Tomorrow comes today

Musings

I am on the wrong side of 50s. The moment it is let out, I mentally brace myself for the inevitable question: “Oh, really! You don’t look it... but then, how do you plan to spend your retired life?”

The first part of it, of course, feeds my ego, and the second, my imagination.

It gives wings to thoughts on that dreaded-but-inevitable phase of my life: Yes, how would I spend the days?

So many things I had wanted to do but have not done — that slow sipping of the morning coffee, lingering over the newspapers, cooking without hurry, taking my own time in the bathroom, sauntering over to the nearby temple, gossiping with my aged mother and friends, taking up music in a big way and the occasional outing of just the two of us, sitting, talking and eating — a day without any special agenda — how wonderful it would be!

As a couple, both of us have been interested in community work; may be, I can always expand further: there is a government upper primary school just across the road.

Why can’t I go and teach spoken English to the kids there? Or, better still, can I initiate them into reading?

The exciting prospect of me turning into a mentor even earns an appreciative nod from my family.

My husband objects though.

“It’s fine so long as you treat it as a meaningful engagement. But the problem with you is that once you start doing something, it becomes a full-time obsession with you.”

I realise the truth behind his words.

And I keep promising myself: No, I will not let this happen. I will devote more time to my family.

I have always tried to fool myself into believing that the quality of time spent with family is more important.

I start doubting that theory now. Wouldn’t it be better if I could actually spend more time with my children and grandchildren?

I also start toying with ideas like trying my hand at car driving (a 20-year-old ambition), jewellery making, pot-painting (continuing education programmes!), creative writing and of course, spending more time with my partner of 35-plus years — evening walks, music concerts, travelling — all in good companionship, and it should be better than the honeymoon, I often tell myself.

I start making plans.

I have always felt that job and retirement are like birth and death, two intertwined inseparables.

But, when one comes to think of it, there are loads of things one can do in the later years of life.

Still, it calls for a lot of planning.

Six months before his retirement, my husband had attended a week-long orientation programme which gave tips about how to manage their health, wealth, time and mind, and this definitely had helped reduce the anxiety about a relatively unproductive stage of life.

Taking a cue from this, I also start looking forward to my superannuation.

My children always complain that I stop way ahead of a bump, just in case.

But I have always viewed it as my ability to anticipate and manage a crisis.

All one has to do is plan everything well. And I may not even miss my office, I used to tell my husband who would smile knowingly.

Then I went and nearly lost him to renal failure.

Life is full of surprises, not necessarily pleasant.

And diseases always come unplanned.

In our case, what started out as food poisoning has led to five dialyses and a life-long inner tension.

But the one month spent in the hospital has given enough time for retrospection and a regrouping of thoughts.

What was important earlier no longer appears so. There is a change in the perspective.

I have come to realise that what I have to plan is not retired life, but living the moment.

It leaves you with a feeling that if you want to do something, you have to do it now.

I often remember a teacher-poet of mine, who had kept aside the creative urge in her for the later years.

Her twilight years are now being spent waging a losing battle against a series of ailments.
Mark Twain’s aphorism that one should never put off till tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow sounds hollow, simply because there may not be a tomorrow.

But one need not feel negative. What is required is just an adaptation to whatever comes your way.

Having turned wiser now, if I love to do something, I do it there and then — there is no keeping it for an uncertain tomorrow.

I am still in service, but in the retirement mode, combining what I must do with what I love to do. 

Now, I apply the brakes only after reaching the bump.

It works out still better.

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