Friday, September 1, 2017

Of Bikes and Bees and Things that Please. . .

Cycling this route was what I chose to do on our 43rd anniversary last week, to please myself. I clarified the choice as I wrote my "morning pages" my husband still sleeping. Some of you always know just what will please you, and I envy you that; I find I'm often carrying a set of other people's presumed needs and wants and preferences around with me, measuring mine against theirs and finding my own flexible enough to let go of.  I don't mind adapting, much of the time, because overall in life, when I am really clear, I tend to get the big-picture stuff right (wanted the guy I married, got him; wanted four kids, got them; wanted to get my degrees, got 'em, even if I was over 50 by the last one; wanted a teaching job at the local uni . . . and so on).

But sometimes I find that the layers and layers of other people's needs and wants fog my perception such that I can't even feel, anymore, what might really please me. Life can be good enough, this way, but sometimes, as well, it can become rather flat. And sometimes, when flat day follows flat day . . . . My mother went that route, a few times, and occasionally went along it for some distance and considerable time. I usually manage to notice the Danger signs, and head back to a better-paved road. Figuring out what I really want to do, for myself, is one of the ways to do that.
So writing my morning pages, I recorded my willingness to do the kayak outing Pater had suggested, but I realized that I was more keen to go back and cycle a new route we'd pedaled the weekend before.  I also admitted to myself that I wanted to do the pedalling on my own, even though it was our anniversary and the more romantic--or just more appropriate-- approach was probably riding together.
I love kayaking, but I loved it most when I could go from impulse to pulling my kayak off its perch and into the water in five minutes. Wearing my own PFD that didn't have to be adjusted, a rudder that always worked. We're lucky to have a memebership at a rowing club nearby, but even the 10-minute bike ride there, the locking-up of my bike, the punch-code at the club gates, the pulling-down of kayaks, adjusting seat, adjusting PFD, awkward entry into boat from the dock -- I didn't really want to do that on the morning of our anniversary. What I really wanted was a sense of space, of freedom, something I've been missing in the city. And I sensed I'd get closer to that on my bike. . .

I'm sure you've already guessed what a non-issue my choice turned out to be for that guy who stood at the front of a long aisle waiting for me to join him 43 years ago. He suggested he'd go for a quick paddle on his own while I did some writing, and he'd be back soon enough for our bike ride.

He was -- out and back within the hour, and then I had to add Part Two of my choice for pleasing myself -- I wanted to cycle on my own first. It's taken me a while to feel confident pedalling solo, all the steps of getting the bike out of the building, onto the street, feeling comfortable in traffic, finding the bike routes -- all those steps I wrote about back here (and in an earlier post here) steps in being more independent.  In so many ways, during those busy years of juggling work and family, I allowed certain elements of independence to weaken, losing confidence in abilities I'd once taken for granted. Having forced myself to win that confidence back, I don't want to relinquish it in retirement, but there are numerous social forces at work that sometimes make a default position out of deferring, out of just letting him do it. But letting go of the anxiety of leading, of going solo, often means losing out on the exhilaration of having done something on my own. Maybe "exhilaration" is too strong a word. Maybe it's more just the simple pleasure of going at my own speed, of stopping to take photos of every silly little thing I want to capture
That's really all I wanted to tell you when I planned that Monday post, the one I ended up cutting short to focus on my outfit choice.  But you've raised such great points in the ensuing conversation that I'll be pondering for some time -- the social context, for me, is the biggest one,  along with the individual personalities and upbringings that make it difficult for us to discern what pleases us, never mind to pursue that pleasure.  And short-term vs. long-term pleasure.

