I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Deadlines and obligations

Beautiful lilacs
Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It's a big deal here in Bellingham, with the Ski to Sea race going on right now, as I write this post. The first leg of the seven starts at 7:45am at the Mt. Baker ski area, with the highway closed and the cross-country and downhill skiers all there and ready to go. Each participant in the relay has a timing chip that must be passed along to the next member of the team. After the skiers finish, they pass it along to the runners, then regular bikers, the canoe team of two, the mountain bikers, and finally the kayakers who finish the race in Fairhaven and get out of their kayak and run to the finish line to ring the bell. This is where I will be watching, at the finish line. It's a big party, and everyone will be having fun if the weather cooperates and it's not raining. We know how to have fun even if it is, what am I saying?

I have no obligations, no deadlines today, except for writing this post. As I sit here listening to the light rain falling outside, the incessant robin's call in the tree, and the white-crowned sparrow tweeting away, I ponder what feels relevant to share. Sometimes I have to wait until I've finished the post to find out what will emerge, especially on days like today when nothing particular is on my mind. There is a little bit of anxiety that I will fritter this post away, filling it with fluff because I'm unable to pull anything of substance from the cabinet of my mind.

I don't usually allow myself "free" days, those without a structure. I like having a schedule; it gives me a reason to get up in the morning, fix breakfast and head out the door. It's always been that way for me, and years of being in the office by 7:00am have morphed into my schedule of leaving the house around that time and walking to the bus. Tomorrow, Memorial Day, the buses aren't running and the Y is closed anyway. Although the coffee shop will be open, I won't be there. I could drive or ride my bike, but I will probably join Al and some other Trailblazers for an impromptu hike in the wilderness.

I've been retired for five years now, and the structure of my days is fully entrenched. It's only those pesky holidays when everything comes to a halt that I need to develop some alternate plan. I have plenty of books to read, but it's not my style to spend the day indoors. I like to be out and about, and then come home and read, watch TV, or visit with Smart Guy. I also spend a fair amount of time reading the blogs I follow and writing comments. I carry my laptop into the living room and stretch out in the recliner with it. However, I find that I get restless after awhile and need to get up and move around.

Some people like the free flow of their days, without a plan or obligations. To me, it would feel restrictive instead of freeing. That said, I am careful not to obligate myself to activities that aren't fun for me. I tried a bit of volunteering and found that it was more like work than I was comfortable with. I take my neighbor to the grocery store since she doesn't drive any more, but that's not on a rigid schedule. I go to the movies with my friend Judy, or we go out to dinner if it works out for the two of us. These are fulfilling activities and don't feel anything like work. I don't miss my Thursday hikes if I can help it, because I know they will be enjoyable and I'll be in the company of my friends. On Saturday mornings I meet the walking group for a brisk outing, but if I decide to go south to Snohomish to play with my skydiving buddies, nobody is going to be surprised.

When I was working, my life revolved around my career and my boss's needs. That is all different now, and weekends don't mean the same thing to me any more. What's a weekend when you are not tied to a job? It takes on a different character entirely.

The structure of my life is fully established here in the Pacific Northwest. I don't see it changing any time soon, unless I get sick or injured, and then I'll need to deal with that. But for now, it's smooth sailing. It's interesting to wonder what other retired people do with their time. Are you retired? What makes you feel good about your days? If you want to share, I'm curious to know: do you like deadlines and obligations, or do they make you feel restricted?


Linda Myers said...

