If everyday is Saturday for a retired person, how do you catch a break? How do you get a day off from the day off? Lately I’ve found myself bone dog tired from not getting to bed on time. The daily routine has become its own grind. Even though I’m not getting up for work, I am getting up to walk the dogs who won’t let me sleep in for their whining and panting. An hour of cleaning the barn comes after some time reading Facebook and watching the news. Then the day opens before me with too much time reading more Facebook because there are no deadlines and the dream driving me to write has been washed out when I published my novel.
I am working on replacing that Facebook time with Morning Prayer from Mission St. Clair, a wonderful, free app that takes you through the daily office. (These are readings from the Bible that run on a two year cycle. I simply searched for the app for my phone. The website offers downloads that include noon and compline for Nook and Kindle.) The app offers hymns and chants as well as prayers that point a person to praise and to God. In this season of Ordinary Time there’s a lot of light in the collects and chants even though the readings from the book of Job and Psalms point to the idea that even if you practice being good, suffering will come.
A year into retirement I miss that rhythm of work and rest, though during the school year I pretty much edited papers through the weekends. My rest has become my work. It’s work to feed the cat his pill and clean his litter box and administer his inhaler twice a day. It’s work to clean the barn day after day. Riding the horse becomes a decision to go out there, put the saddle on, ride. I sometimes have to breathe through my fear. Like me Tessie would prefer to go back to the barn. But we both need the exercise.
I miss feeling useful like I did when I taught composition to young people who needed me. My gifts helped. But I didn’t know how tired I was until I volunteered to edit my friend’s book and just could not open it. (Thank goodness she forgave me. The book was turned into marvelous coloring books about horses.) This time of green pastures and still waters has been good, very good, but still there is a routine, a grind that sets up day by day.
A recent reading for Sunday said that we should honor the Sabbath, that we would prosper if we took the day off. (It also talked about how helping the oppressed and the poor will make us like watered gardens.) Another reading talked about how Jesus straightened a bent woman and the Pharisees were not happy that he healed her on the Sabbath. Well, they wouldn’t be happy. The Jewish people were sent to Babylon because they did not give the land its time off or take a rest themselves. They did not care for the poor and they worshipped other gods. Besides “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy” is the fourth commandment. They learned a death grip on those rules until Jesus challenged them saying, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”
Somehow I think making one day out of the week different, geared towards something fun might be helpful. I long to take a Sunday afternoon to read The Perfect Horse or The Bones of Paradise or Bewilderments or How Jesus Saves the World From Us not the internet. But beautiful weather rebukes my desire to curl up with these books. (I’m one of those people who likes rainy days.)
When the driving season started Bruce wasn’t happy with Morgen’s stopping to look hard at the neighbor’s cows. He’d have to get out of the carriage and coax her to move forward, but he became unhappier when she called at the gate, demanding, “Pick me, please pick me.”
Driving Morgen has become more relaxing than not. Bruce sits behind me and she walks down the road. Bruce and I talk and look over the fields that roll subtly in the light. I tell Morgen what a good pony she is. These quiet walks have brought us more confidence. I can turn them out together now without their trying to kill each other.
Another thing that has been refreshing is taking a nap instead of more caffeine. I call Bruce over to look at the praying mantis. The last few nights the moon as been achingly beautiful as it drops toward the horizon, slowly getting fatter. And spider webs have tilted along the road in the early morning light. I have been learning to turn off NPR so I can listen to our barn and door yard as they breathe in the wind. The birds answer with song. Yesterday I listened to rain falling on the corn as it came toward me. I even startled when a flock of starlings lifted off our elm tree, sounding like a sheet blowing on the clothesline.
Bruce and I have opened talks about how to redesign our day off. Right now I weigh in at Weight Watchers, and we go grocery shopping and then work on bills and the check book. The rest of the afternoon we spend doing small projects around the house or driving Morgen. I might ride Tessie if she hasn’t been worked much. Sometimes I talk to one of my dearest friends on the phone. Then it’s time for chores, dinner and 60 Minutes. Neither one of us is good at leisure.
We attend church on Saturday nights. I know in the Jewish tradition Sabbath begins in the evening and ends the following evening. In fact one of my favorite passages from the Psalms goes like this: In the evening, in the morning and at noonday I will complain and lament. The Lord will hear me. He who is enthroned of old will deliver me.”
Something about how the day starts in the evening in these words catches me every time. A friend’s daughter practices Sabbath. She and her husband turn off all electronics and play games or go for walks. She might play the piano. They spend time with friends or extended family but meals are cooked beforehand and they leave the lights on so they don’t have to turn them on or off. They do not drive. I can feel myself relax when I hear this description, especially the part about being out of touch with social media for a whole day.
Eugene Peterson talks about the Deuteronomy version of the Fourth Commandment which says people should give themselves, their slaves, and even their animals a day off in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. “Everyone is given a day to recover the simple dignity of being himself, herself, in the community without regard to use or function or status. Even the dogs and cats are included” (256). He asks why is it so hard to do this?
At any rate, until we’ve figured this out, I’m going to take my rest by sinking into the present, letting it be a present by noticing how my feet sound as I walk across the barn yard, and how Morgen calls for me to bring dinner or the harness and how the moon settles her bottom on the horizon. There’s a rest when Chicken Number Three re-appears after disappearing for a few days. We thought the feathers scattered by the bush was hers. She is brooding and there is a slight promise of another chick. And a rest when the other chicken’s baby stands on the fence rail and chirps.
How do you design your day of so that it becomes a true rest?
