You’d think that retirement would lead to boundless lazy days. It’s certainly how I thought that my life would be once I hung up my teaching badge, but it hasn’t worked out like that at all. Other than getting to sleep in until six thirty or seven rather than being on the road heading to work, I’ve kept myself busy since the day I walked out of the school building where I once lived for twelve plus hours each day. Somehow my personality did not allow me to sleep until noon or watch movies in the middle of the day. My compulsiveness demanded that I plan each day as carefully as I had for decades. I measured the success or failure of each day by assessing my accomplishments and measuring my progress in meeting multiple goals.
I found that simply sloughing off left me feeling less useful to the world and sometimes even a bit depressed. I signed up for continuing education classes which I still take each fall and spring semester. I found my way back into teaching math, albeit on a smaller scale than when I was still a full time employee. I write at least five days each week and even completed a book which I can’t seem to get properly published. I exercise regularly and maintain a routine to keep my home in order. I spend time cultivating my plants. I plan regular camping trips. I look after my father-in-law and mother-in-law. I make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family members. I read constantly, sew once in awhile and cook daily. In other words, I don’t seem to have a lazy bone in my body.
Once in a blue moon I hit the wall. My energy level wanes and I don’t want to do anything productive. When such a mood arises I allow it to fully wash over me. I stay in my pajamas all day long and sometimes only get out of bed to prepare something to eat. I watch ridiculous programs on television and take little naps all throughout the day. I indulge in ice cream and cookies and don’t care of if close the rings on my Apple watch. I order pizza to be delivered to my front door. I play with word puzzles on my phone for hours. Nothing that I do has any purpose other than to entertain me and rest my weariness.
I never remain in such a state for more than a day. I usually arise earlier than normal the following day ready to take on the world with a vengeance. I revert back to my type A way of living and dive right back into my more typical habits. I am refreshed and ready to go after a lazy day which I have tended to call my mental health days because they recharge my batteries so well.
I’ve been told by family and friends that I should relax a bit more, let things go, skip routines, throw caution to the wind. At this stage in my life it’s a bit too late to change my old ways. I’ve been operating at warp speed since I was a young child. It is in my nature to plan ahead, set deadlines, break tasks down in doable chunks, stick with the plan. It’s not that I am unable to relax, because just chilling is actually part of every one of my days. I set aside a quiet time in the morning. I enjoy a tea time in the afternoon and I spend evenings enjoying the company of my husband. In between I am a whirlwind of activity even when nobody is looking.
Back when my girls were still at home I created lazy days in the summer. We’d have a hours of watching all of their favorite movies in our pajamas while eating nothing but snacks. I would take them to the beach or Astroworld where we would forget for a time that anything bad was happening anywhere in the world. Sometimes we’d just sit under the trees in our yard with me visiting with my neighbors while the children ran and played. We’d build elaborate forts out of sheets and blankets and I’d make up stories to tell them as we laughed under the soft dome of our creations. Those were glorious days when somehow it did not matter if the laundry did not get done or if dust had collected on the furniture.
I suspect that as I have grown older lazy days frighten me a bit unless I am sharing them with someone else. If my awake time becomes little more than efforts to fill the time with fun, I begin to feel as though I no longer have any real purpose in this world. As someone for whom having a meaningful life has always been my motivation, I have a need to feel that I am doing something important each day. I am not yet ready to surrender to a frivolous way of living. I have seen from my elders that eventually our bodies and minds lose their ability to remain active contributors to the world. Our days eventually all become lazy whether we wish them to be or not.
Right now my mother-in-law is suffering from a heart that no longer works the way it should. She is tethered to oxygen day and night. Simply walking from one room to another is exhausting. She is tired of watching television from her recliner. She has difficulty concentrating on her books. She wants more than anything to be able to cook and clean and work in her garden. Without a sense of purpose and the ability to actively pursue goals other than simply waking up each day the light has gone from her eyes.
We humans like to have fun and relax and throw all duties to the wind, but when push comes to shove each of us wants to feel as though there is meaning and accomplishment in our daily activities. Lazy days are like vacations and, just so, they were never meant to last forever.