At many points in my life I wanted so much to be free of my day-to-day routine. Those were the years when every work day was like the next in structure and stress and when every weekend day, almost equally stressful, was filled with all the routine boring tasks for which there was no time during the week. [Ah, for someone to make the beds, pick up and vacuum, do the laundry, shopping and occasional ironing, visit the dentist for me, run the errands that couldn’t be run during lunch hour!] When was there going to be time for me, to pursue all my interests, pleasures, curiosity, desires?
Then there was time. Less money, but much more time. Plenty of time for the routine boring tasks like bed making, laundry, marketing (which seemed to expand and occupy even more time than before). Plenty of time for sleeping in, lunching out, reading crap, watching television. Plenty of time for wasting time. And did I waste it!
So what about the interests, pleasures, curiosity, desires? Well, there was certainly time for that too. Surprising how little actually got done, though — especially in that window of opportunity before “time for me” began to be time left over from doctor appointments (mine and Bill’s), “procedures,” visiting sick friends, and wasting even more time recovering emotionally from the visits.
When I flew to Florida to see one of my sons and his family earlier this month, school had already begun for his young children, ages nine and eight. I therefore had occasion to observe the value of their routine. Since my son was still on summer break from work, the family schedule principally revolved around the children’s days: up, dress, breakfast, to school at eight, pick-up at three, after-school dance classes for my granddaughter, music lessons or practice for my grandson, homework, early supper and helping to clear, walking the dog, baths in sequence, some free time to play by themselves, reading stories aloud as a family, quiet time in their own rooms, lights out at nine.
Those children got so much done in a day! And so did I when I was their age. As I watched them, I became nostalgic for a structured, protected day like theirs. Not the routine of my working years, but of all the school years that preceded them — when life was about learning and growing and enjoying. Of course, that also presupposed a certain amount of luck in being born to parents who, whatever their other idiosyncrasies, would and could provide the protection for those things to happen regularly within the orderly sequence of the days. But in that particular way, I was lucky, despite my parents’ somewhat difficult life as immigrants in a country new to them.
And then it occurred to me that getting old needn’t preclude adopting a new and fruitful routine. The fact that one can be lax and lazy when paid getting-to-work-on-time is in the past doesn’t mean being lax and lazy is a must. All we need is to be our own parents, in the same way we were parents to our children when they were young. Get ourselves up, give ourselves breakfast, and send ourselves off on days of new experiences, mental and physical and aesthetic, as suits the “me” in each of us.
I’ve been truly slothful with the years of freedom I’ve been given. However many more of those years there may be, the sloth must stop. Of course, I’m really lecturing me, not you. (Bill says I have a punitive superego.) But it’s true that as the weather has cooled down somewhat, I’m feeling energized and inspired by my trip. So thank you, dear grandchildren — for unknowingly showing me how to get into harness again this fall. A routine: who’d ever have thought I’d want one back? But what do you know? I do.