I was looking through cards I was given when I retired, and read one well-wisher’s note: “Good luck with the book.” Uh oh. I told ALL of my co-workers (who would listen) that I was going to write a book WHEN I retired. I didn’t say that I was going to write a book WHILE retired; I said I was going to write a book WHEN I retired. As of today, three seasons of retirement down, there is no book. I don’t know if it is a result of bad book writing self-discipline, a failure to keep a commitment, or a flat-out lie on my part.
I think about writing it. I have an idea, but I lack the follow-through. Retirement has robbed me of the book-writing enthusiasm that I readily professed while still working. I’m no longer enthused about cleaning out cupboards either (another retirement activity commitment I had made while working).
I’m confused (at least this is one thing that I’ve engaged in with reliable consistency both while working and while retired). Does only an intentional misrepresentation of the truth constitute a lie; or, is the failure to follow-through on a commitment also a lie?
I’m not only confused, I’m old. Where’s all of that wisdom that is touted as being a product of many years of living? Is it a lie? When I was young (I remember I was young once), I would feel guilty about not spending time with my kids when I was working, and I would feel guilty about not working more, when I was spending time with my kids. My greatest talent is feeling guilty.
Maybe I should write a book, entitled “I Feel Guilty When…” The subtitle could be “When I’m Awake, Dreaming, and All Other Times That I Am Breathing.” Of course, I’ll never get around to writing it, and then I’ll feel guilty.
I grew up listening to Country Music on Sunday Mornings. After watching Ken Burns’ Country Music series, I’m ashamed of how little I appreciated that music at the time. I found it too twangy. I was truly a twang-appreciation twerp (I’ve got to let go of this obsessive-compulsive reliance on alliteration). My Dad raced old jalopies at Speedway Park on Saturday nights, and slept in on Sundays, his only day off, while stacks of his Country Music LPs dropped and played on our restored antique record player/stereo. My Mom would take us kids to church, until her grandmother died, and the Sabbath commandment ceased to be enforced in our house.
The Sunday Morning Country music we listened to was very religious, so after Grandmo’s passing, we kids became regular attendees of the Church of County Music that my Dad had founded in our Living Room. My Dad’s favorites were The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Jean Shepard, Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline. I much preferred Patsy Cline to the others (less twang, no less pain). The church was temporarily resurrected at my Dad’s funeral, where the Carter Family’s version of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light” were played as mourners entered and departed the chapel.
By the time the nineteen-seventies rolled around, I embraced Country Music (dancing to County Music allowed me to embrace my dance partner, and spared my joints the demands placed upon them by Rock-n-Roll dance moves), and the performers of that era including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few. I was surprised to see these performers (the ones who had lived to tell) on the Burns special talking about the music and performers of my Dad’s era. I was surprised to learn what prolific song writers “Dad era” performers were. I was surprised to learn of the hardships that most early Country performers had endured. The whole thing was very surprising.
When I was young, I wrote songs. It is NO surprise that they weren’t very good. It’s probably because I quit going to church. When I was a teenager, I wrote a letter to God, asking that I be allowed to be a singer/songwriter or an author when I “grew up.” I think it’s fair that God did not fulfill my request, since I had discontinued keeping the Sunday-Sabbath commandment.
I entitled one of my songs “I Remember I Was Young Once.” I wrote it when I was about twenty-one years old. A friend of my husband’s (the friend was in his late fifties – boy was he old) was the inspiration for the song. One of the lines in the song was, “When you’re young they say you’re having fun; when you’re old you’re a dirty old man.” Little did I know, when I wrote that song, that I wouldn’t remember much of my youth by the time I hit my late fifties / early sixties. I do remember that I didn’t like Donnie and Marie (“I’m a little bit country; I’m a little bit rock-n-roll”), I loved my friends (who continue to inspire me with their unconditional genuine long-term friendship), I could be a total flake, and the quality of my decision-making was questionable. Even though I LOVE being retired, I truly do miss (some of) the good ol’ days when I had to work for a living. I think I’ll fire-up the ol’ record player, dig out my seventies Country record albums, and reminisce. Retirement provides me with the time to reminisce. Unlike Hank Williams, I have the time, with or without the money.
My zucchini plant is gone. I ripped it out of the ground and have not been bothered by a zucchini since. While I was ripping out that plant, root and branch as they say, my Sansevieria decided that it could no longer be contained by its pot, and broke through the side and then sent up a shoot free from pot constraints. It is the plant version of the circle of life, without the blood and guts that are a part of the mammalian circle of life as depicted in “The Lion King.” One plant dies (or is murdered in the case of the zucchini plant) and another plant propogates (or escapes in the case of the Sansevieria shoot).
