Here you see me, in my lovely new lounge pants, contemplating the fungus I have on one toe. It itches and it’s unsightly. The cotton drawstring pants are, conversely, very sightly, in this bright yellow, delightfully retro fabric and they come to me compliments of Wende, who has started a cottage industry-type online shop called Thrifty Goodness. Wunnerful,wunnerful. I have been living in these pants and they wash and wear like a dream. She has all kinds of neat odds and ends over there at better than affordable prices; I recommend you head right over before she gets so successful she raises them. Did I mention that she sent along complimentary matching sachets? Her son made the first item I ordered from her, the infamous "BagBag." This clever item is for everyone who needs plastic bags for pet poop. We keep ours hanging on the door knob near the litter box, stuff our plastic bags in the open top and then they are dispensed one at a time through a smaller, elasticized opening on the bottom. Neat, tidy, it fills a need and also comes in great prints. Wendy is WORKING.
Whenever Rich goes away I become temporarily immobilized for about 24-48 hours. When he’s here, I seem to have something of a job, or at least a schedule, tending to him. He is a real human doing and needs food and laundry and attention at regular intervals. While immobilized, I read, knit, garden, go to yoga, consider my toe issue. Then I spring into action and clean, organize, go out to meet with friends, put in extra volunteer hours, bike, swim. I sort of go back and forth between human being and human doing, and I’m finding neither entirely satisfactory. I think I’m having an existential crisis, being or nothingness nonsense and I just can’t find a comfortable place where I should be in my life. I spend time wondering if human being is enough of a job description or whether human doing is also required. That’s along the same lines as the notion of faith without works or works without faith, but, hey, I’m too busy to discuss that with you today.
SHOULD is the key word here. I am ruled by shoulds. If I’m reading I should be writing letters. If I’m writing I should be exercising. If I’m exercising I should be earning a living or going back to graduate school. The way I scold myself over what I should be doing leads me to miss out on a lot of the satisfaction and pleasure of what I am doing.
The first time I ever experienced this was when I gave birth to my son. I was thirty and from the age of fourteen onward, I had been working and/or going to school. Self-supporting at sixteen, I was like my daughter (or vice versa); every hour was scheduled and full and I slept soundly for six hours every night.
When I had my private practice I was at my very best with the days full, divided into 50 minute segments, one after the other. I remembered every person’s name and their relatives and their history, the details of their problems, when events had happened in their lives and even where, precisely, they would choose to sit on the couch. I remembered their ages and usually their date of birth, from questions asked during a first meeting.
Now there are days I can’t remember my zipcode.
When I had Daniel I thought I would be a good but efficient mother, keep the house in order, take part in all the expected mommy groups and activities and return part time to my practice within three weeks. Really. I actually scheduled appointments for three weeks after my due date, which was the day I stopped working. Who would know that he would continue on simmer for another 15 days, be disproportionately large and turned topsy turvy? Who could know that all those Lamaze exercises would be for naught and he would refuse bottle, binky or blanket while constantly craving the breast? Who could have ever guessed that I would spend 6 weeks in a soggy-front nightgown, dishes piled in the sink, weeping quietly but continuously, as he opened and closed those almost translucent fingers on my bared midriff? Not me. That was not a part of the best laid plans. By the time the Snarl came along almost six years later, I knew enough to relax into the smell of sour milk and snoozy afternoons on the sofa. My days of babies would end soon enough.
Now I find myself struggling again. Adrift. Fearful that I will become like one of the boomers in Christopher Buckley’s new book, Boomsday. Unproductive longevity- is that my future? In this clever satire, devoted nighttime blogger and recent college graduate, Cassandra, rails against the excesses of the "Ungreatest" generation and the mounting social security debt. She suggests, on her blog, a clever plan that Baby Boomers be given government incentives to kill themselves by age seventy-five. Which is generous, considering we all thought sixty-four sounded ancient when the Beatles were singing, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me?" Anyway, the book is sort of a modern day satire, ala Jonathan Swift, who wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729, suggesting that the Irish sell their children as food, for food.
And so, while I’m still feeding myself better than fine (and I suspect I will be 10 years from now when I’m sixty-fourish) I’m not sure that I’m doing what I should with my life. I’m having trouble subscribing to this notion that I’m entitled to "retire." Yes, yes, I have 161 consecutive work quarters towards my Social Security pension but that still sounds like a nasty expression to me: Social Security. Gak. It’s not that I haven’t worked. It’s that I should still be working. I think. Maybe.
I always said I would have plenty of things to entertain me if and when I stopped working for a living. And now that I have stopped working for a living I still have plenty of good ideas for things to do. Some of them I do. Some I meant to do this winter but haven’t done. I ran out of time, not working. It’s a connundrum but since most of you are still working and/or caring for wee ones, I’ll let you get back to your productive lives. I’m going to go consider what to do with this professional license I just renewed for the next four years- in two states, no less. Because, really, I SHOULD be working.
Things I did this winter that I meant to do:
Finish the addition on the Florida house.
Xeriscape a yard and garden for under 2,000.
Read at least 10 books. (I’ve read 14- at least 8 of them quite good)
Get serious about yoga.
Observe the Hannibals for one whole mating/breeding season.
Finish knitting a sweater.
Do the Godawful taxes for the Tax Year From Hell.
Eat better- less fat and meat, more fresh vegetation.
Find volunteer work that would make use of my experience and knowledge and help others.
Walk more, bike more.
Get Bud down here to visit.
Find a really good daily routine for skin care in the sun. (Patricia Wexler, MD, spf 30 skin care products)
Things I meant to do this winter but didn’t:
Start weaving again.
Write personal letters and send little things in the mail to friends and family.
Take two CEU courses online.
Get my eyes checked and new glasses.
Find a new dentist and get my teeth cleaned and checked.
Find a new internist and discuss my toe fungus.
Write to at least three professionals in Chicago about starting a practice.
Do more aerobic exercise.
Walk and bike still more.
Maintain my healthy weight (which I only achieved last autumn through too much stress and depression and a 3 story Chicago house. Now I have put on 5 pounds eating shrimp. Damn you, FC and your powers of suggestion.)
Journal daily. And I don’t mean blogging.
Educate myself about something unfamiliar but important, relevant and meaningful.
Finish memorizing the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species of every creature in the Small Mammal and Reptile House at the zoo.
Read the owner’s manuals for my camera, my cell phone and the fax machine.
What do you think your life will look like when you are no longer engaged in a fulltime job and/ or raising your children?
Right now I’m going to e-mail some friends, read some blogs and start organizing Good Planets for Saturday. What you SHOULD be doing? Getting those photos over here for posting. I’ve already received some wonderful pictures with a water theme and I’ll keep working them in as long as you get them to me in the next 24 hours. See sidebar for details. And please put "Good Planets" in your subject header. I’ll find them in my mailbox even if you don’t but I really don’t want to work too much. Thanks!