Privilege Blog

The Simple Structure Of A Day, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:53am

This is going to be an embarrassing post.

Retirement isn’t straightforward. At least not for everyone.

When I first stopped working I asked myself, “Am I doing the right things? I cleared obstacles. Two years later I ask, “Am I doing what I’m doing the right way?”

Working, your days are structured. Get up and go, every morning. Retired, you ask yourself, “And what to do today?” You always have to ask again, “And next?”

This is hard on project people. We can’t treat our unstructured lives as a single timeline, or we launch only at death. Nor can we organize each day around multiple small projects, switching costs are too high. We have to prepare and contextualize, even for errands. So we fall back on a To Do list. The tyranny of yellow pads.

Eventually, even that list comes to feel too stressful. I struggle with balancing each day’s need to matter — to accomplish, to serve — with the earned right to do as I please. If I have the privilege of retiring, I ought to both contribute and enjoy myself. How? How to organize a life with very few constraints? I never knew this would require thought. Turns out anxiety is not caused by To Do’s alone.

Over the past several months I’ve been sick enough to be bed-ridden. Or at least sofa-ridden. I didn’t talk about it here, because, well, I didn’t. I’m better now. The reason I bring it up is because I lived without a To Do list — excepting blog posts — for the first time in my life.

To my surprise, this was not blissful. I found myself in pigeon-lever land, pressing for dose after dose of endorphins, delivered by food, shopping, alcohol, and highly compelling units of digital narrative. Also known as “television.”

Recovered, I understand that a project person needs a process. A well-constructed operating model for A Day in the Life.

I’m a little embarrassed that this knowledge feels important. Here’s my new plan.

Mornings are for Sitting, Thinking And Writing. Blog posts, emails, or bill paying, doesn’t matter. I’m in front of a computer. At 6am, or sometimes 7, I wake up, eat a small breakfast, and head for my corner of the sofa.

It’s important that the computer work ends before I get too hungry. Why? I used to keep going ’til noon, then eat a big lunch, then have to lie down, which of course meant watching television. Once the television – or streaming video – comes on, the day enters a cocoon period which is impossible to exit before the inner clock allows.


Now I get off the computer earlier, by 10:00 or 11, have a small snack, and start Moving Around. This means working out, or doing errands, or finally cleaning the shower tile. Have I ever told you how much I hate housework? But I can manage a few hours a week, as long as I get to pick the task spontaneously.

Then I fall sighing into Lunch And Lounge. Unconditional permission. These days I’m watching HBO’s Getting On, (having finished the 3rd season of Rita on Netflix), and reading the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Deep lounging.

Time passes. My metabolism slows to a crawl, hitting the nadir of its day. I breathe. A clock ticks somewhere.

And then I get up and start Making Dinner, happily. Peacefully.

My husband comes home, we eat, he works, I read, watch more digital narrative, maybe clean up, maybe do something I didn’t take care of during the day. But my husband is with me, so the anxiety of What To Do subsides.

This structuring of a day seems so trivial. I know. I know. But I find it’s given me the space to revisit the earlier question, “Am I doing the things that matter?”

I’m pretty sure I’m Lunching and Lounging correctly. Ha. Want TV recommendations? I’m your Gal.

Do I Write And Think about the right things? The question of the blog as a platform for values belongs here, as does the mix of entertaining vs. analytical posts, and the won’t-go-away thought of writing a book. Am I Moving About enough and in the right places? The idea of volunteering at a local school belongs here, as does taking more walks.

In essence, organizing my days so as to think very little about what to do next may clear space to consider a longer timespan. How to make it mean as much as possible. By which I mean my life.

I had a similar chunk of time when I was young, a small inheritance in the bank, no commitments, when I could have done anything. Did I sit quietly and think clearly? Nope. I thrashed about the world.

I believe this small understanding could only come now, at almost 60. So I do not regret not having known it earlier.

Materfamilias and Mardel are also thinking about retired days, if that’s of interest. Have a wonderful weekend, one and all.

84 Responses

  1. i think volunteering at a local school would be wonderful. i can’t say enough about the impact hands-on service has had on my life, particularly now that i set my own work schedule. i would also note that in the past month i’ve spent almost no time with the television, save for a few hours with rachel maddow following the SCOTUS marriage decision and events in south carolina, and the space between my ears feels like a well-constructed sonnet – twinned in all the right places, a unifying swing, an envoi that summarizes with tenderness.

