Thursday, May 2, 2013
Fun on the Beach . . . and some Reflections
Have you been surprised at all to find that the conflict you might once have perceived between work and family has continued into your middle years? I'm heading past the middle, really -- getting ready for my 60th (!!!!) birthday later this month -- and I suppose if ever thought this far ahead, I probably envisioned fewer obligations than I now have and/or feel.
I'm very lucky, of course, that my work is flexible once classes are over, but there is always, always work for an academic -- one's ongoing research, at the very least. Right now, I've got my marks done, but there's a long meeting (hours long) one day each week this month as well as shorter meetings for Committees I sit on and/or chair. Book orders are due soon for the fall term, so I have to do some reading to sort out what I want to teach, some research to find out publishing info, availability, etc., and forms to fill. I'm determined to write a number of new assignments for the fall term before we head off at the end of the month. And I'm already very conscious of a heavy reading load for the two upper-level courses I'll be teaching next Spring. Much of this is pleasurable work, but it does mean that dog-sitting, granddaughter sleepovers (4 days we've had her to ourselves -- glorious!), and visits back and forth to see my sibs and their families, all must be scheduled to protect some time in my office at home. With the door shut.
I'll write soon about the decision I've made about retiring -- I'm going to work full-time next year for sure, and then try taking some unpaid leave over the next year or two and see how I like that. Meanwhile, there are certainly days when I wish I could simply abandon myself to the rhythm of a granddaughter, visit my adult children whenever I wish, do more outings with Pater in the fabulous backyard of Vancouver Island. . . .
But I'm still enjoying my work. And I'm very spoiled in having a semi-retired husband who is quite happy to set his contract work aside to take a little girl to town for grocery-shopping and a stop at a favourite café for hot chocolate while Nana works. I will return the favour later, taking her out for a bike ride while he works. If he weren't retired already, we'd not be able to enjoy the grandchildren time that we do. But he is, and we do. Lucky, lucky, lucky.
So while I've been a bit surprised to find that the conflict between work and family persists into late middle age -- and all signs point to it persisting even beyond that -- I'm also pleased to find that I'm managing that conflict reasonably well. Not to say that I don't wish to alter the time-space continuum with my magic wand from time to time so that I might Have. It. All!
But the wisdom I may just have acquired with age turns my head to look carefully, instead, at what I do have. And from here, it looks pretty damn good!
So tell me -- what conflicts are you surprised to find at this end of the calendar? And how have you resolved or reconciled them?
And, for your reading pleasure, check out this wonderful essay by Laurie Lewis in The Globe and Mail on the pleasures an octogenarian finds in "the body," both her own and those around her. I particularly like this bit: One recent summer, a young man came to rebuild the steps on my back deck. The sun shone on the brown muscles of his arms and the thick, curling, yellow hair at the back of his neck.