Gainfully unemployed, or the art of mucking about
I was standing in line at the store the other day, chatting with a couple of local gals, when someone wished one of them a happy birthday – her 40th. There was, of course, the usual joking about the milestone birthdays marked by the start of yet another decade. One of the gals mentioned that her 30th birthday hit her the hardest. “I cried all day,” she lamented.
That reminded me of when I lived in California and one of my friends turned 30. She had a terrible time of it. Normally, this gal was not only cheerful but one of the funniest people I have ever known, a walking Erma Bombeck. She was a natural comic. Her brain was set on funny. But even the party we threw for her couldn’t dispel the gloom. I was a bit puzzled, as I had had my 30th a couple months before and I hadn’t been sad or down or otherwise unhappy. (And as the decades flew into my 40th, 50th, and on into my now great-grandmother 70’s, I’m loving every minute of it.)
All I can figure is that I was always too busy raising a parcel load of kids, working to put food on the table, painting, knitting, reading – well, just plain too busy to think of the decade-birthdays as something to lament. Indeed, my California friend didn’t make it to her 60th. That makes me even more grateful for each and every year. Actually, I call it a good day every morning that I get up and, looking in the mirror, there’s someone there looking back. (Someone suggested I should also breathe on the mirror to be sure. Clown.)
Was it Wilde who said: “Youth is wasted on the young”? I agree with that in many cases, but I know some mighty fine young folk these days. But for myself, I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock. The Indians didn’t consider a person an adult until they had reached 50. There’s wisdom in that. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee that one is wise just via the turning of a decade, but at least you’ve put in the time and the experiences for it.
Anyway, I’m thoroughly enjoying this end of life. I no longer have to rush off to work mornings, which is really appreciated on a stormy winter’s day. In winter now, if it’s a bad weather day, I’ll just put another log on the fire and stay home, enjoying the friendly warmth and watching the storm, like a movie, through my windows, or go out to walk in it. Exhilarating.
This time of year, with the really warm days getting fewer between, and the smells and sights of our incredible fall colors – like some giant accidental landscape painting resulting from God’s shaking his paint brushes as He creates another world somewhere in His universe -- that change almost hourly, a harbinger of the approaching long season, I work chores and errands around the sun and color. I might just stay home and enjoy them from my own little forest haven, wrapped around in colors, lazing in my yard or enjoying the scenes, like living paintings, from my windows. I enjoy the chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays flitting back and forth from feeder and bird bath. We’ve supposed to get a few more days of sun yet, bouncing color through the air and I’m going to my favorite pond, off in the woods – no cabins, no wharfs, no sign of man – just the loons, the two resident Canada goose families, the bald eagle.
It took me some time, after a lifetime of working, to learn how to slow down, to stop rush-rush-rushing everywhere I went. I even had to practice to walk slower. We get into the habit, with so much to do, of scurrying along like a squirrel in October, who, feeling the approach of winter, runs to and fro gathering acorns for his larder.
It also took time for me to convince myself that it was okay to not be working a job. But once I accepted that concept, I took to it like the proverbial duck to water thing.
Puttering is one of my favorite hobbies. And I do it very well. Napping is another. Although, due to a recent study on napping, it’s moved from the hobby category to the health regime column. The study claims that napping, even only three times a week, can reduce the chance of a heart attack by up to 60 percent. If that’s the case, my cat and I have no worries.
We’ve all heard about the best ideas and inspirations coming when we’re napping. I have found, as an artist and writer, that this is true. Both paintings and writing ideas get themselves done in my head before I sit down to the easel or computer to “transfer.” So napping is really doing something while doing nothing. Another thing I have mastered.
There’s still plenty that has to be done though, like housework. I find that I don’t have the get-up-and-go I used to have. Indeed, it seems my get-up-and-go got up and went. It’s been a slow process to accept that I just can’t do as much as I used to – at least not in one stretch.
I have learned to do things in short sections of time. I’ll set the timer on anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. When the timer goes off, that’s it. Time out. A two-hour lunch break, a nap in the sun, read, go to the village store for a visit with the ‘3 o’clock gang’ down back in the deli section, where we do the daily crossword over a cup of coffee and a snack.
I find that divvying up the time in short segments that not only are chores easier to face, I’m surprised at just how much can be done in a few minutes.
As the saying goes: “Life by the yard is hard. By the inch, it’s a cinch.”
Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and a graduate of Belfast, now living in Morrill. Her column appears in this paper every other week.