While I was working, the calendar didn’t really measure the rhythm of life. Even in a job that isn’t “seasonal,” per se, there are seasons. There are different times of the year when we concentrate on different types of work. There are different events for which we prepare and execute. There was a certain momentum that these “seasons” provided to my life. Time didn’t just pass, it propelled towards a larger picture.
Once I retired, it seemed like I had lost that momentum. Days just sort of floated amorphously from one to the next. I rarely felt like I was accomplishing anything. I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it was. Time passed pleasantly enough, but without a sensation of rhythm. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, one of my goals in retirement was to discover what it felt like to waste time. After a full career of activity, always bolting towards the next goal, I needed to rest and let life just wash over me like the tide. It is kind of pleasant to go through life regularly feeling as languid as you do when you lay in the sun next to the pool on vacation.
Some people are perfectly happy in retirement, savoring whatever miracles happen along their paths and not thinking too much about creating a life. For them, it is enough to just live the life that tumbles before them randomly each day. I, on the other hand, am sort of pathologically unable to just take each day as it comes. When I realized I was measuring the seasons of time by when Survivor came back on TV, I thought it was time to reassess.
I found that I missed momentum. In a strange way, it felt like I didn’t have a life. It wasn’t that I was bored, exactly. When I looked at my days, they were filled with activity. I was actually much busier than I expected to be. It wasn’t even that those activities were all drudgery, either. Yes, I did housework, errands, and caretaking. To be fair, though, my days did include plenty of fun activities. I was also getting regular exercise, fresh air, and relaxation. I still had this vague feeling of disorientation. Days were passing me by without me feeling like I was engaged in that passing of time in any way. I felt like I was watching a movie (a really, really boring one!) of someone else’s life.
In musing over what I needed to do to get back that sense of ownership over my own life, I remembered that feeling of momentum I had while I was working. How do I get that back?
After contemplating the matter for a while, I did some experimenting and figured out a few things. If you, too, need a bit more structure and foundation to your life in retirement, it might be helpful to consider engaging in at least one or two “powerful projects” that will serve as cornerstones for the way you organize and spend your time. I think of these “powerful projects” as the beams that will hold up your life. You can change a lot in your life and can decorate it with whatever activities you feel like doing on an ad hoc basis, but you might feel more like you are living instead of just spending time if you build and maintain strong beams.
After about a year of retirement, I found two such “powerful projects” to help me get into a satisfying rhythm of living…. My book club and writing this blog.
What makes something a “powerful project” rather than just a bunch of activities? For me, there are four components that identify a set of activities as a “powerful project” in my life.
Initially, I thought the problem was that my life lacked purpose. However, that theory didn’t totally hold water. Much of what I was doing did have purpose- I think taking care of my mother is a very purposeful activity. It might actually be the most important project I undertook when I retired. I organize my time to take care of her needs and her wants. In addition to just making sure she is safe and comfortable, I also plan and strategize to think of activities that will be fun for the both of us, keep her feeling engaged and happy, allow her to contribute to and have an impact on life, and make memories for us together. Still, I found that just having purpose was not quite enough to make me feel like I have a vibrant life.
Does your heart leap and your eyes light up when you talk about your “powerful project?” Do you feel a burst of energy when you think about what actions you might take next or what you want to accomplish over time? Can others tell that this Continue reading “Get A Life”