The Senior Free-Time Routine

The closer I get to retirement, the more nervous I get. I’m not quite sure why. Fear of the unknown? It occurred to me that all the people I talk to on a daily basis are at work. Yes, I talk to my cats, but conversation is sparse.

So I decided to start early and work on a daily calendar that will fill up every day of my first month of retirement for a couple of reasons: (1) to try to get into some good habits from Day 1 so I’m not sitting around the house, either endlessly napping or stuffing food in my mouth; and (2) to make sure I do things that make me happy, keep me healthy and active, and show me that all that free time I thought I wanted was really worth it. But I’m struggling.

I made a list of all the things I would definitely do, some of the things I might do and the things I’d love to do but probably won’t be able to afford. My days look a bit dreary . . . and that makes me nervous all over again.

I even assigned them times so I could see how much of my day would be occupied. No surprise it adds up to about the amount of time I’d spend at work. And I included generous amounts of time as well in case something was so damned interesting that I got lost in it and before I knew it, an extra half hour or so had sped past. I have things like working on my novel, cooking nicer meals than I’d normally prepare, perhaps purchasing and riding a bicycle – not only as good exercise but because I loved riding a bike as a kid, marketing my company to small businesses around town, querying and submitting articles to magazines, reading, etc.

In the process of trying to find a suitable picture of what a senior’s calendar of events would look like, I found this toddler’s calendar and decided it looked dangerously close to mine. Our RoutineI know I’ve made some jokes about it, but it seriously worries me that I’ll hate the free time I’ve dreamed of, wish I could go back to work and then nobody will hire me because I’m too old. I have images in my head of lonely, bored seniors sitting at home staring out the window and I don’t want to be one of them. With any kind of luck, I’ll relish the time that’s all mine, all day – nobody to answer to, no time limitations or deadlines. That prospect excites me.

But there’s still that little negativity imp sitting on my shoulder whispering that I’m making a mistake and should work until I die. I’ll let you know who wins in a couple of months.

Foul-Mouthed Adult

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Here’s another advantage to approaching retirement age: you get to hang on to all the old habits you adore that everyone else abhors.

I used to be one of those youngsters that, hearing an elderly person curse or seeing him shoot the finger at someone in traffic or adamantly refuse to give an inch in a long-term family feud or get into a spitting match with a stranger over a place in line, would comment, “You’d think he’d know better than to act like that at his age.” Really? Why?

I’ve always had a bit of a sailor’s mouth. I’d like to blame it on working in backstage dressing rooms for years, but that’s not really the source. I can’t remember when it actually became my favorite way to blow off steam but distinctly remember the first time I used the “F” word in front of my mother. I was practicing a twirling routine for upcoming high school auditions and had gone over it in the back yard so many times that I’d worn a bald spot in the grass. Every day I would start from the beginning and every time I missed a trick, I’d start over until I could get through the routine three complete times. Try that in a Texas summer with the heat and the humidity. But then again, I was a teenager and much more resilient than I am now. I had finally completed three error-free sets and, with auditions coming up soon, finally called my mother out to be my audience. Right in the middle, I dropped the baton, instantaneously spit out, “F_ _ _!” and then froze.

My mother’s face was priceless – mouth agape, eyebrows damn near scraping her hairline, hands fisted at her waist. “Lisa!” was all she said. I couldn’t help it; I laughed. I knew she’d watched me torture myself for weeks and all of that afternoon and that she understood my frustration even though she might’ve objected to the way I chose to express it.

So here we are some 50-odd years later, and the “F” word is still my favorite.┬áIt’s funny how young people think age brings wisdom, certainty about everything good and right, and a gentle, placid nature, one free of all offending language. Maybe there are more people than I think who have found all the answers and nothing bothers them enough to warrant a curse word here and there, but somehow I don’t think so. Most of us never grow up.

It was another laughable moment when I used the “F” word in front of one of my younger co-workers and her facial features took on a similar look to my mother’s 50 years earlier. Horrified, she commented, “I’ve never heard you use that word.” My response was, “Are you kidding? I lived in backstage dressing rooms for much of my youth and it’s my favorite word.” I could see that I’d become a completely different person to her. I’m still not sure if that was good or bad but it struck me that I was supposed to be of an age when I resorted to strong words like “shoot” or “darn it.” All I can say is she clearly didn’t know me at all. Once a foul mouth, always a foul mouth.

So all you youngsters keep in mind that unless you work on them now, your bad habits will follow you into retirement and you’ll be annoyed to hear someone twenty, thirty or forty years younger say, “Shouldn’t she know better at her age?”

And when that happens, watch your language.

Abrupt Halt to Spending

There are many things to look forward to when contemplating retirement. Curbing my spending habits to adjust to a significantly lower bank account is not one of them. I’ve had two bankruptcies in my lifetime and know full well how painful it is to give up spending habits – Starbucks was my hardest indulgence to do away with. I remember the agent at the debt restructuring firm I approached saying he’d never seen anyone spend that much on Starbucks. At the time, I would stop every morning on my way to work and often would make a second trip after lunch. And yes, that adds up.

So here I am, on the cusp of retirement, looking forward to having free time all the time with no higher-up around to rein me in and, at the same time, dreading the adjustments that will come – primarily the money thing. What will I have to do to live comfortably without forgoing heat or having to ask for Meals on Wheels to get by? Scary.

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I made a list but I haven’t had the courage to put them in order yet from least offensive to part with to “I’ll never give that up” … and then having to do so. Here’s my list so far: Starbucks (yes, still a part of my life – just not every day), magazine subscriptions, fast food (well, truthfully, that one isn’t all bad), expensive things like meat (time to become a vegetarian?), using less electricity, trade my car down to something second-hand that I don’t have to make payments on, learn to cut my own hair, see if I can walk to more places rather than drive, cable television, dinners with the family once a month, buy generic brands at the store, and/or look for part-time work (sort of defeats the purpose of retirement but may be necessary). Who knows? Maybe I can even figure out a way to cut back enough in other areas that my Starbucks treats don’t have to suffer.