Last night, just as we were finishing cleaning up after dinner, I had an “ah ha” moment. You know what I mean. It was one of those flashes of insight that left me slightly breathless and surprised. We’d eaten late because my first on-call shift for Disaster Response ended at 7 p.m. It was actually quite a strange day because I kept waiting for the phone to ring and then at one point in the day I realized that I wanted that emergency call to come. Of course when I stopped to think about it I realized that if the call came it would mean that somebody was in the middle of a personal disaster and clearly what I needed to be hoping for was no calls at all. After taking CPR courses haven’t you had that feeling of “ah, but I never get to use this skill”? I guess what I should do whenever I’m on call is review my procedures binder so that I don’t forget the things that need to be done at a disaster scene, and then hope that I won’t be called. On the other hand, as I see how often I’m contacted when I’m on call I might want to sign up for more shifts so that I increase the likelihood that I’ll actually get to use the new skills I’ve developed. Hhmm.
Back to the moment of illumination.
When I had a job my time was effectively “owned” by somebody else. From early in the morning until late at night … and virtually 24/7 in terms of thinking about the challenges of work … my mind and body were effectively accounted for. Time was owned by others before. They purchased it and my end of the bargain was to give them at least as much as they’d paid for. If you add up sleeping time and shopping time and chore time and food prep and eating time from the ‘old’ life (including the time it takes to get to and from some of those things), and then put actual working hours on top of that, the number of hours left to really choose what I wanted to be doing was pathetically few. I had some choice about when I’d take a lunch break (which I’d usually use as an exercise break) – unless, of course, that’s just when the Deputy Minister decided to demand our presence at a meeting. By the end of the official work day when we got home I needed to get dinner organized. There would be those precious hours after dinner when I took charge of my time if – and this is a big if – I didn’t have a board meeting or class or family commitment. At best, maybe 2 or 3 hours. Even weekend hours weren’t entirely under my own supervision as there would be chores and challenges left over from the week to take care of. Add to this that over the years I’ve noticed that almost everything was taking a little bit longer to do than it once did as well; not moving quite as fast, tiring more quickly, sometimes even stopping to smell the roses … so to speak. Time to spontaneously do just what I wanted to do was at a premium; it was that rare treat to have a whole day to call my own.
And then I retired. I had developed the skills that I needed for effective “time management” as I raised three kids on my own and held down a full-time job (and often an extra job or two to make ends meet). There’s a new skill that I need now that I’m quite unfamiliar with. All day, every day, I get to determine how time will be spent. Sure there are still some things in my calendar along with those things that make up the fundamentals of life (still shopping, cooking and so on), but mostly they are things like raising money to support better access to end the AIDS pandemic. Ah – so … if you’d go to this link and type in my name (Sylvia) you can actually participate (through your presence as part of the For The First Time team or via a donation) in the Race For Dignity campaign run through Dignitas.
So I’ve stumbled upon another very important lesson in successful retirement. You’ve got to take charge of your time, and that takes time.
Now that I’ve come to understand that this is one of the realities of my new life I think that I’m far better equipped to figure it all out. I sure hope so.
Meanwhile, David’s birthday is coming and there’s a cake to bake so I’d better get to it. A birthday. Marking the passing of another year. And what a year it has been.