Thursday, 12 November 2015

downsizing life

a lot of people downsize some time after their children are grown and gone. Move to a smaller house, move away from where their children grew up, perhaps take early retirement. That last is less likely for my generation - we are fitter and healthier than our parents were at our age, for the most part, because we were better nourished as children than they were. We boomers were pre junk food, remember, and we played out unsupervised for hours every day in almost any weather. Our own children (I had mine when I was young, and they are in their 30s now) were more supervised than we were, and their physical activity was more organised - things like swimming club and gym club, which my siblings and I did not have. Mine played out, and rode bikes on the road on their own, but a lot of their friends did not, and of course we lived an urban life. Even then rural children were less likely to be physically active than urban ones, and more likely to be driven everywhere. It's much more so now. My two granddaughters are in outer London, and are lucky enough (because their parents were committed to the idea) to live in a housing development where there are safe places for them to play more or less unsupervised.

I am likely to be forced to retire in three or four years' time. I don't want to. I want to work until I really need a rest, and/or until health problems force me to stop. But I work for an international institution that is not subject to EU law and has a fixed retirement age. This is pernicious, but is how it is.

The cancer I had a scare about a few months ago may become a reality: my French gastroenterologist has told me he thinks it will, in that cheery way they have, and if it does I may have five years maximum from that point. But if, as I think is more likely, it does not (oesophagus, since you ask, caused by smoking), I may have getting on for 40 more years to live. As I now have arthritis, kicked off by the accident I had last year (nobody knows why this happens, but it nearly always does), the quality of that life may deteriorate unpleasantly as time goes on - or I may have one joint replaced after another as technology improves, and still be riding my bike when I am 100.

Whatever happens, one lesson I have learned in recent years (I learned it from my daughter, but that is another story) is that if you are going to make a change in your life, make it when you choose to and when you can control the process - don't make it when you are in a cleft stick and have no other choice. This applies to the ending of a relationship or a marriage (and no one says "bravo" to  you about that one, no matter what the outcome or prior situation) and to moving house/changing the way you live. Move from a house with stairs to a flat on one level before you start falling down the stairs and breaking your hips. Move to within walking distance of shops and public transport before you are forced by health problems to stop driving. End a bad relationship before it damages you so much that you're no longer capable of positive action of any kind, and don't worry about "whose fault" it is that the relationship is bad. Become an accomplished online shopper and consumer of services before health problems make you housebound.

All this means that you will often be seen as doing things "too soon", or that those around you will be bemused as to why you are doing them at all. I am currently in the process of selling my home. Well, I think I am, but you know how these things are. I know that some around me think I am crazy for doing this. I intend, not to buy another place, but to rent, at least until I have the retirement plans I am being forced to make firmly in place. In any event the place I live in after this will be smaller than my current place, which is too big to live alone in. Why live with rooms you don't use but have to clean?

Alone. Yes. Significant other has departed. Not from me, but from Europe, to work in Cambodia for at least a year. This has been part of the inspiration for me to make these changes. But not the whole of it. It's time to do it. Live in a clean, clear, smaller space, and use the income I have to do things rather than to have things. As part of this I will be working 90% instead of full-time from 1st January, which will give me enough time (I'm using the pay cut to buy more holiday) to travel. First, of course, to Cambodia, where I have never been. I'll be there in January and will stay for six weeks. Part-time, but keeping up full pension contributions. I'm not THAT daft.

No one was ever on their deathbed saying they wished they'd spent more time scrubbing the skirting boards.

I'm 62 next birthday. It's time to live.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell - now want to slit wrists. CANCER?!!!!!!!!!!!

I think the only thing to do is to say 26 not 62 - live at full tilt and if mown down in the midst of life by illness or accident then REJOICE that not ending days incontinent in a nursing home. And spend, spend, spend - on travel, on clothes on books.

Spent £464 on clothes yesterday just like that and now feel like going out and doubling it. Can't take it with me.