    1. @lauren, In all the time I’ve been thinking to myself that I ought to volunteer, it was always with a sense of obligation. But the idea of sitting down with kids to help them read, something I’ve done off and on all my life, makes me really happy. And, BTW, if giving up TV could make me write like you, I just might do it. xox.

  2. Lisa, I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been sick! I’m glad you are better now.

    I don’t have any good suggestions for you. I am 65, overbusy with work and a rising HS senior who is very ambitious about college applications, and I barely have time to think. But I dread DS leaving a little over a year from now, and I really dread losing my career. I plan to hang on as long as I can.

    Reading about your unstructured days depresses me, and I suspect it has something to do with not really wanting to have time to think! I don’t know what will happen when an unwelcome retirement combines with an unwanted empty nest, but I don’t think I will meet it as gracefully as you and Frances have.

    1. @Marie, I suspect you will be able to keep working, one way or another, for a long time. Maybe the empty nest will help you find time to envision that world? Also, I know, it’s hard when they go, no way around that, but, gchat and texting to the rescue:). xox.

  3. If I may, I would suggest that having some hours structured by outside commitments would also make those hours which are up to you on an individual basis, easier to deal with. So, if you do volunteer, (a) you will have less time (so will have to find specific times to do specific things that you need or want to do; errands will have to be done during that one time that you are free to make a journey of the necessary length to the place that is not always open when you are free, and so on.) & (b) your time will become more precious, being no longer apparently limitless; hours that you might choose to spend engaged in an activity that you do more purely for your own enjoyment, will feel intentional; you’ll have to get to work clearing out that cupboard/reading that book/sewing those curtains/learning how to make bread, or there won’t be time for it at all. Furthermore, (c), you will feel less guilty about resting!

    1. @Jay, I agree, my situation has been very pronounced – no obligations or commitments beyond my workouts, the blog, and cooking dinner. Someone with parents or children or grandchildren to care for would have a very different experience. I’ve been hesitant to add structure with outside commitments because I wanted to see where I wound up with none – I am ready to add some back in as you suggest.

  4. You sound like a goal-oriented person without a goal. Someone with your manifest abilities cleaning tile grout makes me shudder. Have you thought about going back to school? I mean that in all honesty. I would imagine that in your younger days school was a trial because you needed to excel (I know a lot of children of academics and they HATED school because it was sort of like the busman’s child’s holiday). But what about attending classes with no other purpose than learning? I always regret that I didn’t discover the beauty and art of the garden until my 40s. If I ever win the lottery, I’m going back to school to get a landscape certificate (U.C. extension offers one, and I imagine Stanford has similar programs). Anyway, it doesn’t have to be gardening obviously. It just has to grab your mind and let you run with it. Have fun. Take singing lessons. I guess the point I’m making is that your brain is far too wonderful to be a hostage of boredom as you lurch from one HGTV program to the other (and, wow, are they addicting or what?). And I think one reason why they are so addicting is that all these shows dedicate themselves to making order out of chaos. Which is such a powerful drug (as I stare at the stacks of books and general debris littering my desk).

    1. @claire, I am a goal-oriented person with the express goal to find out just how much of a goal or how many of them I am happy to have:). As far as school – maybe I’m odd but I loved college beyond beyond. Business school, enh, but maybe that’s because I was never in the top 10% and I like to excel. I haven’t had any desire to go back to school per se, until very recently. Now I think about learning software design, and taking contract work. It was always the most fascinating part of my software product management world. I feel that if I did go back to school, I’d want it to lead to paid work – so that I could in turn pay someone else to clean the grout…

      I thank you very much for the compliments on my thinking. It is encouraging.

  5. I’m really sorry that you have been ill and very happy that you are better
    My early retirement was one of most stressful things in my life. It was my choice,it was planned and it was chosen for the health reasons. Even so, it looks that To Do can be less stressful than Not To Do.
    I liked my work very much,I was very satisfied with my position. But decided not to look back.
    Luckily there happend other things so I have a lot to do outside the house. And To Do. But it is good,because I am the one who choose how much I want to ( sometimes :-) ),and how much I can! My mornings are usually busy ,afternoons are for me (not always) I have to rest to start over.
    Now I understand this and it is good. And I understand that I can be more free in a structured life,as I said to Frances. If you like,you can break a structure sometimes. And this is freedom!
    I also volunteered a lot,worked with kids,it was great pleasure.
    When I started to read your blog,I was afraid ( still am) to comment,it so intelectual ( here in Europe this is a compliment! ),so sophisticated .If it is the only thing you do,it will be enough for an accomplishment!
    So,you have to build your day around! And not to
    overload your days and weeks for the beginning because you never know how one thing can lead to another.
    Take care

    1. @dottoressa, Aw thank you. It was miserable being that sick and I’m so happy to be back to myself. Please, never let my big words and predilection for analysis hold you back from commenting. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this community. I think what you say is very true – particularly, “And I understand that I can be more free in a structured life,as I said to Frances. If you like,you can break a structure sometimes. And this is freedom!” I love to do things off my list, rebelling, by, say, cleaning up the garage rather than the kitchen:).

