Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fun on the Beach . . . and some Reflections

Oh yeah, we're having fun! Nola and Henry (whose folks are in England now, France next week) and Granddad and Nana. . .Beaches and kids and dogs, oh yeah!

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.
For two or three days I sat on the deck and watched him work. I drank iced tea and pretended to read a book. “Giving my hormones a workout,” I called it.
Some memory of sexual desire? Perhaps. But it seemed to me to be the pure adoration of the beauty of a physical being.
Finally, I've set up a Bloglovin' account, in anticipation of Google Reader disappearing soon. I'd be happy to have you follow me through Bloglovin' -- I found it very easy to set up an account there. Check it out via the Button you'll see at the top of the column to the right.

53 comments:

  1. What a great article you linked to. "The age if invisibility" is certainly upon me. And it's liberating. She is a hoot!
    I haven't reconciled the conflicts yet. Still a work in progress.
    I also set up Bloglovin. It was easy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it a great piece? Lots to think about there, lots of inspiration!
      Does it surprise you at all, the conflicts? Did your younger self somehow imagine you'd have it all sorted by now?

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Retiring is complicated for many people. All of my friends grappling with the decision are experiencing some anxiety and uncertainty. At this end of the calendar? My conflicts have had to do with accepting an unexpected early retirement and sorting out the past. Not conflicts really as much as uncertainty in exploring new terrain and doing the work necessary to place myself solidly in the present and future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The conflict I'm thinking of is that very same specific one between work and family -- especially, I guess, for women given some of the expectations we have about what we should be doing for/with family against the (relatively new) reality that many of us are still working in jobs we quite enjoy at 60 and beyond. . . .

      You remind me that this is a lucky conflict in some ways, although my shoulders still hug my ears sometimes with the doubled set of obligations . . . btw, much luck to you and Martin in your exciting new undertaking!

      Delete
  5. Retiring is graduating to another stage of life. Monsieur and I did some preparation through UBC Continuing Ed. We each did a questionnaire and then had an individual interview. Sometimes circumstances help us to decide what course to follow. In my case, with less funding for school libraries and declining enrolments in our district, my job was becoming piecemeal. Laurie Lewis gave me a chuckle with her admiration of the human form.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My reply to you would duplicate what I've said to Susanh, above. . . you certainly seem to be demonstrating what joy retirement can offer!

      Isn't Lewis' perspective heartwarming?

      Delete
  6. Some luck, yes, and is it also not some planning, some choices and decisions you and Pater made? Ma, I sometimes think you do not give yourself enough credit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been so accused, K (although not below, as you'll see. . . )
      We did plan pretty carefully and did without and worked hard and honoured priorities, it's true. . . But I have been more lucky than I could have dreamed of. . .

      Delete
  7. I dunno, I have retired and un-retired. The world is more fluid than we know sometimes.

    Your situation is unusual in that your children live close by. You do know that's not the standard track, at least in the US?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true, the fluidity. . . .And yes, I do know it's unusual that my children are relatively close (not in the same city, any of them, but within 2 1/2 hours drive/ferry). Part of that good fortune may have happened because we couldn't afford to send them away for university. . . They all did their degrees or diplomas at our local uni, except my son who finished his one city away, and my eldest who did her grad degree another city away. We held our breath when Meg worked in Montreal for almost a year, then Toronto for 6 months. We're also wondering where Daughter #3 will end up when her partner finishes grad school in a few months . . . but so far, so lucky . . .

      Delete
  8. My mother is considering moving to half time in three more years (at that point she'll be 64). To be honest, I worry that she won't be in a financial position to fully stop working unless she moves in with us or with my sister, as my father's death and her delayed career track means that she has very little saved for retirement. Her situation is making me wonder what I'll be faced with in about 30 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mine was a delayed career track as well, and even now, Pater's death would change my financial situation. Losing your father so early, your Mom's done well to maintain independence, and she must look on retirement as a real luxury. A reminder to me!

      Delete
  9. Back to say, I thought Laurie Lewis' piece was terrific, and thank you do much for linking to it. She can •really• write but what's more, she's so alive. I now want to read her two books about her life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm hoping to read her other writing as well -- I suppose our models for aging are likely to increase in the next decade or two. Again, we're lucky!