I don't do well without a structure to my days, even if that structure is flexible. I wish I were a person who could relax, with nothing in my mind to ponder. That's not the case, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love retirement! In fact, I HATED all of my jobs (legal and library) and couldn't wait to retire. For the past 2-1/2 years, I babysat my grandson, but now that he is going to preschool, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I am gradually filling it up, as you can see from my blog -- so far, there's Pen Women, Hula, and Jewelry making. I also like to try out new recipes in the kitchen. So much to do, DJan. I like having a schedule of fun activities -- but not work or volunteer work. Lol.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A big chunk of my time five days a week is spent caring for the grandkids, but in two weeks their parents will be off for the summer. In September the kids will both be in school fulltime, so we'll have them for about an hour and a half on weekday mornings, and occasional play dates. But the carousel we run as volunteers has a centennial in 2014 and I must (a) write a book and (b) organize celebratory activities before April 2014. I will need a schedule more than ever. I will also be tap dancing, gardening, blogging, and maybe a bit more birding. I see scheduled bedtimes, work times, etc., in my future! (After 2014 we plan to retire from the carousel by hiring a fulltime executive director.)

Rian said...

I too love retirement... even though I loved my job when I was working. But *owning your own time* is wonderful. And as long as I'm 'creating' (whether it be cooking, pottery, writing, sketching, photographing, etc.) I'm good. Having the time to enjoy the wonder of life is a gift. Being able to 'nap' when you're tired is a gift. And I'm just as happy with an interruption in the routine where I can play with the grandkids or visit with friends. I pray that our health and our money hold out, but in general, life is good.

Linda Reeder said...

Like you, I like some structure and a purpose to each day, and I like being active and getting outside whenever I can. But I too like my structure to be self-imposed. Holidays like this weekend make me restless. Should I be doing something special? But I don't really want to be out there in the crowds and traffic. And yes, weekends are much less significant in retirement.
This morning I have spent so far in my recliner, sort of watching the Indy 500, which I used to do faithfully every year. It's a tradition I can indulge this year because it's raining. I'm combining that with reading the paper, posting a blog, and reading blogs. But soon I need to get out of my chair and move. Sedentary mornings are not my style.

Red said...

That is some cool race!
As for structure or organization? I don't have it. It was always on my goal sheet at the beginning of every year. I'm a putterer like my mother. We still talk about Mom and how things were just in piles and got shuffled around. I laugh but I know I'm just like her. Yes , I do have some schedule. i do like to get up at 7. This is a hold over from work.

Sally Wessely said...

I do best with structured time, but I have a very difficult time creating my own personal structure. That is one of the most difficult aspects of retirement for me: not having structure. That being said, I resist someone imposing structure on me like crazy. Again, the problems is that if someone doesn't soon impose some sort of schedule on me, I will fritter away the rest of my life.

I am happy to be free of deadlines and obligations. I find I have no desire to volunteer because I don't want obligations.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I hate structure, I hate the clock. Both of which I am stuck with for the summer. I will retire someday..and I will throw all the clocks away...well probably not all of them.
I love staying home, doing my own thing when I want. My best days are those I don't have to be anyplace..I covet those days at home..and in the summer they are few and far between.
I am so not a morning person. That is probably part of the problem:)

Jackie said...

The race sounds grueling and I wish all the participants the best!!
To me, retirement means every day is Saturday!!
No. I absolutely do not want a schedule or any form or resemblance of a structured day. I know what I need to do and when, so I manage my time and that does not include structured events if I can help it. The reason for retirement is so that I can work and play at my leisure. I find myself working every day....but it is work that I want to do and enjoy doing.
Your blogs are very interesting, Jan, and I always read them as if I was listening to you talking to a close friend. You have a way of making us (your blogging family) feel special and important. That is a gift, my friend.

CiCi said...

It took me a couple years to adjust to not having a set time to get up and to weekends off work. Once I did get used to it, however, it is awesome. I wake up around the same time in the morning if I got to sleep early enough, otherwise I sleep an extra hour. Tues mornings I play dominoes with about 6 or 7 other women at the senior center. Friday mornings a group of us meet for Needlers, where I crochet or embroider for 2 hours and visit. Friday afternoons are bingo in another town. Every other Wed night is bingo in still another town. The rest of the time is for spontaneous activities. Sometimes various friends want me to help with something, or go to a doctor appointment with them. I am leaving out some of the little volunteer things I do here and there. My life is usually busy and I stop occasionally to have some time at home reading and quiet time.

