Privilege Blog

A Good Week Of Retirement, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:50am

Prepare to have the socks bored right off your feet. Lately I’ve been considering the idea of a Good Week.

As someone who is wired by goals and plans and achievement, as I’ve said before, retirement poses a conundrum. Very little of what I do is big enough to need my full machine. Revving up just to, say, take used hangers to the dry cleaners/return library books/get to a yoga class generates enough adrenaline to negate the yoga.

Seems dumb. Retirement is a privilege. I want to organize my time so that at the end of a week I can look back and say, “That was a Good Week.” I need that sense of pride in accomplishment. I mean, I work on the zen and all that but the neural paths of 61 years do not surrender overnight.

So here’s what constitutes a Good Week, for me. It’s too hard to cram my scale of need to accomplish into one day but a week I can do.

A Good Week Of Retirement

First I had to understand my priorities. Old habits just don’t die.

  1. Anything important that my kids need (note, requests for new skin cream or Danko clogs fun though they are qualify as recreation and therefore cannot be allowed to bump other stuff further down the list)
  2. Taking care of my husband – dinners, errands, driving, life
  3. Time-critical administrative stuff like our bills, house repairs, Mom’s bills, Mom’s income, etc.
  4. Saturday blog post
  5. Amusing myself with social media, television and books, staring out the windows  (I wish I needed this less but if I’m honest, and ranking things by the role they play in my life, this is the truth)
  6. My own health
    1. Weight management (decades of practice, ingrained)
    2. Saturated fat minimization (new, wow I miss carnitas)
    3. Sugar moderation (fine, fine, fine)
    4. Alcohol moderation (ongoing project, lifelong, I imagine)
    5. Vegetable and fruit maximization (all the crunching, so tiring!)
    6. Exercise/movement, yoga, walking, gardening, or very active house cleaning, 5-6 days/week (trying to increase this by putting a treadmill in the garage)
    7. Physical therapy for an old twisted hip, sustained while giving birth to my son (new effort, quite revealing, amazing what we store in our hips)
  7. Trying not to exit this world without having completed a substantive creative effort, AKA long form writing (crosses fingers, pleads with the evil eye to move on, promises to be good)
  8. Contributing to social welfare (school volunteering)
  9. Keeping house and home from falling through the cracks –  gardening, cleaning, clearing out closets, painting bookcases (yes, I finally finished the bookcase and will eventually tell the story which is a good one about laughing when things turn out kind of ugly and maybe also about creating, not sure yet)

You smart people will notice I am pretty far down on my own list. That is OK. To a point, I nurture myself by caring for others, I am not in the least selfless. I do have to watch I don’t take it too far.

To keep track of these earth-shattering thoughts, I use yellow lined pads – listing the week’s to-do candidates in categories at the top, a plan to implement day-by-day below. At the moment, categories are as follows. I will spare you my day-to-day – suffice it to say I crossed off  ‘get in touch with the roofer” last week.

  • Home (currently needing a new rubber thingie for the drain in the kitchen sink the name of which I do not know)
  • Mom
  • Treadmill (I find I hate neighborhood walks these days before I get so bored, if this is to happen I have to elevate a task to the level of a category, because, next I have to CLEAN BOXES OUT OF THE GARAGE AAAARGH)
  • Garden (currently coveting a coffeeberry for the back yard and scarlet penstemon for the front)
  • Blog (hello!, waves at you guys)
  • Long Form (oh man the outlining! The research!)
  • School (this is my volunteering, cut back to one day a week to try and make space for above Long Form)
  • Yoga (Ha! The only to-do is to remind myself to go twice a week. But I think the irony of yoga on a to-do list pretty much says it all)
  • Health (To-dos here have been doctor appointments, catching up on all I let slip while focused on Mom’s health, catching up to being 61. And yes, I am losing some hearing in my left ear. On the other hand, eating less meat does lower cholesterol. You lose some, you win some.)

So inelegant, but every time I aim for elegance I throw it out.

