Is Today Tuesday? The Calendar-Free Retirement Life
The joys and traumas of not having a schedule anymore
Is today Tuesday? It’s hard to keep track when you’re retired, especially if, like me, you’ve resisted routine since toddler days.
Mom made very few entries in my baby book, but she did note that I’d protest, “I did that yesterday,” when she’d take me to the potty. Too soon, school bells began dictating when to be where, interrupting recess or an interesting lesson for the sake of order.
For most of my life, the calendar ruled. Then our first baby arrived. A year later we announced: “Now We Are Four.” My days revolved around who was hungry, wet or sleepy. The day or date? Didn’t matter.
Occasional 'Hair on Fire' Moments
Now that I’m retired, once again, I’m loosely tethered to the calendar. Each week offers a fresh slate on which I compose my life. I set alerts on my phone for meetings, classes and commitments scattered across the month. That works great if the phone’s turned on, nearby, and my subconscious hasn’t posted a “do not disturb” sign. But I occasionally have “hair on fire” moments when I discover there is something on the calendar — RIGHT NOW!
When I retired, I felt like a Sea World creature released into the wild, floundering around, waiting for feeding and show times that never came.
Many retirees find their long-awaited freedom overwhelming, too. Oddly, we have much in common with new stay-at-home moms, floating through the week, one day much like another.
While home with babies, I was a “work widow.” Today I’m a real one. Back then, my husband worked long hours — even weekends. Then 35 years later, I found myself home alone again, this time with books and support groups to guide my transition to retirement and then from “Mrs.” to suddenly solo.
While I adjusted to an unstructured life, my daughter was home with babies. For both of us, time wasn’t something to manage, but the sea in which we swam.
She called to ask, “Have you mailed Laura’s birthday card?”
“I’ll mail it tomorrow. That’s plenty of time.”
“Mail it today,” she urged. “It’s Friday.”
“Honey, I’m pretty sure it’s Thursday. I’ll get my planner.”
It was Thursday. Glad I checked. I had a dentist’s appointment! I hung up, amused by our confusion. My daughter’s days, just like mine, were usually interchangeable.
My Life Without a Calendar
Liberated from my daily commutes, over-programmed days and pressing deadlines, I’ve embraced an “encore career”— creative writing. Why check the calendar at dawn? Google often reports: You have no events scheduled today. At first, I took umbrage at that. Now I consider it a challenge.
I start writing after breakfast. At some point, I check my phone, which displays the time prominently; the day and date in tiny print. Am I the only one who ignores this information on my way to check messages or headline news?
If something’s on the calendar, I know it. When you only have one or two entries on a given day, keeping track is easy. For example, a yoga class acquaintance, Alice, retired recently:
“Let’s get together for lunch,” I suggested.
“Great. I’ll email some dates.”
We made a plan. I entered it in my iPhone calendar.
Then this email arrived: May I reschedule? Since I retired, I don't record my time the way I did at work. I double booked! Alice
Over lunch, Alice described problems synching her calendars. I confessed that I don’t always know what day it is. Laughing, we dubbed ourselves The Calendar Girls.
So far, I’ve avoided any failure-to-appear misdemeanors. Until today.
Off By One Day
This is one of those weird weeks like the one my daughter had years ago: my internal calendar’s one day off. I woke up Tuesday convinced it was Wednesday. Ignoring clues to the contrary, I used magical thinking to fit the facts to my fiction, arriving at my Wednesday book club right on time.
A man answered the door. Uh-oh. The hostess only offers her home on her husband’s golf days.
"Yes?” he asked.
“What’s today?” I asked, sheepishly, knowing I’d come face-to-face with reality, wanting to disappear.
Would that have happened when I didn’t make a move without checking the children’s schedules? Or when my workday was so tightly programmed that if I sneezed I’d throw things off?
Do I occasionally long for the days when my assistant kept me on track? Yes. Then, I take a few deep breaths until the feeling passes.
You’d have to drag me kicking and screaming back to a life so regimented it requires a fail-safe system to maintain. For the most part, my routine-averse nature and I have waited a lifetime to be free.
For me — and many who by choice, or chance, now eat when we’re hungry, nap when we’re drowsy and plan as we go — retirement’s biggest perk is the freedom to concoct our own mix of solitude, socializing, purposeful engagement and… Just saw the time. I’m late for Tai chi!