  6. I really like Stephen Covey’s framework for planning tasks/responsibilities: dividing things into a matrix of Urgent/Not Urgent and Important/Not Important:

    You’re a business school lady, so you probably already know this framework. But I have found it very helpful for planning my life, not just work tasks.

    Thinking about what’s really important helps me focus my efforts, even when “urgent” things come up.

    I am glad you’re feeling better and hope you have a full recovery soon and feel good for a really long time!

    1. @Danielle, Thank you. I think that framework can be very useful when one is busy. I found it a little less so when I found myself so very unbusy. I was surprised at how much I didn’t know.

    2. That certainly makes sense.

      What interests me the most about Stephen Covey’s framework is that he encourages people to focus on the Important/Not Urgent stuff. Even when we’re “really busy” with Urgent items, it’s actually the ongoing, non-urgent stuff (like relationship building, taking care of one’s health, etc) that really matters.

      It’s funny that those sort of foundational parts that make up a good life are easy to ignore, whether you’re busy or not.

  7. Glad to have such thoughtful, self-reflexive, honest, and articulate company in thinking these thoughts and working through the privilege of this newly wide open (except not really) space.
    I’ve been meditating for a while now on the significance of the word “matter” in the context of my retirement identity, and I notice that it shows up a few times in your post — One of these days, I may even end up putting together a post about this. I’m struck by the need to “matter” and my own recognition quite a few months ago that finally getting not to “matter” — especially as “mater” (please excuse the word-play geekiness, part of my Lit Prof toolkit) — might be a boon after too many years of mattering too much. And then there’s the noun “matter” to consider in the mix as well. . . .all grist for the mill, right? and it’s not as if we don’t have time to ponder it all! ;-) TY for the mention.

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, I think I have never felt I mattered enough. And there you have it. So now I want to matter, but precisely, of my own free will, in the way in which I truly, truly care. Whatever that turns out to be. I am terribly glad of the company.

  8. I’m going to go in an opposite direction and say that perhaps your goal should be learning to live comfortably without one. Maybe give yourself a set period that you will just be without a specific schedule and goal, 3-6 months at least, without guilt, or other negative feelings. Open up that space to acceptance and gratitude for the freedom.

    1. @kathy, I’ve been focused on learning to live comfortably through a day in whatever way that was possible. Having no goal and no schedule would make me exceptionally Uncomfortable:). That’s not to say I shouldn’t try it. I know that doing close to that when I was sick led me to lying on the sofa watching endless TV. Good TV, but endless. It feels as though without goals or schedules I will spend all my energy just trying not to eat too much chocolate, drink too much alcohol, and watch too much TV, as though the pull of addictive endorphins would be too great to resist. As though anything but complete surrender requires effort, so why not structure life to support the effort and establish goals to make the effort worthwhile.

      I could, of course, be wrong.

    2. I didn’t mean “no goal” but I did mean no pre-determined one. I’ve been trying it out and have found my own world opening up as a result. I wake up and decide to take a new hike, or a much longer one. Turning my front lawn into a fruit and vegetable garden, spontaneously finding a recipe, going to the market and cooking it, trying some new art mediums and failing with them for now. Except for the two days I’m with my granddaughter, every day is like a new adventure, a luxury I’ve never had – and although I wouldn’t want or expect it to continue, I do feel that it will ultimately lead me to goals that I couldn’t have imagined had the space not been there. I’m strongly considering a yoga teacher training course, just to further my own, (and small) practice. And yes, at first I felt rudderless, and it took a bit of time, and courage, but now I do feel accomplished at the end of my days. In different ways. At first I thought about volunteer work, book clubs, etc. but they all felt too scheduled to me. I try to look at it as a period of discovery?

  9. So sorry to hear you’ve been ill.

    I can empathise with your post as I had ME when I was younger. Two years being bedridden left me with a horror of long periods of unstructured time. I’m fine for a few days holiday but that’s about it. It’s also probably that I’m somewhat extroverted whereas you seem a bit more introverted so therefore happier spending time by yourself?

