Free at Last!
I don't know about you, but I for one am getting fed up with anecdotes about feisty folks from seventy to one hundred-plus who are working full time and never even take a vacation-except maybe a couple of days a year to visit their parents who are still punching the old time clock or plowing the back forty and hand milking their two hundred cows every dawn.
These poor misguided workaholics plan never to slow down. They'd have us believe that retirement is fatal, more dangerous than pirouetting blindfolded across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. They swear that hard work is keeping them alive. Give me a break. That's living?
If they want to toil until the life supports are disconnected, fine. But must they keep preaching the work ethic and trying to make the rest of us believe that we're lazy, unproductive and completely worthless because we feel we've earned the right to sleep in until 7:30 once in a while and maybe paint a picture, read a book, stitch a quilt, or catch a mid-week theater matinee? Are we depraved because we revel in the freedom of being able to do our laundry, shop for groceries, clean our houses, or maybe even go to the beach on Wednesday, if we feel like it, instead of Saturday or Sunday? Are we hopeless degenerates because we prefer Scrabble or Bridge to the no-win game of company politics?
When I finally retired, my boss (who had relentlessly tried to talk me out of it) predicted direly that I would rue my rash decision. "You're going to just hang around the house all day in your bathrobe," he said. "Really?" I replied. "That sounds wonderful!" I have yet to do that, but it's so luxurious to know that if I want to, I can. However, for the time being, I have too much to do.
How I ever found the time to work is a mystery to me. On the other hand, what I do all day is equally mystifying. People, including afore-mentioned ex-boss, ask "So what have you been doing?" I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not exactly sure. I just know that I'm constantly busy. I haven't even had time to pick up the wonderful books I've been dying to read that my former workmates gave me at my retirement party (along with movie passes-and a gorgeous robe to hang around in). Nor have I yet managed to shorten the long list of people I promised to meet for lunch "some day soon."
No, I have not become a TV soap addict. For all I know-or care-All My Children could have run away to Another World or be languishing in General Hospital hopelessly addicted to drugs As The World Turns. Okay, so I am familiar with the names of these epics, but that's just because I read the TV listings to be sure I'm not missing anything good. Obviously I'm not.
I'd like to say that my house is much cleaner these days, but who has time to dust and vacuum? I'm also ashamed to admit that though I was looking forward to finally doing some serious writing, this frivolous rambling is all I've managed to accomplish so far. I did start to keep a journal, just to have a record of how I was spending my time; but I gave that up very soon. It was too much like work; something I felt I "had to do" every day. I also dug out my old music books, determined to re-learn the piano. A half-hour a day, I promised myself. My resolve lasted less than a week. I discovered that practice is as much of a bore now as it was when I was ten, so I put the books away again. Hey, I retired to escape the "have to's." Why manufacture new ones?
For now, I'm content to dabble. I've enrolled in an Italian class, which I love but never seem to have to the time to do the homework. I'm also taking a course in watercolor-a real challenge considering I hadn't held a paintbrush since Kindergarten Art 101. It's more fun. I, who always considered myself a "morning" person, actually found myself painting past midnight last week. No problem. I knew my alarm wasn't going to blast me out of bed at dawn to play traffic roulette with hordes of disgrunted commuters. Such a luxury!
Every once in a while, I think I should feel guilty about not working. When that happens, I simply call some friends who are still enslaved and ask them how things are going. They tell me. Suddenly I'm cured.
I try very hard not to gloat.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.