I wish you peace, when the cold winds blow
Warmed by the fire’s glow
I wish you comfort in the lonely time
Arms to hold you when you ache inside.
I wish you hope when things are going bad
Kind words when times are sad
I wish you shelter from the raging winds
Cool waters at the fever’s end.
I’m retired now. The frenetic time of my life is over, and I am usually to be found at home. I go out to meetings with friends, classes, doctor’s appointments, about 3 times a week. These things, even the doctor’s appointments, are treats for me because I don’t see many people. But I always heave a big sigh of relief when I get home again.
I realize, now that I don’t have to do it, how I disliked having to be somewhere at a certain time. This includes getting up in the morning; I used to get up every weekday at 5 am and make my husband’s lunch before he left for his fierce commute at 5:45. Now I get up between 6:30 and 7 am. I can choose my getting up time (up to a point, because I have hungry kitty cats). I can decide whether I want to snuggle and drowse for an extra 15 or 20 minutes. Other things, like being at work (an hour’s drive away) on time, preparing for classes, figuring out which train I have to catch in order to be there in time for the meeting or lecture – these are things I no longer have to worry about unless I choose to.
Covid put paid to a lot of this rushing around having to be somewhere, of course; and it happened at a time when I was just settling in to retirement. We were never in “lockdown”, but still, I have come to love being at home; there’s always something to do, and just in case there isn’t, I have time to gaze at the moon or notice the voice of the wind or (more likely) scroll on FB for minutes at a time. (I don’t give myself a hard time over this; recently I happened on a YouTube link to a movie I have long hoped to re-watch, provided by a friend’s post.) You just never know how your evening will go, when you have nothing in particular to do. Last night I was rolling balls of twine for the garden while watching this movie (it was “Nuremberg” with Alec Baldwin). Night before last, I was working on an embroidery project and taking a long bath. The night before? Well, I don’t remember.
As you may gather, I like being alone, and I am alone right now because my husband is on a business trip. I have time to think, to do things I’ve had to set aside for months, and especially to track my personal moods. Why do I feel the way I do at this moment? Depressed, irritated, lazy, quiet? If what I am feeling is “negative”, what could I do to feel better? Am I in the mood for a funny movie or book, or perhaps a late-afternoon bike ride? Or a wander through my veggie patch, see if there’s a cucumber ready or a late strawberry to munch on. How long before the blueberries are big enough to pick?
I don’t have to worry about food, either. I usually eat twice a day when I’m alone, and not at “normal” mealtimes. I’m glad to be alone for this, because my husband is of the “Well, it’s 12 o’clock, time for lunch” school, like many Japan are. Three squares a day, at set times, that’s his ideal. I find eating at set times very claustrophobic… as you can probably tell, I don’t like routines of any kind. (I’m also very bad at keeping track of money. When I have some, I spend or save it; when I don’t, not. That’s the extent of my financial plan right there.)
I like to think of life as like a river (and that includes money). It can’t be dammed up. It just flows. To think about deciding to do something “every day” gives me the heebie-jeebies. I think it’s because I know, from many bitter experiences, that the whole thing will fall through in a few days anyway. For example, my New Year’s idea to teach myself the piano. I practiced every day, and even learned to play a piece, by the end of May; then I played it for my husband, and was so nervous that I played terribly; the piano went into its cover and I haven’t touched it since. But that’s OK. Life is a river, and sooner or later, the piano will come floating down again. For me these decisions have to be organic. My friend on FB posted a thing that said she was going to do a certain kind of chant for everyone in the world who is suffering at 1:30 pm yesterday. I joined at 1:30. Today she said, how about if we all do it again today? I thought, OK, I can do that. Maybe chanting the Heart Sutra for world peace will become a daily ritual for me. I certainly don’t know at this point.
After decades on this planet, I am finally starting to feel the value of unstructured time. For years and years, like most people, I structured my life meticulously around work, the demands of my family, and social obligations. I feel like now I can choose to do these things, or to pick up a project that calls me, or to do nothing. That isn’t to say I don’t accomplish anything. I just want to honor myself enough to be in the right mood so I can do whatever it is justice. Meanwhile, I’ll just do the laundry, pull a few weeds, maybe take a nap.
I wish you peace. I wish that you can give yourself whatever time you need. There’s plenty of it, you know.