    I hope you find a good balance and a great volunteering opportunity if that’s what you desire.

    1. @Eleanorjane, Wow. Two years would be really hard. Thanks for the encouraging words. In fact, I’m an extroverted worker and an introverted relaxer. What to do when one breaks the taxonomy?

  10. I have always been a list maker and come from a background of feeling like one should be productive in some way everyday. That was ingrained in us growing up. My father had a difficult time adjusting to his retirement until he took up community service and gave himself permission to enjoy the fruits of his labor by going on vacations, with or without my mother who was not a happy camper as far as travel went. What I am trying to say is that I understand where you are coming from and am sad that you were not feeling well. In my own retirement, however, I look at it as an opportunity to try all the things that I did not have time for when I was busy taking care of my children (full time for nine years) and later when I worked outside the home. I made a list of all the things I wanted to try and places I wanted to visit (yep, still making lists!). I still try to do something productive each day, but only those things I feel like doing. I figure everything that needs to be done will get done as necessary. So far, so good – nothing has gone to pot around here. We’re still eating healthy home-cooked meals and the house is still clean enough. The fun part is that I started taking French classes because I’d always wanted to be more fluent. Not having used French since college, I was anxious at first about not being able to refresh my language skills. Instead, it has been so much fun. I’ve met other like-minded folks and now I’m even taking French cooking classes conducted entirely in French. I think it helps that my husband is also retired – well, actually, partly retired as he still takes on the occasional consulting project. But we get to have lunch together, do some things like museums, trips, etc. and we go our separate ways, too. He likes to golf and go to the gym. I prefer thrice weekly aerobics classes and once a week yoga class. I also do daily walks solo but we garden together. I believe exercise is very important to mental well being. What gets me up in the morning is looking forward to learning something new and making connections with people. I agree that you might want to “Open up that space to acceptance and gratitude for freedom.” Gratitude for everything that I have has definitely made me a happier person. Hope you are feeling better.

    1. @Jane, Yes, thank you, I am feeling much better. In a way, the removal of the pain I was enduring opened up a space to think. As though once my mind didn’t have to deal with pain, it started to think about Life, before I had a chance to divert it back to life as usual. xox.

  11. Lisa – I didn’t know that you’ve been unwell! Had I known I would have given you tons of healthy vibes and extra-good thoughts. I hope it was just a blip an now you are hurtling back to vitality. Illness really kicks the shit out of one, to put it crassly, so it’s no surprise you’ve lost your rudder. I’m confident you’ll find your perfect retirement groove – especially with such a terrific blogging cohort.

    1. @K-Line, It is a phenomenal blogging cohort, to be sure. Having posted this, and having read the usual thoughtful comments, I now feel my illness was an opportunity to reevaluate from a new place. But, I still appreciate all good thoughts;).

    2. @K-Line, And just a “practical” suggestion (though of course, we all work differently): Put the TV in the garage for a couple of months. Look, I like TV as much as the next person (or maybe 10x more – what do I know of the habits of others?) but I’m always doing something while it’s on – I knit or blog or read blogs or read actual books. I watch so many series and I can’t tell you the first thing about what’s happening plot-wise. It’s like background noise for me. Also, even when I am home in the day, I never turn it on before 7pm. Mainly that’s cuz I have other things I prefer to do (blog, make potions etc.) if I’m not at work. But really, daytime TV is a scourge. It’s depressingly stupid and you are WAY too intelligent for it. I can see how TV would bum you out big time. Of course, what do I know. Just throwing this out there.

    1. @Betty lou, Yes. If you do that I salute you. I’m hoping my similar act will be sitting with kids from less privileged neighborhoods, helping them learn to read and speak English.

  12. I am so sorry that you have been ill, and I hope that you have recovered fully.
    I retired about the same time as you, and as a fellow goal-oriented person I understand the need to feel that you matter. I have had the good fortune to have been asked to continue to work part-time (the equivalent of one day a week or so) on something that I care about a great deal, and I have taken on many other challenges that I had wished I had had time for when I was younger (singing, piano, Spanish, training with a group for a triathlon, etc.). I think the key is to think about what makes you happy, and figure out a way to do that, while leaving plenty of time for spontaneity. For me, it is music, to continue learning, to feel physically good, and to take on things that I enjoy but am somewhat afraid of – see the list above. It helps that I usually don’t like to watch TV during the day. My husband thinks I’m a little crazy to keep myself busy, but I know myself well enough to know that I would quickly get depressed without having some goals. I wish you all the best in figuring out what works for you.

