It’s one of life’s ironies that when we are busy working through our 20’s, 30’s and so on, we dream of retirement. We dream of that blissful time when we get up with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and contemplate an endless array of such days as sheer heaven.
This we believe is our hoped for future while we toil away, often pulling twelve and fourteen hour days, subsisting on six or less hours of sleep a night. We have errands to run after work, and the weekend is filled with a long list of tasks to do around the house, all to end in a long Saturday night of frantic “fun”, leaving us exhausted on Sunday, and barely having the time to be ready for it to start all over again on Monday.
But retirement is not at all like we envision. Or it better not be.
Sure, for a few weeks, having nothing to do is glorious. We pore through magazines stacked on the coffee table, finally able to read an article or two rather than, mark them for “later”. A couple of books get read. A recipe you “always wanted to make” is made. A room is repainted in that color you always wanted to try but were too conservative to actually do.
All too soon, we find ourselves sitting at the kitchen table wondering what to do, and discarding idea after idea. Truly we are headed for depression and we can smell it. That lack of enthusiasm for much of anything that leads to endless sitting and staring into space. Nothing is wrong, but nothing is right.
We require, something to do. Something to do that is meaningful. Something to do that has value to a wider audience than one. Something to do that has a definite end with results.
We don’t have to start a new career by any means. It might be mundane by somebody else’s standards, but we must DO things. Humans are not, at least most of us, creatures of simple contemplation. We need to be about the business of living life, not thinking about it.
My days are awfully busy most days. I’m up at 5:45 and usually engaged in something or other before it’s finally light enough to take Diego on his romp through the desert. It’s where I often “write” a post in my head, or at least work out some major concepts.
Then it’s housework, and groceries, the pool, and various other stops to do this or that. Today for instance, I got up as usual, started some pizza dough for dinner, walked the dog, wrote out part of a post for A Voice From the Foothills, took off for my workout at the pool, stopped at Lowe’s for some plants to put in on the weekend, stopped at new church I’ve chosen to become a member of, to “sign up.”
I got home at 11, and made pizza sauce, finished the post, made the pizza and cooked it. We ate, and we chatted and discussed plans my husband has for some flower boxes he is making. Finally I got down to checking my Facebook stuff, relaxing with a couple of puzzle games for a few minutes, and I’m now writing this post.
It’s nearly 4 in the afternoon, and I’ll soon be off to clear out the dishwasher, make coffee for tomorrow, take a shower, and settle down for the news and some TV. I’ll probably knit for a bit as well. I’ll fall into bed tired, sleepy, and content.
Tomorrow, I will walk the dog, and plant some flowers and make a casserole, and hopefully spend some time reading.
What’s on my mind?
Oh, I’m thinking about how I want to restructure my spiritual life a bit. Shall I work on contemplative prayer? Or should I go back to the rosary or morning prayer? Can I practice mindfulness tomorrow? Can I be that attentive to the moment? It’s a day filled with things I like to do, so I might profit from serious attention to the NOW.
The secret of bliss is not finding ways to avoid doing anything so you can “do whatever”, it’s feeling that what you do matters. And it matters not how wide an audience you enlist to matter to.
What you do must matter. All of it. You must be able to see even the scrubbing of the toilet as something that matters. Once it matters, it all becomes part of the fabric of life, and not drudgery, not the “thing to get done.”
You of course don’t have to wait until retirement to either learn this or engage it.
Everything you do changes the universe. It changes the options and choices available to you and others. You add, subtract and change the world with every action. Know that, and you stop being bored and depressed over the “sameness” of life, or the routine that you have become enmeshed within.
Life is simply moving along with the flow of all that surrounds you. It’s noticing it, poking it, laughing at it, agreeing with it, opposing it. It’s simply doing it. It’s neither complicated nor avoidable. It is what it is.
Accepting it and making it matter that YOU exist in this place and in this time is all that you need to feel the satisfaction of being a part of this wild and mysterious universe.