      Delete
  10. This may end up being edited out by the blog administrator because it won't fit the expected response of "aren't you wonderful."
    Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself which can be quite often, I do my best to remember that I am extremely fortunate to be able to have these dilemmas. I have been reading your blog off and on for 4 years. I wonder if you, as an academic, have ever done an analysis of your most common themes. I haven't been a diligent scholar but it seems to me that your most common theme is being dissatisfied. You say you are fortunate but then go and on about how hard you have to work. I don't think retirement will change your basic approach to your situation, whatever it might be.
    I am confident that a woman living way up North on a reserve or a woman in Syria ( just a couple of examples) would love to have your problems. Lots of time and resources to maintain multiple blogs, twitters etc, to have a position with status and tons of unscheduled time but still compensated for it. Twe homes in great places, a large extended family, health, a supportive husband who is there for you and not being killed or tortured. Trips to fantastic places every year, money for all kinds of fun acquisitions, time to just run in a safe place. What freedom.

    My advice....appreciate and savour what you have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what to answer you, but no, as the "blog administrator" I'm not going to edit you out -- although you'd strengthen your case were you willing to sign your name.

      I'm surprised you've stuck with reading my blog for 4 years and yet only been motivated to speak up now with an apparent frustration about my failure to appreciate my good fortune. I do realize my relative privilege, but I don't see how staying quiet about those elements of life I want to think through will advance the cause of women living up North or in the Middle East.

      If you reread what I've written above, you'll see that I'm aware of and grateful for -- savouring, indeed -- what I have.

      I embarked upon this blog with an idea of writing to find out what I think as well as of celebrating the quotidian domestic. I try to weave together aspects of my work life and my personal/family life, and I've often found that in writing about what troubles me I not only sort myself out but I find company, company that seems to find it useful to have these amorphous areas articulated.

      There is much is your comment that is hurtful in tone and content, but I will hope that you have found something of value here or perhaps you wouldn't keep coming back. And your closing advice to me is something we can all take into our lives, so I will thank you for that.

      Delete
    2. Wow, I cannot imagine how anyone could read this blog regularly and not take from it a strong sense of mater's appreciation and gratitude for so much in her life. Discussing troubles and woes - quandaries and dilemmas - is surely part of the sharing that she does so wonderfully and keeps her readers/friends coming back.

      Delete
    3. Thanks, Tiffany. I appreciate and am grateful for you!

      Delete
  11. Yes, yes -- I am surprised to find that I spend almost as much time at age 60 on aging parents and almost adult children as I did when the children were young. With none in town with us there are additional demands of travel. My husband and I are only children so we are solely responsible for our aging parents. We are both academics, and our demanding, but more flexible schedule is the one saving grace. Now if I just did not have to work every weekend.....almost ready for retirement if son 2 was not planning on graduate study.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, you know exactly what I'm talking about, then. The academic life is peculiar in its flexibilities and its demands -- and in the way it is perceived from the outside. Impossible to convey its challenges to a non-academic other than our spouses. . . .

      I'm so pleased that my husband and I are close enough to be able to help with our parents (his only, now, after my mother died last month) and participate in our children's and grandchildren's lives, but we fold those 6 hours' travel into an already brimming schedule, as you must do as well. It's not easy, is it?!

      Delete
    2. It's a good and challenging life, but not as easy as many seem to think. Still, I went to graduation at our huge university and got many hugs today which was wonderful.

      Delete
    3. Those hugs mean so much, I know! And yes, good AND challenging!

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I find it comforting that someone 17 years ahead of me is still juggling choices; it suggests that I am not doing anything 'wrong' in forever debating options with myself, I'm not a failure for not getting it all sussed by now, it seems that this is simply how life is. So I'm starting to enjoy the dilemmas, seeing them as part of the weft of life, and not panic that they signal a lack of prescience/competence/organisation on my part. I muddle through and enjoy life and fulfil my responsibilities so maybe that's enough to be getting on with.
    I keep meaning to give you a few modest tips for Barcelona, should I email them or post them randomly in comments section at the end of one of your posts?
    Baby just started to walk, have to dash, my house is chaos, she has emptied all the kitchen cupboards AGAIN. She is grinning and flinging and the cat has just narrowly escaped being trepanned by a garlic crusher in mid flight...
    Hester

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember when I was younger (in my 20s and 30s, say), my friends and I would point to a point down the road when life would smooth out.
      By our 40s, we'd begun to realize there might just be different bumps.
      My 50s have confirmed that and now I just smile when younger friends assume I have it all sorted . . . but I have learned that I'm pretty decent at muddling through, at putting dilemmas into some kind of perspective, and at recognizing that there may be stuff that will just really hurt and can't be avoided.
      Happy to flounder ahead of you . . . ;-)
      email would be good: fsproutATgmailDoTcom
      Now, go catch that wee one!

