Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Retirement Pleasures - Reciprocity

When I finally retire, I expect to spend more time on Facebook. I won’t become addicted or start playing Farmville. I’ll just check my home page more regularly and weigh in more often with my two cents in the comment threads.

I first got involved with Facebook for business reasons; (hard to believe, I know.) I thought the nonprofit I head up should be on Facebook, but I needed to learn more about it before I put their reputation at risk. I also wanted to begin to amass a network for the web-based projects I hope to develop once I retire.

I quickly realized that it can be fun to reconnect with friends from high school, even grade school. I took the time to complete a fairly thorough profile and all sorts of people began to find me. Then came my birthday and an in-box full of greetings, some from folks I barely knew. That’s when I discovered the birthday alert feature, and along with it, the merits of reciprocity.

On Sundays, I receive an email from the Wizard of Facebook with a list of people in my network who have birthdays in the upcoming week. I make it a point to send greetings, even to vague acquaintances. I do this because I remember how happy I was to get similar messages, and I’ve discovered that reciprocating makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. (Not as much as a good Cab does, but a little bit more than crème brulée.)

This applies to comments on blogs, as well. Several friends read my posts, but very few enter their own comments. Every now and then, a stranger stumbles across RetirementSparks and posts a thoughtful or encouraging remark. Sometimes I can trace who they are and discover that they, too, have a blog. I read some of their writings and post a comment of my own. It’s important to reciprocate, to support one’s fellow bloggers. It’s easier than therapy (and way cheaper.)

Reciprocity is different from paying it forward. You reciprocate as part of an anticipated exchange of thoughtfulness, a back and forth. Tit for tat, if you will; (please, no snickering.) For example, my friend Becky travels a lot and sometimes asks me to water her plants. My husband and I are rarely away at the same time, but I can count on Becky to feed our cats, if need be. (Giving Lily her pill is another story altogether.)

As I was lying in bed one night last week, a variation on the Mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice kept running through my mind. “The quality of reciprocity is not strain’d…” You need to want to reciprocate for it to work its magic. “It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” That’s the Facebook birthday thing, in the bard’s words.

I’ve decided that retirement will be a good time to invest in more reciprocity. Some ideas come to mind right out of the gate. I plan to get more exercise once I retire, and walking is a good way to start. I’ll do it more regularly if I have someone to do it with. So, if Fred calls and says “Let’s walk this morning,” I’ll chirp “Sure!” even if I’d rather put my feet up and sip Earl Grey. Because I know that if I decide to walk at 7 one evening, I’ll call him and say, “I need to take a walk, and I’d like some company” and he’ll come along to reciprocate.

My sister and I have already made an arrangement whereby we’ll pluck the goat hairs from one another’s chins when our eyesight is too far gone for us to do our own. Now that’s merciful reciprocity.

Once we retire, I expect that Jagdish and I will put cream on one another’s backs. I do his at bedtime now, but he rarely reciprocates. I prefer to moisturize in the morning, and he’s usually still in the shower when I dress for work. When I retire, I expect to have skin as soft as a baby’s bum.

If I put my mind to it, I know I’ll to come up with dozens of ways to experience the pleasure of reciprocity, (and none of them involving sex, although that’s also an option, I suppose, what with my newly soft skin.) The ways I uncover are more likely to be practical ones. Maybe things to do with household chores, or kitchen-related tasks.

I can almost hear me now. “Honey, I’ll unscrew the lid on your peanut butter jar if you’ll pull the cork out of my wine bottle.” I propose a new proverb: Blessed be the reciprocators, for theirs is the kingdom of retirement. Amen to that.

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