We haven’t given up yet but, by thunder, it’s close. The last few weeks since writing about the gardening business have been interesting, is that the word? There have been dramas and disputes mainly between our main gardener and our son whose capacity to pour petrol on a smouldering fire and ignite it, is legendary. He is reportedly heading back to OZ shortly, immigration permitting, which will simplify matters but not remove some of the basic problems that have made running the business so challenging – getting people and other businesses to pay on time or even to pay at all and, even more basic, getting the business to make a profit.
So it has been, and still is, stressful and yet here’s the irony for the retired person or at least this particular retired person, since I gave up work, identifying and dealing with stressful situations, particularly the problem-solving part of it, have been missed by myself. I wrote a long time ago, as a psychologist, about stress management and the need, as a part of this process, to avoid the extremes of burn out and its less well-known cousin, rust out. The obvious trick being to keep one’s life, as often as possible, between these two extremes, neither too deep into your comfort zone in a life without challenge nor, similarly, too rooted in, what you might call, a crisis zone, staggering from one emergency to another, driven by an excess of excitement and an overload of adrenalin. It is, in terms of another one of my favourite values, about balance. If a person can achieve a balanced retirement, they won’t go far wrong. At least that’s my view.
So in retirement I’m looking for a balance between being dragged down by boredom and worn out by stress. Simple enough you might think except the gardening business too often puts me in the excessive stress compartment. The reason is that classic stress generator, a lack of control. What the people we employ (and we now have two workers again and four when our son and his worker are operating), actually do when they are out there, how long or hard they work and how much effort they make to collect the money they’ve earned, who the hell knows. We pay them their wages each week, trust them and hope and pray the money comes in as a result. Just about sustainable when there’s the two of them, much more complicated and hence stressful when number one son and his mate are working as well although not, thank God, on the same jobs.
Question is, I suppose, just how much will I lose from the ‘quality’ of my retirement if, as promised, we close the business down at the end of the year. It’s not that I do a lot, I just worry a lot and I certainly won’t miss that, I can find plenty of other stuff to worry about. What I do is send out a few bills to the contract people, follow up with emails and phone calls and generally feel ignored. I give the go ahead to various purchases (probably not the best person to do this as I have a certain weakness for boys’ toys (strimmers, lawn mowers, blowers, hedge cutters, etc. etc.) but I admit I do enjoy this part of the business, gives me that rare feeling of being in control, I guess.
If we do close it down do we try and sell it and who gets the money if there is any which there probably won’t be on account of the bank balance looking so uninviting, do I try and replace this retirement activity with another one? Or do I breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the downtime that will, presumably, follow right behind? But will I be bored? Believe or not I do occasionally feel a bit bored. Mrs Summerhouse finds it difficult to believe but then again she probably doesn’t want to believe it because then, as she says, this is when I am at my most dangerous. This is when the grand schemes start to form right in that vacuum I’ve created and as we know, nature abhors.
The last one, born out of my perceived frustration, not quite boredom, just that missing link thingymajig, is a corker. It’s from the school of ‘you know that there must be more to retirement than this’ thinking. It’s back to my pre-retirement thinking about retirement being the blank sheet, the tabla rasa, the opportunity to redefine at least the second half of my life in some, as yet to be defined, way. Problem is after nearly four years of retirement I’m still waiting for it to be defined.
Anyway so I said to Mrs Summerhouse, let’s pack up here and go and live in New Zealand for a year. It had to be for a significant period of time because we wanted to take the doggies with us and flying them out there is horrendously expensive, we don’t have an exact price yet but something like 5 times what it will cost for us to fly. We also, after discussion of other options, decided New Zealand was the place we wanted to go. Pity we didn’t fancy France or somewhere closer that wouldn’t be so expensive to get there. On top of this we couldn’t do it until we’ve sorted out our finances vis a vis selling a property and clearing our mortgage debt. We would have had to sell the business and sort out all the other hundred things that go along with living abroad for a year or so. An experience that we have plenty of knowledge of. So you can tell that, while it’s a cracker of an idea, the practicality of it is somewhat lacking.
So my ambition is to lead as full a retirement life as possible without actually killing ourselves with the stress. Perhaps, in a future blog, I’ll write about my other idea for filling the travel gap, of converting the business van (which I bought and so own) into a mobile home (as in photo at top in case you were wondering about this picture). But that’s my 1,000 words and so for another time. Whether in retirement that (time) is something I have too much or too little of, we shall see.