6.16.2008

Good for Nothing

For all of my earlier bellyaching and angst about becoming a “trailing spouse,” I can honestly say I have settled nicely into my role as stay-at-home hausfrau and lady of leisure--much to the surprise of those who knew me in my previous life. When friends, family, and former colleagues back in the States quiz me on how I am fairing without a career to keep me busy and fulfilled, I can only offer a positive report.

“After 24 years of working,” I say pointedly, “I am happy for this break.”

The truth is, 99.9 % of the time, I am relaxed and blissful, waking up every morning with the feeling of being on a fantastic adventure. After all, I live in *Europe* now. If this fact alone didn’t put the kick in my knickers, I’ve also come to appreciate this time of my life is completely mine--to do or be whatever I want--without the stress, structure, and pressure that comes from longtime entanglements and relationships. And although I may not use this time toward any great or meaningful endeavors, I do spend it leisurely pursuing the hobbies, which I’ve always loved, but never really had the time to cultivate. Add to this a great man sharing easy times, and my life is a good and satisfying.

But then come evenings like this past Saturday and an invitation to dinner with some of Max’s colleagues.

Oh, they are pleasant and interesting people—a multinational group, a highly educated lot of chemists—usually husband and wife teams, who boast degrees from Oxford, MIT, and Harvard. They casually sip their aperitifs (in only the appropriate glass) and spend the evening discussing, in multiple languages, the sad state of polymer research, as well as the lack of good, organic chemists within the company.

And if this weren’t enough to send me flailing through the nearest window, the idle chitchat inevitably turned to me.

“And what do you do Diane?”

In similar situations, I’ve tried all sorts of cute and clever lines. I’ve described myself as “retired” or “gainfully unemployed.” Sometimes, to prove to my audience I was once a woman of substance, I talk about my former career or some of the interesting jobs I held before moving to Germany.

This time, however, I didn’t feel like doing the verbal tap dance. I realized these folks weren't asking for an explanation of my lifestyle choices, and that maybe in these moments the only one I was really trying to convince was myself.

“Absolutely nothing,” I chirped. “And I am rather enjoying it.”

A few raised eyebrows, others smiled. Ultimately, the group went back to a previous conversation, laughing about black polymers, which I could only gather were not part of some bad 80s fashion craze. The crowd reaction was fine by me. Instead of feeling less or insecure, I listened and smiled politely, sipped a nice glass of wine, sat back and finally relaxed.

25 comments:

Sueellen said...

Good for you! I bet you enjoyed that wine much more too!

Paige Jennifer said...

Those who lifted eyebrows were only trying to decipher the secret - as in how you are doing what you are doing and they aren't. I say enjoy yourself!

Simple Answer said...

Chemists? I think I'd rather stick a hot poker in my eye than listen to idle chemist chit chat. So I raise my martini glass to you for being confident in a way they can't even imagine!

American in Norway said...

I was going to say... hmmm, sounds like a good time... As long as you are OK with having a little time off.. who gives a &%¤& what everyone else thinks... CHEERS

Jill said...

Good going lady! I always tire of the looks and questions when I say I'm "JUST" a home-maker. As if taking care of a family and a house aren't enough work - without pay of course. A lady of leisure sounds fantastic! I'm going to use that the next time someone asks me what I do.

Charlotte said...

Well done for being you and not caring if people judge you or not. You are living your life well, and that is all that is important.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Ah yes...I hate those conversations. Like you, I used to explain my old career, like I was trying to prove that I had a brain. Eventually I realized that I didn't need to justify my choice. Secretly I bet they wish they could be like you :)

Snooker said...

You are a lady of leisure. Don't be ashamed of it, revel in it!

Andrea said...

It can be hard to admit we 'do nothing' all day. I've been doing nothing for nearly 6 years (albeit with kids in tow :) Sometimes people are polite and then get back to talking to 'real' people.
There are times I miss being able to say I work at such and such financial house and I work on stock such and such. But I really don't want to go back to that. I hate laundry but it beats sitting through boring meetings!

G in Berlin said...

I feel the same way. After 27 years of various jobs, including the hardest- running my own business- I like being home.And I have enough to do. Now I understand how my mom was able to make meals every day- she had the time and it was enjoyable.

running42k said...

No reason to try to impress guys talking about polymers.

Me said...

Good for you!

You are tagged by the way.:)

Senior Advisor said...

The people who raised their eyebrows were secretly trying to figure out how they could do the same thing.

Life has presented you with a wonderful opportunity...the chance to actually enjoy it and to spend time doing whatever you choose to do. Who could ask for more?

Sizzle said...

Good for you!

AmyD said...

Atta girl!! Glad you are finally falling happily into this role...you certainly did work hard enough for it in the past. :o)

ms chica said...

Well said. I still find it difficult to answer that question two and a half years later. I only hope that in time I will be able to handle myself with as much grace as you did.

I'm a little bemused at the notion of a career being fulfilling. It isn't that I don't believe they can be fulfilling, but simply that mine never was.

Diane Mandy said...

Ms. Chica - I never had a job I didn't LOVE. And I feel very lucky for this. I loved my work so much I would have gone every day even if the company didn't pay me. And before Max-- when my "home life" was so so difficult, I would have paid my company to let me work. Yes, I was fulfilled.

Shelly said...

When "those people" ask me "that question" my new answer has been "as little as possible"....sometimes they laugh, sometimes they don't know what to say. I love it when somebody responds with "I want her job!" After 25 years of working and racing from pillar to post, I'm loving the chance to linger over my morning coffee and ponder what project to work on today. Enjoy!

Charlotte said...

BLACK polymers? OMG. As 80s as Cyndi Lauper! And yet, we still hold a strange fascination for both of them--it's like a car crash from which you can't look away.

Ahem. I just made all that up.

Hey, my answer would be something like, "Just concluded a 24-year-stint in the high-tech rat race and looking for the next great adventure." Because that's what you are. And trust me, those raised eyebrows? These folks are JEALOUS! I know I am ...

Charlotte said...

AND I just had an even better idea: Invest $25 in Kiva and you can tell people you're a professional philanthropist! Ha! I know that's what I'll do when I'm done with Space Cadet Central ...

Sarah said...

It does sound exotic and grand, having your time completely yours. Screw the black polymers!

karey m. said...

good on you. by the way, in case you haven't noticed from the masses who get pissed when you take time for vacations and such...you're. a. writer.

and a damn good one. you're an influencial woman. and a damn good one. a powerful woman. oh, you get the gist.

i always dumb it down. no need for self-inflating when you absolutely do not need it. leave it for the harvard alums. poor babies.

Diane Mandy said...

karey m - for once I will disagree with you (but I still adore you).

YOU.ARE.A.WRITER.

I am a hack--but, hopefully, a well-adjusted, very content hack. :-)

Dianne said...

You are a writer! and an international woman of poise and relaxation :)

free to be ... I always say

Rositta said...

Excellent answer and it's good that you don't feel any insecurities. I gave up a 25 year career when I became ill and now like you do nothing and love it. But unlike you I sometimes feel insecure about it...working on it though...ciao