Way back last summer, when I was doing a dry-run on retirement, I wrote about something that already seemed like it might become an issue. What concerned me was how things worked in a couple where one person is retired and the other continues to work long hours. Well, much as I don’t like it when people say “I told you so” I guess this is one of those times when I can say it to myself if it didn’t seem so awkward to say “I told me so”. Here’s how things are unfolding.
My days continue to have a developing rhythm. David leaves for work by 7 in the morning, having brought me coffee and toast and the newspaper and my laptop just before he leaves. For a few hours I sit in bed and write. I have the TV on so I can half-listen/watch to news programs and stay relatively “up” on what’s going on in the world. Right now there’s lots of excitement in the news because Obama’s visiting us today … but then there’s also the rest. More about the rest in a minute. Truly, the upside of this is that many mornings begin with a few words from President Obama .. sometimes even being interviewed by the CBC ! He’s come to Ottawa (only a 5-hour drive from home and the place where my daughter and her beautiful family live) and yet once again I’m not going to be there. Not that I didn’t think about it, but the same issues around not liking crowds and not liking freezing my fingers and toes came to the fore.
(If you want to see Part 2 of this interview, click here)
The relentless news coverage on the economy is truly getting me down. I know, I know; it’s real (tell me about it) and in the end I’m in such an incredibly privileged position since I have a guaranteed pension income that’s enough to live on … albeit somewhat frugally. Some months ago when I was interviewed by the CBC about the impact of the financial crisis on retirees I flippantly said that it wouldn’t have much impact on me since I had a government pension. After all, the entire economy would have to collapse before gov’t pension plans were in jeopardy. What I didn’t realize was that (a) everyone around me would be struggling with the impact of the economic mess, (b) given the uncertain financial future I would need to spend as little as possible in case I need to provide financial support for others, and (c) all of this financial stress would also have an impact on my relationships.
Now let me weave these two things that I’ve written about already together. The day begins and I’m sitting here – alone – writing and listening to doom and gloom on TV. I’m generally out for a few hours during the day either exercising or doing errands. Still, mostly I’m alone doing those things. I get home and settle into reviewing my notes for Red Cross Disaster Response (I finished the final course tomorrow and will be signing up for on-call shifts now). Then I might work on a publication or spend time giving consideration to how much university teaching I want to do next year (I’ve been offered three courses and fear that I’m going to over-extend myself again but then I’m also thinking that I should take all the work that I can get to mitigate the financial mess … more about workload in another posting soon) or doing the millions of things that maintaining a household requires. By the time David gets home (usually around 6ish) I’ve spent most of the day on my own; doing things I want to do while feeling that low-level fiscal anxiety that can eat away at your soul. By evening I’m really looking forward to “hanging out” with him.
And here’s where that goes. A few nights each week he brings work home and after dinner that’s what he’s doing … and I do something around the house by myself. Sometimes he’ll just stay later in his office to work and get home around 8 too tired to even think about doing anything. Then there are nights he goes out to have dinner with “the guys” or see a movie with one of his kids. What I find is happening is that I’m becoming more and more resentful of having to spend evenings alone. Yes, I know, I could just plan to go out more often in the evening myself. Thing is, with the added impact of worrying about finances I’m hesitant to spend too much money on entertaining myself and evening activities tend to be expensive. Mixed in with that is that I’m generally up pretty early and kind of too tired to head out anywhere at 8 p.m. (true confession of an aging dynamo?). And so where I end up is feeling too much anxiety and too much aloneness; in combination that’s really eroding my sense of well-being.
I know that I’ll sort this out over time, just as I know that the global economy will improve over time. Thing is, that doesn’t help so much with today.