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“Planning” for Retirement: Are We Afraid of Free Time?

By Terri Edmund White July 16, 2021 Lifestyle

Yesterday, for the first time in 30 years, I worked a jigsaw puzzle. I was surprised how quickly time passed and the amount of time I spent ignoring my list of “ought tos,” along with my phone, my boyfriend and the great outdoors. I was absorbed.

For too much of our adult lives, we commit our time to “productive” activities. We are workers, and it doesn’t stop at work. Many of us are not good at sitting down to read or watch TV when we could do laundry or empty the dishwasher or plan our day tomorrow. Some people are good at free time and can’t understand why others of us scurry about.

Replacing Work with Play

I just retired, but it’s occurred to me I’ve planned this for a long time. Four years ago, I joined a musical group for fun. Practicing my flute took up space on my daily calendar. Now, I’m in three music groups – rehearsing to record an Olympic tribute for one and looking forward to live rehearsals in the park bandstand for a community group.

When I turned 60, I started writing for Sixty & Me. Then I was asked by the local Suncoast Post to do some writing as well. Now, I’ve joined a writers’ community, have a kid’s book in an illustrator’s hands and am working on a novel – what I should have been doing when I was jigsawing my way through a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I’ve moved my office to a refinished space in my barn, a dream come true. That’s where I was on Sunday with my puzzle, just across the room from my laptop and desk and daily planner. This is where I’ll “work” now. When I need a change of venue, I can walk to the corner and catch a bus to my downtown library.

The library’s floor-to-ceiling windows face the marina. At 3 p.m. it’s happy hour at the marina restaurant where I can nab a $4 California roll for lunch. I feel like a scene out of That Girl walking to lunch. Remember Marlo Thomas tossing her beret without a care in the world? That’s how I feel.

Substituting Busy with Mindful

I am learning to enjoy free time and trying my best not to fill it up. Now that I have true choice in how I spend my days, I want to be more mindful of it. But my bad habits persist.

I have fabric and patterns stacked behind my sewing machine for a rainy day. I’ve signed up for an online watercolor class and own all the supplies. Some days (I am not joking) I consider finding a part-time job – just for something to do. And I should take an exercise class at the gym now that I’m a Silver Sneaker.

But it’s summer, and we’re headed to the Florida Keys. We are pulling the camper and taking the dog. I am not taking a laptop, and I’m not taking my flute. I’m going to read and sightsee and fish.

This will be my first summer vacation in 35 years when there is no one counting on me when I get back. The unfinished jigsaw puzzle will still be there. I will be rested and ready to get back to the typewriter after some vacation inspiration. On a rainy day, you might catch me sewing.

What does your life look like in retirement? Are you trying to fill your days with activities or do you look for leisure time? What is most important to you in your day? Is there an activity/hobby that you like to do just for fun? Please share with the community!

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The Author

Terri White is a writer and a realtor on Florida’s Suncoast. A Sunshine State girl since 1990, Terri keeps her Midwestern connections with Illinois family and friends and stays in touch with people from all over the world she met as an innkeeper for 26 years on Anna Maria Island. She headquarters her business in historic downtown Bradenton, where she can walk to work from her 1930s farmhouse. Learn more at www.100thYearProject.com.

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