    1. @MJ, Every time I’m asked to consult on a new business, or even on an individual’s career, I love it. How excellent to stay on for a project you care about. The rest is falling into place, in terms of – as you say – what makes me happy and what makes me feel useful.

  13. If I’m reading this correctly, your anxiety lessens when your husband is home. It also seems he is a very busy man. Perhaps there is some way of working with him? Even unofficially. We had our own business and thoroughly enjoyed running it together. Just as we now enjoy our mornings of chatting and drinking coffee.

    So very sorry to hear you have been unwell. You sure gave no indication of anything being amiss. Such a WASP thing. Hope you are Sturdy again!

    1. @Mary anne, Such a WASP thing:). I mean, even aspirin was pretty sinful…And if I do learn UI design, then I’d have the chance of working with my husband. You read it correctly, he pretty much annihilates my anxiety;).

  14. Yes, so glad you’re feeling better! I’m 55 & recently retired too. Some retirees golf, some travel, some take up a new hobby; I’m learning how to herd with my dog. As with golf or other pursuits, herding folks make lifelong friendships. I volunteer with a dogs club helping put on herding trials & other events. Members visit each other when they’re sick, help at each others farms. (There are other members who, like me, don’t live on a farm. So, it feels great to be learning to be a useful farm girl. And even greater that my dog & I are becoming a useful team helping with the stock. My herding instructor, who is in his 80’s & took up herding at about the same age I did, laughs at me & says I’m very analytical & that I want to have a checklist & be prepared for whatever may happen, but that herding doesn’t work that way. So, I know I am doing the right thing in my retirement!

  15. Oh my, there is so much here that could have come from my own life, my own need for some kind of structure, my easy devolution into lounging and television-watching, of which some amount seems to be necessary, but perhaps not as much as I have indulged in this summer, as well as my own intimate knowledge of pigeon-lever land.

    I wish you lived down the street and I am both terribly sorry that you were not well, and happy that you are doing better.

    Summer has been hard because so much of the structure of my outside activities seems to revolve around a program year. Where others see a well-deserved break, I see a black hole of structure-less time. Next year, I suppose I shall have to plan better. Perhaps it is easier for those who have someone to care for, and who cares for them.

    Your response to Materfamilias, about not feeling like you matter enough and wanting to matter on your own terms resonates deeply and it is something I have struggled with more in retirement than in my working life, where what I did mattered enough that I was able to deflect those feelings. And then, of course in the years of caring for my failing spouse, I “mattered” too much, but it was not perhaps in the way I wanted to matter.

    Much to ponder, and resolve and much to discover. I am so happy to have company on this journey. It continues to be surprising to me how much retirement is not an end to something but the beginnings of something unimaginable.

    1. Mardel and Lisa, I wish I’d been more clear that “mattering” is, and has been, a huge issue for me particularly since the many years I was home with my kids and so often felt invisible at social events for lack of a “more important” career than my combo of raising my kids and teaching music in my home studio. It’s just that I glimpsed the possibility of turning that feeling around and finding some latitude in “not mattering” for a completely different way, finally, and only perhaps obviously, of making my own self happy. To borrow from your final sentence, Mardel, the chance to begin something I didn’t quite manage to imagine all those years when I was working “to matter”: What if it didn’t matter if I mattered?

  16. No,no,you stay just the way you are!
    My problem is that I can’t expreaa myself in english the way I would like! This is not fishing for compliments,I just know my limits

  17. I admire that you are so open & honest on your blog . It is what makes you so readable as opposed to the ‘ what I wore today ‘folk .I floundered a little when I retired after a lifetime of work – age 49 , even taking a part time job I didn’t enjoy . Gradually I built a new framework for my life . Some further education classes , voluntary work assessing possible adopters for the local animal rescue home & getting two dogs of my own . The last bit was the best . Then my husband joined me & there were more holidays & days out . Perhaps not what you would want & having been ill you need time to get back to full strength but retirement has such a lot of possibilities for intelligent women like you

    1. @Wendy in York, I am glad you welcome these kinds of posts. I never thought I’d be posting a daily schedule as though it mattered:). I love what I wore blogs – I am simply no longer in a place where writing one solely that works for my self.

  18. I’m a few years away from retirement, but I’m making a list of lovely places nearby that I never seem to have time for while working full-time. I also intend to do my fair share of pottering about the house and garden, which I also never seem to have time for. Poking through shelves & drawers has its own satisfactions. And maybe I’ll cook my way through a few of those cookbooks I’ve been collecting all these years. A girl can dream…

    1. @Charlotte K, I think it’s good to have retirement dreams. I had too much going on in my life to make any – so now I’m making schedules and understandings in the moment.

