like now, or peruse the internet.  And then there are the times when I just sit and think.  Yesterday’s conversation got me to thinking again.  My friend is definitely a type “A” personality, as am I.  Driven.  Strong.  Opinionated.  Impatient.  So if she doesn’t think this freedom and togetherness would work for her, why do I think it will work for me?

I wouldn’t mind being a more patient person, or a less driven person.  But how do you change your basic personality?  I know about the type “A” personalities, and assume that there must be a type “B”, but are there also types “C” “D” “E” etc, and what are the traits of these other types? Would it be possible for me to change?

And then I started to think that this was really not the root of the problem.  The real problem seems to be that I am still very much aware of what other people think, or how other people might perceive my life.  Why, after all this time, am I so concerned with what other people think?  Insecurity?  Maybe guilt?  Maybe I need to work on the self confidence that I was able to project but never really feel in my heart. 

Many actors confess to being painfully shy, and the general public often sees this as a contradiction.  For the actor, there IS no contradiction; THEY are not on stage…their character is on stage.  These people use their characters to hide from the world, or at least to hide their real feelings and emotions. 

Although I’m definitely not shy, I do mask my insecurities with a very strong personality, and people just assume that I’m very self confident. 
And now, when other people’s opinions should matter the least in my life, I seem to be controlled by them.  Think about it…no boss to please, no teacher to impress.  I don’t have to set a good example for my children or worry about offending a co-worker.  I’m no longer trying to “get ahead” and those closest to me are fully aware of my character flaws…and yet they seem to like me anyway!  (The true definition of love!)

If only I could relax and enjoy…but how to do MAKE yourself do that?  And if you have to MAKE yourself do that, isn’t that a little contradictory?  I think I’m in the situation that some stay-at-home moms face…Yes, you ARE an equal partner.  Yes, you DO contribute, just not monetarily.  But how many of these women secretly feel that they are less than their spouse?  Or less than their working friends?  It all sounds good in theory, but in reality things are often quite different. 

I think that I feel that at age 52 I’m really too young to be retired.  I didn’t work long enough or save enough to justify this early retirement.  I do know that it was because of my discipline and conservative financial attitude that we were in a position to retire when we did.  But….we’re living on Art’s pension, and I contribute nothing.  I feel guilty about that sometimes.  And the rest of the time I blame George Bush and his lack of concern over the decline of the dollar. 

Time to fix a glass of iced tea and go sit in the garden to read a book….Enjoy the tranquility and the mild temperature….Listen to the cicadas….Count time with the chiming of the church bells.  In other words….start enjoying my retirement!


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