Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Retirement Transitions - “Free” Time

Reporting in after three days of retirement, I’m already getting a taste of what those who have gone before me keep saying: you are busier when you retire than you were when you worked full time.

Much of Monday was spent sorting through items on the built-in shelves in our family room. Mostly we’re talking framed photos and books, with a few other items to break the monotony. I’ve removed half the photos, but I’ll lay odds that my realtor (yet to be chosen) will tell me there are still too many. But deciding which family photos to get rid of is a tad too much “Sophie’s Choice” for me right now.

The books were also challenging. I wasn’t committed enough to the task to get the step stool, so I couldn’t reach the top three shelves. Still, I felt a sense of accomplishment as I cleaned several layers of grime off the bare shelves and then put back the keepers. I was left with stacks of books and photos to sort for further disposition. Some of the piles are now upstairs, near a wall of built-ins that hold exclusively books. I fear I’ve simply moved the monkey off one back and onto another.

On a positive note, this process motivated me to assemble a few storage boxes and dig out packing material from the basement. It was left from our move here in 1992. I rarely throw out anything that can be recycled. This in itself will pose a challenge to downsizing, but I’ll deal with that another day.

Once I had the boxes and bubble wrap and tissue, I began sorting through the piles of tchotchke that have been accumulating as the workmen attacked various projects these last few months. (I’ve been careful not to re-clutter the rooms as they get spiffed up for that buyer with deep pockets who is going to fall in love with our house.) Ever the Virgo (or at least I used to be,) I’m systematically sorting the excess décor. Some to sell, some to donate and some to pack to take with us when we move.

All in all, I considered Monday to be a productive day. Then there was Tuesday, which has me wondering about the phrase “free” time. I spent most of the day running errands, yet I got very little accomplished for my downsizing goal.

My tax paperwork had arrived from my accountant Monday. Who knew so many things that used to be 100% deductible no longer are at all, or are now subject to those percent-of-income thresholds? Tuesday’s errands included trips to two banks to move funds from my left pocket to my right so I can reward our mutual uncle for another year of… remind me again what we reward him for?

Other locations that were graced by my retired self on Tuesday: Home Depot, Job Lot, the local hardware/paint store—twice (yes, I forgot some things,) and the local food market. This last stop I had planned because Tuesday is their senior discount day. They didn’t ask for proof of age, but that didn’t offend me. For them, anyone over 55 is a senior, but the average age of those in the store was 80 plus. Many of them were having lunch in the little café area, apparently a social event. I couldn’t decide if I found this cute or scary, which in and of itself is frightening.

Along the way, I stopped at my friend’s house, planning to surprise her for a cuppa. Unfortunately, she was not home, bursting yet another bubble of how much fun having “free” time would be—dropping in unexpectedly for a relaxed chat. The upside (?) of this was that it left me with time to do a second load of laundry.

This brings us to Wednesday. Shortly after noon, I headed to my old office to tie up some loose ends and to participate in a conference call for a committee that I agreed to support for a few months. I even packed my lunch Tuesday night, a workday ritual. The few hours planned expanded to five and a half hours spent. At least it wasn’t a Friday.

Right about now, those of you who’ve been through this transition are yelling at your computer screens: “Stop it! You’re retired! You should not be going to the office. You should be having fun.” Rest assured, I’m yelling the same things at myself, along with: “And where was the part about getting some exercise?”

I promise I’ll do better next week. I will not give up on my friend where I stopped for tea. You don’t need to worry that I’ll become part of the Tuesday lunch crowd at the local market. I’ve never been much of a joiner. More likely, I’ll start having lunch with my friend. She serves wine in her café.

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