I’m Just Sitting here Watching the Wheels go Round and Round”….With all thanks to the iconic and legendary musical genius John Lennon, that is precisely how I am feeling today…He wrote that song after he gave up the glitzy show biz life, after spearheading the world changing music revolution that changed our society forever, after becoming the de facto spokesman for the so called “British Invasion,” and settled into being a “house husband” and primary care giver for his young son, Sean Lennon….
I just watched the video on You Tube again, the “official video,” and to me John never looked happier and more relaxed as he simply enjoyed life at a normal pace, light years away from the heat and white light, the searing intensity, the 24/7 scrutiny and pressure of the “Beatle Years”…
The point is I completely understand and identify with this song and it’s underlying theme, although unlike John Lennon I am not escaping any pressures except the mundane trials and travails of a common working man who is now retired, going into my 3rd year of retirement, which is not as all as I had expected, except for certain times, like today…
Like most people, I had all these anticipations and expectations of what retired life would be like, and most of them were simply not true…I thought I would have all this time on my hands, a surplus of time, but the truth is that the days pass as swiftly and surely as they did during my 45 year sojourn into work world, where every minute counts, time is money, punctuality is a virtue, and “Everybody is Working for the Weekend” (Lover Boy)……And TGIF is the universal employees mantra for the end of the work week….
See I thought that everyday in retirement would be like the weekends in work world, but they are most definitely not….When I wake up well rested every morning at a reasonably and leisurely 1030 am there is no longer any sense of wild freedom and sudden release from rules and regulations….
Because there are no longer strict, rigid boundaries to rebel against, time constraints to overcome, to triumph over, no longer places I simply “must go to,” activities that have to be done, household chores that could not be avoided, sight seeing that must be included, social gatherings like weddings and anniversaries and parties and restaurants and bars that were all hot and trendy that you had to go to with your friends to make sure you had a “hot weekend,” a great time, to justify and offset the monotonous grind of the actual the reality of the work week…..
It is a real wonder to me how I did all this back then and how even now all the other current workers EVER have half the time to do all the stuff I did, jamming it all into a 72 hour weekend; yet of course they do, because they must, there are only so many hours in a week….
For me personally when I was a denizen of work world I could only manage it by cutting back on my sleep time, restricting myself to 5 to 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night, with apparently no permanent ill effects, although I must admit I wandered dazed and confused, sleep deprived and sluggish through all the corridors of power in my work world environments for 45 years, with few exceptions……Nothing bad ever came of it, but every day was hellish to get through….
But today is a simply beautiful, fabulous day in San Francisco, California!…I live close to Ocean Beach, on the very edge of the Western world, in the Sunset district of San Francisco, just 6 blocks from the beach and the Pacific ocean…. The off shore cooling fog ensures that we never get those scorching hot, humid days that are common for most people wherever they live in the spring and summer…
It is like I am doubly insulated, both from the weather extremes and the pressures of everyday existence and survival…. I am eking out a bare minimum living on SSA, like many of my fellow “Baby Boomers” but I have just enough to get by on….
And on a beautiful day like today, it must be at least 70 degrees even out here, I don’t need to spend any money at all, and I am just happy that I have the luxury and wealth of time without pressure, having enough time now to enjoy what is all around me and be able to savor what most people take for granted and ignore…
I can see the majestic blue ocean just at the foot of my street, rich and magnificent, and reflect that on the other side of the same ocean is the mysterious Far East, Japan, China, all these faraway places, and I wonder too if anybody over there is thinking like I am thinking, throwing a metaphorical “Message in a Bottle”-(Sting) into the waves and currents of the mighty ocean, feeling like I am feeling, doing what I am doing… I wonder…..
Every morning I take a 16 block walk around my neighborhood, prompted at first by my doctor to improve my cardio vascular system, but now I enjoy it so much that I would do it anyway…There is such a sense of relief, such an absence of stress, such a peaceful feeling at strolling around my own neighborhood without having to worry about pressures and daily deadlines and getting fired or making more money by working twice as hard as the next guy, that is all out the window now….
I guess that this is the biggest surprise at being retired, to realize how much, how very, very much we miss in this life by immersing ourselves in the so called “real world” of work world (for 45 years, in my case,) and never even thinking of stopping to smell the roses…The confidence to say “Good Morning’ to total strangers who are also mostly retired and mean it, and to get a smile and a welcome back from them….
The opportunity to watch dogs frisking on the sand at the beach, chasing Frisbees or tennis balls, heedless of anything else but being in the moment, and sometimes when I am with my family doing fun, whimsical things like building a sandcastle, or strolling on the beach collecting rocks or seashells, just because we can….The ability to watch the ebb and flow of the neighborhood, like a heartbeat, as the day progresses…..
The commuters all weary and wound up at the same time boarding the transit system in the mornings, the trains and buses and subways to get to their jobs, and then the vacuum of their absence as they labor at their tedious, time consuming jobs in some amorphous “downtown” area and then to watch the neighborhood slowly swell and fill up as they return in the evening commute…..
And they get home and try to relax and jam in their chores and watch some TV and eat dinner and maybe even try to connect with their families, but the fatigue increases every day and the days turn into weeks, punctuated by the happy grind out the fun weekends and then the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years and the economic cycle is fulfilled until you reach my point in life…
Once you reach the mandatory retirement age, the system just basically dumps you off the conveyor belt, to be replaced by younger, fresher, cheaper interchangeable units, and that is where I find myself now….I am retired but still healthy, poorer in money but richer in time, and the corporate bosses can grind their boots into some other poor wage slave’s face….
And the coworkers who would gladly back stab you to advance their own careers, that is all past me now….They are all “Gone with the Wind,” a fleeting flashing kaleidoscope of half remembered images, faces and places, appointments and meetings, deals and deadlines, all so important at the time, all so trivial and meaningless and forgettable now….
The only true benefit of retirement without lots of money is the freedom of time, to take a leisurely walk, to play guitar, to write a blog, to chat with your neighbors, to reflect on the meaning of life, to evaluate the world as we know it through fresh eyes, to just enjoy the moment without always having to worry about not only what you are doing now, but also what’s next on your “to do’ list….
Like i said, and fortunately i have my health, and on this warm beautiful San Francisco spring day, i totally agree with John Lennon: “I’m Just Sitting here Watching the Wheels go Round and Round”….