I Guess Every Day Can't Be Saturday
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Marisa Guerin PhD - May 29, 2018
This week marks one year since I retired from my full time professional work. That went fast! It’s been a time of adjustment and change, on balance all good. I’ve learned some useful things about retirement and about myself. I thought I'd compose a brief "Annual Report" on my retirement, focusing on three things that seem to warrant attention: one to keep, one to change, one to monitor.
KEEP: It’s a great thing to have fewer obligations and more time.
At the very beginning of my retirement, I marveled that I could lose track of what day of the week it was. That never happened to me before. I’m a bit more aware of the days now. I must have adjusted to a new way of paying attention.
I have deeply appreciated the flexibility of my days. My remaining professional and volunteer commitments have been considerably fewer and much easier to manage. I really don’t miss the demands of a consulting life, although I do miss the wonderful clients with whom I worked. I have no temptations to join a Board, take on a big project, or be in charge of anything.
I find I am better able to keep on top of my share of the regular household rhythm of meals, errands, paperwork, tidying up – although big projects like cleaning out the basement are easy to put off, which is exactly what is happening. Weekly bread baking is an enjoyable new hobby.
And— very important to me – I have more time to connect with family and dear friends, to accompany them in their ups and downs and in turn to be accompanied by them.
I am painfully aware that among my other experiences of privilege -- being American, being white, having education -- I also have the privilege of enough resources to be able to retire, which is by no means a universal option. I hope I use it productively and for the common good.
CHANGE: A “Year of Saturdays” is enough; I’m ready for a new, regular structure.
I have enjoyed indulging leisure whims as if I were on vacation, like having some tapas and a glass of sherry with Mike when he gets home or making a lunch date with a friend at Parc. We are food and wine lovers, and Philadelphia is a great town for eating out. And since I am much more often at home, the kitchen is right there if boredom or “reading-the-news-anxiety” triggers an urge to nibble.
So – I have paid for this relaxed lifestyle by gaining back weight that I painstakingly lost a couple years back. The verdict is in – a permanent “vacation” mentality is not healthy for me. Every day can’t be Saturday!
What to do? It’s time to start putting in place the simple basics of a life rhythm to order my time, an horarium. It sounds so very old-fashioned, but a regular time for sleeping, waking, prayer, exercise, meals and daily projects is what can replace what was once a life schedule organized around work hours. In addition, I’ll have to restore sensible food and wine discipline, which I believe I can do. (Health, energy, and vanity being good motivators.)
The timing is good for this – Mike will retire later this summer, so we both need a retirement life pattern that works for us as a couple and as individuals, a life pattern that is healthy and sustaining and engaged with our family members, friends, and neighbors.
MONITOR: I’m still too consumed by news, and I have become more politically-aware.
Because there’s all this time available, I’ve become an exceedingly well-informed citizen. It’s a two-edged sword, however. Tracking what’s happening in the nation and world these days is emotionally exhausting and anxiety-producing. I feel like I need to put some reasonable boundaries around it. And yet, even though it is draining, I don’t want to just ignore my world, or turn a blind eye to what I think of as a very risky time. (I imagine I am far from alone in this experience, yes?)
And it’s not just news that I read – I’m actively trying to learn more about what is making us tick these days as a nation and how we might find a way out of the polarized, anxious, intolerant state we are in. I alternate between grieving what’s happening, and being hopeful and committed to “a more perfect union." I read and explore with some restlessness as I search out a way forward.
This particular experience for me seems like the beginning of a longer chapter in my coming years. While I’ve always kept an eye on national/international affairs, this year I have been much more attentive as well to local and state politics. I have a lot to learn, but it seems important and practical and a good antidote to feeling helpless at this or that national policy that I can’t change in the short term. I love seeing how many people, especially women and younger persons, are mobilizing themselves to run for office or lead movements to address issues they care about. It’s the silver lining to a dark phase.
So part of my plan for year two of my retirement is to put some measurable time limits on the time I spend in newslandia. It really shouldn’t take too long to figure out what’s important for the day, and then make a choice about how much more to read about it. I’ll keep paying attention but perhaps with less compulsiveness and more intentionality.
The Bottom Line of this “Annual Report”:
Retirement is good, I’m learning the ropes, I’m grateful for so much, and I’m looking forward to the new adventure of retirement as a couple that will start soon!