If you are still working, today's post probably won't resonate much. But if you have been retired for awhile, perhaps you will know whereof Crabby Old Lady speaks. Or not.
Crabby was laid off from what turned out to be her last job in June of 2004. In one respect, the layoff was a relief and may have saved her sanity. The round-trip commute had been four to four-and-a-half hours a day leaving Crabby, after three years, with a bone-deep weariness bred of all work and no play.
Her routine had been immutable: awake at 4:30AM, home by about 7PM (sometimes later), a quick meal and bed with no possible variation if Crabby wanted to keep her job. Weekends were a rush to accomplish all the chores and errands that with a more reasonable schedule can mostly be folded into the week: cleaning, shopping, bill paying, laundry, dry cleaning dropoff and pickup and catching up on sleep. No time, or energy, left for socializing.
The next year was easier without the commute, but increasingly discouraging when Crabby's new full-time job - looking for a job - went nowhere. By mid-2005, deeply in debt, she was forced to sell her Greenwich Village home and leave the city. That took another year, so Crabby can't say she retired for real until 2006.
Since then, her time has been her own to use as she chooses. Because she had not planned to retire, Crabby had never given any thought to how she wanted to spend her final years, what she might want to accomplish or how she would spend her days. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she backed into retirement and has winged it, with some unsettling results.
Mostly now, she turns out Time Goes By and The Elder Storytelling Place. Crabby is not required to do this, no one's paying her, nor is she required to spend the amount of time on it that she does – a lot. But aging in all its aspects still interests Crabby – you wouldn't be wrong to call it a passion – so she treats the blogs as a job she goes to each day.
The commute, about 50 feet and ten seconds from the bedroom, is an improvement over that final paying job of her 50-year career.
In the first year or two, after settling into her new home, Crabby ordered her life in much the same way as when she was a working person. She spread out the house cleaning over the week, did the grocery shopping on a given day, gave over one afternoon a week to an outside obligation and made time for social engagements whether with friends or, perhaps, a daytime movie or short driving trip to places around Maine.
Crabby has always gotten more done if she has a schedule; even a loose one will work. The problem in recent months is that it has become much looser, too loose, and she falls further behind every week.
Laundry has been extended to once every two weeks for no reason other than it's not at the top of Crabby's hit parade. But for god's sake, how hard is it. All she needs to do is shove it in a machine. Fortunately, Crabby owns enough clothing, linen, etc. to be clean in between and it does save some energy costs, but turns the job into more of a burden than she wants.
Three shirts she likes to wear have been hanging in the closet in need of ironing for more than a month.
There are enough dishes in the sink at the end of each day that you'd think six people lived here instead of one.
Crabby hadn't gotten around to rearranging the deck for winter until the first night it was going to freeze earlier this week and then she did it only so the plants that can survive winter were properly protected.
This morning, something crunched under her feet in the kitchen – stray cat food – and Crabby realized she hadn't swept the floor in a week. It was awful looking.
She has had everything she needs for touch-up painting on some windows and doors for one whole year right out on a counter where she can't miss seeing it. But now it just blends in with the décor rather than reminding her to do the work.
Crabby meant to buy some bulbs this fall to plant in a drab, little strip of dirt along the driveway and didn't do that either.
Even the blog suffers. Crabby's been meaning to update the Elderbloggers List for about two months; there are a bunch of new ones she would like you to know about and still she has not done it.
Last January, she determined to do a redesign of TGB – it's more than five years old – and here it is, almost January again still waiting with only a page of notes made.
The only item Crabby can be pleased about is that she has stuck to her promise to shower and dress within two hours of rising. For a long time it was not uncommon for her to be at the computer in her granny gown and fuzzy slippers until noon.
So what does Crabby have to show for the extra time she's gained from her sloth? Maybe half a dozen more books read, but she can't think of anything else.
Worse, Crabby resents herself every day for blowing off both normal upkeep and larger projects. Several times a week, she has a conversation with herself. So what, she says. You do get around to the important stuff before anything gets too icky and who cares if the painting project is put off for a year.
Well, says the other voice, because you become irritated with yourself and if you'd just do those chores, you wouldn't have to listen to yourself. It's like being your own mother AND daughter – nag, nag, nag.
And so on...
Crabby considered wrestling her tidy side into submission and living happily with her sloth until she asked herself what would happen if she lives to be as old as Millie Garfield or Darlene Costner or Mort Reichek – all in their eighties. Would she put off the painting for another 15 years?
That's scary. Now Crabby is wondering if sloth is inevitable in retirement or if she's going through a phase.
Another episode of Life (Part 2) has been posted. This one is about a subject that may be even more taboo than sex and religion: money. Here is a short clip.
You can watch the entire episode here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Safe Haven