Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning Curve

Oh dear; it has been a long time since I wrote anything and there really is no good reason.  I have had an uncharacteristic burst of energy and optimism since I got back from my trip to India last Fall and I have no idea why.  It seems I have finally gotten adjusted to retirement.  I disliked working so much that I just assumed I'd slide into retirement with a glad cry and a list of great things I wanted to do.  What was I thinking; do I not know myself after all these years?  

I did give the glad cry, but I found I didn't really want to do any of the things on my list.  Or anything else I could think of.  What I hadn't fully considered is that I was cutting off 95% of my human interactions.  There is almost nothing, except reading and writing, that I enjoy doing alone.  I have nearly always liked my co-workers on every job I had, and I even occasionally enjoyed the actual work.  What I hated was the element of "have to": I have to get up at six, I have to get my sleep, I have to turn down opportunities to travel or visit; I have to end vacations before I want to.  It turns out that I am hopeless at making myself do anything; these restrictions were actually what motivated me to do everything I ever did.  Like get up in the morning.  Like get something done before work on Monday, or at all.  

It is funny how we dislike what we need, or what once attracted us.  I expect that any of you who had a failed relationship know that odd circumstance that the very quirks that you found endearing and intriguing are the ones that end up driving you up the wall.  The teachers that had you trembling in September are so often the ones whom you will miss most in June.  "If only I didn't…" we cry, only to find that when it is over, the thing we bemoaned the most was the thing that kept us going.  A life which is all dessert and no main course is neither nourishing nor even sweet.  

I think that somewhere around the second anniversary of my last day of work I finally begin to figure out how to be retired.  I still can't shake the feeling that time is short, that the hard stuff (cleaning, doing taxes, weeding my garden) is "wasting" my time.  But I have found that if I start something with permission to stop when I feel like it - to avoid setting goals for the percentage of a task I will complete today or this week, or this winter, I get quite a bit done and enjoy doing it.  I can't account for it, but I have always done best in the most restricted circumstances - my Catholic college which had curfews at 7:30 p.m. in my Freshman year, Sa'udi Arabia where everyone else felt constrained and frustrated and I felt completely free and safe and life felt full of possibility.  I always have been, by nature, rebellious; what was the surprise is that I need something to rebel against.  Who knew?  

Of course the other thing I have always needed is people to talk to, to do things with, to make anything seem real.  I am totally a "people person", and not in a good way.  I truly don't feel like anything has happened until I talk about it with someone.  So another explanation for my improved state of mind may be the fact that Khalid, the Sa'udi guy I met in Bahrain last October, has been on the telephone or Skype to me almost every day.  He continues to vow that he was hopelessly smitten at first sight of me (ME!  Sad, saggy, wrinkly, pasty me!).  The more we talk, the more this seems to be true.  He says he loves to have someone he can speak with frankly.  He slowly reveals more and more of the type of thing one doesn't tell just anyone.  He has none of the usual flaws: need for money, desire for help with a visa, possessiveness, refusal to accommodate others' wishes, that tend to mar relationships with Sa'udis.  So, to make a long story short, I am off next week to Bahrain where I will be able to better test how a couple of weeks of constant companionship go.  There is nothing like a vacation with someone to reveal all the downsides.  I have a couple of dear friends with whom I never again wish to travel.  One of them is such an oppressive co-traveler that his first two wives each asked for a divorce on vacations - one in Mexico, the other in Holland.  My one long trip with this guy had me wishing there was a divorce for friends.  We are still good friends (it was years ago we traveled together) but I will never travel with him again.  

So that is my immediate future.

We are having the same winter here that has come to most of the nation.  Last Wednesday I took Papa, who was visiting for a few days, to the airport and on the way home I drove with my top down (on the car, not on my body) and wearing a T-shirt.  Next day it snowed.  

During the burst of energy I have been talking about, I completed the four-year project of painting my dining room and went from start to finish on painting my living room and wallpapering the ceiling thereof.  I am pretty chuffed with myself.  

It doesn't yet feel like Spring, despite several warm days.  I must be the only one not feeling it, though - tulips and daffodils are in bud, robins are on the lawn, redwing blackbirds have arrived at my feeder and the lovely wild goose couple that nests each year on my back pond is billing and cooing (or honking) with thoughts of eggs to come.  Spring is a funny thing; each year I will go outside one day - it may be snowing even, but I will feel like Spring has come.  And from that point on, no amount of snow or cold or wind will convince me otherwise.  

Have you noticed that one of the candidates for the GOP nomination is running against John Kennedy?  I would never try to present myself as one who is up to date on all the news, but I am pretty sure Kennedy is dead.  I could be wrong, I suppose.  


  1. Very best of good fortune when you go traveling with your new friend. Maybe he's the one for you. You should have a better idea after the trip, anyways.

    I've always done better on my own. Am quite self-motivated. Even being housebound, I have so many things I love to do that I am never bored. But schedules and discipline are not my friends. ;)

    Have a wonderful trip. Will be waiting to hear how it goes. Take pictures! Have missed your blogs. :)

  2. David!!! You're back!!!

    I needed a "fix" of the good humor, intelligent writing, and kindly energy I always find here; once more you've updated and my brain feels energized.

    I hope your new friend is all one could hope a friend will be (in my case, my husband is my friend before he's anything else); it's been awhile and you're about due for some good lovin' in the best sense of the words.

    Spring is nigh here in the great American midwest--robins are bop-bop-bopping along and there's more green emerging from the last brown of winter. I feel renewed optimism, hope, and my optimism and creativity are running amok, so much so that I may have to obtain a license to run a mok.


    You know what I mean.

    Anyway, welcome home; I hope you'll stick around and write more before you head out into the world again.

    Godspeed, my friend.

  3. @Rita - I can see from your blog that you have all kinds of stuff going, and are completely self-motivated. I envy that. I probably buy nearly as much art supplies as you and then don't use them - one of my delusions is that suddenly I will want to paint. The main trouble, I think, is I don't enjoy processes, I only enjoy results. In travel, I dislike the getting there part. I do not stop to smell the roses, because then I'd get the trip over with later, even when I don't want to be where I am going. As you might guess, I haven't begun packing, and I leave Sunday...

    @Marge - My beloved Tumwell was a friend first also. I think either that or the Catholic strictures against divorce are the only possible ways to have a long-lasting marriage. I tend to run a mockery more than I run a mok. As to the new friend, I am not expecting soul-matery, but I do hope we really have a good time both in and outside the hotel. I'd like to say I deserve it, but I don't. At least I hope it won't be dull. There IS a barely held down version of the Arab Spring going on in Bahrain (the center of the capital is occupied by Sa'udi troops), so it could be pretty interesting.

  4. Saudi Arabia sounds lie such an interesting society, sociologically. Hopefully you will write some of your musings about it.

  5. Actually, I wrote a bit about my time there, but most of it is on my old Spaces Live website. I have thought about trying to get all that writing over here, but am not yet sufficiently motivated. And I have heard that it has completely changed in the years since I left. But interesting it certainly was...