Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Retirement, Writing, and Routine

When I decided to retire, I knew I wouldn't have any problems keeping busy or finding purpose in life after teaching. My experience has confirmed my feelings. In truth, I have been so busy that I've had the opposite situation: rather than wondering what of significance to do, I've been given too much of significance to do!"

In Boyd Lemon's book Retirement: A Memoir and Guide, he writes the following:
"The books that I read on philosophy, religion, self-help and new age theories made me appreciate, intellectually, that I didn't need to achieve any longer. I never needed to, except in my mind. But I had not internalized this new understanding either."
I'm going to look at "achieve" as those powerful benchmarks of activity that had structured my personal and work life--those activities that structured my time and attitude. The thing is, all those "structures" became more fluid in retirement. As I said to one friend, "It's great to wake up and think, 'I need to do this today . . . but on the other hand, I can do it tomorrow.'"

A great deal of "have to do" pressure was taken off my shoulders with retirement, yet also a familiar routine was also lost--a routine that provided the ease of familiarity. For me, the loss of routine has been especially true. One month after submitting my resignation letter to my school, I was unexpectedly pulled two thousand miles away to care for my elderly parents. Out of the first year of my "retirement," I spent eight months caring for my parents, my private space and bed the living room sofa.

What has been the result of this experience regarding my goals and my routine, two aspects of retirement Lemon Boyd considers in his book as key to successful retirement?
  1. My retirement did not fulfill the sense of ease from responsibility that I had been expecting.
  2. My retirement did not easily lend itself to establishing a new routine.
  3. My retirement did not allow me to follow the goals I had expected.
There are no sour grapes to taste here. I am glad to have helped my family, I eventually established a routine that was good for me, and I found myself writing about my experience with my family and will shape those writings into a book.

I'm back home now. I stayed with my parents for almost seven months and have visited them for two-week stays twice now over the last six months--about once every three months. So what about retirement, writing, and routine?

Like Lemon Boyd, I realize now that intellectual understanding is not the same thing as experience--understanding the concept is not the same thing as living the reality.
  1. My retirement responsibilities are still significant, yet they are also less stressful in that they are not so time dependent.
  2. When and what I choose to write is much more open in terms of my daily routine. I don't have to pressure myself and squeeze in the time to write. I just have to choose what my routine is going to be. I have to best structure my days to fit all my responsibilities and goals into the day.
  3. The pace of achieving my goals can now be more relaxed. Rather than taxing myself, body and mind, to achieve my goals, I can now pace myself to move forward at a rate that is nurturing to both myself and to those significant in my life.
This blog post is a part of this week's first goal--to re-establish a sense of "30-minute" marketing, to set aside a portion of time each day to highlighting my writing for the reading community, including both the books I've written and my reflections living the life of a writer. I've been working at least a half an hour early each morning.

What are my next goals?
  • writing time on specific projects--fiction and non-fiction
  • gardening
  • time with family
  • bicycling
I see no need to prioritize these. I also haven't included reading time because, for me, that would be like including time for breathing. It just happens.

It's spring, though, and the planting time. Gardening has taken a big role in my activity right now. That's appropriate. Family time has mostly centered on weekends with wife and family and two afternoons during weekdays babysitting my grandson. I'm not counting wonderful evenings with my wife, though. Those, like breathing, just happen . . . and just happen to be an essential part of my life's happiness.

Writing project time? Most likely just before or after lunch. Bicycling? I'm thinking maybe significant rides three days a week.

See? There's still some fluidity, the sense of "achievement" has mellowed, yet I still have some goals that are meaningful and that I need to structure into my activity.

Today, I've written these words which have helped me internalize the new structure of my life. It's still early, I take care of the grandkid this afternoon, and I've got some work in the garden. I can stop before lunch to take some time on A Day Out with Mom, the non-fiction book I'm working on.  I also have some short stories I want to re-work.

What I don't finish today I'll work on tomorrow. It's a more relaxed pace and a good feeling to have lost--at least, mostly--that 8-to-5 knot that was once the coiled reptile in my stomach.

I can do without that and still have a lot to do. 

Copyright 2014 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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