All well and good. And then, recently, I had two epiphanies. One must always number list one’s epiphanies, ain’t that right?

  1. From a phone call with my best friend who lives in New Jersey, I need to plan an entire day each week without a single to-do. Not to say I will in fact do nothing, but for my adrenaline levels, I need essentially to fake a weekend experience, to allow myself to absolutely as I please for 12 hours. I suppose I am faking a workweek the rest of the time.
  2. This, while making the bed, some days will be bad no matter how well I have conceptualized and implemented my week’s plan. The world is in a tough spot right now. I am not able to go about my privileged life without fear for those at risk. Also, being alive is vast and body chemistry is what it is.

When I cross off all the things on my list I get the Good Week thrill. I love it. Then I tear off that piece of paper and rewrite. Seems picayune, but we are who we are and best to just get on with it.


I am sorry for having bored you, I hope you can retrieve your socks from wherever they have flown to, fuzzy sock ears covered. Materfamilias has a much lovelier version of taking stock, here. I tend to use the feeling in my gut as my stock-taker, and right now it’s good.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Life is a gift. A sense of humor on the other hand, the secret weapon.



56 Responses

  1. I don’t know where “being so kind as to help a reader with a request that took some effort on your part to carry through with” fits on your To-Do List, but thanking you is very high on mine!

    Thank you, Lisa, for your time and engagement! You know what I mean …


    1. @Victoire, You are more than welcome. And, you will laugh, but if I have a week where I know there are a few important emails to respond to, or blog posts to comment on, I make a category that says Social and schedule time to do it.

  2. I’m not retired and I’ve had an uptick in listing making in the past few weeks as well. Things seem to move faster this time of year.
    I’ve been known to write down things that weren’t on the list that I’ve done just for the thrill of crossing them off.
    For me it’s not as good if it’s all done digitally, I need the paper/pencil/writing to get the maximum gratification. I think that’s a generational thing, I’ve noticed at work that my Millennial colleagues don’t willing carry notebooks around. I’m sure all that phone fiddling-with they do in meetings is directly related to our mission, but as a Mom I’m always a bit suspicious they’re checking the price of Bitcoin or texting snarky notes.

    1. @Roseag, Hahahaha! I am sure they are doing all of the above and also Snapchatting/Instagramming each other! And I’m not cooking Thanksgiving this year, thank goodness. If so Thanksgiving would be an entire category and its own entire sub-list!

  3. Not boring in the least! (and thanks for pointing in my direction). I think we’re quite similar in our appreciation of the value of just sitting, observing, slowing down and in our contradictory disinclination to feel comfortable doing that for too long. The stock I’m taking in that latest blogpost is playful (and I can’t take credit for the template), but I’ve been sorting priorities on a slightly more serious level lately, finally getting to terms with the retirement gig post The Big Move. So I love to see your approach articulated with your usual keen analysis and entertaining prose. Hey, feel like another trip up this way? We could compare Long Form projects. . . ;-)

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, Yes exactly, to value the slow and the fun and yet to have an inner scale that dings when too much time has been spent. Learning to tie the dinger to what matters, and disconnect it from general self-pressure. I’d love to come back up. Or, hey, you could come here, or hey!, we could both to go LA?!?!?!

  4. I love to see how you make your lists, Lisa, and how you decide on priorities. This is something I’ve struggled with as well since retiring from a very, very schedule-oriented job. I remember one day a few years ago when Stu had been retired for some time and I was still working. In answer to my question about what he would be doing that day, he said,” It’s easy for you, your day is all planned out (heads meeting from 7:30 -8:50, then grade nine class, followed by grade eleven class, then lunch with brief a department meeting etc etc.) I have to make up my day as I go along.” We laughed… but now I think he wasn’t joking.
    It was November, I remember. A difficult season for a golfer,gardener, skier… when some activities are done and others have yet to start. Sounds like a problem everyone would like to have, I know. And of course we’re privileged to be able to retire. But the fact remains that when you are a goal oriented person, retirement means that you have to find activities which allow yourself to feel as if you’ve achieved some… goals I mean.
    P.S. I’m so happy that housework falls just about as low on your list as it does on mine. And of course… gardening doesn’t even make it onto my list:) xo

    1. @Sue Burpee, House keeping. Done only because one must;). And yes, exactly, your husband was right. I’m sure some people can retire without having to examine what they were doing but I wasn’t there when they passed out the happy-go-lucky keys;).

