Friday, June 01, 2007

The Reality of an Unstructured Life

A month into this new life of mine, I’m starting to understand some of the challenges of managing all this free time. Part of me longs for some sort of framework to govern my life which is flowing in every direction at the same time.

The one thing a full-time job does is to make decisions for you like when you will get up, when you will get a shower each day, when you will get dressed and what you will wear, when you will exercise, when you will eat your 3 meals a day. As it stands now, all of those are up for grabs. There are days when I don’t get a shower until 3:00 in the afternoon, when I never really get dressed in anything I would wear outside the house, and when I never put a drop of make-up on.

If I used my husband’s model (retired for almost 4 years), I would get up at 9:00, exercise, shower, dress, eat breakfast at 10:30, lunch at 2:30, dinner at 8:00, go to bed around 1:00 a.m. He throws in some web-site work throughout the day and maybe a bike ride and some TV late at night. But on a normal day, this is his schedule and it seems to work for him.

Back to the question of what to wear and make-up, I have to ask who my audience is here. Do I want to be impressed when I look in the mirror? (I’m mostly not right now.) Do I want to impress my fellow Costco shoppers? Do I want to be ready if someone invited me out to a nice lunch? Does my husband really care or would he even notice the difference? I seem to currently be begging the issue by addressing my physical appearance only if and when I have an “appointment”. This week that would mean that I have looked like a slob most of the time as I sat around blowing my nose.

The only real constant so far in this new chapter of my life is music. Most every day I sit down and play the piano for an hour or so. It feels good to know this happens on a regular basis.

I’m starting to get the sense that my life would be a little more predictable if I established some sort of routine – even getting up at the same time each day might help. As nice as unstructured time might sound, it’s sort of like floating through the water and never finding any place to cast your anchor.

Maybe my second month will be one of experimenting with just a little structure – nothing too constricting or absolute, just a frame of reference.


Blogger GEWELS said...

Structure? What structure?
As I sit here reading this at 11:43 am- still in my bathrobe- thinking that I should have done my walk by now- no makeup-having had twizzlers for breakfast (yeah, yeah I'll have a salad for lunch)-I ask myself Who really needs structure? Apparently I do.

Good luck with that project and let me know how you do it in month 2.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Lucy said...

I've always wondered how I would deal with retirement. In theory, all that free time sounds great; in reality, I know that I absolutely need structure in my life on a regular basis. Without it, I not only get nothing done, but I start to sink into depression. A friend asked how much money I would have to win in the lotto to quit my day job, and without even thinking, I said - I'd never quit. I need the structure too much.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- I'll keep you posted.

Sparkles -- This discovery path is so interesting. I definitely don't want my job back, but I am coming to realize that the way to avoid depression for me is to have plans, lots of plans. That means figuring out how to fill that 40-hour period each week with interesting, fulfilling things. This Blog is invaluable to me as I explore the possibilities. You just helped me verbalize the depression thing. Thanks! It's always good to hear from you.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

There is no question that doing things is important. You can get a day planner and pencil in things to do.

Stretch your boundaries, try new things.

Of course, advice is always easy to give.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I have a day planner. I think part of my problem is that this week was empty except for a pilates lesson on Wednesday that I had to cancel because I was sick.

I recognize that it takes some effort to stay reasonably busy and productive. Next week I will pursue some new ideas.

1:50 PM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

Barbara- i have been kinda busy (gone) and have sure missed you. please do not swim with an anchor.
and remember, never do anything today that you can put off till tomorrow.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it takes a little time to settle in to a nice routine. I think when you eventually have some scheduled tasks like volunteering or classes to throw in the mix, a structure will materialize. That's sort of what happened to me. But, it took a few months before things settled out. And, I think my structure will change again when I tire of the volunteer and paid web work.

You might want to do some self brainstorming to think of things you might want to pursue now that you have time.

Don't be hard on yourself or get down about it (of course you wrote this while still fighting this virus which you were so kind to pass on to me :-) ). I'm convinced you will work out a very nice retirement "structure".

3:05 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

Has it really been a month already? I don't see the point of retiring just to have rigidly structured days of a different kind. That sounds too German (I'm part Austrian so I recognize this behavior).

3:54 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- I have so missed you coming around. I will remember those good words of advice when structure and rigidity knock at my door!

David -- Yeah, I sort of remember you flopping around as I went off to work way back when you retired a few years ago. You know how impatient I am to get things organized. I guess the chaos of unstructure is sort of getting to me. And, yes, I suppose I can blame some of this on that awful bug I gave you. But just remember, I warned you I had a sore throat when you came back from Detroit and you said "I'll take my chances." Hope it was worth it...

Matt -- Yeah, a whole month now. Although it's a little unsettling that OPM doesn't seem to know I'm retired yet. I hope at some point the $$ kicks in!

Like you, my first thought upon retiring was NO STRUCTURE -- que sera, sera. At some point it starts to drive you just a little crazy when you wake up and say "And what day is it?" I'm sure there's a happy medium and I will be searching for it! Life's transitions are always a challenge.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I don't know if I could handle retirement! Currently, my weekends are so busy that I need my workdays to calm down a bit.

I'm interested in reading how this plays out for you.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- At some point in the distant future you will be ready to be rid of your job. Then you can just sit back and chuckle when you get an e-mail message like I got forwarded to me today that says "She warned everyone that might happen. And now it did."

4:31 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

You're a sensible girl - try making a plan and if that doesnt feel right, try planning differently ;)

I've had both structured time and unstructured and find I enjoy both more when I have some of each. I have six years (at least) til retirement so I'm taking notes on how you're doing...

7:39 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- Good advice. My Blog will serve as a source of "lessons learned" when you make your big break from work! And I will always dole out free advice since by then I should have figured out how this should work! :)

8:21 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Your life will find its own form. You're a Capricorn, after all. So interesting to read here about your process, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Like Sparkles Anon, retirement does not agree with me. I plan to never retire. But you're different. You'll build yourself one hell of a retirement. Cheers!

8:41 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- You'd better not work so hard that you can't take time off to go play with me!

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hee-hee--Somedays, it's not even worth the makeup!

I stay at home w/ my kids, sometimes, there's structure, sometimes, there's not. Most of the time, I'm a lazy person. But, that's ok. heehee!

12:58 AM  

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