Enjoying A Different Kind Of Life
Wednesday - July 09, 2008
It happened again. Someone asked me, “What do you do now that you’re not working?”
They mean well, I know, but the question often comes off as: “You don’t work, so you must spend your days eating potato chips and watching Food Network, right?”
Ever since retiring from news (almost three years now!), that’s what people are curious about. I have to say I don’t blame them. The short answer is I work part time and volunteer part time and spend a lot more of my time tending to family and home. It’s not exciting nor glamorous. It’s certainly not high profile, like my old job. But it’s exactly right, for now.
I know it’s right when we sit down together for dinner every night. Dinner used to be a rushed, multi-step affair. My husband would throw together a meal and feed our son first. I’d get home later, just in time to put our boy to bed. Then my husband and I would eat in front of the TV. Afterwards we’d have just enough energy left to clean up and drag ourselves to bed.
Nowadays we set the table and light candles. We dine. The three of us talk about our day or politics or food or whatever strikes us at the moment. The important thing is we’re a family; we’re communicating and breaking bread together.
That’s not the only perk of life in the slower lane. It’s the pre-dinner drink and relaxed conversation with my husband. It’s having that little talk with my son in the car every day instead of feeling the pressure to squeeze in some “quality time” with him in the few minutes we used to have before he went to bed. It’s having time to do things that used to be left to others - or jammed into a too-full day - or not done at all, like supervising music practice and chores and homework and getting to doctors appointments without stress. It’s cooking real meals, not the 30-minute kind. I’m talking about real dishes that take a little more time and skill to prepare. I have the time now - and, uh, the skill will come along soon. I hope.
Sounds mundane, doesn’t it? I agree, it does and it is. But quiet doesn’t necessarily mean boring. Life now is satisfying in ways that are hard to measure by conventional standards. The payoff isn’t money or status or ratings or awards. It’s time.
I am well aware that not everyone has the means or the inclination to jump off the fast track to plod along the cobbled road. I can’t even tell you how long I’ll be here. I am not one of those women who would say you have to choose between family and career. I loved my career. I love my family. They are not mutually exclusive. I find the “mommy wars” divisive and unnecessary, as I consider myself a feminist, a careerist, a wife and mother. At one time I may concentrate more on the career side. At other times the mom side will take priority. The decisions I make may not work for you at this time of your life - or ever, for that matter. But the point is we have those choices. We are not abandoning our principals or our beliefs or the core of who we are just because we change the trajectory of our lives. Circumstances - and choices - change. They always do.
If there’s anything I would impart to you, it would be this - take time now and then look at your life and reassess. Tinker with it. Take a breather so you can think things through. If you can’t change the big things, it’s OK to make little adjustments along the way.
It doesn’t have to be as drastic an action as mine was. You don’t have to quit your job. It could be as simple as taking that vacation you’ve been putting off. Stay home - you don’t really have to go anywhere to have fun. Carve out a little daily oasis of time on which you and your family can rely. Make it a point to eat dinner or exercise together at least a couple of times a week. Talk to each other, but more importantly, listen. Sometimes it’s the quiet, small things that make the most profound difference in our lives.
And yes, sometimes I’ll rip open a bag of potato chips and watch Food Network. I like that Alton Brown guy. He’s the perfect man- a nerd who can cook.
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