  5. I thought it was great. Wish I were as organized and engaged as you! Totally agree you need a day of no planning. Then you can do whatever you think you want to do. Maybe just stare out the window. (One of my favorite things).


  6. Not boring at all! Having been retired 14 years, I identify with much of this! Hadn’t counted, however, on this time that seems to be greatly taken by concerns for our fellow citizens! I will admit that Social Media keeps me company more often than I had predicted!

  7. Well, I liked this a lot – far from boring. I shall put it on my mental to-do list to create some sort of physical to-do list that I will neither lose or ignore (that might be the rub, right there). Still, I am inspired, and I thank you.

  8. Not boring in the least. I love a good list and I appreciate learning how others organize and use lists in their daily lives. Not retired yet – it’ll be a few years – although I am almost the same age as you. I think we all need a reason to get up in the morning. A list can give form to your days – days that may proceed in, what seems, an aimless way can feel more structured (and yes, productive) accompanied by a good list. Once I am retired, I can see myself making lists in categories as you are. Maybe a few “essential” categories that need to be hit with at least one thing done daily – e.g. creative category: spend 15 minutes quilting; exercise category: a half hour walk; spiritual category: 15 minutes in meditation/prayer/spiritual readings; etc., etc.. Thanks for your thoughts on lists.

  9. I feel like it’s too late for me to learn yoga. My dog forces me to walk. I prioritize my day by taking care of my husband. He had a bypass so my goal is to keep him as healthy as I can with great meals. I love to cook and have learned to minimize meat and be very creative with vegetables. I plan dinner every morning, prep it in the afternoon and prepare it when he gets home. I love being home and watching the light change through the house, hearing the birds sing and watching all the changes in my garden. Indeed, I do live a privileged life! And then like you, if one of my kids or grandkids needs something, I am so happy to help out. I love shopping for my girls. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Lisa. I’ll try to be nice on twitter next week!

    1. @Denise Capen, Hi Denise: As a long-time practioner of yoga (and one time Iyengar teacher), I assure you, it is never too late to start yoga because there are as many kinds of yoga as there are people to learn them. As we age, it’s really key to maintain spinal mobility and – while walking is awesome i.e. my other form of movement meditation / fitness – it won’t reduce the spinal compression that comes of age.

    2. @Denise Capen, I am sure it’s not any later now that it was earlier, but I’m also sure that some exercise/movement stuff just doesn’t work for some people. I cannot run and I hate to ride bikes. Hated all that when I was young, hate it now. So I don’t bother trying to like it any more;). I envy your continued love of cooking, it’s taking me some work to go from big production dinner-party cooking to the daily routine. But, I’m getting there.

  10. Lisa, Your blog touched me. I retired early due to problems with my legs. Sometimes I feel I have a whip at my back pushing myself to do more. You know your holding that whip but wonder who originally held it for you. For a variety of reasons I am not finding satisfaction “taking care of” my husband. Perhaps, he neither needs or desires that help.
    I love yoga, reading, working on my collection, helping my son. Yet, it is rather easy to feel that one might be missing something.
    At sixty-one it is not as easy to completely change directions. I know sometimes small changes add up and like you I am making those.

    1. @luci, “You know your holding that whip but wonder who originally held it for you.” Yes, exactly. And it only feels good to take care of someone who needs it and appreciates it. Otherwise, phooey. It is all about the small changes these days, and realizing that we ourselves are the boss of what might be “missed” or not.

  11. Your comment about fruit and vegetable crunching being tiring made me laugh. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who finds this annoying. Eating roasted veggies, which I enjoy far more in all their sumptuous, silky glory, never seems as virtuous.