      Delete
  14. By the way, in response to a reader's comment further up, my neighbour is a refugee from Iraq, she was granted asylum to the UK, her husband was kidnapped and murdered (decapitated) in her home country. Yesterday she was at my kitchen table enjoying tea whilst we were bemoaning together the terrible state of the potholes on our street which cause the bicycle and trailer (she borrows mine for her kids) to shake the occupants until they nearly tip out. The unimaginable horrors that she has lived through do not negate the daily frustrations that she encounters in her newfound context. We as women (and I suspect the majority of your readers are women) as a conversational tactic tend to air our daily minor annoyances, just to get them off our chest, chew the fat, and then carry on, always aware in our deeper consciousness or our daily luck in so many ways. A 'bit of a whinge' about our daily gripes is surely psychologically healthy, we receive assurance, empathy, some new insight, and, steam valve opened then shut, we motor on feeling heard, affirmed and supported. It works, it's how it goes, in off-loading and then receiving some positive strokes and sympathy, we are refuelled to nurture and give ampy to others, family, friends, colleagues.
    Now back to rescuing the cat, and will pop round to read the manual for my Iraqi neighbour's new oven as she is driven crackers by the fact she can't get the damn thing to work properly. She gets pissed off by the small stuff too and has a right to do so, I don't go over to lecture her on how 'she's a highly qualified medical doctor, has an extended family, has some money put by, and her kids are alive so shut up and count your blessings'. !!!!
    Hand squeeze to you Mater.
    Hester

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, you are so wise -- your neighbour is lucky to have your help and your ear. Although she sounds as if she's a marvelous and inspiring woman herself, capable somehow of moving on in the wake of the unimaginable. Thanks for putting my quotidian domestic in a perspective that yet allows it to be expressed.
      Hand squeeze back -- and thanks so much for the support!

      Delete
  15. Well said, Hester!
    Like most of us I have my own trials, tribulations and triumphs. Thank you Materfamilias, for being generous in sharing glimpses into your life, your thoughts on issues big and small that make up the kaleidoscope of all our lives, no matter what our background.
    Lilibet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have had such problems with Anonymous spammers lately that I'm seriously considering disabling this option (instead, you'll note how many comments I have to delete) -- But you and Hester and others like you -- you motivate me to keep this available for fear of missing your thoughtful and helpful and supportive comments. Thank you!

      Delete
    2. Ditto the well said, Hester and Bravo Hester.

      What really hurts in the 'count your blessings' sentiment is that the reader has truly failed to understand that the situation is deeply personal to the writer, and that reminding them there are people worse off just adds misery, as well as the insult that the writer must be incredibly shallow.

      Blogging things out keeps us sane, no matter how 'important' the issue is.

      Please keep on sharing Materfamilias!

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the support, Amanda -- isn't Hester wise and wonderfully articulate?
      It's a vulnerable spot, isn't it, blogging the personal? It hurts to be misread or partially read, yet if we don't risk that, there's not much point to the blogging, at least not for me.

      Delete
    4. It is a vulnerable spot and blogging the personal even more so. I've hung out a lot of raw emotion over the years and it's helped mostly, a lot of wonderful supportive feedback from complete strangers (who became friends), and some puzzlingly destructive comments (from family). Wise and articulate commenters like Hester are worth their weight in gold IMO

      Delete
    5. Yep! (so sorry you've had to deal with destructive comments from family -- I know you choose your words carefully)

      Delete
  16. I read your later post before this one and had to come back to read what you were talking about. I do hope one person's odd and critical comment will not deter you from continuing your posts. I find great comfort in knowing that there are many of us, women of a certain age, who deal with choices, with tension, with consequences and desires.
    I remember my father saying, when he was in his late 50s, that he had thought by the time he arrived there most of life's wrinkles would be ironed out. But no, he told me, life is full of challenges and choices all the way through.
    Just today I was talking with my daughter and telling her that I would likely not be teaching (subbing or otherwise) in 4 years because "I would be 60 years old." Her reply was "why not? If you enjoy it, carry on." I found it so encouraging, and I'm still thinking about why.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lorrie, for taking the time to comment.
      I do see the anonymous commenter's point, if I tilt my perspective a bit. But I always find it helpful to know that others share my questions or concerns or temporary troubles. Hearing your father's wisdom is helpful to me as I move across generations into a range I never quite could imagine myself in. And it's useful to hear your daughter's comment, which is probably about what mine might say, come to think of it. It's new terrain for me, and I find it helpful to write about it knowing that my wise readers will contribute to my understanding.

      Delete
  17. Hi Mater, like Lorrie I read the latest post first and was curious about the comments in this one. I totally agree with Hester that this is just how we women often deal with issues. I think it's wonderful that you share these thoughts with us in the knowledge that you'll receive understanding and support in return (mostly). Your blog is really a conversation between friends - as you said, it's surprising that anon has stuck with it so long if she finds it so annoying!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Fretting aloud, talking things over with friends, all of this helps me sort myself out. How long have you and I been chatting now? 6 or 7 years? And we've shared some wisdom along the way, no doubt!

