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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Invasion of "the Other"

My husband has retired.

[Pause for those of you who’ve already experienced this and are either cringing or just waiting to hear what I write next.]

It’s an adjustment. First came panic, then came hostility, now there’s … contentment.

The panic had to do with my space. I have my own office/studio, but pretty much, the Whole House has been mine for the last few years. He left in the morning and came back in the evening. I wasn’t observed.

For the first days after he retired, he didn’t just observe, he hovered. That must have been when the hostility surfaced. He thought I was going to be available, and I had my own agenda, I owned my own days. [Look at all these words in bold! These are strong feelings.]

According to quantum theory, observation of something changes that something; and I know that’s actually happening: his observation of me is acting on me, changing me. I can get really existentialist about all this and quote my own philosophy thesis on Sartre’s horror of objectification by “the Other.” My “Other” is looking at me.

Whoa, I just now realized how my two main areas of intellectual interest actually overlap!


Anyhow, we got that straightened out. He mostly leaves the house in the morning, and I can share the house by going somewhere else in it. Thank heavens for rooms, multiple rooms. (Although he has observed that while he keeps all his personal items in his office, my personal items manage to migrate to every single common space in the house.)

When my mother first visited us and met Tim, she was enthralled. She and I were sitting at the dining room table, and Tim was wandering around the house, looking up and around. He was looking for light bulbs that might need changing. My mother oohed, “Oh, he’s handy! He’s looking for projects!”

Right now, as I write this, Tim is trekking the lawn, looking for dandelions that need pulling. Tim relaxes by doing things.

I relax by doing nothing.

I know what you’re thinking: she’s not doing nothing, she’s writing. Well, I only interrupted my doing nothing because I needed to tell you about doing nothing. I’ll go back to doing nothing.

I’ve always had issues with productivity and categorizing myself as lazy. Mostly, I try to consider a day productive if I’ve done two things. It used to be three things, but in the summer, I reduce my requirement to two. I count lying on our deck as the extra because I’m outside and not on the couch.

Yesterday, I picked up a paint chip to see if the color would work for our front door. That counted as one productive effort, so I lost momentum because I was also doing laundry; my productivity quotient was met. I thought today I might wash the door, but since I’m writing this, my door-momentum has faded. Besides, I also returned a book to the library when I was picking up the paint chip.

I am married to a man who will get the paint chip, wash the door, paint the door, clean up afterwards, and count all that as one productive effort. And he would have finished it by now – in one day! – except that I claimed the door as MY (eventual) productive effort. But with one mumbled comment, it’s clear he has observed my inactivity, thus proving Sartre’s – and my – horror of “the Other.” I am seen doing nothing! It doesn’t help that I am also forced to observe his activity.

Fortunately, “the Other” has other benefits, such as companionship. Today’s second productive effort will be going on an outing with him. I adapt.


2 comments:

  1. This is the most brilliant description of the challenges and sometimes shocking changes in relationships after retirement or even changes in home occupancy (service members, professionals who spend a lot of weeks away from home by choice or demand) status before retirement. It is as brilliant as your last post on life in the depressive lane, or just life as many experience it. Every psychia-trist, psychologist, marriage or relationship counselor should have them both printed out and ready to disperse. And you should be receiving the Nobel Prize invitation to the next award ceremony in Stockholm or wherever any time now, right after I nominate you for several categories. Good on you, CloudyinAK. KJinOR

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  2. I know this isn't comfortable to think about, but how does aging factor in to being productive and what we define as being productive? How come I get so much less done in a day, now that I am retired, than I did when I worked and had children at home? Is it because I am older? Have things become less important? Does having more free time change how you use your time? Is "efficient" the same as "productive"?

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