And I get that for many of you, all this is over-thinking. Some of you will even want/need to tell me that. Just do it, just get on with it. I understand your response, and I often wish I could do just that. But I suspect that would mean giving up some of the sensitivities that make my life richer in different ways, so I'll just say  "Over-thinking'R'Us" -- and hey, it's my blog! ;-)

For now, though, since it's Friday afternoon, and the last summer weekend before Labour Day cranks up all the back-to-school-and-work machinery, I'll stop the over-thinking (which, honestly, isn't "over" to me -- it's just process, and it's okay!) to share some photos:  the planting of honey-scented flowers bordering that bike path, the cheery flowers and bees and butterflies painted down the centre to invite the pollinators to the feast . . . and then the bee boxes tucked into the allotment gardens along the side. These bee boxes were the reason I'd wanted to pedal the route again (because I'd just written here about Paris bees and their hives; when I saw them the first time we biked the trail, Pater was a ways ahead and by the time I registered what I was seeing, it felt too late to bother stopping (although he's very patient and wouldn't have minded).
Shortly after I spotted the bee boxes, parked my bike, and got close enough with my camera to get a sweet short video of the bees swarming around the hive, I met up with my guy. Our compromise had him happily reading the paper over coffee and a doughnut while I got a serious head start. I enjoyed having his company for the ride home (and also enjoyed the Tuna Poke bowls he brought home for lunch).

That evening, we went for dinner at a local restaurant, Les Faux Bourgeois, Too warm to get gussied-up, anniversary or no, and I stuck to my Birkenstocks but did slip on a simple silk frock (yes, the Equipment dress I wore for my daughter's casual wedding last spring -- hmm, I wonder if that dress is ever going to get mated with a dressy shoe!).




And I tried wearing it with a new clutch (Stella and Jo, bought via daughter in Rome). I thought the pattern-matching worked, and if you don't, Well, you know what I've been seeing about pleasing ourselves! ;-)

Happy Labour Day Weekend! Any special plans? Feel free to comment about this post or the week's conversation in general. . . .
(Oh, and by the way, we finally got out in the kayaks together -- yesterday, a lovely paddle! A total pleasure. . . )

36 comments:

  1. I read your last post at night on my phone and then or course forgot to reply. I think that for the congenitally thoughtful, retirement becomes the time to unpick what we stitched up in early necessity, pleasing others, resenting others, fearing others, forcing ourselves, constraining ourselves, etc., and we reweave. It can be really hard, especially if our first stitching held well, presented well, brought us a lot of external recognition. We have to give up some of what it used to bring us, I think, in order to get the other gifts we maybe now want more.

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    1. Yes!! And the giving-up requires discernment, at least for me. So much of it worked, and still mostly does, but the clock's ticking, and I have a few other gifts I might want to unwrap . . .

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  2. Not over-thinking at all in my opinion. All those little moments of giving way to the other's preferences (however mildly expressed, however trivial the choice) seem to silently aggregate into a lump of irritation, or resentment. One of the pitfalls of partnership. Better to notice and try a new path, rather than allow the silent simmering to take its damaging course. And a thumbs-up for your pattern-matching (not that you need anyone's approval:))

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    1. I'm terrible at simmering in silence ;-) . . much more likely to vent, which isn't always the best approach either. Especially since a partner like mine is happy enough to accommodate or compromise if only I figure out what I want. . .
      Thanks for the thumbs-up!

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  3. For many years people thanked me for being "so flexible." It's okay if I plan a book talk and the teacher forgets about library time. It's okay if I don't want to see the suggested movie. My mother always said " You sound too definite." Sorry, but my preferences are my preferences. I would not end a relationship over them, but I need to be considered. Not over-thinking..some of us do mull things over...

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    1. Yes, before our partners, those messages from our mothers. . . . they often had to trod a narrower path and worried about us wandering off it.

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  4. If only more people were as thoughtful as you....
    Ali

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  5. Ali's right & I think that's why your writing stands out in the blog world . You notice the small things for us . Oh , & I think the dress , sandals & bag look great together
    Wendy in York

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  6. Oh this sounds a chord with me! My life has been all about fulfilling the requirements of others - eldest child, married at 23, 3 children, demanding professional career. All very happy and fulfilling for me too.
    Retired last year at 60 thinking I would now spend some time working out how to spend the rest of my life and how to be a bit more selfish.
    Within months I have become a carer to my husband who has developed a rare condition requiring many hospital appointments as he feels weak, exhausted and in pain. The treatment seems almost as bad as the condition.
    We hope he will recover fully but are still facing some months of uncertainty and anxiety.
    At the same time my eldest daughter, husband and beloved only grandson (just 2) have moved in with us for a few months whilst they renovate a new house. A delight, joy and diversion - but who is being the housekeeper and interim nanny?
    So I remain dominated by the needs of other people - mostly happy to be able to help and support ("Isn't it lucky you retired when you did?") But fighting the occasional moments of self pity and resentment too.
    I will try to harder to carve out some "me" time and work out what gives me pleasure - and fight the guilt I will inevitably feel for being selfish!
    Ceri in London.