      Delete
    2. Mater - has it really been that long?! I know for sure I was reading your blog before we went to Budapest, so that's 5 or 6 years at least. Amazing! And I have definitely benefited from your wisdom and example!

      Delete
    3. Aw, you're sweet. Not sure how much wisdom I have, but it's sometimes helpful to see how others' lives mirror or instruct or caution or inspire us. . .

      Delete
  18. Another one here who has just read the most recent post, having missed this one. Others have said all that I've thought, and done so much better than I could have. I hope that the comment from Anonymous won't deter you from going on writing these posts, putting out questions, stirring discussion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I think I'll feel self-conscious for a while, but I'll keep writing about these topics.
      I hope that Anonymous might not be deterred either, but perhaps s/he'll stretch a bit to understand what I'm at least trying to aim at. It's a great community if we make allowances for our different individual perspectives and circumstances.

      Delete
  19. I'm quite angry that the person whose post upset you chose to do so anonymously. To me, it's important to stand up for what one believes -- she has the perfect right to disagree with what you say, but if it is important to her, why not show her face?

    I, too, hope that you will continue to engage us in this far-flung conversation. It is a wonderful way to connect, and it is enriching to be able to share our experiences, seeing our commonalities and our differences in that light.

    Un abrazo bien fuerte.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thanks so much for the hug!
      As for the anonymity, I can see how some have reservations about committing to Blogger's rules, but I must say I do prefer seeing commenters offer their name within that Anonymous option. . .

      Delete
  20. Anon@11:09, and materfamilias: We all know others suffer in almost unimaginably harsh circumstances, but we also experience the smaller inconveniences and annoyances of daily life. Don't you, Anon?

    I too have been reading this blog for years and easily recall mater dealing with serious issues, e.g., academic integrity, care of the aged and our inevitable loss of our loved ones, community-building, ecology and depression,to name a few. I wondered, reading your last three sentences, if you might be jealous of mater's ease and freedom?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, K. I have to tell you that I have grown into my current circumstances such that it still surprises me to think of others envying me. I've done without in many areas and worked hard for what my husband and I now have, but I do see how my fortune might seem enviable to others. And I've definitely envied others -- such a corrosive emotion and thoroughly non-productive, but very, very human.

      Odd, though, that when I try to present the flip side of my enviable life (i.e. show the cracks and flaws, quibbles and doubts), I can be accused of not appreciating my good luck. . .

      Delete
  21. Hi Mater - another one here who missed this discussion originally & then went back to read it. Yes, you sre lucky (me too!) but you have ALWAYS acknowledged it and yes, you get overwhelmed sometimes (me too!) and I really appreciate that you admit that and blog about your dilemmas. It makes me feel less alone and, like someone said upthread, less incompetent because I haven't figured things out either. I especially like your musings about retirement - i will need to work well past 60 for several reasons, but I still find the discussion valuable because I share many of those work-regular life conflicts that you describe. Also, I am an academic so i get how much harder that is than it looks, and a little grumbling about that does not change the fact that we love it and feel lucky to have the gig.
    Also - please keep the anonymous feature: some days, for reasons that are beyond me - that is the only way my Ipad will let me comment.
    Thanks for your blog! - Murphy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Murphy! We are odd, we academics, aren't we, in our need to grumble a bit about a gig we know we're lucky to have!

      I am trying my best to preserve the anonymous commenting (although the spamming these days is truly tiresome!) -- and especially for commenters like yourself who make me feel all this is worthwhile.

      Delete
  22. I think that critical anonymous comment was delivered rather harshly. I wonder why anon would read for 4 years and then launch into the jugular. Anon please step up and put your name behind those words or your credibility is rather lacking.
    Mater it is your blog and IMO you are at liberty to say what you wish, thankfully we do live in a country where we may speak freely without fear of repercussions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lesley. I do hope that Anon's foray here might have been more strongly worded than originally intended -- as I say, I have some (very small) sympathy with what she says, but I think Hester expresses very well why even the luckiest of us should claim the right to whinge about the everyday -- I think it keeps us healthier, quite honestly!

      Delete
  23. This is fascinating. I want you to keep on writing in the way you do because I find it interesting. I value your honesty. If I don't have time to catch up on all the blogs I follow I well find myself here in the only moment I have. I don't condemn your anonymous commenter. She clearly finds what you have to say worth spending time on. There is no doubt that we who have all the essentials of life have the luxury of moving onto "first world problems". It is not a bad thing to be reminded of that. I hope you keep writing. I hope she keeps reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the generosity of your response, Elizabeth. I do hope to be inclusive here, even of those who have dissenting opinions.

      Delete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...