  12. I’m finding that my possible retirement next spring does not seem as exciting with the world the way it is today. At work I can hold off the fears and feel as if I am doing some good (college teaching), but what will I do with long days filled with plenty of time to read the news stories and think about them and where the world is going? Grown children, no grandchildren, enough resources and reasonable health (plus physical therapy for me too due to childbirth) should be a reason to celebrate, but I am afraid it will become a chance to mourn the loss of civility and community consciousness. I know I can make it work, but learning how others feel helps me to plan.

    1. @Lynn, This, “to mourn the loss of civility and community consciousness,” does take some time:(. You of course will be able to make it work, but nothing feels lighthearted at the moment. Interesting that you too have old childbirth work to do with your body.

  13. Well at the same age, here in London, I’m still working away but with much the same register of concerns. I don’t volunteer yet, but I spend a time thinking about our worrying world and trying to help my family and friends. Currently planning a big Christmas in our Sussex cottage, my DS and DD and DD-I-L plus my H’s DS+GF and DD, plus various siblings of the in-laws and the odd parent. it’s my first time with the whole pack and I feel I must get it right. So I’ve been cutting out names, pets and rooms and playing with permutations the whole weekend. I love to hear about your life in California and I hope your mom is content, I know her transition to assisted living was hard for you. My parents are in need but still living in their home. My brother and I somehow manage.

    Must google Coffeeberry!

    1. @DaphneJonquil, Coffeeberry is a native California shrub. Not spectacular, but good as a screen I hope, and will grow near an oak tree and make birds and butterflies happy. I hope you have a wonderful big family Christmas, I bet it will be lovely. And Mom is well, given her Alzheimer’s, thank you.

  14. Oh man, giving up carnitas would be tough. I’ve had yoga on the list for years now, but we do not seem to make any progress on that front. That was some great list making.

  15. First, I look forward to your Saturday posts. Second, I love to hear how we all prioritize and sort our time. Not boring (auto corrected initially to biting – definitely, no biting). And your humor. It peaks through (yoga, irony) often & I appreciate it and truly hope Long Form contains more. Because you are often very, very funny and well written humor is such a gift. Especially at this moment in time. And go for the coffeberry! And get 3 scarlet penstemons. For balance…

    1. @Jb, Thank you for enabling the coffee berry, our ecosystem thanks you. And thank you for supporting my Saturday posts and encouraginging me to include humor because I was NEVER funny in my younger years, too earnest and intense, and if I’ve matured into humor it’s another checkmark to balance out the annoyances of aging. xoxox.

  16. Um – when I said “… I will neither lose or ignore,” I should, of course, have said, “I will neither lose nor ignore.” My apologies.

  17. This was very interesting,Lisa. I love planning and to-do list,life still has to be organized to run smoothly. I still have some bussiness things to manage and it is important to have a good plan,even for socializing,to maintain balance in one’s life. It is so important to have a good week :-)

  18. I mentally organize in much the same way – definitely reflect on Sunday, whether it was a “good week”. I don’t write down lists – but I have definite goals that I set. A painting completed, a novel read, exercise at least 5 of the days.

    We do need to have a conversation about this treadmill in your garage idea though……xo

    1. @KSL, Oh please, Kathy and Lisa, hold that treadmill conversation right here so we may listen in…treadmills have been on my mind lately.

    2. @KSL, Our day of reflection:). Perhaps the garage treadmill will sound more sensible if I tell you I’d plan to watch my fictional digital narratives, what used to be known as television, as I walked. Since I’m gonna watch them, maybe I can exercise at the same time.

  19. I love hearing about how other people’s lives work – no boredom here. And I’m with you on the “moderate the booze” front. I’ve pretty well kicked sugar (in its regular format) but, Lord, I love wine. And given the stressors lately, I’ve decided to say fuck it and drink the wine. Of course, that’s the bargain I’ve made for now (not suggesting it’s the go-forward forever plan). I’m not particularly concerned about functional alcoholism but I am quite worried about gaining weight.

