I’m glad I’m not a brain surgeon, or a computer programmer, or a garbage collector. Anymore. The past few months we’ve been mostly sticking at home, seeming not to do much at all and I have to say that after a rather typical lifetime-filled-with-obligation I’m luxuriating in the very simplest of states: the state of not having to do anything.
Oh, we have been active, busy even. But the wonderful reality is that all of our activities have been those of our own choosing. I don’t know how many people realize what a luxury that is. Or how good it is to do nothing more than reflect on the good things in your life.
Earlier in life I was driven. I loved my deadlines. I would think nothing of working round the clock to meet a schedule I had conceived if for no greater reason that I wanted to. Self-employment was my savior in the work-a-day world. I didn’t have to stop when some boss said stop, I didn’t have to start when the boss said start, but my own expectations were greater than any boss would have dared put in place.
Our time in the RV was loads of fun, but I’m gradually realizing now that we have been out of the RV (still waiting for it to sell) that even while RV’ing I kept myself under certain kinds of stress.
If, like us, you prefer to stay in governmental campgrounds you’ll always find some sort of limitation on your stay. You can’t just hang out there forever. Usually it’s 14 days, sometimes there are variation — during the winter for example when some parks (eager to get campers during their off season) will allow monthly stays, or longer. While we RV’d there was always the question of where were we going next. Not much different than having a boss. Not really. You might sort-of-decide-on-your-own when those moves take place but you can’t put them off indefinitely.
By choosing to make RV’ing our first big post-retirement adventure neither of us experienced much of “retirement” before hitting the road — with the exception of the time it took to sell our house. Of course that was spent in anticipation — waiting for the house to sell — it wasn’t as if it was a state of grace, or a vacation, or even a time of relaxing: there were showings and things to be done during that time. Because of the size of the old house (6500 sq ft) the agent preferred if we were present for the showings just to give the total tour seeing as the agent never did figure out the three story, 19 room floorplan!
Having explored as much of the country as we wanted to, the choice to put down at least partial year roots in one place was easy enough. There’s no Utopia, every place has it’s problems and drawbacks, but this one spot in South Texas suits us. What should have been obvious when we were making this choice but we didn’t really think about it, was how being semi-settled would affect our attitude about other aspects of our life.
The fact that I come back to this topic periodically should say something about how profound the impact has been. I was writing to our daughter the other day and said to her — almost as if it’s the first time I realized it — that I have enjoyed our time here for these last 6 months as much as I have ever enjoyed myself in my life. I can’t say I feel at home exactly; I always feel like a pilgrim and a stranger but the gradual sinking in that we don’t have to have deadlines, we don’t have to have plans, we don’t have to go places if we don’t want to is gradually sinking in. And I can be pretty dense about a lot of things.
The past month or two since Winter Texans disappeared have done wonders for me. When we arrived in November the park was pretty well occupied already; lots of activities and people around all the time. Lots of temptation to get involved whether or not I wanted to be. I gave in to some of that; liking to be friendly when I can. I knew I was putting pressure on myself to be likeable when I wasn’t really wanting to be likable. I had not decompressed from our Camp Hosting time and I really didn’t want people around me. And with everything else going on I stayed in the frame of mind until the Winter Texans started heading North. If you remember that book from a few years ago, Waiting to Exhale, well, I kind of felt like that title. And the last two months have been one big exhale! We’ve talked things over between ourselves and realized that a couple things we were doing just didn’t need to be done. We could be here in a different way than we had until now and it works — for us.
All the while we RV’d I had a long project list — little things I wanted to get done that nagged at the back of my brain. Some of them I’d put off a long time but they were still back there eating at me. Each had some legitimate reason not to have been completed and checked off, but they were still there. Right now the list of backlogged projects is pretty much gone. I’ve worked through pretty much all of them and what remains I see as lifelong activities, not as pending projects.
It’s a luxury that may look like someone sitting on a front porch (which we don’t have) doing nothing — but it’s a far cry from doing nothing. The luxury is in being able to sit there looking that way. We try to get out most every morning for our morning walk around the park. Our neighbor has noticed that after our walk we tend to sit in our lawn chairs at the end of the carport and just watch the world go by. Actually, we’re sitting there waiting for our shirts to dry off after perspiring during a brisk walk, but our neighbor doesn’t walk — he uses a golf cart most of the time. So to him, he sees us sitting there taking in the passing traffic — or the lack of passing traffic — and it looks like we’re just enjoying life. And we are. But there’s always more going on that what’s obvious. He’s busy — he is the Camp Host after all — he has things to do. The sight of us “just sitting there” means something different to him than to us.
All my life I looked at the very aspect of life that I’m talking about and felt within myself “I never want to be like them.” I never liked the idea of sitting around; and even now I don’t do it all that much… But earlier in life I had not spent a lifetime working; I had not yet completed the job of raising our family; I was an active volunteer in several ways and I always had something on my mind. That I don’t have to be constantly in motion is luxurious beyond belief. I still don’t want to be inactive in the remainder of our life together; but a little time on the porch (that we don’t have) and a glass of iced tea in my hand is a pleasant replacement for worry and stress and aching muscles.
I wonder, after spending the next few months here — The Summer — how I will feel about the return of Winter Texans. I will be just as friendly. My personality hasn’t changed. But I think the other Peter will make an appearance. The relaxed one. The one that is more at ease and content. Gosh, I love being retired. I never thought I wanted to be retired — I used to love the busy-ness of life. But I have to say that this new chapter keeps unfolding better and better and better. It’s not like we’re young and energetic any more — we have our problems. But I’d rather have these problems than the ones we left behind.