OK! I’ve been derelict two weeks in a row. I didn’t post on my appointed Monday date with you. Please forgive me. I’ve been galavanting around the southeast, didn’t have anything I felt post worthy to put out there and so, dear readers I’m a derelict. That said, this experience made me think of yet another great thing about being retired…I can spur-of-the-moment, or not, take off to parts known or unknown. So, when one of my sisters and her partner decided to make a trip south on the spur-of-the-moment (they’re also retired), we were able to say, “Hey, stop by for a visit”, with little upset to our routine. Yes, even in retirement we have a routine. Routines add structure to our lives and it’s structure which makes the special moments special. That doesn’t go away in retirement.
After years of getting up at the same time, getting ready for work in much the same way each day and having to be at your desk, office, station, work site at a specific time, suddenly all of that comes to a screeching halt. You can sleep in everyday if you want. You can get up and throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or hang out in your pj’s ’til noon or all day. You have no place to go unless you manufacture a place to go. You have nothing to do unless you create something to do. So, part of challenge in retirement is how will you create structure. Why? Do you really want to spend the next thirty years of your life sleeping in and sitting around the house in your pj’s doing nothing more than watching the tube, surfing the net and leafing through magazines waiting for the special moments?
After placing in the state time trials, the question Martin has been asked most often in the last week is, “So, what will you do now?” It’s also similar to an often asked question since we retired, “What do you do all day?” And, therein lies the rub. After 40 years or more of someone telling you what to do all day, there is suddenly no boss. There are no corporate directives. There are no promotions to a higher level. There are no new products to roll out. There are no employees bringing you problems to solve. There is no job description. There is no company policy manual. There are no rules. Only you. In retirement it’s up to you to determine your fate. That, folks, is probably the number one challenge of being a person of independent means.
Martin has already decided he won’t be competing in the national time trials. He’ll continue to ride for exercise and the company of a local group of cyclists. He’s already exploring taking a college course or two in photography and/or painting with acrylics. We can always find something new to challenge our brains and satisfy our creative vision. But, understand this. Determining your fate isn’t one big round of finding something creative or challenging to fill your days. Your days also need some of the usual. The everyday. The oftentimes mundane. Because one of the things which has also vaporized with your work life is structure. Maybe not entirely but a significant amount of your routine is gone.
When working, long weekends and vacation days often become moments when we do something special in between the structure of work. Structure is the juxtaposition which creates the excitement of say racing in the state time trials or running a marathon. To be sure, there’s the structure offered by laundry, grocery shopping, house maintenance and family obligations. The latter remains even in retirement. Although for us, shopping and errand running on the weekends and evenings has been replaced with doing those chores early morning weekdays when the stores are pretty close to empty. Now we do laundry whenever the hamper is full. House cleaning is whenever we feel like it or to motivate ourselves, we invite someone for a visit or dinner.
But, back to our daily life and the importance of routine. After years of dinner sometime between 6:30 and 7:30, in our new life, we enjoy starting dinner early and eating around 5:30. Structure. Thanks to a little diluted orange cat named Carmen, Martin still gets up in the morning around 5:30 to 6 a.m. Carmie doesn’t realize Daddy doesn’t go to work anymore so, she sticks to the routine she was raised with, meowing at the bedroom door in anticipation of Martin rising and giving early morning pets and breakfast. I sleep in until Martin brings me a latte bedside around 7 a.m. That’s right, girls, he makes me a latte every morning…structure! Even our choice to age in place on our six acres provides routine, albeit different routines during the different seasons. With an overgrown woods looking like something the Prince had to hack through to reach Sleeping Beauty in the castle, winter’s routine is bushwhacking. This time of year with summer approaching, mornings are spent picking berries and vegetables, deadheading flower beds and doing chores in the garden. Then, there’s house maintenance like cleaning gutters, painting the house trim, fixing a leaking toilet and all the other things you now have time to do yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.
So, no matter what you plan for retirement. Skydiving. Bungee jumping. Spending a year in an RV traveling the country. Going to Europe or Hawaii. Sailing the seven seas. No matter what you plan for excitement or challenge, in order to make it truly exciting, you’ll need a daily life of the usual, the everyday and mundane. you’ll need structure and routine. However, even if you have a blog to write, you can take off spur-of-the-moment to parts known or unknown.