Rita said...

From the time I was a little girl I had a lot of time to myself and basically no structure at all to my life. Being a reader/writer type I have always enjoyed frittering away my time lost in thought--and then I got into crafts and art--which is a blessing now because, even housebound, I am never bored. But I understand that my life today (on several levels) would drive a lot of people bonkers. ;)

Deb Shucka said...

I need structure, too, even during the summer, and I'm assuming when I retire (way too far in the future). I find I constantly make deals with myself: if I do this work, then I can have that time to sit and read. It's so nice to read your voice here - I'm missing our group - and your insights in particular. So, you're the gift I've given myself this morning.

Arkansas Patti said...

I adore the lack of structure of retirement. As my brother says, there is nothing we can't put off for a better time except Dr. appts.
I usually have one thing scheduled for the day but if I don't get to it, that is perfectly OK. I will do it when ever and who knows, something better may show up. I live for spontaneity, a creature of whim. Thank goodness I am not trying to make a living.

O-town Ramblings said...

What a race! Being at the finish line sounds fun.

I'm still 19 years away from retirement (but who's counting?) but I already know I will have no problem whatsoever filling my days when I do retire! I like structure, but am less regimented about it when I'm on vacation. Right now I'm on the tail end of a 5-day weekend break. I had a mental of list of things I wanted to accomplish to keep me from completely frittering away my days.

Stella Jones said...

Like you D-Jan, I keep to a schedule, if I can. I rise at the same time as when I went to work. If I didn't do that, I would feel I was missing precious hours in a day when there is never enough time anyway. Like you I am active in the mornings and then do 'sit-down' things in the afternoon. Very often I take a nap of one hour in the afternoons, so as to stop myself dozing off in the evenings when I want to watch TV or read or write or whatever. My days are very full, too full sometimes but I love being retired. I do miss the work I did but I don't miss having someone tell me what to do and when to do it.

Friko said...

I positively relish free days. I stay in bed late ( 8 am), garden or potter around the house, cook (I cook practically every day), walk the dog, read, watch TV, chat with friends on the phone or in the village, and do whatever I fancy.

Free days? Bring them on. Deadlines? You can have them. Commitments? Only sometimes, please.

Lorna said...

Hi. I retired early in the year 2000 and I have no structure at all. I find that it suits me. I have no deadlines, but tonight my neighbors are coming over for a fettucine Alfredo dinner and a movie. They are bringing the Caesar salad.

It can sometimes be lonely, but I do not like having my calendar full and I especially don't like my calendar filled with doctor visits.

troutbirder said...

Retirement means no structure and no schedules. I like doing what I want when I want. Life is good!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Knowing one's self and one's personal moods is the best thing. You have taken every minute of everdy and made the choice to do what pleases you even if structured.
In fact structure is likely the best way to achieve the best health and longevity. I totally think your way is tops!!

Jackie said...

I wish I could hug the sorrow from you, my friend.
I cannot begin to imagine the sadness that you feel. I am so sorry....
As you travel to skydive with your friends, I pray for a safe drive. I pray for peace and joy to envelope you as you enjoy the sport that brings happiness to you. I pray for a safe drive back home. Sending hugs and love to you.

CrazyCris said...

I love the idea of that race! :o)

I like to have some structure in my life, it forces me to be productive. I'm so tired lately and have so many things going on that if I don't have an external obligation I waste a lot of time around the house just trying to figure out what to do next and procrastinating. :o(

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I've been retired for twelve years and I've found that I truly need some kind of routine or I end up doing nothing each day and so go to bed feeling just a little disappointed in myself because I didn't see the possibilities for the day.

I don't do much each day, but a few things seem essential to me: taking a walk, visualizing Oneness, blogging, writing a novel, and making contact with friends. That's my day.

Of course, for the past three weeks, I've been off-schedule and done little. But today, I'm re-entering my life. Peace.