I believe there’s a statement that’s just as true as “youth is wasted on the young.”
Retirement is wasted on the old.
I’ve always said that my father’s retirement killed my mother. For years, his profession had been everything; he practiced medicine all day and studied medical books at night. Suddenly, he found himself with nothing to practice and no reason to study; he didn’t know what to do with himself.
He would follow Mama around the house like a forlorn old mutt, whining for attention. He knew she liked to play cards, so he would always have a deck in his hands; she gave in often and played, even though she was much sharper than he was, and could have beaten him at every game with very little effort.
“I wish he’d find something else to do,” she’d whisper to me. “I’ve been alone at home for years; my days had a pattern. Mornings were for housework, afternoons were for sewing, and evenings were for my novelas. Now, I have to stop what I’m doing and entertain him; it’s driving me crazy.”
I retired before Jeff did, so when my days became free, there was no one here at home to entertain me.
I applied for two or three jobs I didn’t get, hoping to recapture a sense of worth, and I accepted the opportunity to do some freelance work for a friend, so I could feel my life had some purpose.
It didn’t take up very much time, though, so I spent a huge portion of my first year as a retiree playing Scrabble on my computer.
I also started my blog, but I only wrote intermittently. Writing for my own pleasure felt almost masturbatory; it had been too many years since I had allowed myself to spend daylight hours gratifying myself by expressing my own ideas. Publishing a post, while necessary, was as embarrassing as standing at a window naked and yelling out, “I’m having an orgasm!”
Now there’s an image I want to remove from my mind!
So I kept playing Scrabble… and watching TV…and deteriorating both physically and mentally.
Then, a few months ago, I got the itch to blog again… and discovered that there was a community of people who wrote and published something every day, shamelessly and happily. I decided to shuck my inhibitions and try it for a few days… then a few weeks… and with a few days off here and there, I’ve been blogging every day for nearly three months.
You know what? I may still have the body of an old woman, but my mind is now about nineteen years old.
I feel like the kid who used to lock herself away in a bedroom and write. She produced poems filled with adolescent angst, and plays no one would ever act in. That didn’t matter; the important thing was to watch the words hit the paper. They could form characters that had never lived before; invent plots that were unlikely to play out in reality, express feelings too deep to display when one is a real person with a fear of rejection.
Why had I stopped writing like that?
Well, because I’d started writing to make a living. I’d learned how to make my words factual, informative, brand-compliant, and uncontroversial.
And after eight hours of this, five days a week, who the hell has the inspiration to come home and be creative?
Who has the time while living an adult life: raising kids, navigating a marriage, and participating in a community?
Some people do, I guess… but I didn’t.
Not until I retired.
I’ve started painting, too… something else I loved to do in my teens. I remember being scolded when I spent too much time working at my youthful canvasses. “You think you’ll ever make a living doing this? Go do something useful!”
It doesn’t matter if I’m useful now. I’m never going to make a living again; now, I can paint, or write, or shoot hoops, or dye all my cats deep purple, and it’s more than okay: It’s GREAT! I’m not preparing for a life, or a career, or parenthood, or any of those daunting things that stood in my path back when I was a kid. I’m just here to have fun until I’m not here anymore.
I still feel sheepish when I start a new post, or start prepping a picture; I’m afraid Jeff will think I’m wasting my time when I could be doing housework, or something of value. But he doesn’t feel that way; he encourages me and takes pride in what I’m doing. He tells me I’ve earned the right to follow my bliss; I’m trying very hard to believe him and internalize that sentiment.
My kids also like what I’m doing now . They’re never going to show their families the crap I produced during my working years, but I hope and suspect that they’ll share what I’m currently producing.
It’s so much more meaningful.
I’m no longer working for a living, but the work I’m doing is giving me life.