  19. Wow. Talk about you and me having similar lives, except I have no husband coming home. It is just me. I “retired” at 55, and my life had several major blows delivered: wham!wham!wham!. I weathered through that storm and it sometimes felt like I was going to slip away. But I came out of it, all alone-restarted my life and invented a new job for myself. I have my kids and a few friends but I feel very very alone in this retirement mode. I wake up sometimes on a bad day and say- what to do? So I create a schedule! I am happy with this. I still can take a nap after lunch- in fact it is now the holy part of the day and not little old lady at all. But fear of getting old and invisible is us all. I just have to learn to feel ok with (1) alone and (2) invisible It really is ok. Most of us don’t like ourselves unless we are successful, producing, or solving crimes. It is ok to relax a little. But I am happiest with a job, a task, just something to accomplish each day. The hardest part is the alone. But I would rather be alone like this than who I was with my ex any day of the week. Lonely over misery wins every time!!

    You hang in there, it will come to you. Get well.

    1. @susie, Solving crimes:). It does sound as though you are getting very close to comfort in your current situation. Sorry for the blows, glad to hear you made it through.

      It’s coming to me, as you say. xox.

    2. @susie, Susie, I just wanted to say that I completely understand preferring being alone, even being lonely, to being miserable with a husband. I filed for divorce a couple of weeks ago after a 35-year unhappy marriage, so a year from now when my younger son leaves for college I will be living alone for the first time in 35 years. I gained an 8-year-old step-daughter who lived with us when I married and later had two biological sons – the three of them are by far the best part of my life. I hope that I at least still have my job by then.

      1. It seems that so many women with such talent will be emerging from the workforce in the next decade. What should we do for the world? And for ourselves?

  20. Oh transitions! Not always easy. I’m sure everything will fall in to place. You are a strong, vital person.

    For me, volunteering has been great. Travel…wonderful. Also, walking/hiking with my dog brings pleasure. Guided meditation daily. Regarding health, my “functional medicine” primary care MD has been outstanding to manage overall wellness.
    All the best, Susan

    1. @Susan Lowell, Thank you. Meditation/yoga is something I have on my mind to add into my routine. And my primary care MD is someone I trust. The issue was gynaecological, and I saw two doctors intermittently, which probably added to the confusion.

  21. Well, I don’t have it together like you do. But I’m thrilled that you are the only other person I know who has watched “Rita.” With my wrist in a cast for 3 12 months I really could do nothing. So I had my hair blow dryed because I could not do my hair with one hand, and I had a manicure because suddenly I wasn’t washing anything! Got very unvolved with Pinterest for a while then Instagram. Read some very good books. Hm, more to come. Must run.I’ll be back.

    1. @Sandra Sallin, I always like to see you pop your head in here. I wish they’d do a 4th season of Rita – but she’d have to choose a new career. I propose she becomes a fisherman on the North Sea, what do you think?

  22. Hi Lisa,
    I’ve been reading your entire blog the past few months–mostly as a remedy for the anxiety I’m experiencing in my new found freedom of early retirement. My life suddenly serves no purpose.

    I’ve been tempted to ask how on earth you pass your days. Now I know I’m not alone. Sometimes it’s just nice to be validated. Thank you.

    It has me wondering how we’ve evolved to point of placing so much value on productivity. I think I’ve become dependent on it. Like you, the anxiety completely subsides when my husband comes home. I can’t explain that.

    I never expected this, but I suppose nothing stays the same forever. And this too will pass.

    Thanks for all you do. Glad to hear your well. I’ve been through prolonged illness myself recently. It does nothing to help your confidence, that’s for sure.

    1. @Stacie, While I’m sorry you’ve been feeling this way, it is comforting to have company. And maybe some humans are just made requiring company? Hence the relief when husbands return? I think we will sort it out. I know that for me this idea of finding the volunteer space that feels right seems like it’ll go a long way. And, now that I’m better, thinking about ways to keep improving the blog.

