Busy workers near retirement sometimes fantasize about their coming freedom from routine and responsibility. I did that too, but for some of us elders, a little bit of freedom and relaxation goes a long way.
I just realized how important it is for me, as a senior who lives alone, to have some routine, some plan, something to look forward to. Perhaps it's just me, but I seem to need some sort of daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual activities to keep me busy and happy. Most of these represent notations in my yearly planner. Each time I decide to give up some regular activity, I change my mind. I can't stand the sight of a blank day, week, or month in my book (well, a few blank days are all right).
This came to mind today as I was writing my Poem-a-Day for my other blog, "Write your Life!" It may be a crazy thing to do, and I'm using a crazy, demanding format (the rictameter), but I love doing it! I love to write, anyway, and this sometimes takes the place of journal writing for me. It's easier than thinking of a new blog post every day for each of my blogs. The strange thing is that those little poems are very good reflections of my daily life.
My weekly routine involves volunteering at the Chicago Cultural Center on Thursday mornings. That's often a quiet morning at the information desk, but I still enjoy my observation point in the beautiful marble-and-mosaic south lobby. It is sometimes hard to get there in the winter, but I do it.
Two other routines involve four opera matinees per season and three Shakespeare plays at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I go to the opera alone, but I sometimes talk to interesting people there. For the plays, two friends pick me up and drive me to Navy Pier. It's always wonderful to see my friends, and the plays are always good. Yesterday it was Othello.
My main annual routine is a long trip. Of course there's also my annual holiday trip to visit relatives. and I sometimes take shorter trips to conferences as well. Travel is getting harder because of my arthritic knees, but I'm still trying. Last year I visited Ireland, and I'm looking forward to South Africa next month. Don't dismiss the idea of travel if you can afford it, even if you must travel alone as I do (I'm not really alone; I travel with a Grand Circle Travel group). It's easy to scoff at group travel when you're young, but it surely makes things easier for us elders.
My advice after nine years of retirement is this: Develop a routine; that's not the same as being in a rut, as long as you enjoy what you do. Your routine is probably not much like mine, but keep exploring. That's the best way to face aging and retirement, especially alone.
Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne