For some reason, people think of me as energetic. I pretend that is so, but inside, I know the truth: I’m a sloth.
I call myself semi-retired. But that is just a fancy way of saying I do as little work as I can get away with while still maintaining the fiction that I am a contributing member of society.
Semi-retirement makes for a pretty nice lifestyle, I must say. It’s a wonderful antidote to the 30 years of irritating meetings, pressure, performance appraisals and pantyhose that contributed to funding it.
When I do work these days, it’s primarily as a copy editor, sitting at home at my computer whipping reports and proposals into shape for a large research company back East. Words tend to behave for me (certainly better than the humans I used to manage), so I find it intellectually stimulating but not hard — the perfect non-job for someone who has concluded that “lazy” is a better four-letter word than “work.”
The editing gig sometimes surprises people, who assume that I am employed by the newspaper (I’m not) and that writing this column provides my livelihood — a thought that causes me to convulse with hysterical laughter. It’s true that the column’s semi-weekly deadlines are generally the greatest source of stress in my otherwise relaxed existence. But I assure you, my motivation to put up with them is not financial. I made more as a 12-year-old babysitter.
I do it to stay in touch with you all. Without the column, I’d be constantly apologizing to people for being out of touch, not having written or not having called. Once the column appears, suddenly it’s you who have to make the excuses. So really, even the column is just another manifestation of my retirement laziness—I get to write one letter in place of a hundred.
In between columns, I float along enjoying my indolent life. Or at least, that is what I was doing until this spring, when I decided it was finally time to renovate the kitchen.
Anyone who has seen my galley-type kitchen would agree that a redo is long overdue. For a food writer, it is pathetic, and for someone who likes to entertain, it is antisocial. I can’t guarantee that the planned changes will improve my cooking, but I know that the new, open plan at least will be more conducive to folks hanging out and keeping me company so I don’t miss my own parties. (At the moment, I have the only house in America where folks don’t crowd into the kitchen at gatherings.)
I am certain the final product will be worth the pain of construction and the even greater pain of paying for it, so I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize that will be coming this fall, once it is completed. Having a kitchen that actually works and is efficient will make my lazy, semi-retirement lifestyle even more pleasant.
But what I didn’t realize when I started the project is the lifestyle change that would happen before construction.
I should have dusted off my resume and stocked up on pantyhose. Because deciding to renovate is basically taking on a full-time job.
You are expected to plan and approve the budget and the schedule, hire and supervise the contractors, determine the aesthetics, perform constant cost-benefit analyses and make decision after decision, all while maintaining your cool (well, trying to, anyway).
It feels a lot like work to me. Actually, it feels exactly like work to me. Because in my first career — the one I happily semi-retired from more than a dozen years ago — that is precisely what I did, while directing large exhibition projects. (Don’t be fooled — museums may look like elegant, civilized places to work, but behind the scenes, they are pressure cookers.)
After 12 years away from all that, my project management skills are pretty rusty. I find I’m having to relearn everything on the fly, while praying I don’t make an expensive mistake that I’ll have to live with.
It’s hard. It’s stressful. It’s unrelenting. It is giving me PTSD.
I am having a hard time believing I worked that way for all those years, and got up every morning looking forward to doing it again. It’s a lot harder now that I have discovered how much fun not working is.
I’m really looking forward to having a new kitchen sometime this fall. It’s going to be great.
But I’ve discovered I’m looking forward to something else even more.
Fortunately, this new full-time job does come with some benefits, including two weeks of vacation. Now that I’m in the sweet spot between ordering everything that requires lead time and actually tearing down walls (which will happen in September), I’m taking advantage of the lull to get out of town.
By the time this appears, I will be in Lima, Peru, eating my way through a city that has become one of the culinary capitals of the world, before heading to Machu Picchu to work off some of the calories.
I’m busy packing today, with no time to cook, so I’m not including a recipe. I promise to make it up to you when I return, bringing back some Peruvian inspiration.