I've been reflecting, over the past month, on the first year of my retirement. I've posted so far about the retirement issues that I found to be easier than I had expected: money, identity, and boredom. Some adjustments were a bit more tricky.
I met my best friend during my junior year in college and married him eight years later. While we spent most of those 25 years living under the same roof, much of our waking hours were spent apart, in college at classes and studying, and then later, working at our careers. Much of the time we did spend together was in front of the TV, decompressing after a long day at work.
So the prospect of both of us being retired had me filled with the excitement of getting to spend the whole day, every day, with my very best friend. I pictured us side by side at the breakfast table, each with our laptops, discussing the news of the day and the status of our Facebook friends. Working out in the garden together, biking, hiking, and going out for lunch, it all seemed a very romantic picture.
Just as I had pictured, we sat at the breakfast table together with our laptops, each perusing the morning's news. Within the first week, though, I came to the realization that the reason people aren't killing one another at work each and every day is because of offices with doors.
Everyone knows that co-workers get on your nerves. You spend eight or more hours a day with the same people day in and day out, and it doesn't matter how much you like them, they are going to annoy you. It's not that our workmates are inherently irritating, it's just that when you mix daily concentrated time with the same people, and a stressful work environment, irritation is simply a natural byproduct.
Part of the natural order of the world is that at the end of that long day at work, you come home and complain to your spouse about all your annoying co-workers. That's how it's supposed to work. That is the natural order of the world.
Turns out that when you spend all day with your best friend, he is going to annoy you too, and really for nothing more offensive than eating, breathing, and living.
I'm perceptive enough to know that I cannot say, "Could you PLEASE stop eating, breathing, and living?" Instead, I relocated. I rearranged some furniture and set up my own workspace overlooking the garden. In a room with a door. Away from the kitchen where all the eating, and much of the breathing and living take place.
It took me more than a few months to realize that we were not going to live up to the idyllic, romantic image I had conjured before my retirement. When I finally did let go of that fantasy, we were able to settle into a livable routine.
The first few days of the "work week" have us out running around, each with our own friends. Not together. Doug has regular biking dates a few days a week; I have class and regular lunch dates scheduled. Toward the end of the week, we're actually ready to spend the day together, catching up over a hike or bike ride, or lunch and a movie when the weather is bad. Our weekends are filled with social engagements that we enjoy together with friends.
We each have our household areas of responsibility, I do the cleaning, Doug takes care of dinner. I am a night owl, so I stay up an hour or two after he goes to bed, and he has the mornings to himself before I wake up. He needs a little more social time with friends than I do, which leaves me more of the alone time I need. He likes TV more than I do, so I immerse myself in a book when he's cheering on the San Jose Sharks or his favorite American Idol contestant.
Now I know I'm not the only one that has had to adjust to the reality of us both being home together, Doug had been retired for years before I crashed the party. He'll have to write a guest post if he wants to share that trauma first-hand, but I think it's fair to say, his retirement has become a whole lot different with the introduction of a new face around his water cooler.