Doing nothing special

Intermittent rain and strong wind this morning, the trees whipping back and forth, gulls fleeing inland, drooping pink Mexican dahlias. It’s the first big storm of our rainy season here, this one blowing in from the west with soft air and large drops, warm and wet from Hawaii.

I went out earlier to meet a friend for coffee.  She’d recently seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film about seven Brits on limited retirement incomes who move to a hotel in India to live out their “final season.” She said it raised some of the issues around aging that she’s concerned about–among them, how marginalized old people often feel, at least in this society.

If you’re not working, it changes how people see you.  What do you do all day? they ask. Oh, I say, read, see friends, go for walks, watch movies, hang out with grandkids.  Uh-huh, they say, surveying the room for more interesting prospects.  It was quite different when I said I was a nurse. People wanted to know where, what kind of patients I worked with, what did I think of this or that health-related issue, etc. They could ask more questions now–what I was reading, where I went for walks, what I thought about cutbacks to Medicare.  But for the most part, they don’t.  It’s not true just for old people, of course, it’s for anyone who’s not part of the working world–people who are unemployed or disabled, women home with young children, housewives and other shut-ins.

There’s something a little unnerving about it all.  It’s as though you have no value if you don’t do paid productive work. If you say you’re a writer, the first thing a lot of people ask is if you’ve published anything. If you’re a really good cook, people say you should start a catering business.  Why isn’t it enough just to be someone who likes to write or cook?

Loud squawking just now, a dozen or so wild parrots soaring over the house.  Do they have to explain themselves to each other?

Cuckoo singing:
I have nothing special to do,
neither does the burweed.

–Kobayashi Issa

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4 Responses to Doing nothing special

  1. mishedup says:

    Oh I love this….
    beautiful and true.
    tell them you write this blog…it’s so beautiful to read.
    And that movie was fun and inspiring to me

  2. So true Susan. I love this too.

    The best response is typically to follow up with a question of your own. Most people would rather talk about themselves- that’s why I was so good in sales, I just let other people talk as I led them around question after question. (It was also a defense mechanism too; I was able to keep myself detached by not sharing too much about myself…)

    I’ll have to look up that movie! I think it was a book too?

    • sswl says:

      Yes, I’ve used that technique often–sometimes the same way, to deflect from myself.

      I don’t know if it was a book–I’ve only just heard of it.

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