November 29, 2010

A Free Day

A free day is a day without appointments, commitments, a to-do list, or nagging worries about tasks undone. A free day: isn't that what every day is when you are living a satisfying retirement?  Hardly.

Last week my wife and I declared a free day. It was supposed to be glorious. The calendar was cleared. We told family to call only if there was an emergency. We had a rough sketch of how to make the most of the day, but none of it was a must-do. If we felt like something we'd do it. If not, oh well.

Our free day lasted about two hours.  People we had asked not to call, called anyway. A problem with a volunteer project my wife is working on raised its ugly head and couldn't be ignored. My Mom's health was getting so tenuous we felt we better make time to see her. I realized I needed to be a few days ahead on this blog because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

At first we got upset. Two previous attempts at even half a free day had collapsed earlier in the month. We were determined to not mess this one up. We are retired. We have control over our day, didn't we? No, not so much.

Then, we simply sat down and laughed. My wife, Betty, put it all in perspective. Wasn't it great, she noted, that our family needs us and wants to be with us. Isn't it good that our skills are useful to others. Isn't it wonderful that we can just drop other plans to go see Mom.

Suddenly the free day became free again, but in a very different way. It was a day to freely bless what we had in our life. It was a time when we freely chose to help others.

All was not lost. We went out for a late breakfast/early lunch and ordered more than we normally would. We spent a few minutes shopping and then came home, pulled out a huge photo album and reminisced.

Our free day didn't go according to plan. But, the mark of a happy retirement experience is the ability to shift in mid-stream when needed. The day became much more memorable than it ever would have been if our original plans had remained unchanged.

And, yes, we have another free day scheduled for next month.

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  1. I find the "free days" don't work especially well unless they are planned in advance and only if I leave town for the day. On the other hand, I often on the lookout for shall we say stolen hours in an otherwise busy day. During such times, I'll disappear for a bike ride, hike, or maybe to just hit a coffee shop.

  2. I like the stolen hours concept. Maybe it is more realistic to look for those opportunities.

    Thanks, Steve.

  3. Nice to see you are still quick on your feet and able to make the most out of your day even if it was not exactly what you and your wife had hoped for. We gotta stay dynamic!

  4. Quick on my may be the first person to refer to me that way in quite awhile. I think I like it.

    Trying to save the day is the best way to feel good about it. Thanks. Dave.

  5. Freedom. What a great topic. I suspect you have experienced a difference between leisure and freedom; between happiness and joy; between contentment and peace.

    My thoughts and prayers remain with you and your family, especially your mother.

  6. Hi, J,

    Thank you for your well wishes for my Mom. As I type this on Monday night, she is still with us.

    I love your comparisons, especially noting the difference between happiness and joy. I'll have a post next week about simple things that can bring you happiness, and how that emotion is very important to a fulfilling retirement.

    However, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness depends on circumstance while joy depends on our overall emotional well-being. Happiness is fleeting, joy can be long-lasting.

    In fact, I think you just gave me an idea for another post.

  7. Interesting to hear that free days are as rare after retirement as before. In a way, I'm glad to hear that as they won't be so precious if they are too frequent.

  8. Hi Chris,

    Yes, too much of a good thing would dilute the impact. Don't worry, free time in retirement is just as rare as it in in the working world, or a heated yurt!

  9. I have to laugh. I never get phone calls (except for politicians and my college wanting money. My wife still has clients who call occasionally. We have no problems with free days. Still I applaud your effort. I still have to force our schedule to take day trips because my wife still has uncontrollable. Life is simple when you are a recluse.

  10. We had the land line phone removed 6 months ago because, like you, we only received junk calls. Unfortunately, others have our cell number!

    Glad to know you can manage free days, even with your wife still in the game.