Sometimes I feel like Humpty Dumpty, fragmented into a thousand pieces, and I don’t know how to put myself back together again. As of today, I have been retired for five years, and I still cannot grasp what I’m supposed to do with myself. My life made sense when I was working. Monday through Friday I got up at 5:30, showered, dressed in business attire, made breakfast and packed lunches for my husband, George, and me, and left the house at 6:45 to get to my office by 7:10. If traffic was heavy and I didn’t arrive until 7:20, I was uneasy because my schedule had a wrinkle in it. On weekends we did housework, errands, laundry, and yard work, and with luck, we even managed to have Saturday nights for dinner out and a movie. At the end of each month, I received a very nice paycheck. It was all very ordered, very neat, very tidy.
Now my life lacks a strict structure. Yes, I do have some sort of schedule: volunteer work at church on Monday mornings, yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime, tutoring on Tuesday mornings, and visits from my neighbor’s children throughout the week. They each want their own special time with me, so the three-year-old visits on Monday afternoons to play cars, the seven-year-old comes on Tuesday afternoons for chess, and the five-year-old likes to color with me on Thursday afternoons. Other than that, I fill my time reading, walking, playing my musical instruments, and trying to decide what I’m supposed to do with the rest of my life.
If it sounds as if I am just bored with my life, I assure you that is not the case. The truth is, I have so many choices of things I want to do, it paralyzes me. I can’t pick one thing and stick with it. I feel guilty if all I want to do one day is play music or read, or write. And I still want to learn new things. I want to learn to improvise on the piano, I want to write another novel, this time one that isn’t 50,000 words of pure schlock like the last one. I want to take a photography class, I want to take up knitting again and knit a sweater, or at least a hat or mittens. I want to learn to play the mandolin and the concertina. And yet, none of these things seems valuable to me. They seem as much the pure schlock of life as that novel of mine is. Funny how a paycheck can give so much importance to what you do.
I thought the longer I was retired, the easier it would get, but I find the opposite is true. I feel a growing desperation to figure out my purpose. It used to make sense. A lifetime of raising children, teaching, and helping educators was my clear purpose. Now, as I sit here outside and listen to the wind and watch the thick grey clouds drift by, I know there is value in the quietness, in the peace that these days can bring. I wish I could learn to live in that quietness and be satisfied.