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In one of my favorite cartoons a spouse asks his retired husband what he is doing today. “Nothing.”
“You did that yesterday,” she says, and he replies, “I haven’t finished yet.”
In retirement, I’ve spent some time researching how to manage things and feel comfortable with my new lifestyle as the man in the cartoon. I’ve had some success and want to share some advice for those in a similar situation.
If you have a partner in your house, then you have to get used to the new boss. Chances are your spouse will have a different management style to your former boss in the workplace. To my knowledge there is no training course to deal with this new system. Much of your partner’s goal is to stamp out laziness, and so I’d like to step into this management void to illustrate how to counter this unfair strike against this situation. This is one of the qualities I am most proud of now. Feeling comfortable – being “lazy” thrown at you as an insult requires vigilance and effort – even pride.
My wife and I, during most of our lives, viewed laziness as a serious character flaw. We grew up with the age-old Victorian ethic of diligence required for salvation; Brainwashing was, and is, effective.
After I retired, it took me some time to get used to not getting a gainful job. I slowly realized that laziness is not a sin, it can be my best friend. Part of the perception is the lack of motivation. However, in my case, it is not a lack of motivation, but a different See what’s important. I know what I want to do – not much, really – and have started using laziness as a shield to avoid what I don’t want. For example, at one time when I was a social fabric, I have little interest in social gatherings now; This avoidance has been facilitated by COVID-19. Also, I rarely answer the phone on the assumption that none of my friends will be calling me.
The first tool and friend of laziness is a well-developed skill to “not do things right”. For example, I can’t be trusted to make any serious purchases because I’ve been known to forget items and, even worse, pick up on the completely wrong things. However, in my own interest, I have adjusted the way the coffee is brewed. Now I ask my wife to write down my request, these four or five words that don’t make sense to me are completely understandable when handed to the barista. That way, if the final product is wrong, I can’t be blamed.
My wife and I were born in a time and place where all the cooking was done by women. She felt this inequality for a long time and taught our three sons how to cook, but she never came to me. One of the reasons I never learned to cook was not entirely traditional laziness. While I love food, I see it as a functional necessity rather than a worship and I have successfully resisted the temptation to take an interest. However, I am allowed to manage the dishwasher and clean the pots and pans, although I have been told that I sometimes do not clean them properly.
Another enhancement to the laziness strategy is the willingness to execute “shortcuts”. I developed this skill while I was working. There were many situations where a project was expected to take so many hours; I never felt guilty if I found a way to take the time off using shortcuts. Sometimes the result of shortcuts wasn’t that pretty, but I realized the evils of perfectionism long ago. Shortcuts are an important asset in a portfolio. There is every possibility that your new boss will eliminate shortcut work and thus render you unsuitable for similar tasks.
Also, taking initiative outside of instructions is more likely to result in a shot. For example, taking the initiative when shopping has a high probability of being shot as both “not doing the right thing” and “not doing the right thing”. This inevitably leads to release you from work in the future.
I take care of some tasks like taking out the garbage, cleaning the toilets, changing the bulbs etc. I have already given up the hay so there is no cutting in that department now. Our last dog was not replaced and so another project has come to an end. It has not escaped my attention that my traditional tasks are quite small and there is little room for “not doing things right”. My provision is that I accept these responsibilities as long as I do them in my own time And I can do it in my own way. There is nothing more annoying than being interrupted in the middle of the important task of reading the newspaper with a request to get some avocados and an expectation that I go to the store right away.
This summer, on short notice, I was asked to take my grandchildren for a swim. Was I going to go into the bedroom and put on my swimsuit? No, too much trouble! I decided that I would use my underpants instead. When my wife finally decided to come along, I feared that my choice of dress would be criticized. I thought that underpants in a patterned blue were a design that could also be interpreted as swimwear. When I came out of the pool, however, he told me I displayed a nice vedi, my back was transparent and the outside that Fresh Tag advertised the true function of my trunk to the gathering citizens. So, my point is that you will also need a thick skin while walking down the chosen path of laziness.
In short, sloth is a high art form that requires constant burning. It thrives on “not doing things right,” which in turn is helped by using shortcuts and initiative and wrapped up with a healthy disdain for perfectionism. I am working to make sure my skills remain lacking for many activities. It is one thing to be considered mediocre over and over again, but constant mediocrity is an art form and reaches only a small number of people. One of my final steps in combating the anti-laziness movement is not to care what other people think of me.
Bill Germain lives in Toronto.
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