To clarify, this isn’t about the world stage.
On that platform, we continue to struggle with the global pandemic being steered by the driver that’s COVID-19. And, even though we’re now in the third year of living with this tricky and sneaky virus, the infection marches on, having a major impact everywhere—a tragic mess impacting millions.
Here in the United States, crazy inflation has made budgeting a losing proposition since nearly everything costs more. This even applies to Dollar Store items, whose price tags often no longer reflect the name of the business. There are also supply chain burps, not just with toilet paper, but in our area, lumber and Mason jars.
Covering all of this is the jumbo circus tent that’s the Russian invasion into Ukraine.
From the aggressor’s perspective, the attack hasn’t gone the way it was supposed to go—instead lasting much longer,
and with many more casualties on both sides.
Vladimir Putin might be a madman, or he might be set on making the destiny he has imagined for so long—the return of the Soviet Union by taking over adjacent, weaker countries. He very well might be both. As I write, though, Ukraine continues to fight back against bigly odds, despite heavy losses of human life and cities bombed into rubble.
It's all so heartbreaking.
But here at home, in our blue-and-white house on a one-block street in Oregon, things are less complicated.
I was sort of aware of this new shift, but didn’t really notice it until I saw it in black and white.
We were filling out our income tax worksheets, the dreaded, annual assignment from my trusted accountant. Once completed—and I drag that process out for weeks—our scribbles give him with the information he needs to ensure our tax return is done right.
But, as I began retrieving records and filling out the paperwork, one Very Big Thing started to stick out.
For the first time ever, a lot of spaces could be left blank.
It seems that retirement does this sort of thing.
Breaking it down a bit, it’s now no longer necessary to keep track of the many expenses that went hand-in-hand with our previous working lives.
For instance, we continue to drive, but never use our vehicles for anything job related.
So, we no longer have to log the cost of car washes and repairs, new tires, insurance and mileage. The Hubster once used his van to travel to homes to teach private music lessons, but these days, none of the above is necessary. Also, since those lessons are now behind him, ditto for deducting the office supplies used to bill students, including printing costs, stamps and envelopes.
On my side, I continue to score writing work, but now it’s part-time and all remote. Interviews are conducted over the phone or online instead of in person, although as a freelancer, I can, and do, claim deductions for books; subscriptions to magazines, and journals.
Of course, I need my computer to write, so I made sure to save the receipt I received for my new keyboard and its installation (I used my PC so much last year that several of the keys stopped functioning.)
But all in all, there are many less worksheet items to fill in than there used to be.
Simplifying our lives doesn’t mean we’re sitting around.
We’re just on a different schedule.
I take aquatic classes at our neighborhood gym nearly every morning, and the Hubster has also started working out at the same venue a few times during the week. He also spends a good amount of time grocery shopping at various markets, which he is happy to admit makes up most of his social life.
As for keeping my brain active, the book club I belong to, as well as writing questions for Quora and puzzling out Wordle, is helping.
Finally, with COVID-19 winding down in our part of the world, at least right now, we’re planning on a good deal of traveling later this year.
We’re not going all that far, but there are friends in Seattle, and The Daughter and The Boyfriend are in Los Angeles. A dear friend has offered us his family’s beach house not far from Portland. Another intended journey that’s slated for autumn is meandering along blue highways* in Oregon.There won’t be a set schedule for this trip. Instead, we’ll stop when we please, checking out roadside motels, diners and non-touristy historical sites.
The simplicity of this post-job life is proving to be an interesting chapter for both of us.
We’re both getting used to it. Mostly, we’re also liking it.
* This descriptive noun comes from the 1978 autobiographical travel book, which is also titled Blue Highways. These are small and mostly forgotten, out-of-the-way roads that connect rural America--drawn in blue on the old-style road maps of the day.