The great joy of retirement is that the day is yours to do as you please.
The great terror of retirement is that the day is yours to do as you please.
This has not really been a problem for me. I always have so many threads going on—writing, publishing, playing piano, planning or giving workshops, alongside walking, biking, cooking, reading, crostics/ solitaire/ jigsaw puzzles, etc. And now that things are opening up, lunches with people! Each day tends to announce itself, one of the many options is sparked and invites me to blow on the fire until it gives some heat and warmth. Even the neighborhood I feel like walking in or the particular music I feel like working on appears as an intuitive suggestion and I simply follow.
But suddenly today, nothing is calling. The jigsaw puzzle that I couldn’t tear myself away is down to the maddening white pieces, the Bach notes I’m playing are okay, but not truly singing, the “must-do” list has no appeal, I’m not preparing my next Jazz Class (it’s over), leftovers will be dinner. I will go for a walk but don’t feel inspired to do the usual loop in the Park and no other neighborhood is calling to me.
One name for that little engine that chugs things along could be desire, not the operatically dramatic desire of deep longing for the thing or person you will never possess, but the smaller companion to intuition that says, “This moment is perfect as it is, but it might be a little better if you write a needed addendum to your book, practice a few measures in Bach’s Prelude No. 16, get some kale for dinner tonight." In my naïve Buddhist days, I thought that being free from desire was the goal, but instead, it seems to me that some measure of desire is necessary to move the day along from pleasure to pleasure. The word itself comes from “de sidere”—“from the stars.” So the desire that guides us is waiting for what the stars may bring. Whether you feel it as a gift from above or a sign from within, its presence— at least for me—is a necessary life companion.
I have been spared (so far) the horror of depression and looking from the outside, it seems like the worst part of that debilitating state is the cessation of desire. Nothing calls to you, motivation declines, what once brought pleasure and glistened with bright promise is now dull and listless. You could do something, but the voice that calls says one thing only: “Why bother?”
What I’m describing here is so mild in comparison. In fact, I can guess why I feel a bit at loose ends. I had a lovely two-day visit with my wife’s brother and wife and so lost the rhythmic thread of my various projects. And I took them to the airport quite early this morning and frankly, I’m just tired. But at least writing about it all sparked something of interest and I’m ready to face the afternoon.
And how is your car running? And which desire is in the driver’s seat?