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‘Free Time’ in Retirement Is a Myth

The author proposes a Front Porch Movement to make retirees relax

By Carol A. Cassara

I’ve never had a front porch, but it seems to me the most relaxing and romantic of things, evoking a time, place and mindset few of us have anymore.
Imagine sitting in a comfortable rocking chair on a warm summer day, a frosty glass of lemonade at your side, the screen door at your back. Your neighborhood goes about its business while you read a book — the only item on your to-do list that day.  
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Every so often, you hear something that makes you look up from the page: the mailman snapping a box shut; a child whooshing by on her bike; a pickup truck backing out of a driveway in a cloud of dust, rubber crunching on gravel.
It’s the kind of day you might call aimless. Directionless. Indulgent. Some might even call it frivolous.
It’s the kind of day we’re supposed to have in retirement — in theory. But, if you're retired, when was the last time you took a day like this without feeling guilty that you weren’t “accomplishing something?”
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I thought so. They’re few and far between, and some of us are almost incapable of it.
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“But I’m too busy! I have my grandkids, golf, shopping, not to mention repairs on the house and all the other things on my to-do list.”
All our lives we’ve been judged and evaluated on what we’ve gotten done, on how many chores and tasks we’ve checked off our list, on our accomplishments. 
We’re proud of being “Type A” because the ability to juggle it all is considered a big achievement. Even in retirement, when we’ve earned our leisure, we’re called “active retirees.”
It’s easy for all that activity to become the sum total of our lives. But is that how we want to live? Is it even good for us?
Starting a Front Porch Movement
I’ve got an idea. How about taking a day a week — or even an afternoon — for rockin’ on the front porch? No need for a porch or a rocker. Just time to set aside all the "I should be doing this" and — here’s the radical part — do nothing. 
(MORE: The Benefits of Quiet for Body, Mind and Spirit)
Be aimless. Purposeless. Slow. 
Page through a book. Scribble in a hard-copy journal. Sketch. Or do absolutely nothing but sit and watch the world.
If an "I should be…" thought arises, let it float out into the blue sky above. Today is your day to do absolutely nothing on your to-do list.
We need those front-porch moments to revive our bodies and our souls. The stress of completing a long tasklist takes a toll on our bodies. Being in constant motion takes attention off our souls, too, which are tired mightily by the horrific things we see in the news every day.
So, pick a day — your day. Send everyone away to do his or her own thing, and take time to rock on your front porch, whether literal or metaphorical.
Hush…. what do you hear? I hope it’s the welcome sound of nothing more important than the breeze lazily rustling leaves on trees.

Carol A. Cassara is an essayist whose work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicken Soup for the Soul, on public radio and in various other publications. She blogs daily at Read More
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