It is great fun to wake up knowing that there’s nothing you have to do, apart having from the “must dos” of everyday life—we all know we need to shop for food and go to the dentist. Family, hobbies, and volunteer jobs can take up good chunks of time. But if you fail to establish some conventions for your #retired life, you are almost guaranteed, after a few months, to feel a bit adrift.
I first began doing some of my work at home two decades ago. Accustomed to working in hospitals, financial institutions, court and government offices, and other very structured environments, I found not going out to work everyday and the complete absence of convention unsettling, dedicated and fully equipped though our home office was. I was doing my job well, but everything seemed an uphill climb. The house itself was a distraction, for all the reasons you can imagine.
After several weeks, the switch finally flipped. I realized I needed to accept that while I wasn’t going out of the house, I was still going to work. I came up with three conventions to aid in the process.
The first was to dress respectably (no PJs, no sweats), put on make-up, and begin every day at a specific time, before the barrage of phone calls and emails. The second was to set small personal work goals for each day, within our larger organizational deadlines. The third was to take breaks in the same way one might in an external workplace. The difference was that I consciously used the breaks to counter the distractions of being at home. I would start a load of wash or throw something in the oven or take a walk outside. The change of activity always helped me to recharge.*
About now, you are probably saying to yourself, “What’s your point?”
It is simply that my transition to working at home has much in common with the current transition to retirement. Most of us need to establish at least some framework, however bare bones, for our work-free life.
I’m not very far along in this process. Cleaning the stove aside, I still feel better if I dress respectably and put on make-up. I still try to set small goals for each day. I’ve front-loaded many of the routine household tasks that are on my side of the equation for Monday and Tuesday. Early mornings are for reading and writing, with the rest of the day reserved for outlier chores, kitchen adventures, things that Hubby and I tackle together, or those infamous “special projects”. I have a weekly Pilates class. Miss Pup takes me for a walk several times a day. There are no structured volunteer assignments at this point, partly because I’m still only “demi-retired” and partly because I may want to keep my giving-back efforts more personal and sporadic.
But I’m not where I need to be, by any means. For weeks I’ve been telling myself that I need to go back to Rosetta Stone® to improve my Italian (yes, it works if you stick with it). I’ve also been telling myself that I need to use all of those cookbooks more, that I should pick one a week and plan all of our dinners around it. And that I should finish the photo projects I’ve started (one down, 30 to go). I’d like to carve out more time for doing new, fun things with Hubby, kids, grands, family, and friends… for needlework, which I stopped abruptly in the early 80s after an upholsterer’s wife stole the pillow covers it had taken me two years to finish (I forgive but don’t necessarily forget)… and, of course, for reading more. All of which now compels me to ask:
What am I waiting for?
Your thoughts and wise counsel, readers, would be greatly appreciated. Any reasonable challenge will be accepted. Feel free to comment and share.
Photo: Adrift (happily) on the St. Lawrence.
*I realized after I wrote this that I’ve unconsciously modeled my mother. She had a small beauty salon in our home and used the time between customers to do things around the house or start dinner. Thanks, Mom!