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, June 8, 2014

Structure of my days

Last Thursday's High Country trail
Here I am sitting in my bed on Sunday morning again, tea beside me, laptop propped across my knees, and my sleeping partner not yet stirring. This is what I do every day when I wake, but on Sunday the task of writing this post is my first order of business. It now has the force of habit, and the expectation of some thoughtful comments by my readers makes me look forward to the activity. Right now I have little to no idea what I will write about.

Last night I finished reading a book and turned out the light, snuggled into my nice bed and closed my eyes. (Smart Guy usually comes to bed an hour or two later.) It wasn't easy to fall into sleep, as the story in the well-written book kept intruding itself, but then I began to think about the title of this post, which usually helps me get into whatever the mood of the present moment might be. Sure enough, I realized that the need for structure in my life is on my mind.

I like to wake early and go to bed early. If I stay up until 10:00pm (like I did last night), it's rather unusual. My normal bedtime is two hours earlier than that. Sometimes I'll try to stay awake, but it's usually a lost cause, as I begin to doze in my chair. But the book was impossible to put down: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was recommended by one of my blogging friends, and it's much different from my usual fare. It's a mystery/thriller that has more twists and turns than any book I've read for awhile. It kept me awake, even though I'd had quite a full day at the Drop Zone.

My summer life and my winter life are completely different, but the structure of my days remains the same: wake early and read and comment on my favorite blogs online, then check out the news and comics I enjoy, read email and respond. By that time more than an hour has passed. I get out of bed, dress for the day, and head to the kitchen to make breakfast. By the time I leave the house to catch the bus (at 7:05am), I've been awake for two hours. At this time of year, the walk to the bus is really pleasant, birds singing away, a few people sleepily heading into their own days, and it feels good to walk at a brisk pace for a half mile to the bus stop. I see the same people there every day, and they see me. We sometimes chat for a bit.

When I get off the bus at the downtown station, my coffee shop is just a half block away. My fisherman friend Gene is usually already there, but while we enjoy our lattes, little Leo and his dad and a couple other friends usually arrive. I miss all of them when they are not around. Gene will leave in a week for his summer fishing hiatus in Alaska. He and his crew will be gone for six weeks or so, depending on how the fishing goes. I'll miss him while he's gone, but I will also reap the benefits of some great sockeye salmon when he returns.

Then I head to the Y at around 8:30am for my 9:00 class. I see the same people every day, and even if I only nod a greeting, we are all part of each other's daily lives. This time of year, everyone is lightly dressed and smiles are the most common expression I see. In the winter, we are huddled into our coats and hurrying from place to place, trying to stay warm and dry.

After my workout and shower, I head back to the bus to my home. I see different people on the way back; we all know and recognize each other. It's nice to be part of a community. Once I'm home, I usually spend some time catching up with Smart Guy, and I fix my lunch from the wonderful ingredients that he prepared earlier.

Then comes the part of my day that varies depending on what needs to be done: garden, laundry, shopping, reading, visiting the library, appointments, whatever. Sometimes we might go out together, but it's more usual for us to follow our own pursuits. In the evening, though, we are usually watching our favorite TV shows together or spending some time just hanging out.

On Thursdays I go hiking with the Senior Trailblazers, and on the weekend, my routine varies depending on the weather and time of year. Yesterday I drove down to Snohomish and enjoyed playing in the air with my friends. I didn't stay late, though, and headed home with plenty of daylight left. However, I buried my nose in the book and was pretty much stuck there until I finished it and was released.

And here I am, finishing up my post, thinking ahead to the day's activities. I need to harvest some strawberries and check on the progress of my garden, and I'm thinking of going for a nice walk around Lake Padden for my daily exercise. The weather has been so wonderful that it's difficult to think of being inside when I could be outdoors enjoying it. So far the temperature has been in the low 70s, perfect!

Although there is nobody telling me how to live my life, or that I must rise early and head out the door, it's through the structure of my day that I find enjoyment and stability. It's probably a holdover from the years of working. I was always the first one at the office and was more productive then, before others arrived was when I was most able to concentrate. I tell people who ask that the main part of my life that has changed in retirement is that instead of having a job to structure my days, I get to choose my own path and satisfy my own needs.

I love my life. And I love my routines; my enjoyment comes from having full days with a structure to bind it all together. But that's just me. How about you?


Anonymous said...

My structure is insane! I go to bed around 8 pm and wake up around 2 am. I usually go through the entire day without a nap. Then, I again go to bed at 8 pm and get up at 2 am.

Reading your post reminds me that I must add more exercise to my day. But, I always find reasons not to.

Rian said...