  23. I’ve not much to add, Lisa, that hasn’t already been said. I know when I retired (at 57) I had very different visions of how our life would be in the short term. Stu’s totally unexpected health problems threw a wrench into all our plans. And a winter of grocery shopping, housework, and coping with a very cranky (understandably, of course) type A personality who had been forced into idleness, at least until he had his surgery…was stressful. As I yelled at him one day, when he was “helping” me shovel the driveway by telling me how to to it…”Two months ago I was running my department and teaching a bunch of kids and doing it REALLY well…. and now I can’t even shovel properly??!!” And noone seemed to understand how I felt. I know that sounds incredibly selfish, he was the one with the health problem after all. I just had this great fear that I was going to waste my retirement doing meaningless things that were NOT what I wanted to do. And I still feel that a bit. Like you I’m very goal oriented. And I need that little frisson of pleasure at a goal achieved, and a job well done. Blogging really helps me with that bit. It has given me back the audience I lost when I stopped teaching. Gawd…. but I loved to stand in front of a class and tell stories!
    So…I said I didn’t have much to say. And here I am still typing. What a wonderful post and love the comments from other readers. Thanks for this. Even if I have no solution for you (and I don’t)… it’s nice to know we’re not alone in our predicaments.

    1. @susan burpee, Oh I loved running meetings and giving presentations myself:). “I need that little frisson of pleasure at a goal achieved, and a job well done.” Exactly. And I wholly understand why you were on edge with your husband’s medical issues, not at all selfish in the scheme of things.

  24. Dear Lisa, this post resonated so strongly with me. My children are at boarding school and there is nothing that I have to do. it is a mini-existential crisis. One’s time seems so precious and yet without shape, it feels too easy to fritter it away. I am also loathe to do appropriate activities suggested for me. In fact, the more I think about it, it feels as it did after uni — what do I want to do with my life? Possibly after every incarnation, like cicadas, we squeeze out of our skins and are required to start afresh.

    1. @Linda in Ethiopia, That’s a great analogy. I hadn’t realized it until I read your comment that I do feel very similar to how I felt after college. What a scary time in many ways–like free floating, but not in a good way. More like ungrounded.

      I think many people just out of school don’t realize all the potential that sits on the horizon. The lack of structure overwhelms them. Perhaps it’s the same at the beginning of retirement?

    2. @Linda in Ethiopia, These mini-crises can be especially tricky precisely because we know we are fortunate to have the time and freedom. I haven’t been willing to settle for just OK, it feels like this time is a gift and I need to deserve it by being as blissful as possible as often as possible. Life is such a privilege, I want to honor that.

  25. i am so sorry that you have been ill. i hope that you have been restored to great health. For some reason this post made me think of a quotation that I love, by the novelist Susan Ertz; “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” I have been retired for quite a while and feel that I am busier than ever…volunteer work, grandchildren, writing, travel, the calendar fills up quickly. and the biggest bonus for me is that I finally have time for the friendships that endured years of benign neglect. I think that is a question of finding a rhythm, I hope that you find yours.

    1. I’m better, thank you! And it’s exactly that, the rhythm, that the “schedule” I now follow supports.

  26. I am sorry to hear that you were sick. Great that you are better.
    I don’t think it is at all embarrassing to be feeling your way through new freedoms. Toddlers and teens and young adults all stumble through new places, why shouldn’t we all allow our ( mature) selves to feel about in these new ways to use our time.
    I can only somewhat empathize, as a self-employed artist, it is up to me every day to decide what I shall or should do. Oh, and is that sink full of dishes my job before 5pm? I still don’t know. I hope you can enjoy this new freedom as a good thing!

    1. @Kerry Steele, Thanks. I do think of this new freedom as a good thing – it is a real privilege to be able to sort life out in comfort – even if it’s not always comfortable. And I find that thinking of myself as a self-employed person, although of course I’m not really, provides the right structure.

      The dishes are definitely not your job until after 5pm unless they bug you;).

    1. @Lorri, When in doubt, cushion up? I hung my Lily Stockman painting, and I believe those pillows need to be close to solid, in a tobacco/whiskey color…any ideas?

  27. Please don’t be embarrassed, Lisa. I suffer from debilitating depression on and off, and I’ve educated myself enough about the disease to know that no matter what I DO, that “busy-ness” will only keep it at bay for so long. And when it hits, it looks like what you described…plus or minus the food.

    Brainstorm ideas when you feel like it. Just DO, when you feel like it. But most of all, get well.

    1. Thank you. I am sorry you suffer from depression, such a thing to get through, and good you’ve self-educated. You are so nice. So nice, in fact, that I feel bound to clarify. The lying around was due to my illness, in pain it’s really hard to have any energy at all. In my usual state, tend not towards depression, but anxiety – and I agree with you that there should be nothing to be embarrassed about in terms of one’s temperament. We’ve all got them. I would remain embarrassed however, about writing a post on a simple daily schedule, except everybody’s been so supportive here that I probably shouldn’t waste a good blush on that;). Thank you very much. xox.