Hello again, Katie,
I, too, found retirement a puzzle and a problem for years. It took some fairly drastic events to get my attention and ground me in the new reality. In the beginning, I so identified myself as a teacher that I felt invisible, non-existent without those teenagers and that literature. Then a bad fall landed me in the assisted living facility I wrote about in my book and a new venue for teaching opened up. I volunteer for adult education classes in various churches and I am doing free lance editing which I find is really much like reading student essays then discussing them.
I didn’t realize how dependent I was on that externally imposed routine of the school day, and the school year. It had long ago become my inner compass. And my Sabbath happened almost automatically. That day of rest was essential to prevent collapse. Today, as I live within a much looser routine–as a writer and editor, setting my own hours–I also have to find that Sabbath time in different ways. I can choose any day of the week. I can choose an hour or two in the middle of every day. I can sit and meditate. I can walk and meditate. I can wash dishes and fold laundry mindfully. I can make my grandson my Sabbath.
Whatever my choices, that observance of Sabbath is essential, primal, life-giving. I love the Jewish Seder, at the table, every Friday evening, to begin the day of rest. A ritual to mark the beginning of that time of prayer, silence, worship, surrender.
I, too, get the lectionary readings online every morning (which saves this lazy soul from looking them up) and a cousin in Texas and I begin our day on the phone reading them aloud.
I need the routine. I need ritual. I need Sabbath. The difference now is that I have to make my own.
So far, so good 🙂
This so full of wisdom about how to work with the extra time of retirement. And you offer practical ideas on how to practice Sabbath. How cool to read those lectionary readings with your cousin. I sometimes share morning or evening prayer with Bruce. At any rate thank you so much for so generously sharing your wisdom.
You bring up an interesting subject, Katie, and I know many among the recently, and maybe not-so-recently, retired have experienced the same thing. Several of my friends who have retired from corporate jobs, or other jobs that demanded they keep to a rigid work schedule, have opted to get back into the work force after a year or so of retirement, for partly the reason you bring up–when every day becomes everyday.
I realize I’m among the lucky ones in this scenario. Having worked free-lance, and out of my home, for most of my working life, I didn’t have a regular routine of going to an office and staying there for 8-10 hours, five days a week. I mostly kept to a five-day work week, nonetheless, and deliberately gave myself weekends off–like many people in the regular working world. I’ve kept up with that now, even though I guess I am officially retired, at least according to the IRS. I still look at Saturday and Sunday as “the weekend” and don’t do any of the work-like things I do during the week–like paying bills or dealing with insurance companies or even customer service departments from online entities–those things are “work” and I keep them delegated to work days. I’m always so happy on Friday night–or even on Friday during the day as I look forward to two days when I don’t have to do anything “official.” My routine remains much the same in that I still get up at 6:00a.m. and get to the barn by 7:00-7:30 to take care of the residents there, and I still have three other scheduled feed/care times for them during the day, but somehow in my mind that’s not “work,” but something more like brushing my teeth.
I’ve often thought about how weird it is that I keep to this weekday/weekend schedule, at least in my head. In fact, I don’t need to, so why do I? I even find it difficult to schedule trips to visit friends during the work week, and by habit think of doing that only on weekends. As I said, it’s weird. I suppose I could blame the Puritans, as I do for many of our American ways and thinking, but they didn’t even consider the concept of a “weekend.” I suppose I could blame it on the Puritan work ethic, though.
Where I am in South Carolina, the summer HEAT and HUMiDITY give me the perfect excuse that I seem to need to be able to declare July and August afternoons as legitimate times to stay in, get on the couch, and read–even on weekdays–something I otherwise seem to have a problem finding the time, or is it permission, to do. Those Puritans again.
I lived in France for five years, and the French have a one-day-a-week built-in STOP to almost all weekday activities in that all the stores–even the grocery stores–close, or at least they did when I was there from 1990-1995. At first this caused me to panic every Saturday afternoon–just the thought that I wouldn’t be able to run out and get whatever I thought I needed at that moment. Then I learned that it was a wonderful relief to know that the world, at least in France, stopped for one whole day each week (it was not allowed to even more your lawn on Sundays because of the noise pollution), and what a great excuse that was for me to stop too. I mention this because it helped to ingrain the “weekend mentality” even further in me. It was interesting that in France, companies would sponsor week-long courses, given in some remote vacation locations, often in the mountains, on how to prepare for retirement–not financially, but occupationally…literally, to prepare yourself to have another purpose/interest in life other than the work you’d been doing for so long (and in France people rarely changed jobs during their careers). Maybe that’s what’s needed here? Helping/teaching people to keep the rhythm, even when it’s not being dictated by “a job?”
Oh–and what you mentioned about finding/taking the time to ride, applies to me for sure. I love my horse, and what I’ve realized is that what I love most is just having him, taking care of him, being around him…I don’t need to ride him to enjoy him, and like you said, sometimes just “going for a ride” requires more work-like planning and doing than I am inspired to do. At the moment we are working on thickening his soles, which means no riding for now–that’s a kind of relief for me because now I don’t have to convince myself to get out there, get him ready, and then go out and ride.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences and wisdom. My teaching work was a lot like free lance work. I only had to be at school twice a week, so the rest of my time was mine to figure out how to get my work done. Now that I’m retired I’m amazed at how much work I got done during those years.
I have a hard time giving myself permission to read too…even on rainy days. It’s wonderful that companies sponsor retreats on how to prepare for other jobs in France. That’s a great idea for a vocation: to help people maintain that rhythm without a job.
I like being around my horses too. I am finding I really enjoy driving my other mare and am tempted to train my riding mare to drive. Right now neither one of us is enjoying riding. But Tessie needs the exercise. We need some good trail rides but I’m hesitant to ride out alone. (My trail riding buddies are either busy or between horses.) I hope your horse’s soles get better soon. Thank you again for stopping by and sharing so much.