How to Love Retirement
How the Experiment Got Started
Most of my life I have been a working girl. I started at age 15, and resigned myself to the fact that I probably would work until I died. It never occurred to me that at some wonderful point of my life I would not only get to stay home, but that I would actually like it!
My unemployment began with the downsizing of a foundation that I was employed by several years ago. At the time, I wasn't anxious to find something to do immediately, since I had commuted 180 miles a day for a year. The layoff actually was a relief, I never filed for unemployment because I needed a break. Ethics are important to me.
I was physically exhausted and it was time to attend to my health which had declined as a result of traveling 3 hours a day to work and back. The first order of business was to join Lifetime Fitness a local health club and get to work formulating an exercise program that I could handle. A year later, after hard work and exercise, I lost a miraculous 40 lbs. It was worth the hard work, and I made many changes in eating as well.
It occurs to me now that I never really knew what a stay-at-home mom did. There is alot of work with child-raising, and I am not sure that I would have known what to do. I had the mothering thing down, and knew how to be present for my daughter, but I never really became an "accomplished" housewife until now. I think I am good at making a warm, welcoming place for myself and others, and I believe it is both a gift and an art. The skills I practiced for minimal compensation over the years in the corporate world are now assets for organizing and maintaining my home.
My days begin with time helping my husband prepare for work. He is the breadwinner, and I am not ashamed of that. It may seem old-fashioned to some, but I don't compare myself to others. I try to get him to eat something before he goes out the door, make sure that he has lots of options to choose from as far as clean clothing, and have dinner when he returns from a hard day.
I don't require him to take equal responsibility for what I call "inside the house" duties. I make myself available for whatever he needs, and I try do that from a place of respect and honor, even when it goes unnoticed or unappreciated. I He has worked hard to provide, and he loves to work, so I consider it my privilege to make a place for him to rest and renew!
After he is out the door, I pour myself a cup of coffee, and sit down and take time to nourish my soul. I read several daily devotional materials. I read a passage from the Bible, mostly Proverbs which are great guidance for my relationships. I read Psalms if I am worried about anything. I pray and write a few pages in my journal. All this takes 45 minutes to an hour.
When I take this time, I find I am more balanced in my heart and mind to face whatever comes up during the day. It helps me when I counsel others, those phone calls inevitably come throughout the day. I am a chaplain by profession, and make myself available by phone or email to those who are struggling. It helps to have a big helping of "soul" food, so I don't run out of spiritual substances in the times of need.
I sit down and make a list of things that need to be done in our home. I find this helps me to stay on task and get the most urgent things done, so I have time to do things that I like to do, and it also manages time so I can do the little "extras" for others, such as baking cookies, or meals for those families who have a loss, or a member who has cancer, or the arrival of a baby.
I cook, clean, do laundry, dust, vaccuum, and polish on a rotating basis. I call this part of my day self-discipline--it needs to be done regardless of my preference. I take one room per day and clean out excess one day per month. I try to spend at least an hour a day outdoors in the summer, weeding and sprucing up the exterior of the house, I do this in the early hours so I am not roasting in the sun. I think about any issues I need to resolve as I am weeding or pruning, there seems to be many a spiritual parallel in that process that lends itself to the task.
I check my email after lunch, so I don't get obligated to stay on the computer longer than I should. As we all know, one thing leads to another, and hours can go by before we know it. I do my creative writing in the evening after the dishes are done and my husband is comfortably watching his favorite History or Science show on TV. Soon he is asleep and I can write uninterruped for hours.
At the end of each day, I find myself satisfied with my life. I have time for introspection, and reading helps me stay in a state of growth. I belong to several women's groups which I attend during the week, to maintain a sense of being in touch and accountability. I do not allow questions from others who are obsessed with their careers, or have "greater" aspirations to shake my peace.
I have completed my servitude in the great halls of corporate America, and I am not missing it a bit. Having worked in a state prison for 14 additional years as a chaplain after attempting the relentless climb up the corporate ladder, I have "completed my sentence."
I have earned my ability to choose a simpler life, and make the adjustments necessary to keep it that way. I no longer have to have the biggest, newest, better of anything, in fact, I don't even enjoy shopping unless it's for someone else. I have it all, and I have what no one can take away from me. It isn't as hard as I thought it was all these years, or I probably would have done it far sooner! C'est la Vie!