Balancing the Forces

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It has been a year now since I have semi-retired. Friends ask how I’m doing, what it’s like.

The truth? I’m a living science experiment. My semi-retirement is an example of centripetal force and centrifugal force.

Centrifugal force is that force that pushes an object away from the center of a rotating object. If you’re on one of those carnival rides that rises and rotates, it is centrifugal force that pushes your chair away from the center pole as you spin. My retirement is my centrifugal force. It makes me step away from the center, reluctant to involve myself in things that aren’t worth my time. It keeps me inoculated from office politics, and places me in the middle of huge swaths of solitude. It makes me grateful that I will never have to willingly spend time with a twit again.

Centripetal force is what pulls things toward the center of a rotation, keeping it neatly moving in a circle. Back to the carnival, it is centripetal force that keeps you in your seat when you’re suspended upside down at the top of a roller coaster loop. It’s the “semi” in my retirement that keeps me coming back to the center of action, getting involved in writing groups, taking cooking classes, taking an interest in local politics. Perhaps it’s ego, but the sting of answering “Nothing” to the query about what I do for a living keeps my calendar filled.

But here’s the key. If you read about these forces, there’s an important clue in the definition: “In a properly rotating part, such as a wheel, both forces must be equal. If the centripetal force is overcome or ceases to exist, the wheel will ‘explode,’ the parts flying off in all directions.”

So what is semi-retirement like? It’s trying to find the balance so the parts don’t fly off in all directions.

Carnival swing

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BON APPETIT vs BON MOTS

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Do you go out to dinner with your friends, or do you cook for one another?

I was wondering because it seems that I went through life stages with dining out.

Back in my early 20s, I often entertained at home, reveling in the new experience of playing hostess. Armed with the Silver Palate, I whipped up lovely dinners of cheap food and cheaper wine. I lived in Milwaukee at the time, and everyone seemed to live close enough for a spontaneous dinner.

When I hit 30 and had my daughter, restaurants were out of the question in my new city of Washington, DC. Of course, my darling was an angel, but my friends’ children? Unruly hooligans who made fine dining a distant memory!

When our children grew old enough to stay at home without babysitters, no one wanted to sit in beltway traffic to get to a friend’s house. The compromise was to meet at DC restaurants in the middle of the Virginia-Maryland-DC triangle. Our paychecks had grown along with our children, so we could sometimes indulge in the latest foodie hot spot.

And now, in our Charleston, SC semi-retirement? Home has become a haven. We’re selective about who we let in because people tend to leave behind whatever energy they came in with. For some, we always meet at restaurants. And, for a select few, we cook.

It used to be a luxury to eat at the trendy restaurants. Now, it’s a luxury to cook a meal for friends who are close enough that they don’t really care if the soufflé sinks. We used to crave the buzz of a popular restaurant; now we long for a place where we can actually hear our friends’ witticisms.

I may not turn out food that rivals the latest gastro-orgasm of a celebrity chef, but more often than not I prefer a friend’s bon mot at home to a bon appetit in a fancy restaurant.

Where do you eat with your friends, and what stage are you in with dining out?

Dinner with Friends