On Being “Retired”

My California daughter has just co-edited a book about the choices women make when they have hopes for a family and a college career. How do you deal with the competing pressures? (search for “foodthought” to learn more)

I’ve been pondering the same question myself as I deal with the pressures of combining retirement with a career. Actually, retirement alone is pretty much of a challenge. My favorite definition of retirement is: when you wake up in the morning with nothing to do and by the end of the day you’ve done half of it.

“Sit around and smell the roses,” they say. But who weeds the roses? Who trims them and fertilizes them? Right there you have a problem. But when you try to add in peonies and lilacs and day lilies and tomatoes and potatoes and spinach and lettuce and an orchard, you may not find time for those roses.

And that’s just the easy part.

But if your idea of retirement (as mine is) is having time at last to keep the weeds under control but you still prefer to be at the front of the church on Sunday and want to write a book or two every year, it does get complicated. One of my daughter’s contributors speaks of feeling guilty when she’s home because she’s not at work and feeling guilty when she’s at work because she’s not at home. I know how it is. When I’m in the garden, I know I need to be writing and when I’m writing, I know I should be in the garden.

“Organize;” that’s the key, isn’t it? Get a “To Do” list. Right; I have one. “Spray the poison ivy, put the mower deck back on the tractor, get some netting over the blueberries.” I made that list three days ago. Today I went out and pulled reeds out of the pond, weeded the beets, and picked gooseberries. Farming is a lot like housework or raising a child. You can make all the lists you want, but then you notice something else that needs doing and do that instead.

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” said the poet, “or what’s a heaven for?” Well, it’s not for being in control, because we won’t be. Here we can sometimes, however briefly, fool ourselves into thinking that we’re in charge of our lives; hereafter we won’t have that option. So maybe the PhD mother and “retired” Connecticut farmer are getting a first hand taste of heaven right now.

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