I wondered if I needed an office. I realise that many people will find this a puzzling consideration for a retired person. After all not everybody who worked even had an office. I myself spent most of my working life in schools. When I ran this half-formed notion past Mrs Summerhouse she laughed fit to bust. You never went to your office (a team office) when you had one, you avoided it like the plague. And I cannot deny this, meeting with colleagues held little in the way of attraction for me when I worked. So why now? Well it’s not quite the same as when I worked and had an office.
The rationale for my peculiar thought goes something like this. After approximately a year and a half of retirement I still think I am missing work – a bit. As a friend and fellow retired psychologist observed, I’m missing the kudos of my profession. Smart man my friend. So accepting that and moving on, a retired person might start to look for ‘kudos substitutes’. For some people an office was an example of a kind of, don’t laugh, a status symbol. And sometimes, in my retirement, I feel the deep need for a bit of status. Hence the office. It also links to another retirement area – my charity work, but more of this in a moment.
When I worked I used to spend quite a lot of my time writing – books, articles, training modules and so on. Mostly this meant working at home but then, every now and again, when I got a bit of cabin fever I used to go to one of our local café and do the yuppy thing. Sitting there with my laptop I felt I somehow had the best of both worlds – I got out of the house and had my own mobile office without having to go to the actual office. Confused? Yes, me too. I think the point is that I found it helpful to my creativity or productivity to have a place to go and work. Now I don’t have that place even though, in the form of this blog at least, I continue to write. Of course those of you who have been reading this blog from the word go or who have read the ‘about author’ section will remember that the summerhouse of the title was supposed to be my ‘go to’ writing spot, like Dylan Thomas and George Bernard Shaw and in fact many others who wrote in a shed / summerhouse purpose built or otherwise.
Maybe it’s because it’s winter but I haven’t been going to this allocated area even though it looks really quite nice and it has heating. Which brings me, in circular fashion, to the possible, I only say possible, need for an office. A further condition of the office thing working well is that probably needs to be separate from the house, even more separate than the summerhouse which is in the garden. In other words, a degree of travel is required and this is important in light of what I’m going to write later in this blog. I was always slightly envious of creative types (I remember Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimore – comedy writers in case you’ve forgotten or didn’t know – saying they rented an office near to where they both lived where the created their show) having an office or an artist having a studio near their house to which they could walk and then work. I say ‘a degree’ of travel because ideally I don’t want to have to drive to the office, hence the local café, as I can’t afford an actual office, within walking distance, obviously or it wouldn’t be local, seems just the ticket.
Which brings me back to the sentence earlier about linking – tenuously you may think, to my charity work. This is in the form of visiting my mother every Wednesday. I think I have given some idea of just how depressing I find this, it is a chore and seems to bring neither of us any pleasure. In fact pleasure is definitely not a word in my mother’s lexicon. So in order to make the journey – round trip 150 miles, bearable, as I have already written, I have started treating it as charity work – a little old lady who we visit each week and take out for lunch and do her shopping. Problem is lately this has not been enough, it worked for a while but now all the old burden has returned. So I need to think again and for this I turn to that area of psychology called positive thinking or positive reframing (a much misrepresented area in my opinion). How can I make these weekly trips to my mother (beyond having a sense of doing my duty) a more positive experience?
Positive thinking is marvellous when done right. It argues that there is no human experience so terrible that it does not have a positive bit to it somewhere and if you choose this is the bit you can focus on (I don’t quite believe this but the intention is good). You’ve lost a leg in an accident, OK, I can save money on shoe leather. Yes, poor taste I know but it makes the point. So in a ‘psychologist heal thyself’ approach where is the positive in wholly negative weekly visits to my mother? And how does it link to the main topic of this blog – travelling to an office? You are going to have to concentrate on what follows if you want to get the idea. I’ll try to make it as simple as I can although even I am not totally clear what I mean.
1) I’m missing work. 2) I used to travel to work (in some of my jobs quite long distances). 3) I would then try to help somebody solve a problem. 4) Having made a contribution I would leave (usually) feeling good about the visit. 5) My self-esteem was boosted and I would travel home feeling good.
So, the positive reframing on the mother situation 1) Travelling to my mother’s is like visiting a school to help somebody. 2) At a stretch, it is like travelling to an office to help solve a problem. In other words I am out of the house doing my work. 3) I make my contribution and 4) drive back feeling good.
Yes, I know it’s so complex as to be almost incomprehensible and I admit this is a bit of writing as therapy. But perhaps, in this way, I’ve got a ‘close’ approximation of the situation – travelling, office, helping – that gave me self-esteem before I retired. Problem solved and all it required was a little positive reframing. Actually a hell of a lot of reframing.
Of course if you believe this then you’re dafter than I thought you were. I am working on it though, it might just work. Then my retirement will be a much better experience.