A few days after landing back home, and starting the working week, my wife dutifully prepared to return to work. I got up at the same time and, on autopilot, put on a work shirt and one of my suits, before realising that my principal uniform from this point on will be T shirt and jeans. That should have felt liberating, but I felt a sense of panic, as if I had lost a compass out in the wilderness.
Not going to work on a school day, felt, initially, like taking a sicky or duvet day on a Monday after a heavy Sunday night (not that I ever did that, you understand…..) and I felt awkward about being seen out and about, when I should be at home, languishing in bed. I had to get used to the idea of another life.
Perhaps you can find them somewhere on eBay or Amazon, if you really tried, but I do not recall ever seeing any official, authoritative, training manuals about retirement; what to do, what to expect – that sort of thing. I think something like that would come in handy.
It is said, that one needs to find structure and a routine to keep the brain and muscles active, so as not to atrophy rapidly in front of a daytime TV screen, but that is about it. You make it up as you go along. That is fine as far as it goes, but it takes some getting used to after a working life governed by rigid procedures, schedules and timetables. I was used to measuring my day in 6 minute chargeable units; now I am starting to think in geological time frames. I know, for instance, that I need to paint the front porch, but it may be a job for the Spring and it might take a week or two, as I flitter from one project to another.
One of the things that really used to irritate me about retired folk, aside from unbearable smugness, was the trite phrase “I don’t know how I ever found time for work“. I swore I would never utter such a phrase or even think along those terms, but having got to that stage of life, I have had cause to analyse what that really means.
I have concluded it means two things; firstly, that you actually get around to doing the jobs you always put off whilst working full time ( like painting the front porch, cleaning the fridge, emptying the freezer, and tins cupboard of food that was past its sell by date last century, or that you bought in bulk when you heard about some apocalyptic warning of electro magnetic pulses from the sun destroying electricity as we know it on Earth, vacuuming under furniture, and throwing out old clothes unworn since the Eighties (that might come back into fashion). Secondly, things take longer as you slow down, mentally and physically. You have to work harder and faster to slow the process. Written lists of chores and projects become a bigger part of life.
After almost a month of being back home and retired, having succesfully audited our food and clothing supplies, and cleaned the house top to bottom, I am now looking for structure for the new working day.
I made, what I thought would be a promising start by going to a golf driving range – at 9:00 am! Imagine! I felt really naughty being there, even now, and the sense of not belonging was heightened when the (clearly) regular crowd of retired mobsters showed up and gave me the look I experienced in that pub in the Australian outback.
I tried to fit in and match the look of a regular retiree and even indulged in a bit of banter, when, having failed to hit the ball after half a dozen or so shots, I said I had just taken up golf in retirement ( although I have actually been playing for around five years or so, without any discernible improvement). Not sure the driving range is going to be a regular fixture.
Instead, I will focus on more celebral pursuits with less eye to ball co-ordination. I shall take guitar lessons, learn a new language, keep fit, volunteer for a charity and generally be very very active. THAT is the plan. Yes. That is the plan.