Things I Encountered for the First Time in my 65th Year Part II (The Less Tragic Bits)

I haven't done two posts/day in a while, but I didn't want to finish with a downer so here come the good bits. 

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Since turning 65, I started receiving pension, and that's made a big difference in my outlook on life. For the first time I am saying out loud I had no net income since I left my last office job in February 2000, (except for a six-month stint in 2004,) which is over half of my adult working life. It's not that I never thought about this, and I always said Ben "lets me do this", (and when he was alive, "with a little help from Dad,") but to declare it freely feels honest and liberating. So let's hear it: financially I've been a looser and a waster, and there's nothing I can do now to remedy the past. 
I felt really bad for a day or two after I typed these sentiments, but that won't change the past. That post, "Did I Live My Life the Right Way?" was supposed to be a look back at how I could not look at weaving as a financial venture, or change my ways to try to make it so. I was and am a slow weaver, and "minimum 10 in each gallery" was the best I could achieve, thanks to slow sales. Local galleries were my safest bet, even though Auckland and Queenstown may have been more lucrative as I was reminded often, I am a control freak and if I can't visit the galleries often to see how things were displayed, what was selling, those places weren't for me. (I did try Wellington in 2007.) And I had heard enough stories of some of the well-known galleries/shops not paying artists or paying upwards of nine months later after much reminder/peasing; who needs that?
I also know that in my job in the 80s at IBM to the ones here at the Polytech, I always felt varying degrees of dissatisfaction, admin/secretarial/even entry-level IT jobs never rising above "busy work". I got paid just for showing up and I put in 110%, because I don't know any other MO, but there was never time to put thoughts into what I was doing, to make something better, to instill quality into the output. Regardless of the outcome of the pieces, I get that satisfaction from weaving. (Or unimaginable regret/disgust/dismay I never felt in office jobs. :-D)

I also couldn't get rid of the defeatist aftertaste of having retired because I couldn't sell my work. But it's true: I couldn't, so I did. And that led to the loss of confidence and detachment which prevented me from trying to make nicer/different things without diluting my making, or approach other galleries.  

The best remedy was to get back on the loom, with Sunflower II, after long months of pulling out weeds and breaking clay with my hands. It felt lovely to be weaving again, thinking about colors for this project, plans for future ones, and knowing this piece is going to be... OK! I missed having projects one after another, not rushing to "make things" but to keep thinking of the next project and the one after, as future projects are destined to be better than the current. In my head. 

Opportunely, Esther told me the Suter Shop had a new manager, so I went to meet her. Annie is lovely, calm, professional, and we seem to have similar ideas about what the Suter Shop should be. Even better, the shop itself had calmed down, shedding the gift shop busyness, heading back towards a craft-oriented "local" gallery shop. And that on the 19th of December is quite an achievement! Textiles were not shoved in the bottom shelf, some just rolled up like in a teenager's close, but displayed all around/near/between other attractive work. I told her I might bring something in the near future, but that will be next year. We'll see how it goes. 

I am not coming out of retirement. Nooooo! But I hope I can still make a few nice things in my own time. This may be my last hurrah in making-to-sell, and if so, dare I hope it last several years? This could also be an atonement for my financial failure, not a reparation, but a reconciliation with myself.

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Also new this year: Pension now allows me to think about things we put off, particularly in the years I travelled to Japan to help my elderly parents. Looking back I don't know if I was indeed helping, if they felt I was, or if the trips were just nice holidays for me while Ben stayed behind working.

The Top Two of the things I put off have been replacing the primary heating system from wood to electric, and fixing my teeth. Re. the heating, it has not been just the cost, though; the most popular method being heat pumps/air conditioners, we've had a couple of assessments but I don't like hot or cold air blowing in my direction. We are getting too old to haul firewood up steep and turning steps, and we seem to need more wood/heat as we get older, so we need a solution soon. I am even toying with the idea of solar panels, (they they are again!) to store power rather than heat water. The more straight-forward is of course the teeth: I don't like going to the dentists. But one front tooth keeps chipping away.

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"They" say one should do good deeds and not talk about it, or something to that extent. But I'm going to, not to boast, but because I've been so very happy about these. It's been worth paying taxes, even in the years of my negative net income, now that my pension is allowing me to give back a little, and be nit-picky in the process. 

Something I'd long forgotten was I always hoped to donate to a good cause in a "big" way, and in a somewhat sustained manner. I used to give to large organization at times of natural disasters around the world, but I haven't trusted large organizations for a couple of decades, too much administration cost, with money/goods not reaching the folks who actually need them. So this century, it's been to local organizations I can see and visit in Nelson, and preferably good so I can contribute to local retailers if not NZ manufacturers.

This winter, for the first time, I donated a good number of NZ-made soup mixes, King's, every time we went to the supermarket, sometimes multiple times a week. This is a reliable product that we bought when we first came to New Zealand to cook on a black pot belly stove in our round black ceramic pot; tastes good and not pre-processed/artificial; comes in a small-ish packet making 8 servings, (we tested a few to make sure;) fits the donation box criteria, (here, supermarkets have large bins you can drop donations in, super easy;) and inexpensive and affordable for me. At first I felt good, but like all good deeds, once you get in the habit, it's just part of life. Until the temperatures warmed up and these packs were moved within the store. I haven't found a suitable warm-season replacement that is healthy and NZ-made, (I figure, why not help two parties if I can,) but if not, I'll stick with Kings, (we have soups in summer?), or go with healthy Australian. :-D And because sadly some folks are really going to need help under our new government.