"How about me?" Pretty much the same, but a lot less exercise! I do believe developing a routine or structure is important. Getting outside and trying to do something you enjoy (if only for a little while) is important to our well-being. Meeting friends and being around people we care about is also important. Rock on, DJan!

Jackie said...

You are a structured lady, my friend.
I enjoyed reading about your day.
Soooo....that is what it is like to be up early? :)
I would never know; my day is totally opposite to yours. I stay up late (usually 1 or 2 A.M....sometimes 3 A.M.) and rise late (except on Sunday mornings. I am up and ready for Sunday School and Church early on Sunday.)
Your day sounds beautiful, to me.
And, the fact that no one is telling you when to get up or go to bed...or what to do in between is what makes the day so special....for you and for me.
Love you,

Gigi said...

My days are rather like yours (but without the exercise). Except for weekends - then I just seem to float, rudderless. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's not.

Elephant's Child said...

I also want/need structure and routine.
I am an early bird most of the time. One night a fortnight I am up till after midnight volunteering. Which is torture. And these days I am up again between three and four in the morning.
I need to factor exercise in to my day better though. Swimming is calling... Again.

Red said...

The routine gives you satisfaction. However the wheels come off the bus if your routine is upset.
I was used to having to roll with the punches. As I've aged I've got into a routine and a rut. i don't like it . It frustrates me. I don't like having to go for groceries every Wed. I realize that skating happens every Tues because that's when we get the ice.

Linda Reeder said...

I like structure too, but mine is a bit more day to day. I always like to have a plan for the next day before I go to bed. My time frame is much different than yours, though. We often stay up till 11:00 watching TV, and I ususally read and respond to blogs in the evening, like right now. I am actually sitting outside on the patio this evening with my lap top, at 8:30,while you are already in bed. We get up about 7:30 most days, and are not speedy in getting going. I have breakfast and do my exercises, and then if it is going to be warm, I get my walk in early. This time of year there is usually some time spent gardening. I always take an hour for lunch and read the paper and do the puzzles. On really nice days I shut down in time to have some time reading outside. I'm the cook, so I spend up to an hour on dinner prep while I have the TV news on. I have been taking a short after dinner walk during the long daylight days.
Yesterday my grandson asked me what we do all day, since we don't go to school (or work). It seems there is always more to do than we get to, which means there is always something to plan the next day around.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Great! Your circadian rhythm is different than mine, but I'm totally with you on the structure part.

Linda Myers said...

My schedule has changed. I used to go to bed at about 10:30 and wake up at about 7:00. But my husband gets up at 4:45, so he's been going to bed at 9:00, which is too early for me. So I'm becoming a night owl. I find I'm productive at night. This evening I wrote my weekly blog, and I'll do my at-home exercises before I go to bed.

I have plans for every day, but sometimes they get modified. I'm not real good at being spontaneous!

Linda Hoye said...

Enjoyed this glimpse into your daily routine. Your early morning activity is similar to mine. These days, when it is light so early, my body wakes naturally around five. I enjoy hopping around the blogosphere, catching up on Facebook and email, and checking out articles in Flipboard. Now, four months into retirement, I haven't established a daily routine past that, I will, in time, but for now I'm just going with the flow as hubby and I adjust to our new life back here in Canada.

Dee said...

Dear Debra, like you, I need a routine. I not only need one, I want one. It gives structure to my life now that I'm retired. I have morning routine of exercise and Morning Pages that lasts from around 8:30 to 11 A. M. Then I blog. Then I do T'ai Chi Chih and meditate. Then I write. Then I have lunch and nap. Then I write some more. Then I either send out query letters or research the Bronze Age in Greece. Then it's time for the evening news on NBC and PBS. I been struggling to establish this routine since I was able to stop the light treatments and so got my time/day back. Today is my first day when I feel that the routine is polished and I'm happy with it! I'm glad to know that you and I share this. Peace.

Friko said...

So you too got caught up in ‘Gone Girl’. Told you so.

My hours are the complete opposite to yours. I get up at 8.30 and go to bed at midnight or later. I also stay a lot closer to home for most of the day, gardening on good days, doing indoor jobs on wet ones. I walk the dog every day in the afternoon, cook meals and we eat together.

We go out a lot, also together.

Everybody lives the life they like, if they are lucky, and who’s to say which is the best way?

Rita said...

Aha! I was trying to remember where I saw that book--Friko's blog! I have to remember to write that down for my library lady. ;)

Now that I am basically on days the last two years I have more structure than I've ever had in my life. But it would be considered unstructured by most, I suppose. I get up, shower, feed Karma & the fish, get my coffee, check online for a while (could be a few minutes or a couple hours), decide if I am gong to blog or not (if I do that eats up 1 1/2-2 1/2 hours believe it or not), I move to my craft/writing table and journal for a while. That is the only routine I have pretty much every day.

