FREE OR AT LEAST VERY CHEAP

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The best thing about retirement is not working. It may sound obvious, but not as much as you think. Not these days when many people either start a new career when they “retire,” or need to take some kind of crappy job to supplement social security which isn’t enough to live on.

There are plenty of other life changes that come with retirement. Not working is only one of them, but it’s my favorite. Pity it means giving up a steady paycheck, but if you can do it … not working is wonderful. It’s particularly wonderful for those of us who have hobbies and never had the time to pursue them while we worked.

After you stop working, you never know what you will be doing in the future, but you know what you won’t be doing.

You won’t be slaving long hours for an unappreciative boss.Getting up at the crack of dawn to scrape ice from the windshield. Driving 60 miles through bumper-to-bumper traffic to be restless and bored for 10 hours. Then getting back in the car and driving another sixty miles in the other direction in the dark when you’re already beat. You may well be perpetually short of money, but you won’t be fighting traffic or grinding your teeth wondering if you’re going to get dumped for a younger, cheaper worker. Discover your job’s been eliminated to improve someone’s bottom line.

You never have to call in sick again, not because you are really sick or if you need a day to take care of a child, business, or just a day off.

Ever learn you’ve lost your job by reading the headlines in the newspaper? I did. Twice. It takes the savor out of that morning brew.

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Retirement is the good part of being older. It’s the payoff. You get to own your life. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve been free.

When you’re a child, everyone owns you. Parents, teachers, strangers. You have to be clever, sneaky and lucky to get to do what you want. Then you go to college and work — often both at the same time — and your boss and professors own you. Deadlines, time clocks and ambition drive you  onward to goals you believe will make you happy. Maybe they will — for a while. Then again, maybe not as much as you thought or hoped.

You marry. Have children. And find yourself treading water in an ocean of obligations and responsibility. Children are a lifelong committment. Long after your legal responsibility ends, your emotional responsibility continues. You want to be there for your kids, then your grandkids. That’s the way it should be.

If you don’t have to work while you do it? It’s better. Much better. Did you know half the kids in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents? Parents are busy with work or whatever — unable, unwilling or unfit — to raise their own.  There are lots worse things that can happen to a kid than being raised by gramps and gran, but many of us find ourselves reliving the parenting years just when we though we’d finished with all that. Being retired makes parenting much less stressful.  You get to stay home. You aren’t imprisoned by commuting and The Schedule. You can finally take a trip to the zoo, help with homework. Play a game, talk about life. There’s time for fun, not just work.

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If you aren’t taking care of grandchildren? You have the gift of time and it’s no small thing. Be a blogger. Be a photographer. Sleep late. Stay up till the wee hours watching movies, reading, writing the novel you always wanted to write but never had time. Rediscover music. Join a choir. Retired people are busy people. I’ve been retired for quite a while and I have yet to be bored.

Do I miss work?

I miss the salary. Every once in a while, I miss the camaraderie of a good office environment. But most offices weren’t all that great. Many were thoroughly unpleasant.

I served my time. Whatever I have left, long or short, belongs to me and mine.

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Daily Prompt: Imagine all the people. Are they imagining me too?

All the people, doing whatever they do. Why ever they do it.

 

Daily Prompt: Rocks, boulders, life

Asking for help is easy. Getting it may not be.

I don’t mean getting someone to review your post or help you carry a heavy box up the stairs. Those are easy things, no big deal. You’ll happily do such things for anyone, even a near stranger … and they for you.

What about when you can’t manage the basic stuff of life on your own anymore? When a bag of groceries is too heavy? When the stairs to your apartment loom like Mount Everest?

Ask you family for help? Think about that. When was the last time one of them offered to help? When have your kids volunteered to lend a hand when they weren’t looking for some cash? They’re busy. Maybe they can find a little time around Thanksgiving. Or New Year’s.

“But I need help today! I need to do some cleaning. I can’t do it myself.” The silence is deafening.