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    1. Ceri, just wanted to say that when I retired my husband was diagnosed with totally unexpected heart disease the very next day. That was one long and lonely winter of angst and worry, without the daily distraction of my classroom or the support of my colleagues who didn't want "to intrude.". And yet everyone said, isn't it lucky that you retired when you did. And I thought...okay...of course... lucky... just didn't feel very lucky!

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    2. Ceri, I hope that you are able to find your "me time". Often, people don't understand that retirement involves different stresses. My husband suffers from bipolar mood disorder and I have to remind myself that his irritability and quirkiness are not necessarily directed at me. We need that time for personal reflection and enjoyment after a life of family and professional responsibilities.

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    3. Ceri, I am only now reading back through the comments. All these caring responsibilities at once are a huge load. I hope you do indeed find some time for you, even if presented as 'I need to this in order to continue doing what I do for others'. xx

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    4. Yikes! Second all the comments above. Now more than ever you need some time to draw breath. Helping your family is a priority but not the whole picture. Hope you can negotiate your way past the needs to some tranquillity.

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    5. I can only echo what other commenters have already said, Ceri. That's such a difficult situation to face at what was going to be a pivot into more me-time. There's no question, at times like these, that we're lucky to have the wherewithal to help, but still. . . . not even a saint wouldn't express fatigue and even resentment. I hope you find respite occasionally -- I wonder if part of the reason you were looking forward to retirement might have been that you tend to be independent, that it's not been your habit or preference to ask for help (although I may just be projecting from my own experience) . . . but this would be the time to search that out. . .

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  7. Not over-thinking at all
    It is necessary for health,both mental and physical ,to have some "me" time,to fulfil some own wishes and needs,not only help others and make them happy (although this is necessary,too :-))
    You have a considerate and supportive partner and you'll find the way and the time for both
    We are considerate, too, and will support you in your wishes-we can wait
    Ceri,please take care and try to share some of yours huge responsibilities with others-you don't know how much I understand you and your feelings
    Dottoressa

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    1. Ah, I should have read through first -- I see you've already suggested to Ceri the reading-out for some help, sharing of the responsibilities. Once again, I think of that wonderful network of friends and family you are part of, Dottoressa, a lifetime's cultivation.

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  8. Gosh... I don't think you're over-thinking at all. Just thinking and probing those thoughts as to motivation. I do that too. Should I give in, is that being flexible, or half-way to door-mat-dom? Sometimes I feel that pleasing myself is totally self-indulgent, especially when other family members do not have the wherewithal to do what I can do. And at other times I know that the urge to please others is just a symptom common to adult children of alcoholics... or so I've read. Not to mention the classic youngest child constantly entertaining to get attention thing. Now... how's that for pop-psychology overload on a Saturday morning. Ha.
    And speaking of pleasing ourselves... happy long week-end without having to go back to work at the end of it!

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    1. It's so hard to find the balance, isn't it? Much of the time, I'm pretty happy to be flexible, to accommodate, and I know that enough of the time, I do find ways to please myself. But sometimes, I can feel myself getting lost and correctives are needed.
      And yes, this afternoon would have such a different feeling if I were printing out class lists for the morning. . .

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  9. As a lifelong "thinker" I thank you for sharing your thoughts and I also thank you for the affirmation related to my own overthinking, push and pull, trying to find the balance. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one doing this - it's good to know that I'm not alone! I think your clutch is lovely with your dress.

