That’s it! However it was for you, the holiday is over. Unless you celebrate Chinese New Year, of course. In which case you have February 1 to look forward to. I don’t. Although it’s always a delight to watch the Lantern Festival procession as it passes under the windows of our flat here in Perth. So, it’s back to the grind for me today. At least this year that Monday feeling actually falls on a Monday. One bit of confusion avoided. I’ll take comfort in that.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re wonder WTF this girning old git is on about. He’s retired, FFS! He’s left ‘The Grind’ behind. But the reality is that retirement has meant swapping one grind for another. I freely admit that the retired grind is far less onerous than the working grind. But it’s still a grind, of sorts. The difference being mainly a matter of choice. The new grind lacks the element of compulsion which comes with being employed. Or self-employed. Please don’t imagine that working for yourself frees you from that element of compulsion. If anything, the burden of obligation and responsibility is greater when you’re your own boss. Just like the old boss.
It’s not the routine that bothers me. I like routine. I need routine. The older I get, the more I rely on the ‘motor memory’ of a regular or semi-regular routine to ensure that I get done what I’m supposed to do. Young people tend to think of routine as boring. At my age, I find it reassuring. Even annual events such as Christmas have a routine imposed on them. We do Christmas in the same way every year. Not strictly. We’re taking about habit, not regulation. But broadly speaking our Christmas day has followed the same pattern for as long as any of us can remember. The children growing up and leaving home and getting married and whatever hasn’t altered the routine. Such changes have been absorbed into the pattern with no more than the minimum disruption or adaptation.
A lot of people feel lost when they retire. I suspect that these are mostly the people who haven’t realised the value of routine. The sense of order and security that comes with the regularity and predictability of working life is either taken for granted or regarded with anything from disdain to detestation. In prospect, retirement may seem like a never-ending vacation. But people who don’t appreciate the benefits of routine tend to find that the novelty very quickly wears thin and they are left adrift and insecure – often without realising the reason for it.
We need the hooks that that workaday routine puts on our lives. They’re like stepping stones providing a safe and familiar path through the day, When we retire, we still need some kind of hooks to secure certain points on the clock and calendar. We need the familiarity. We need the routine. So we have to create one. Sisyphus wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he didn’t have that boulder to roll up that hill day in and day out.
What being retired gives you is the option to change your routine. It allows you the choice of what your routine should be – within certain limits, obviously. But a great deal more choice than when you’re somebody’s employee and all the choices are being made for you. Having a routine doesn’t mean being stuck in your ways, You must be able to adapt. The pandemic and all its attendant disruption very has brought home just how important it is to be able to adapt to circumstances which are changing rapidly and erratically.
People have ‘suffered’ over the last two years in a variety of ways. Some have endured debilitating illness and devastating bereavement. Others, not so much. I get very annoyed (surprise?) when I hear some bladder on the radio or TV droning on about how “we’ve all suffered” due to Covid. To my mind, lumping us all together in this way diminishes the suffering of those who have been struck by the disease or who have lost people close to them. There are degrees of suffering. It doesn’t do to generalise. I can’t claim to have suffered at all. I have been mildly inconvenienced in a number of ways. (A very small number of ways, now I come to think about it.) But I have not been ill and nobody close to me has suffered or died. It is both ridiculous and embarrassing to be counting among the truly unfortunate with the throwaway phrase “We’ve all suffered.”. I wish people would think before they speak.
I suspect that, short of the extremes just referred to, the people who’ve ‘suffered’ most are those who have been unable to adapt. Or who have failed or refused to do so for reasons such as inadequate appreciation of the situation or dumb denial of reality. I am not among them. I have adapted rather well. Or should I say we have adapted well. My wife has had to adapt to working from home. I have had to adapt to having her in the house the whole time. We’ve both had to adapt to our flat being both home and workplace. We managed this with very little difficulty. Which is not to be smug. I know we had certain advantages that others did not have. A bit of disposable income, for a start. But what also helped was that both of us understood most of what was happening and why various precautions were – and remain – necessary. We’re both pretty good at organising stuff and during almost 36 years of married life we have learned to work together. We were, in short, well placed to deal with the pandemic and all it entailed. We have been fortunate in many ways. But it’s not all down to luck. We’ve had to work at adapting.
Which ties in neatly with the thing that I appreciate as much as routine. I like to have a project. Routine is for the regular chores. It replaces the hooks of working life. A project might be though of as the equivalent of a hobby. Like doing a jigsaw puzzle or making a ship in a bottle, a project is a plan to achieve a given end or reach a certain goal. My weight management programme was a project. The aim was to get my weight down to a certain point within a specified time. Which I did. Adapting our flat to be both home and workplace was another project. That too has been achieve to my grudging satisfaction. I’m no lifestyle guru. But I’ll tell you the ‘secret’ of success in this regard is defined spaces with a degree of privacy.
When it became clear that the pandemic meant long-term if not permanent changes to the way we live I set about ensuring that my wife had working conditions at least equivalent to what she would have in her office. I ‘work’ online as well. So it was necessary to create two such workspaces so as to avoid conflict. Removing stress-points is vital. We also needed a decent home network. WiFi wasn’t reliable enough for my wife’s purposes, so we now have a Powerline network which serves us both very well. We’ve adapted.
It’s a home as well as a workplace. So it is essential to separate the two as much as possible. My wife in particular needs a space or spaces where she can feel like she’s getting away from the office. A nice example is her ‘knitting nook’. Which is just a corner of the bedroom furnished with a comfortable chair, a table and a good light. There’s also a TV and, of course, access to the internet. Defined spaces worked for us. It might work for others.
As I say, the project to organise the living/working environment is about as complete as these things every are. My next project was going to relate to this blogsite. As I wrote before New Year, I’ve been in two minds about packing it in completely. The independence campaign is an unrewarding place to be at the moment. And that’s as much as I want to say on that right now. I mentioned that I had three options – close down; pay the next WordPress subscription and continue as is; move to a new blogsite on my own server space. That was to be the project setting up both this blogsite and the White Rose Rising website on my own web space. The White rose Rising site is already done – more or less. And preliminary work has been done for moving this site. It’s not as straightforward as you might think. I was undecided about what to do. Now, I’ve decided.
I shall be moving to a new site on or before Friday 14 January 2022 (the subscription is due on Saturday 15 January). Not because I have any great enthusiasm for continuing to write about the constitutional issue and Scottish politics in general, but because I need a project. And maybe the move will let me get away from the politics to write about other stuff.
Let the grind continue!
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