Who will offer to help? The people who can barely take care of themselves, who have lives full of caring for the needs of others. They will find time. People who give because it’s in their nature to give. The rest? It’s painful enough to have to ask … much worse to be told “no.”

Growing older has nasty psychological components and plenty of good, solid reasons for fear. Real issues of being left to the care of unfriendly strangers, unable to physically manage the day-to-day tasks of life are terrifying. There’s nothing psychological about them. No amount of thinking them through is going to make them disappear. The tasks they represent are not optional.

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Everyone needs food, medicine, trips to doctors. Sometimes, we even need to just get out of the house and see that there’s still a world out there.

Everyone would rather not need help. Universally, people prefer to be self-sufficient. The problem arises when that’s no longer an option and suddenly, the world has a frozen, dark look. It’s not your world any more.

The realities you’ve always managed on your own, automatically, without assistance are real rocks. Boulders in the middle of your life, immovable. Huge, heavy, solid. Waiting. And there is no simple solution. Maybe, there is no solution at all.

Bumps in the night

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts. Friendly ghosts or at least, friendly to us.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t think if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts. There seems to be a general agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they have slipped that mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion and era. Even today, there are rumors and stories.

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I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear our ghosts. It was 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing my degree.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was overtly friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and then died in it. They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved.

We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies. I could feel it.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

Initially we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half had been turned into a big bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was much bigger and had wonderful light, but we wanted to fix it up first.

Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor head it. The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.

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We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier, like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until us.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

Life is full of strangeness. If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me about it. I’m dying to know.

 

ForThePromptless – A Total Monet: Pretty Messy Life


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Life is pretty. And messy.

Pretty messy. Never tidy. Always straggling ends, chaos. Unfinished.

Rough on the edges, sometime in the middle, too.

My world. A piece of this, a bit of that, a dab of some other thing.

It’s everything. What I am, used to be, will be.

Look. Past, present and future, mashed up together.

Pretty messy. Prettier or messier?

My life is Monet-ish. Real. Soften edges and see beauty?

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

No hard focus please. Ouch, the light is much too bright!

Real life. Living people. Working people.

Struggling, surviving, laughing, recovering, falling down.

Getting dirty. Playing in the mud? Shame on you!

You’ll ruin your dress, little girl.

That IS life. There’s nothing else.

Vote for the Brains

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

Someone asked me to write about whether or not I wish I’d acted less from my brain and more from my heart in relationships.

Au contraire, my friends. I fervently wish I’d used more brain and less of everything else.When I look at the big picture, I’m not sure there was any difference between “thinking with my heart” and not thinking at all.

Men are accused of being in thrall  to lust, but women are no less irrational when chemistry takes over. Women’s behavior may be more subtle (or not), but sexual attraction — old-fashioned lust — remains the root of many of our most horrible choices. I suspect women are somewhat more inclined to marry their mistakes which doesn’t improve anything and usually sets the stage for lots of drama in the future. Maybe that is changing, but cultural conditioning goes deep. It’s a lot harder to escape your conditioning than you imagine. Just when you think you’re free, you discover you’re doing exactly what you swore you’d never do.

Through a combination of a lust, loneliness and more than a little hubris, I achieved a hormonally induced prefrontal lobotomy. Staying determinedly stupid,  I wound up married to the wrongest possible person in a country where women can’t initiate divorce. Good show Marilyn!

It took years and a lot of blood under the bridge to get my life back. It was ugly, expensive and painful — and completely avoidable. I made a moronic decision against all advice. Even many years later, I have trouble believing I did that.

Some people need to loosen up. Others need to tighten up. I’ve been on both sides at different times in my life … and my conclusion? There is a very good reason our heads are at the top of our bodies. The brain is supposed to be the boss.

You’re going to get in a lot less trouble with your brain at the helm. If your head is saying “Whoa, pal … don’t do that!” you really should listen.

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