Women rarely have existential crises. I remember having one in college, desperately trying to figure out what my life was for. Forty years later, I realize that I haven’t asked that question in—well, in nearly forty years. Because most women have no trouble figuring out what their lives are for. We are surrounded by people eager to tell us, if the question comes up. We are for doing all the stuff that falls around the edges and between the cracks of what Important People do, so that Important People are freed up to do their thing.
At the moment, I have a disabled husband, a small independent law practice, a cat, and a cluttered condo. And Social Security, Medicare, and a free public transportation pass. Not much in the way of savings, no investments whatever. (Mr. Wired never believed in the stock market. By George, he was right!) So I’m having a sort of existential mini-crisis about whether I should retire, or just cut back on my law practice to the extent possible, or try to ramp up my practice so I can put some money away while I’m still up to it.
Most lawyers don’t exactly retire anyway, they just cut back their practices. (The only lawyers I know who have actually retired within living memory are one of my colleagues who shut down his practice and moved to Florida to live on his investments, and then got bored by Florida and impoverished when his investments tanked ten years ago or so, and who is now back in court where I see him just about every time I’m in his regular courtroom, and a former judge who just got back safely from the bloodbath in Mumbai and who is probably reconsidering retirement as I write.) A colleague I used to work with at Legal Aid, who was admitted to the bar the year I was born, has cut back to part-time. I asked her at the time what differences she noticed. She said mainly it was that now, when she was doing the laundry, all she had to do was the laundry. Another colleague, who had his hundredth birthday a couple of years ago, is still more or less in practice.
And retirement, for most women, doesn’t exactly mean playing golf and reading magazines all day. I asked a friend of mine, who recently retired from her IT job with the Federal Reserve, what she noticed about being retired. She says it’s mostly that she no longer falls asleep in concerts and movies, because she is no longer sleep-deprived.
Retirement, for me, would mean spending a lot more time with Mr. Wired, who would like that a lot, since he doesn’t get out much. And a lot more time with the cat, ditto. The condo would be cleaner, obviously. I might have time to get rid of some of the clutter on Craigslist and Freecycle. (Anybody need a Sharper Image Bionic Air Cleaner with extra filter, still in working condition? How about an Onion Blossom maker? Lotta books? Miscellaneous kitchen gadgets? Coupla humidifiers?)
Retirement might also mean getting back into freelance writing, or maybe even working on a book, which I have roughed out in my mind. And knitting, which is coming back into style, and which I haven’t done in a long time. (Mr. Wired’s mother, of blessed memory, used to keep us both in beautifully knitted sweaters, but they’re wearing out now.)
As it is, I come in to the office later when I don’t have to be in court first thing in the morning. I often leave early, especially in winter, so I can get home before dark. I work from home more than I used to. But sometimes retirement really appeals to me. Simone de Beauvoir warns women against letting their lives be consumed by “women’s work,” but sometimes it’s tempting, and shoot, I’ve spent more than enough time doing The Important Stuff. I still fall asleep in movies, and when I do laundry, I’m generally doing a bunch of other stuff too. I welcome feedback. Peace and light to you all.