After that I decide if I am going to work on letters--depending on what time it is by then and how I am feeling by that time. It takes me a couple three hours to thaw out and find out what kind of shape I am really in for the day. I basically ignore all the pain and stiffness when I first get up--and wait patiently for it to improve a bit. Most days it does to some degree or another. That determines what I am actually going to be able to do that day--write letters, read, work on crafts, time at the art table, cleaning & organizing, cooking, laundry, etc. But I noticed since my hours are more regular that I have been trying to wash clothes on Sunday or Monday. That's as close to a schedule as I have ever gotten--LOL! If I am going to spend more time at Dagan and Leah's once the baby comes I guess I will have to wash on Saturday or Sunday. Weekends are going to be Gramma Rita's time to herself.

But all of that goes out the window if my body is having a really bad day for one of the many reasons it can choose to do so. Out the window. My plans are always tentative. Always. But this works for me--getting to bed usually between 12-1am and up between 8-9am. That's up for grabs, too. Fluctuation is a natural part of my life. It would drive you crazy--LOL! But I am very adaptable. ;)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I sure enjoyed this post. Why? Well, it is such a well thought out answer to the question I get about retirement … What do you do all day? I don’t mean to say that we do the same things but it’s the structure that counts, and like you, I think it comes from all those years of working. So, when I get that retirement question these days, I answer by saying it’s not what I do all day, but that I can do what I need to do whenever I want. Retirement is about flexibility, at least that’s my experience. And, have you ever heard that old saying: The work expands to fill the time available? Ha, that seems true to me … I’m often so busy in retirement that I wonder how I got everything done back in the “working” days. Of course, things are different. But again, the structure is a big help to me. I also like the old adage, Early to bed, Early to rise. Like you, it works well for me, but this time of year it’s made a little more difficult by Daylight Savings Time. Last night sunset was at 9:08. Did we really need the extra hour of daylight? Here in the northern part of the US we simply don’t need DST. Or, at least that’s the way I see it. I better not get on the soapbox! Ha ha. Well, thanks for a great post AND thanks for all your comments on John’s Island. John

Glenda Beall said...

I enjoyed the look at a day in your life, DJan. Sounds so calm and peaceful. I am ready to get into that kind of structure I think. I have no community here in the mountains of NC and that visit to the coffee shop to visit with friends sounds like a neat thing to do. The friends I made twenty years ago when I moved here seem to have withdrawn and become stay-at-home people. I thrive on being with others so I am ready to find a community where I can do that. But mostly, I am divesting myself of stressful situations, stress-causing people, and anyone I don't really enjoy.
I am ready to turn another corner and make new plans for my future. Who knows what that will be?

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are just one of those scheduled people...I am not. I am hardly ever asleep before 1AM and never up before 8 if I can help it..later would be better. I am a night person..it is quiet and the phone doesn't ring. Everyone should find where they function the best at! I used to work from 4PM to 1 AM when the girls were little...many years.

Thanks for your get well wishes again! You are a doll...I appreciate your friendship more than you may know:)

Anonymous said...

You have a good life style. I sleep late night. I like to sleep in the morning but need to get up early.
I love to sleep. I also need to add some exercise with it.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I think you may recall I'm a nighthawk. And a bedsitter in the morning. That is when i, too, like to read my email, write in my journal, look at blogs - which I also do at midnight.

Funny, I'm two times zones ahead of you, but by the time you are getting to the Y for your class, I'm finally getting up to make breakfast. (Except of the days I work.)

CiCi said...

One of my gal pals just passed along the book Gone Girl to me. Now that you mention it, I will read it. It is on top of my "To Be Read" pile. I just got a new bookcase so I have been reorganizing my books as well. And found some more that I have wanted to read.

Stella Jones said...

I read your post with interest D-Jan. I took like structure to my day but it differs quite a bit from yours. I noticed when I lived in America, how early people there went to bed. My usual time is 10 p.m. these days and I get up at 6.45 a.m. I also take a nap in the afternoons these days. At the moment here in England, the sun is rising about 4.30 a.m. and it's still light at 10 p.m. - just.

Deb Shucka said...

I've been away from blogland for a while. It's so nice to see how well you're doing, and a pleasure, as always, to spend time in your words and world.

Deb Shucka said...

P.S. I loved Gone Girl! Glad you did, too.

#1Nana said...

I'm going to look up that book...unless it was written by James Patterson, then I'd pass on it. I do well with structure, but don't do well creating it. I think about creating a schedule, but don't follow through. Bumble along seems to be my pattern!