I had forgotten the Cheri made guacamole for me last Friday. I’m the only one in the house who enjoys the dip, for some odd and mysterious reason, so to tell the truth, I don’t often buy the avocados and other ingredients until I really get a hankering for it. It’s not that it is difficult in any way to make it, and it’s always tasty, but it is just not part of the routine. So, I have some guacamole to eat, before it gets inedible.
Now, more than ever, since I retired, there are “things” I do every day. Things in the morning, things early afternoon, things in the evening. I think it’s kind of funny, actually, that now, since I don’t have really any burdens or job responsibilities, nor really anything on my calendar, which is a huge change from all the days leading up to July 1, I should take the freedom that’s mine to do all those things I said I would do when I no longer had to do what other people expected me to do. I know that’s a confusing sentence, but it’s kind of like when I was little, and the six/seven of us children might be left alone at home when Mom and Dad had to go somewhere, that we would ask the very loud question: “Can I be the boss of myself and do whatever I want to?” We would ask the question, because in lieu of my parents’ answer, the office of “boss” fell to my merciless, teasing, over lording and often not very nice oldest brother, Ray. Ray unfortunately fell to easily into “oldest child syndrome,” in which he believed his position in the house was really as a co-parent with my folks, especially when it came to telling the rest of us what to do. Today we would throw out the word “bully,” but more often, he was just kind of jerk, but he was bigger and stronger, and knew how to intimidate. Hence, the question had to be asked – not to have power over someone else, but to stem the invasive authoritarian activities of another power in the house. I just wanted to be my own boss.
And now I can be! Sort of. Being retired while Cheri is still working means that I need to make sure to keep up at least the appearances that I am minding the home. I do almost all the cooking, and make sure the major areas of the house look presentable. I’m not the maid or the butler, but it’s really not fair for me to make more of a mess, simply because I am home. With the pandemic, I don’t go many places, so the house becomes the headquarters for most of the activities, outside of Cheri’s work. I’ve found, however, that most everything that needs to be done can be done rather simply and quickly, which leaves most of the day to be my own boss.
The trouble goes back to the way in which I have lived the last 60+ years. Whether it was school work, or picking up my room, or completing the to-do list that seemed to never end, or making the appointments, or the phone calls, or the meetings in which, because I didn’t save the world at that moment, I found myself committing to create an entirely new set of to-dos and responsibilities and tasks and on and on. It’s not so much that everyone/the world has told me what I needed to do – I really did have a lot of freedom about how I lived my days, and how I could do what needed to be done – it’s that there seemed to always be something rolling out over the next couple of weeks, or months that would eat up my energy, creativity and time, so that it wasn’t a matter of catching up, because I never had a moment when the calendar was completely clear. Even on vacation, it was a temporary reprieve, as I pushed off the things that needed to get done, and usually crammed the days following time off with a double stack of to-dos.
Until July 1 came. I didn’t try to claim a day off, or a summer vacation, or a sabbatical. I retired. I deleted my entire business email, and disconnected my business phone. The scary and truly sad thing that I found was that, without that part of my life, my daily life, and what occupied my mind, was pretty empty. At first, it was completely delicious! I found myself lingering over meals and cups of coffee, wasting time that I could give away, rearranging my physical space so it no longer looked like my old office. I reduced my library, getting rid of or at least moving out many books whose job was to remind me of my responsibilities. Where there was a time when I was having to change the oil in my car once a month because of the miles I drove, I found that I needed to track the months between changes, to keep the oil fresh.
Retirement has been wonderful. But it also means I have to think about changing my tee shirt, and when to shower. What’s happened is, I no longer am doing things to get ready to do something, which was my former, decades-old life. I planned meetings, and workshops and confrontations and papers and phone calls. Frankly, outside of what’s for supper, this column I write is about all I plan each day. I find a lot of freedom, and many options of what I might do, but there is also a loss of focus and pressure. The anxiety is way down, but so is my ambition.
What I expect is happening is that I am going through a time of healing. It really does become an extended Sabbath, to breathe deeply, to decide what I don’t have to do, or what might bring joy – maybe not today, but tomorrow. I’ve slowed the pace of my life, rather drastically in the last 48 days, and that’s ok. I didn’t realize the wisdom of my youngest son who told me not to get another job too quickly, but to enjoy being retired. There is enjoyment, but like I said, there is also needed healing from a lifestyle that created a lack of response, and a greater opportunity to react quickly, to deal with things at a fast pace, to “fix stuff,” and to have the answers. For right now, at least, I don’t have many folks asking me questions, so the noise of my life has quieted pretty significantly.
So on a Monday morning – maybe I’ll do the crossword puzzle, have another cup of coffee, make plans for when I might take a nap, and even look at the box full of pieces of a metal model of an SJ Duesenberg town car that I got as a present a few years ago, to give me something to do besides work. I’m not building it – yet – but I can look at it, and put it back carefully on the shelf. I’m retired, you see, so I can be the boss of myself and do whatever I want to. I’ll do that for now.
Word for the day: vorfreude. Pronounced VORE-freud-a. This is one of a number of unusual words in our world. I know you’ll be shocked, but it’s not Latin – it is actually from German. Well, actually it IS German, and it is one of the German words that is untranslatable, meaning there is no one or two-word substitute for it in English. What it stands for, however, is the intense hope and feeling of joy that comes as we are able to imagine some future pleasure. It’s the “someday” syndrome: Someday, it’s going to be different. Someday, I’m going to … Someday, all of this – will be that, instead. I can’t wait until that day comes! Just thinking about it fills me with anticipation and expectation and almost a sense of giddiness. Vorefreude.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.