The relativity of time.
My husband, Mike, grudgingly confessed his transgression. In a moment of generosity, he had submitted his retirement request eight weeks before the chosen date. Too late, he realized that it was six weeks too long. I had had the same experience; posting that notice slows time, a real-life example of Einstein’s theory of relativity.
With both of us retired, we looked forward to the freedom to fill our days as we desired. We would fine-tune skills for hobbies, join new social groups while spending more time with old ones, and continue to take our part in the duties of our multi-generational household. Travel would be a big part of our lives.
Man plans, God laughs
When COVID hit redlining plans, we found ways to make do. We met groups on Zoom. I developed skills to create digital music for online and parking-lot worship services. Mike organized 50+ years of photos. In our multi-generational household, there were always people around for company and plenty of chores. Sometimes too much so. Michelle and I developed plans to make holidays special, with “progressive dinners” served in various points in the yard and corn-hole tournaments.
As COVID becomes manageable, we find our Zoom groups disbanding and our interest in established communities dissolving. Travel buddies have become incapacitated, or even passed away. Our grandsons are less dependent on us, and Michelle is living her own life. We are finding ourselves with much time to live our dreams but hazy on the dreams. Reticent to jump into new groups or to travel abroad as COVID continues to threaten certain populations, we have planned an extensive road trip for the summer to escape the desert heat.
Living the dream
Beyond that, how will we spend our time? I contrast our situation to my dad’s retirement in 1968. He took “early retirement” at 62, with four children still at home. Big Bro and I lived at home while attending the local community college, dubbed “junior college” at the time and unofficially referred to at Sixteenth Street University (SSU) because of its location. Little Sis was in high school, and Baby Bro was eight years old. When asked his father’s job, he replied, “retired,” an answer often met with a look of surprise.
My mother was a young 52 and continued her busy social schedule with even more freedom as my father took over much of the child care, shopping, cooking, and even some cleaning. He helped Baby Bro pass newspapers and assisted elderly neighbors as needed. He golfed, hung out with other retirees at the bank on social security check day, cleaned a fast-food restaurant in the early morning, and was active in the men’s church group. Always a hard worker, he maintained the house, yard, and garden. As the older kids left home, my parents took Baby Bro and his friends on family vacations.
The three older kids had launched and Baby Bro was barely out of junior college when Dad died too young at 74, leaving Mom a 64-year-old widow. Their example of retirement is what I adopted. In this busy household, there were few pockets of empty time. My parents rarely watched television, but I often found my dad reading in the living room. In contrast, Mike and I have many pockets of time. Yes, I write, play music, read, and garden. I attend exercise and coffee with friends regularly as well as book club, writing groups, and two music groups. Mike and I get together with friends for games, happy hour, concerts, or dinner. And of course medical appointments. Sounds busy, but when filling the hours, there are many left. Removing that chunk of time called “work” creates an abyss easily filled with distractions. Many of our friends have no choice how they spend their days, caring for grandchildren, disabled spouses, or even their own health. I don’t want to waste this privilege. Mike and I are blessed with this time.
Nir Eyal recommends focusing on traction rather than distraction, beginning by defining your values. Fill the days with activities that “turn values into time.” Hmmm. That should take me a few hours to contemplate. Then, shall I watch another episode of “Ozark”?