Saturday, October 30, 2010

Retirement Transition – Spousal Adjustment

My apologies to those of you who were lured to read this thinking it would be about sending your spouse off somewhere for a tune-up, hoping he or she would be returned performing more to your liking. This post would perhaps be more accurately titled “How to Help Your Spouse Adjust to Your Retirement,” but I like my headings short.

Regular readers of this blog know that I plan to downsize to Vermont soon after my retirement at year’s end. A logical consequence of this is that my husband (who is eleven years my senior) will also semi-retire and move with me. Those who know Jagdish might call it an illogical consequence, since my husband is attached to the stool in his retail store by a virtual umbilical cord. This naturally raises concerns in my mind about how he’ll adjust to “our” retirement.

The back story is that when we married 20 years ago, I gave up my friends and moved from my comfort zone in New Jersey to be with Jagdish in Providence. We agreed that our retirement move would be to the place of my choosing, which is near my family in northern Vermont. We’ve spent many holidays there and we both like that area. Our plan is for us to have side-by-side desks, where I’ll write and he’ll work on the website for his store, with my help.

This does not make me any less concerned about how my husband will adjust to the move. Ostensibly, his store sells clothing, jewelry, wind chimes, incense and all sorts of gifts. It’s in a college community and his best selling item is the Schnoz tissue box in the shape of Shakespeare’s face; the tissues dispense from—you guessed it—the bard’s nose. (It just occurred to me that this is ironic, since my husband shares the distinctive feature of many males in his family—an unusually large nose.)

Spectrum India could easily be described as a bustling, colorful bazaar. However, one of my husband’s friends was on point when he told him: “You’re not running a store; you’re running an ashram.” From his stool behind the cash register, Jagdish dispenses not just change, but also advice. People call him “the guru of Thayer Street.” He’s a cross between a resident philosopher and Gertrude Stein, holding daily salons where people come to discuss the issues of the day. Or night, as he rarely closes before 1 AM.

On a one-on-one level, he also serves as a psychologist/counselor. He recently told me about someone who was sad, in part because she had no money to spend. This was his advice to her (probably given along with the gift of a peacock feather.) A lot of the good things in life are free, so enjoy them. The air is free, at least until someone figures out how to put meters under our noses, so breathe deeply and more often. [The image of a meter under Jagdish’s nose made us both laugh.]

His advice continued. Smiles release endorphins and serotonin, so smile all the time, even when you are sad; it will lift your spirits. Hugs increase the hormone oxytocin, and that makes you feel good and reduces stress. So find someone to hug each day. If you can’t find someone else, then wrap your arms around to your back and hug yourself. [I checked this out. He was reporting the results of an actual NIH study.]

He even had a specific dosage for that last item (which he claims her heard somewhere, but it wasn’t in the NIH study.) You need 4 hugs a day to survive, 8 hugs for daily maintenance, and 12 to thrive. He also hypothesized that too many hugs could cause an overdose of oxytocin. I have no doubt he gave the sad young woman four hugs before she went on her way.

Simple advice. Easy to follow. Delivered so earnestly and with such charm, that no one can resist him. So you see why I’m concerned about our pending relocation. I’ve suggested that Jagdish should bring his stool with him to Vermont. Perhaps there is a store like his own on Church Street in downtown Burlington. He can ask the owner to let him sit by the door, chatting and dispensing advice and philosophy. And maybe hugs.

If that doesn’t work out, he can always just breathe deeply, smile and hug me. At least 12 times. With the hours he currently spends in his store, that’s about 10 hugs more than we get to share now. With our luck, we'll get carried away and wind up institutionalized for a hug overdose. I have a vision of our therapy sessions—touching but no hugging. We are making molds of each other’s faces to create customized Schnoz boxes. His are selling like hotcakes at Spectrum.

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