I thought retiring would be like falling off a log. I mean, how hard can it be to stop working? You stay up watching movies later than you have in decades, smile smugly at the alarm clock when you finally turn out the light, and wake up whenever you feel like it. In fact, you do everything when you feel like it. For the rest of your life.
I discovered, but only after a year and a half, that just moving through your retirement days is shortchanging yourself in many ways. Some downtime is needed at the onset to unwind from the stress of working; the more stressful the work, the more downtime required. But when the days begin to melt together to the point when you don’t know which day of the week it is, you might be ready for a little more structure in your life.
Firstly, let’s get rid of the word “retirement.” It is way too sedentary. I prefer to think of it as “independency.” No longer are my husband and I dependent on a paycheck to get through life. We have reached the point in our lives where hard work and careful investments over the years have allowed us to come and go as we please, with the emphasis on “come and go.” Independency requires activity. I will retire when I am no longer active.
So a year and a half in, I came out of my independency daze long enough to remember the bucket list. Actually my sister was the one who administered the smelling salts by bringing up the children’s story I had written and never published. She discovered through her genealogy research that we are related (by marriage) to the family at the center of my historical fiction. Did I think this new angle could help me get the book published, she wondered. Published? I’d written the thing ages ago, just before I’d gone back to work full time, but I vowed then that when I retired and had more time to myself I would go back to it - or, at the very least, to writing in some form or another. As the fog cleared, I recalled the other items on my independency bucket list.
How is it that I am so busy in my independency that I don’t have time to accomplish anything on my bucket list? Well, perhaps it is the hours I spend writing long, detailed emails to my friends and family. Or paying bills as they are received. Or filling in at my volunteer job whenever they need someone. I was being reactive, not proactive, and the lack of some kind of structure was eating up my time.
Structure? In independency? The two concepts seem contradictory. I balked at the idea of scheduling my hobbies into my week, but at the same time I knew that I would never find the time to accomplish them if I didn’t make the time. So on my weekly calendar I wrote in all the things I wanted to accomplish, along with all the things, like doctor and dentist appointments, that I had to accomplish.
It’s working like a dream. No longer do I feel like I should be sorting through insurance paperwork when I’m out on the boat, or scrubbing toilets when I’m reading. Unpaid bills go into a folder until Monday. Thursday is dedicated to boating. (And if Thursday’s weather is not conducive to boating, I can be flexible in my independency and switch things around.) Cleaning is done on Fridays. Reading is my reward after bills are paid on Mondays and I’ve checked off the at least three items on my never-ending To-do list on Wednesdays. And if I want to go to lunch with a friend, well maybe I don’t scrapbook that week. Some might think it obsessive, but I’ve never been more productive or satisfied. Or less stressed about fitting everything in. Everything in its own time.