I used to have answers. Time has eroded certainties and I’m back to just having questions. I will never answer those questions because (a) I wouldn’t accept the answer, no matter what it is, and (b) I wouldn’t recognize the answer if it hit me on the head. I’m not wasting any more effort trying to solve life’s great mysteries. I remain curious and if someone else dopes it out, send me the results. I’ve got other urgent issues to address.
Stuff that ends with “ic” and “ology” has moved to the bottom of my list. The meaning of life is less important than figuring out how I’m going to pay for the medication that lets me have a life. I have accepted that I’m not going to win the lottery. Someone will win, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be me. We find ourselves in a strange Neverland where we have too much money to get any kind of assistance, but not enough to live comfortably.
We worked and paid taxes until we got too tired to work any more. It was time to stop paying and start collecting. Retirement was supposed to be the end of stress, the beginning of the rewards.
There are rewards. You go to bed and get up on your own schedule. I don’t even know what day of the week it is most of the time. If you don’t have a job, one day is very much like another. Weekends take me by surprise. If you are in a good marriage, you have time to really enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.
Our memories are a treasure trove. We worked hard and played hard. We did things that other people dream about. Not everything we wanted to do, but a lot. Somehow, we are going to do some more things yet. We haven’t given up on life. Nor will we until life gives up on us.
It has not turned out to be the end of stress. Not even close.
We are afflicted by the problem that afflicts much of our generation: our pension plans are totally inadequate to the world in which we find ourselves. Insufficient to maintain a quality of life that gives us freedom from stress, we are forever between jagged rocks and a very hard place. After making major cutbacks and by eliminating many things we used to do, we hang on. Barely.
Life is punctuated by bouts of clinical insanity and hysterical laughter. It can be weird. That so many other people are in the same or even worse positions is not especially comforting. Rather like being in an over-loaded lifeboat with all your friends. You row for a while, then you start to giggle, then someone says something and you howl with laughter, then with a sigh, you get back to hauling on that oar. I don’t know how we keep going, but we do. Extremely unlikely rabbits pop out of previously undetected hats and we live to row another day.
Life is a loop that replays variations of our personal Cuban Missile Crisis. The world is going to end. No, it isn’t. Yes it is. No, it isn’t, well, not yet anyway. I have trouble staying asleep. Duh.
We adapted, but life after paychecks is not what we planned. Being poor is like wearing too-tight shoes. They aren’t a lot too small, but they pinch. There’s always a blister on your heel or toe. Walking isn’t much fun.Getting older is kind of like that too, except it’s like wearing a body that doesn’t fit. And you don’t have anything else to wear.
But damn, but we did have fun. I had fun. Garry had fun. We had fun together. We still have fun. We just need to fit our fun into an incredibly tight budget, taking into account our arthritic bodies and diminished energy levels.
The final and biggest irony is that all the things we learned in the course of life … nobody is the least bit interested in any of it. Your kids don’t listen and your grandchildren are too busy texting.
Being alive beats out the alternative, so even while we try to figure out how to pay bills and complain about aches and pains, we aren’t sorry about what we did, but we don’t have a plan for the future. I’m pretty sure the future is going to be a lot like the present.
Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most people. We may have made some unfortunate — maybe stupid — choices, but we didn’t wimp out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland.
As for what we’ll do next? Whatever as we can, of course. What other choice is there really?
In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that:
Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.