    Also – seriously, have you considered knitting? I know it doesn’t seem very sexy but you are a really creative person and I bet you’d love it. (Note: Frances / Materfamilias was on me for a long time to get me to try it and I resisted, but the minute I tried it I was hooked so I am very grateful to her.) It is movement meditation. The way you love yoga is the way you’d love knitting.

    1. @K-Line, I love the way you talk about alcohol, so little shame, so much sense.

      And I thank you for your faith in my ability to knit but I can barely braid my own hair. Absolutely terrible small motor coordination, not only physical but in my brain. Details take all my concentration, they are work, and therefore no detail work has ever felt relaxing. No baking, no knitting, yes photo editing, yes cooking stuff that survives mistakes. xox.

  20. I think you summed up life best in your last few sentences Lisa. Life is a gift and a sense of humor is essential to navigate through it. I think you’ve crack it!

    Enjoy our beautiful life and all the “to do” lists that go with it.

  21. Wow, what a wonderful list of lists! Oh to be accomplishment-oriented but, like you say, we are who we are, best get on with it. In retirement, my two minimum daily happiness requirements are segments of 1) uninterrupted alone time, and 2) uninterrupted flow experience. I must be able to get immersed in making something, or in thinking about making something, every day [meals don’t count]. Fortunately, my needs mesh beautifully with my husband’s daily schedule and disposition!

    1. @Flo, Uninterrupted flow. I found that with the blog, in its middle years. I am working towards clearing space for it now – and Saturdays remain so. How nice that you and your husband can share a space and life so happily.

  22. I also stay organized by using lists and there is immense satisfaction crossing things off as they are done…you sound much more ambitious than I am in a week.
    I too would like to know more about the treadmill…the make and what you think about the features etc.
    I have had only 30% hearing in my left ear since I was a young woman…I’ve been able to adapt quite well. Do keep an eye on that though and if you need hearing aids get them sooner rather than later.

    1. @Bungalow Hostess, You have hearing loss too? Do you wear a hearing aid? So far I have only lost 30 points, or percentage, or however they measure. The audiologist says I don’t yet need a hearing aid. I would like to get one as soon as it is necessary, and I am crowding my fingers for technical improvements.

      The treadmill – we have it already, it’s up in SF, we would move it down here. It’s several years old, probably not the best, but I will ask my best friend as she is a treadmill devotee and can probably edify us!

  23. Hi Lisa
    I love this post-I have been reading and enjoying your blog and wisdom and humour for about 4 years now -yet to reply until today.
    I am 59 ,wife, mother of three and grandmother of 5 ( I was a child bride) from Northern NSW in Australia, working 4 days a week as a leadership coach and teacher for people working in health care . I love my job and hope to continue for many years to come. My strongest message to the people I teach is that they must take care of themselves in order to survive/ flourish in their work as health professionals and that includes goal setting, reflection and heaps of exercise.
    I also do a weekly list on a brown paper pad and love the feeling of reflecting and ticking off the little jobs/commitments that make up my good week.Self care is also a high priority for me and I try to walk and move either at the gym or beach or pool every day. I have struggled to find a yoga class lately that fits me until I recently discovered a youtube class-Yoga with Adrienne-she is a very sweet engaging Californian yoga teacher and the clips are about 30 minutes – perfect for home practice -which I am proud to say I have been doing daily for the last month. Again-thank you for your writing

    1. @Jan, So nice to hear from you! There is of course no obligation to ever comment, but I love to hear from people, to know who is reading. A child bride:). Your job sounds compelling and valuable – that you coach people in health care, I like that idea. And I’ve seen Adrienne’s videos, she really is good at what she does and so likable. Many many congratulations on the month of daily practice, that is something to be proud of. Thank you so much for reading!