The other thing I've done over the years was to donate books, particularly to young people, and this has been super easy since the opening of, you know, Volume. (Full disclosure, owners Stella and Thomas have saved my sanity figuratively and "literally", almost weekly.) Not only does the shop participate in seasonal donation drives, I can buy online and just put a note to please give to a suitable school/persons.

Goodness me, I am choosy; I scour Volume's website, publishers'/authors' websites, watch interview vids if any, and even some Amazon reviews, (UK or Australia if I can find any as their views are closer to Kiwis',) before deciding. It's now almost a hobby. I've upped my game of late, and I'm super happy about the books I've chosen and the opportunities I have. Enough said.  
In October, I spoke to a young library staff in the neighbouring town of Motueka, as we drove near their fancy new building we were totally unaware of. In the true spirit of a vocational librarian, (i.e. it is her vocation,) what made her happiest about the new building was the community is using their conference space, including local schools who have seen funding cuts for books and resources. So I'm on the right track, though I might have to expand the geography.

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I organized a party for "strangers". As I mentioned in the last post, Ben's department has been going through a number of organization changes since 2019/20 with staff leaving/joining. I've been lucky enough to make friends with a few of the wives, mostly online, one leaving Nelson altogether. And many staff being of the younger lot, there have been three new humans joining the "family". By chance, (I asked on FB if anyone wanted to adopt plants I propagated,) I learned Mrs Christchurch was coming on a family holiday to Nelson, and because I talk/type before I think, I asked if she would like me to organize a get-together so her kids could make a grand debut, and she was game. 

The magnitude of the endeavour slowly reached me that night. We're talking the middle of a busy summer holiday; at least five staff who have left; and six current staff, three of whom I've never even met, though Ben insists I met one. Can I get a hold of everybody? As luck would have it, Ben had the email addresses of folks who weren't my FB friends, and the current Manager helped me read the new folks, so using DM and email, it wasn't difficult. Although in the emails, I always said, "Meg,  Ben's Wife". And in the final, formal invite, I forgot to put in the date. :-D 

The get-together was last Friday. We had around 12 grownups and four littlies, and it was a cacophony of merriment, reminiscing, catching up and comparing notes on IT work places. Two more grownups abstained because they woke up with coughs; two forgot after they returned from walking the Abel Tasman the previous day, (we settled on the 29th because they would be back!! :-D) and one family couldn't make it after another a do earlier in the day. It was really indeed lovely to catch up, meet people I've been talking to online, but also to talk properly outside the office. And I offloaded a dozen plants, and even got lovely feedback about my weaving, including from one person I did not realize knew I wove. And I got to hold a five-month-old, the first babe since Jan 2001 after my nephew #2.

It was in a large room, but sans windows, sans much air flow, and yeah, we were more than a little nervous, but then there was the food drinks so the masks came off. Ben woke up with a cough and I with a scratchy throat on Saturday, so we'll test in the next few days even though we're without symptoms today. (We have six boxes due to expire in January, so might as well.) We are still living cautiously and Ben masks up often when indoors, me when in close quarters indoors, so I can't say nonchalantly that it was all worth it. But... it was fun, and lovely, and very much worth organizing. And I keep telling you, Ben really works with some of the nicest folks we know.

It's not the first time it happened, but it was the first time I was very much aware I was oldest in the room. That's going to happen more and more often, I reckon.
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I might have known about the Green Bin scheme for a couple of years, but Esther definitely recommended it late last year, and we joined in April. The company collects up to 240L/70kg, (which is not a lot,) of garden rubbish every fortnight. We have to haul it up the steep driveway, but then the rubbish is gone. It's much more convenient, pleasant, and encouraging than saving the rubbish all year and getting a large skip once a year about now to load up the stuff. It also makes me go outside for short spurts even if I can't be bothered investing a whole day of weeding and digging and breaking clay.

This is definitely one of the top, bestest things we started this year, and we intend to continue the subscription.
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I've finally started buying Paperblank notebooks for myself in 2019. Before that, only as gifts as I was so afraid of ruining them. But jotting down a few lines of mundane blather each day has been useful in noting some of life's "events" lest I'll forget the next day. Tonight is the last I write in the Morris, and tomorrow I start on Vincent. (It's a bit too sparkly, but never mind, it's in my favored shape/size.) This feels like a steady component in a life without too many steady components. There is nothing new about these, but that's OK, too. 

And thus I conclude what I think is the last post of 2023. (Can't guarantee, still not 5PM here.) Dear friends, I hope the turning of the calendar gives you hope and resolve and most of all a little light in your 2024.

See you on the other side.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Strictly speaking, I'm still 65 until April, but it's almost a saying in Japan, various versions of "I never knew until I was insert-age", so I'll stick with it.