So, there I was--fully retired! No job, not even part-time, and each day full of a million options. Why, I'd be writing all the time and producing books like there was no tomorrow.
Except, I suddenly lost all ability to allocate my time wisely.
Sleep in? Of course. Drink coffee and watch the morning shows? Sure, who says I can't? Walk the dogs? Well, that's not exactly optional. Also, walk the big dog several more times to prevent the "stare" later when I want to relax and catch some TV.
Meditate, clean the house, do laundry, call family or friends, mail some bills. All things I used to do on top of a job and hobbies, but now they somehow seemed to suck up every minute of the day.
Let's not forget the ultimate time waster: my iPhone. Have to post a cool pic to my Instagram account! And my dog's Instagram account! Time to read Twitter, scroll through Facebook, post on Facebook, empty all the junk emails, text with friends. Shit, it's bedtime!
Friends would ask, "What are you writing?", and I'd say, "I can't talk about it yet." Not because it was a secret, but because there was nothing to talk about. I wasn't writing, and I had now sunk so low that I would tell people, "Who has time to write? All I do is walk the dogs." (Note: if you're going to place blame on someone other than yourself, it helps if they can't actually dispute it.)
Finally, I realized I had a problem, and the problem was me.
In order to write, I just had to schedule time to write. First, I signed my big dog up for doggie daycare once a week. Then I told my husband that every Tuesday, our dog was going to daycare, and I would be locked in my office all day writing, so do not disturb, please. I gave myself every Tuesday to write, leaving me with no more excuses.
It worked! Not immediately, of course. The first few Tuesdays, I spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen, or staring out the window (Look! A hummingbird!), or meditating, or surfing the internet. Or getting coffee. Oops forgot to make the bed, can't write till I do that!
But eventually, my "Tuesday writing day" became a habit, and the words finally began to flow again. Once that happened, I had to add a "Friday writing day" because I was writing so much, and needed additional time. I had now tricked my mind into thinking I could actually write all day two days a week, and I was surprised by what a sucker for tricks my mind is.
I guess the key thing I learned about retirement is that while it feels amazing at first to face a week that is completely open and unscheduled, over time it begins to feel aimless and slightly unnerving. My husband and I would ask each other, "What do you want to do today?" and we would both answer "I don't know." But now, I feel better knowing that at least some of my time is planned out, while also knowing that some if it is still "whatever the hell I want to do" time.
That's the beauty of retirement: TIME. Scheduled and otherwise. I am so grateful I'm here to enjoy it.
Donna J. Abear is the author of a children's play SPRUCEY, THE BLUE CHRISTMAS TREE, a memoir RELATIVELY CRIMINAL, and a humor book MOM…YOU’RE NOT NAKED, ARE YOU?. Married, mother of four, grandmother of two, and a “dog mom” too, she is living her dream in the Pacific Northwest among the trees and wildlife she loves.