  28. Lisa, I don’t have any wisdom to add about retirement (I don’t think writers do retire; probably because we can’t afford to), but I wanted to say how sorry I am to hear that you were ill. I’m glad things are better now.

    1. @Maryn, Thanks. In fact I was in the midst of it when you and I had tea/coffee, but I did not want to go into those details having only just met you. Seemed like it would have been TMI. I will try and get rid of that link. The issue is the WordPress still associates with you with Wired and the superbug URL, and calls up that RSS feed.

  29. (Also, this is very odd: Your site appended a “Maryn posted” that I don’t recognize. I’ve never written about Lifelock!)

  30. I’m so sorry to hear you have not been feeling well for a while, and very glad you are doing much better.
    As I am approaching 60 as well, I often think about the short time left to do something that will leave the world a better place, make a difference in the lives of others. I’m looking into what is involved in becoming a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor – currently being offered for adults, but don’t see any for children, teens or young adults. Hmmmm!
    We have volunteers at the hospital who come in one or two days a week just to cuddle babies in the Neonatal Unit. I hope you look into reading to the children – what a blessing you would be and such a positive influence.
    One of my former colleagues, an orthopedic surgeon, just retired to raise therapy dogs. A former cardiothoracic surgeon I worked with has a beautiful rose and vegetable garden. He and his wife are well known for making delicious dishes from their garden to serve at gatherings in their rose garden to raise funds for causes near and dear to their hearts.
    I know you will sort out what speaks to your heart.
    What are you and hubby planning to do once he retires? And Yes, please, writing your book(s)!!

  31. THANK Goodness for this blog! Always something relevant…. Retirement was forced on me by chronic illness; trying to get BACK into some way of adding income to our life albeit in a part-time way., is challenging to say the least. I’m
    sick of thinking my only contribution is reducing expenses or taking on tasks to help my self-employed hubby and his firm, or in the house. I’ve come a long way from
    being on my back and needing assistance for everything but this road between two doors is hell. I dream of my former success and energy and then use them as sticks to beat myself up. It’s hell in the hallway between two doors, as the saying goes. (BTW feeling frustrated, not self-piteous).,

    1. Road between two doors is hell.

      Very evocative. Don’t beat yourself up. You have come a long, long way.

  32. I have been retired for three years and keep trying to definitively organize and structure my retirement. Doesn’t work – retirement evolves and then evolves some more.

    I find myself with too much to do, and my time at home/plans are too easily highjacked by loved ones and spontaneous plans (all good) but I get frustrated at not accomplishing what my own agenda.

    I’m a Master Gardener (a GREAT program with wonderful opportunities to connect with like minded folk) – sounds like it might be of interest to you. Then you could style MG attire for the rest of us.

    1. It’s been almost two years for me now, and yes it’s evolved and I imagine you’re right and that will keep happening. I have thought about the Master Gardener program but it’s full up for a year around here…I can just imagine the outfits;).

  33. Hi Lisa,
    Somewhere in the comments here, you mentioned volunteering. Based I what I feel like I know about you from reading Privilege, you may find a board position at a non-profit more up your alley. You could bring a lot of structure to what is often a loose-ended environment and there are plenty of non-profits (especially small to mid-sized) that would be thrilled to have someone like you.

    1. Thanks for the thought. I am happy you feel like you’re getting to know me. At the moment I’m thinking small, immediate, hence teaching kids to read. I always wonder about big volunteering projects, ones that would be similar to my career, would I stop at some point and think, “Wait. Why am I not getting paid for this?!?:)” Is that not an issue in your experience?

  34. Better you realize this now rather than later. I’ve seen many people retire, go to the couch, get a little stiff from sitting all day, then go to the Doctor and leave with a fist full of pain pills. Spiral into a horrible situation. Start walking again 1 to 2 hours or more. Then listen to what you innerself tells you. Thank you so much for sharing this. This has been the most important article you have written on this blog. Thanks again…

    1. Oh gosh no! No pain pills needed yet! Nopety, nope, nope! Thank goodness! I am back to strength training twice a week, I walk 2 days/week, and I do active gardening or housekeeping another 2. I could do more, and should do more, but I don’t do nothing. And I am so glad you think this was useful.

  35. Just catching up here. Sorry you’ve been unwell. And, as always, grateful for the unvarnished exposure to life at our age. I’m hoping you’ll pursue a book project. Seems like you’d have plenty of material and a ready audience to make a success of this.

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