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    1. Thanks, Jeannine. I do think it's good to know there are others like us "out there."

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  10. I'm right there with you, on the board of directors of Overthinkers R Us! I thoroughly enjoy reading your musings; absolutely no need to apologize. It's certainly part of what makes you, you!
    As for that peddle & paddle with your guy, it sounds just lovely, both the alone bit & the return with him.
    And I can see you're going to get a lot of mileage out of that dress!
    Happy Anniversary!

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    1. Thanks! It's true, I'm very lovely to have both tandem paddling and solo pedaling. ;-)

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  11. I'm glad you allowed yourself the space to figure out what would please you, and then to follow through with it. Having spent some time with you and Paul, my impression is that you two are a good team, sensitive to each others' needs and able to come up with solutions that work for both of you.

    I tend to get overwhelmed when presented with too many choices. Sometimes it's just easier for me to figuratively "throw a dart" and then make the best of my choice. Maybe that's the opposite of overthinking, I don't know.

    I just love that dress, and have been looking for one along those lines. Going to have to keep an eye out for similar Equipment styles come spring.

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    1. We have figured out a few things over the years, and by now, we're a pretty good team, it's true.
      I think I do the same as well, the "making the best" of choices, much of the time. But every once in a while, when I find I'm feeling flat. . .
      As for the dress, I find it's so easy, so useful, although I wouldn't mind another couple of inches of length. . .

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  12. Your dilemma(s) seem to tie back to your move to the city. This is a huge change. All the features of living on an island in quiet solitude are mostly gone. Now you have the city advantages of restaurants, parks, theaters, coffee shops...but does this outweigh what you had on the island?
    Maybe you need a second home by the sea?
    The best of both worlds might be the solution?

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    1. Hmmm, certainly part of this might be connected to moving to the city. But just as much has to do with being retired and being half a retired couple. . .
      I'm trying to think of some ways to fold some of what we had on the island back into our life, though, not through a purchase, but through some mini vacations throughout the year. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  13. Completely understand what you feel. And it sounds like you have a Gem in your husband. I think there is an assumption that when children have flown that a couple will be welded together. And that isn't healthy. At least I don't find it so! I'm about to embark on reclaiming a core skill - driving! Since stopping work last year I have perhaps driven half a dozen times, only to a supermarket 5 minutes away. Why would I drive when it's a lovely 15 minute walk on a cycle/walkway through trees and past allotments and I can do a daily shop? And why would I drive into the city when parking is a nightmare and expensive and I can either walk 25 minutes or hop on a bus that comes every 10 minutes? Also part of the social forces you refer to - my husband loves driving so it's easier to have him do it. But I have just secured a job for the next couple of months working near our home in the north of Scotland and I will have to drive a 10 mile round trip every day. Gulp!

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    1. He is a gem! But you're right about that assumption, and it doesn't appeal. Totally get what you're saying about the driving, though. I scarcely do anymore, just because it's not necessary in the city much and I don't much enjoy the traffic. But I do want to keep those skills in my toolbox, so I force myself every few weeks. I suspect you'll pick it up quickly. (my daughters all drove until they moved to the city. None do anymore, although their husbands all do. . . I've been offering to take them out occasionally, reliving those teenaged driving hours. . . )

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    2. And I meant to say that I love the dress and Birkenstock plus striped clutch bag combination! But all that overthinking got in the way...

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  14. I would always rather think than not. Too much is done on auto-pilot. Otherwise how will we know what we really want?

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  15. By nature, I am not an "over thinker", but the rest of the post sure resonates! I usually defer to husband, friends, children in the choice of a group activity. My reasoning is that being an introvert, I do as I like while pursuing my independent activities. Lately, a voice has started to pop up whispering "Do you even have an opinion about these things anymore?" Is it motivated by guilt? Habit? I don't know...maybe I'll have to spend some time "thinking"! Oh, the irony....

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    1. Haha! Hope I haven't coaxed you over to the dark side normally occupied by Overthinkers'r'us. . .

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  16. Thank you ladies -- your supportive comments have meant a lot to me.
    Ceri in London

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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.

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