“Don’t go to the grocery store and get a haircut on the same day,” said Bob, one of my husband’s law firm partners, when he retired many years ago. “You want to stretch out your activities to fill your days.”
One of my biggest worries when I retired was how I was going to fill my days. How do I go from 100 miles per hour to a leisurely 20 or 30? In the first weeks, I attacked home projects with fervor – cleaning out drawers and closets, recycling clothing and camping gear, and reorganizing kitchen cabinets. I had the leaky showerhead fixed, replaced a faucet and repaired a lamp that had broken down years ago.
And then I realized, I don’t HAVE to go to the grocery store and get a haircut on the same day. I don’t have to run all my errands in one day. It can wait until tomorrow or the day after. There’s no need to load up on bulk items from Costco and wait in long lines. I don’t have to buy a week’s worth of groceries at a time. I don’t have to fill up my basket with fresh fruit and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market because I can return next week or the week after.
In retirement, each day unfurls with a blank slate. I can plan travel to Mammoth or visit my sons without worrying about taking vacation days or having someone cover my tasks at work. I can walk in the neighborhood every afternoon. I can read a magazine or finish a novel without worrying about my to-do list. I can savor a home cooked meal.
For so long, the combination of work and caregiving meant that I was always just one day ahead of the next task, the next demand, the next pressure. I was inhabiting my house, not truly living in it. Now, I am attuned to the whine of the saw as our back yard neighbors construct their pool, the tinkling of wind chimes from my next door neighbor, the distant cries of children playing on the street and the purr of tires as cars round the corner. I can see the leaves on the camphor tree flutter in the wind when I open all the windows to air out the living room. I enjoy the quiet and serenity of my home when my husband is out with the caregiver.
Before retirement, there was no time for anything other than basic needs at home and being consumed by work. It was the excuse for everything – the piles of paper lining my desk, the stacks of books on my overcrowded shelf, the magazines waiting to be read and the reason why I didn’t sit down and write more. There was always the “someday” refrain in my mind. Someday I will straighten out those piles of paper, someday I will go through the clippings and articles I have saved because there are germs of writing ideas in them. Someday, I will cook more.
And now, that “someday” is here.