Making decisions in a void – and not getting lost

I have the next two weeks off.  In getting ready to retire I realized that I had accumulated a fair amount of unused vacation time and so I’ve booked most of that in over the summer months so that I can work pretty much straight through in September and October until R-Day (when I actually retire).  I don’t actually remember the last time that I had two weeks off – no office to go to, no classes to teach, no children to shuttle from point A to point B –  with no real plan for what I’m going to do in site.  You might be thinking to yourself: “how wonderful” but truly I’m sitting here right now vibrating with anxiety.  If it’s this hard to figure out what to do for a two-week stretch, what am I going to do when I retire and there are endless weeks stretching in front of me and so much blank space on my daytimer?

Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I can’t think of anything to do … I just don’t have a road-map, and there’s nothing beyond my deciding that’s driving me to do anything at all.  There are so many things that I’ve been waiting so long to do that I am frozen into inactivity.  Working on this blog is a high priority.  My garden is in good shape; my closets are another story .. and one of my plans is to do a small space every day and see if I can reduce the clutter in my home by 50%.  I have to prepare for a board meeting at a local Drop In Centre tomorrow night which is one of the ways I am trying to give back to my local community.  I do need to update the syllabus for the Social Justice in Education course that I teach at a local university.  There are hikes to take, aquafit classes to get to, bicycle rides waiting for the right moment.  Just because I’m not working, it’s clear already that the “to do lists” won’t be disappearing.

It’s getting close to noon already and so far today I’ve mostly sat around worrying; worrying about how to use this day well, worrying about what will drive me to do anything at all, worrying about being too busy and worrying about not being busy enough.

Please tell me that there’s more to retirement than worrying about it!

  • How do you decide, day to day, what you want to be doing?
  • How do you plan your days without feeling like you’re back at a full-time job?




7 responses to “Making decisions in a void – and not getting lost

  1. I’m so happy to have just found your blog!

    I just retired 4 months ago and, like you, had a laundry list of things to get done when I retired. I haven’t even made a dent in that list. I was also, in the beginning, immobilized by the overwhelming choices of what I could be spending my day on.

    Now, after 4 months, I’m getting in the groove. I’ve learned so far: you can only do two things a day. An errand and a social engagement, or a movie and a trip to the library, or gardening and doing your taxes. DON’T try and do more than 2 things. Then you won’t have any time to read, exercise, blog, or go with the spontaneous plan that comes up.

    You have plenty of time, shift down into the less accomplishment-oriented mind frame and realize you have YEARS to get through that list.

    Now I gotta run and explore the rest of your blog!

  2. It’s all right to loaf this week …but when you really retire you’ll want some routine. The artists and actors and writers in my exercise class are all quite disciplined about figuring out how to be available for work without being adrift. One of them shops for supper at five o’clock everyday and has a latte on the Danforth to mark the end of her day. She runs in the park to start out. I read the paper and try to do one chore (like a load of laundry) before going to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Saturdays I continue to go to the St Lawrence Market with a friend. The big retirement luxury is the New York Times on Sunday morning. My daytimer fills up — but on much shorter notice. I seem to need lists more. I put things I don’t want to miss — like art exhibits and movies…on my To Do list. I try to slot in some afternoon reading too.
    You might not be ready to clean your closets…I needed a niece to tell me what clothes to keep and what needed to go. Clothes and papers that you can’t decide about now will be much easier in six months.

  3. I’d rather have the extra pay than taking a vacation just before retirement. How did you come about that decision?

  4. Sylvia Bereskin

    I will be working full-time for September and October; actually putting in some very long hours as I do training around the province. I love the summer in Ontario; finally some sunshine to bask in! So, rather than take the pay (which would be reduced by 30% for taxes anyhow) I thought I’d ease into retirement with lots of time off now. Wonder what others who’ve been through this would have to say about that decision?

  5. I did the exact same thing, taking a month off unpaid 6 months before my retirement date. There’s something that happens to you when you are going to retire–it gets harder and harder to stand work (at least that was true for me). I needed a little “taste” just to get me across the finish line!

  6. This period might be a good time to think about the little luxuries that you allow yourself on weekends that might not be totally right every day of your retirement. One of my habits was to reward myself with a nice cold beer as I admired the kitchen floor I had just washed. I had a talk with myself and switched over to jasmine tea. A day en negligee eating chocolates and reading magazines is just delicious…but if it happens too often you might turn out to be acting out a Tennesee Williams script. I still like to reward myself for a job well done by buying socks.

  7. Sylvia Bereskin

    This is a long overdue response to Randy’s comment “I’d rather have the extra pay than taking a vacation just before retirement. How did you come about that decision?” To some degree it was a bit based on something Syd said; that once you make the decision retire it just gets really hard to keep going to work. There was also a strictly economic analysis. If I took it as pay rather than time off it would be taxed which – given that this is Canada – means that I’d only actually 1/2 the time I could have taken off. Giving up a couple of months off as I crept towards retirement or getting just over 1 month’s extra pay when I retired … well, it just didn’t seem like much of a choice to make. Especially when that time off could be over the summer when the sun is shining and it’s nice and hot … something we in the north don’t take for granted at all.

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