I’m not quite sure how it happened, but since my (and my husband’s) retirement from work, i.e., from regular, paid employment involving getting up at a given time, going to a given place, and staying there, i.e., ‘working,’ for the specified number of hours, we have never been busier.
It’s true, we no longer have to do all of the above, but yet it seems that all our days are full of activities of various kinds, whether it involves exercising, volunteering, attending or giving lectures, and various other sociable and pleasurable activities. Oh, and of course there are also occasional — but all too frequent — visits to doctors and dentists. Let’s hope they don’t get more frequent than they already are (but they probably will, judging by the history of the human race to date). Even our vacations took on a hectic character of rushing from one place to another, trying to take in all the wonders each place had to offer.
It finally dawned on us some time ago, after experiencing several years of this so-called retirement, that the only way to really experience the tranquillity and peace of mind that is supposed to accompany ceasing to work is to get away from it all in another place, far away from the usual demands on our time and energy.
And so it has come about that for the last few years we have been spending a couple of months each year in rural central France, where the pace of life is slow, there are few people around, there is hardly anything to do, and we hardly know a soul. Staying in the region known as La Creuse is a bit like going back in time, to a period when nobody was ever in a hurry, neither on the roads nor in the stores, when everyone greeted everyone else, whether friend or stranger, with a smile and a cheery ‘bonjour’ and a vapid comment about the vagaries of the weather, and where there is no need to keep up appearances. So, no makeup, no need to dress nicely, no need to have one’s hair done or make an effort of any kind. All one needs to do is to get up in the morning, do one’s exercises, and then one is free to read, write, go for a walk, or do whatever it is that one fancies.
There are newspapers here, but we don’t read them. There are news broadcasts on the radio, but we don’t really understand them, and we don’t have a TV. Suddenly the world outside has dropped away from us, and we are living in a bubble of calm isolation, although our computers keep us more aware of what is going on than we really need to be. But somehow it’s easier to ignore it all from here than it is back home.
The frenetic pace of life in Israel is infectious. The constant bombardment of news items and ‘momentous’ events leaves one’s nerves frazzled and causes sleepless nights. Yet life goes on, both there and here, irrespective of all that. If only we could ignore the news when we are at home. But, as I know only too well, having acquired an M.A. in Communications, it is an economic imperative of newspapers to constantly fill their pages with ‘news’ (whether new or not) and of TV and radio programs to constantly broadcast ‘information,’ opinion pieces, discussions, ‘breaking news,’ and what-have-you in order to keep their audiences glued to those agents of communication.
Perhaps the world would be a better place if there were no media, but one cannot turn the clock back, so they have become an all-pervasive feature of modern life. The world is still the same place, with some modifications, as it has been for the last couple of thousand years, with people slaughtering one another for no good reason except greed and power, with people loving, eating and enjoying themselves while others starve to death in misery, and with the weather dominating many aspects of daily life.
One day it will all end for this individual, as it has and will for all others on this earth, one way or another. But in the meantime the most I can do to retain my sanity is to retire from being ‘retired’ from time to time.
Take Nina's word for it said:
Yep, I know exactly what you mean, Dorothea. One of the great luxuries after retirement is not setting the alarm clock! We wake up when we wake up. As for the media – we never watch the news, interviews, talk shows, reality shows or anything of the sort on TV; we turn it on only to watch specific programs that are of interest to us, be it a sitcom, thriller or the Tour de France. Same with the radio — I use it only to listen to music. As for La Creuse, France — sounds like a great idea! I’ll make a note of it.
I really enjoyed reading your column. It really reminded me of my retired parents. My father was a physician and my mother – a physiotherapist. They retired at the same time. My parents also claim that they don’t understand how they managed to work. Occasionally they travel abroad (twice a year) for short periods. Unlike you they don’t have a certain place where they can absorb peace and quite.
Truly I appreciate you for going to one of the remote place in France.I think it is the healthiest thing to do for one’s sanity.
If you go away this summer, I wish you a great trip.