  24. You keep highly organized, very detailed to do list. Impressive. Must give you the sense of accomplishment similar to meeting goals in the work place. For me, I have a couple regular priorities. First and most important is managing my investments. Second is supporting family needs. Third is maintaining my health and wellness. Fourth is spending time with friends and pursuing my hobbies and interests. In my world, everything that needs doing is done. That said, occasionally something falls through the cracks. I just laugh and take corrective action. We are only human and life happens, despite our best efforts. My philosophy.

  25. Hi Lisa, I wish I was a “To Do List” kind of person. But, I’m not. Before retirement, all my bosses had commented that I accomplish more in 2 days than most of their other employees do in two weeks. So, I guess I get a lot done even without the “Lists”.

    I usually have a few short term, medium term and long term goals as I juggle the daily activities of homemaking.

    Along the way, I practice The Golden Rule.

    1. Short term – supervise renovation of our “new” home and garden. (We have owned the home for 28 years but rented it out for the last 24.) This can take from all day to a few hours per day. Depends on the contractors’s availability and my ability to do simple parts of the job such as painting and sourcing materials. The kitchen reno should be finished by Christmas – if not, friends and family will have to have a sense of humor and enjoy the “Before” episode this year and the “After Episode” next year.

    2. Medium term – plan another trip to France. We got back about a month ago and would like to go again in the spring for the Festival of Violets in Toulouse.

    3. Long Term – (2 years) – probably move out of California. Considering France, Arizona, Texas or North Carolina. It depends on what happens politically.

    As the oldest of 5, I have always been the go-to person in our family for organizing things and taking care of family emergencies. But, no more. Everyone is “grown up”. I am neither their mother nor their secretary. Service is much better than servitude.

    While that may sound like a negative remark, it is just reality. I have always been a happy and productive person. I plan to stay that way.

    Wishing you well in your quest “to do”.

    Smiles from Carol

  26. Apart from absorbing your approach to life and seeing that your values, fears, aspirations and activities somewhat align my own, I also had to look up 3 new words you used that I am not familiar with: Danko – or Dansko – a brand of comfort footwear; Carnitas – which came up as a Mexican pork dish slow cooked, we would call ‘pulled pork’, that is slow cooked and sticky; and ‘picayune’, meaning petty or trivial. Please don’t render your life or thoughts or lists as picayune. We, your devoted readers, value your life, your writing, and your thoughts, and therefore, none of it is to be described as trivial. To do so runs the risk of us also labelling ourselves and our own lives as such. Much of life is managing the mundanity. And sadly, young people expect life to be so much more exciting than it really is, largely I believe, thanks to the overwhelm of social media. It has spurned a new acronym: FOMO: the fear of missing out. That’s why I quit Facebook last Easter. Now back to making the bed…..Xxxx

  27. Lisa, I’m a big to do list maker as wel. As a former practicing lawyer now stay at home mom to two young teens, I struggle with doing the “regulars” vs the “extras.” For example, if I do all the basic stuff–dog care and dog walks, tidying house, laundry, making beds, exercise, bills, home cooked meals–I find that I don’t get to the extras (phone calls, random errands, long lost house projects, shopping). And if I spend a day doing the extras, I wind up with a sink full of dishes and unmade beds at 4 pm. It is hard to strike a balance. I do try to plan a weekday once every two weeks where I stay home all day and mainly knock out all the stuff I need to do that involves a computer and phone–bills, scheduling appointments, online shopping, research, trip planning, clearing out email inbox, filing paperwork, catching up with blogs, etc. That is probably the one day I feel the most accomplished although ironically I am only doing what I used to do every day at the office over lunch break in front of my computer.

  28. I love this. I made a note to myself to come back and review this over the holiday. I’m not retired, but at a crossroads in my life currently. Finding myself very much adrift. Setting a specific task to work on getting on track seems very much in order. Thank you for being transparent in your process.

  29. This is so spot on and very helpful. Thank you so much for thinking this through and writing it out. I hate feeling aimless and sort of suspended in retirement — those awkward moments when I realise I don’t really have anything I must do. And the comment about the happy go lucky keys is priceless. I too was somewhere else when they were handed out!!!Laura

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