Plants are nice to us (except for prickly ones like pyracantha and poisonous ones like hemlock). Animals are cute and cuddly, except when they savagely kill one another to sustain their species. Human beings do not sustain their species by savagely killing one another. As I sit here, all of my preconceived ideas and prejudices are being shot (ha, no pun intended) down, and I’m not even watching the nightly news or reading social media.
I am in my shed, contemplating the meaning of life (something that I have ample time to do now that I’m retired and the zucchini plant is gone). I think that the meaning of life is simply to sustain the species. That’s a downer. I have to admit, that I was thinking it was all about ME. Darn this shed! When I’m driving down the street, yelling at other people who are also driving down the street, I think it’s all about me. It’s about me getting to where I need to be, when I need to be there. When I’m in line in the store, I think it’s all about me buying what I want to buy when I want to buy it. By golly, I’m a jerk.
Probably species sustainment is better accomplished by thinking of others, not just me. After all, I’m temporary. There are no two ways about it; I’m here now, but I won’t be here in the future. I don’t know how long into the future that will be, but the certainty of a Jennie-less future remains. So, to give meaning to MY life, I think I should be focusing my energy on those who will be here after I’m gone. I would like to get a whole niceness current going. If things went well, it could grow into a tsunami of niceness, and wash away not niceness. Basically, I feel like things that are not nice, like mass murders, do little to sustain the species, and being nice, like preventing mass murders, does a lot to sustain the species.
The other night, I watched a news story about a young man who has decided to help everyone who asks for his help. He’s given away most of his money, and a kidney, and he wants to keep giving away money and vital organs (I hope this doesn’t shorten his lifespan, because we really need nice people in order to sustain and uplift the species). He was asked if he had ever been swindled, or conned, and he said he didn’t care if he had. I like this. It manifests as a presumption of goodness. We could flip the practice of prejudice and instead of assuming all people in a specific demographic are jerks, because we met one person in that group who was a jerk, we could assume that all people in every group are good, until proven differently on a person-by-person basis. Better yet, we could just not judge people. I am a VERY judgmental person, so this would be VERY difficult for me.
Now that I’m retired, I need to branch out from my ol’ judgmental self, and do my part to sustain and uplift the species by being accepting and nice. I need to go beyond, just not killing people (please see previous post, “How I Keep From Killing People”), and quit judging people, too. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me in order to have a meaningful life in retirement; but it’s okay, because I’ve got the time.
I’ve heard this statement many times since retiring. It’s not quite true, because there are still chores to be done, errands to run, groceries to buy; however, you don’t have to go to work before or after completing those tasks. What I have found to be true, is that the lesser holidays, i.e. Memorial Day and Labor Day, are less distinguishable in retirement than they were when working. I experienced this retirement-induced mental fog while celebrating Labor Day earlier this week.
I awoke early on Monday and decided that I would get dressed, go buy flowers, and visit the cemetery early to avoid the crowds… the crowds that visit cemeteries… on Labor Day. There were many indications that I had my warm-weather, Monday holidays confused, but I missed them ALL. The first was when I was purchasing two large bouquets of flowers. I told the checker that I was happy that the available bouquets were so pretty and that all of the nice ones had not already been purchased, and that I would head to the cemetery after leaving the store. She responded, with what I interpreted as a dirty look. More likely it was fear as she questioned her safety while interacting with an obviously mentally-ill shopper. I decided that she was lacking respect for the dearly departed as I traipsed from the store feeling morally superior.
I arrived at the cemetery at approximately 9 a.m. I was surprised to find that I was the only one there, which contributed to my attitude of moral superiority to the other family-members of the cemetery’s interred. The cemetery houses many generations of my family, so as I walked across the expanse from grave to grave, depositing flowers at each, I wondered where the Boy and Girl Scouts were, who typically place flags on the graves of Veterans. I asked myself, what is this Country coming to? After departing the cemetery, with each of my family member’s grave adorned with flowers, in stark contrast to others, I was elated by my superior stewardship of my ancestor’s final resting spots. I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some avocados, and the produce man asked what my plans were for the rest of the holiday. I proudly told him that I had already been to the cemetery, so I thought I would catch a movie. He smiled at me with an, “Oh, she’s one of those,” smiles. I headed home in my continued state of holiday disorientation. It felt good.
That afternoon I went to a movie (“Rocketman” – I feel bad for poor Elton John and if he were dead and in my family, I definitely would have put flowers on his grave earlier that day) with a dear friend. On the way to the movie, she asked what I had done that morning, and I, with false-modesty, told her that I had spent the morning distributing flowers at the cemetery, and was surprised that there weren’t more people there. She smiled at me, with a smile much like that of the produce man. She’s a very kind, dear friend.
As I was getting ready for bed Monday night, it struck me; hey, this is Labor Day, not Memorial Day. Why it did not hit me until then, I don’t know. While not every day is a holiday during retirement, for me many holidays are interchangeable during retirement.