Monday, 19 October 2015

En Retraite: Not Life Minus Work

So, Nige, they ask me, How are you finding this retirement lark? My immediate - and honest - response is, It's flippin' brilliant. What's not to like? No more hauling myself out of bed at an uncivilised hour, no more commuting, no more sitting for long hours glued to the tyrannical computer, no more 'management' nonsense and office politics, no more stupefying exhaustion, etc, etc - I'm sure you get the idea. But has retirement been what I expected it to be? Not entirely, no. For a start, what every recently retired person says is quite true: 'I'm so busy, I've no idea how I fitted the job in.' (Equally, I know I could never do the job again - all that ended within days of my retirement, falling away as if it had never been.)
 When I looked forward to retirement, I made the elementary mistake of simply subtracting work from my everyday life, thereby (I assumed) opening up vast expanses of time in which I'd be doing all the things work prevented me from doing. Of course it doesn't work like that; retirement isn't life minus work, but rather a new life. For a start, all those things you couldn't do turn out to include a lot of things you'd no particular desire to do (e.g. shopping, jobs around the house and garden) - and the whole configuration of your life changes as all manner of things large and small flow in to fill the space opened up by retirement. At the same time, Parkinson's Law comes into operation, as work (in the widest sense) expands to fill the time available; it is now possible to take longer over something that once would be dashed off in no time, if done at all.
 Another things is that life in retirement is still decidedly tiring - not in the bone-deep, spirit-sapping way that work tiredness is, but still tiring. Especially after a day spent with the adorable granddaughter, who, like all two-year-olds, is enchanting but exhausting company. And another unexpected development is that I no longer feel the urge to blog as often as I used to (though I still feel the urge, still enjoy blogging, and have no intention of giving it up). I realise now that much of my blogging was driven by the need to turn away from the tedium of work and engage my mind elsewhere - and now that imperative is no longer there. Which is great for me, but will probably mean that I'll be posting rather less often than I used to (if, perhaps, at greater length).
 Happily, for all the busyness, there are plenty of occasions when I can and do savour my newfound leisure and put it to good use, taking more walks, visiting more places, devoting more time to reading and writing. Sometimes I even have the pleasurable, hitherto unknown sensation of not having anything in particular to do: time to do nothing, a vital element in life, I think, and all too rare, at least while we have to work. What's more, I feel no puritanical guilt about it: I figure that I've earned a good 25 years of leisure. That will take me to my 90s, at which point I might review the situation. Meanwhile, yes, it's pretty flippin' brilliant.


  1. Having spent most of my life fighting sloth, I find myself in the same sort of parallel universe you have delineated Nige - with a small difference: I want to develop sloth into what might broadly be described as an art form. I practiced it recently in Spain by staring at the carrara marble tiles on the bathroom floor whilst sitting on the throne, and eventually finding a reasonable facsimile of one of Picasso's sketches of a bull's head. A quarter of an hour can profitably be wasted, I discovered, by undertaking a completely useless task such as this.

  2. Good work Mahlerman - I'm with you there - bathroom floor tiles are endlessly fascinating, and sloth can surely be developed into something very like an art form. I"m sure the world would be better for more sloth (and probably less art)...

  3. By the way MM, I found the Zinman Beethoven 9 a revelation - thanks for the tip...