Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Constructing a life

Robert, Leo and Cheetah
I cut Robert's head off, unfortunately, when I took this picture at the coffee shop. I have been friends with Leo for the past two years, a full two-thirds of his life. When his father Robert first brought him in, Leo was just a little guy who cried until he got his way. But then I watched him learn to walk, first holding onto his dad's hand, then staggering over to the rest of us, and we became good friends. He turned three last month and has begun preschool, so I don't see him very often any more. I asked if I could take a picture of the two of them, and Leo insisted that his friend Cheetah be in the picture, too.

The coffee shop is kid friendly and has lots of toys and books that are enjoyed by the patrons' kids. Leo doesn't drink coffee but he sure enjoys the raisins and chocolate chips he begs from the staff. He has recently begun to talk in sentences and I adore reading to him or, more recently, carry on a conversation with him. In fact, I have several friends I met at this coffee shop who have become important to me. The time I spend having my coffee in a comfortable setting has led me to become a "regular." The staff know me and commiserated over my recent theft and were happy to see the iPad return.

It wasn't easy getting up this morning to catch the bus. Because it snowed heavily last night and was still snowing when I walked out the door, it was dark and forbidding. However, I knew I would be happy when I got to town and got to the coffee shop. By the time I finished my morning latte and walked the three blocks to the Y for my class, I didn't even mind the snow and messy sidewalks.
We had a couple of new people show up for our walk on Saturday, and they were wearing these shoes. Have you seen them before? I wondered how they would fare in the puddles and rain, and it turns out both of these wearers had very wet feet before we were done. At least the snow hadn't started yet. Another part of my daily routine is going out on Saturdays at 8:00am to walk with a group that walks much faster than I would on my own. We head around various parts of town, and I've learned of many trails that would have been unknown to me without going out on these walks. Then we have coffee afterwards, and I've met quite a few interesting people.

Everyone who follows this blog regularly knows about my Thursday hikes with the Senior Trailblazers. We hike rain or shine, as I've learned you must do if you want to exercise here in the Pacific Northwest. I've been living here close to four years now, and I realize that I've constructed a new life. In a conversation with my partner, I became aware of the fact that I need a temporal structure to my life, where he needs a spatial one. The need to have a schedule, places to go and things to do -- it's important to me not to simply drift along without a plan or a sense of direction.

So many years of my life were spent unquestioningly going to the office, following a schedule so that my tasks would be accomplished, and it seems I've transferred that need for structure into my life in retirement. Although nobody is going to be bent out of shape (or perhaps even notice) if I don't show up, I don't question whether I will get up, have breakfast, dress and head out for the bus so I can get to town and start my day's activities. I just do it.

The only day that has no pre-set schedule is Sunday, so it's become a free-floating day, unless it's summertime and then I go off to the Drop Zone and join my friends at play in the world of skydiving. Looking at my life and how I've designed it in retirement amazes me. I didn't plan it, but it's now part of who I am and what I do with myself.

The intellectual sense of belonging to a larger community comes from the blogosphere. I try to write something three times a week on this blog and once a week on my other one. The myriad blogs I follow are mostly written by people who stimulate my intellect and send me off in directions I would never have discovered otherwise. I look forward to comments and try to make sure that I leave a comment when a post moves me. I know how important it is to me to get feedback, so I try to be generous with my own.

And just like that, a day winds down into evening, when I spend time with my partner, watch a bit of TV or read a book. By the time I climb into bed, it's been a full day. The days pile up one after another, with the occasional blip of disruption... and then I fall back into my comfortable routine. Even though my life today seems predictable, I actually didn't know I would be enjoying myself so much in a world without a job at the center. Life is full of surprises.


  1. Your lifestyle is healthier than mine. Lots of social interaction, exercise, and good books have made you strong and happy. I could learn a few things from you. Lol.

  2. Leo is indeed a darling little boy. I listened to the sales pitch one time for those shoes. They look like a lot of fun, just not on a rainy/snowy day. Later I read they are very dangerous for runners. I'll pass, but I still think they're fun. I don't run but they're too expensive to be a toy.

  3. I think consistency and structure are so good for us, but I've yet to develop them. Ah well...
    The shoes, well, I could certainly live without them. :)

  4. I need a little structure to my day too, but am open to interrruptions...one has to be with granddchildren popping in to visit. Am up at 5:30 on week days-6:30 on weekends-have a need to see the sun rise in the morning!

    Five finger toe shoes are not for me-I don't think I could even wear socks like that.

  5. i have a couple friends that swear by those shoes....so cool that the coffee shop is kid friendly too as it allows multiple generations to mingle which is awesome....i need that in my life as well...to go place and do things, experiences mostly...

  6. Sounds to me like the structure sure works for you. I could use a lot more of it in my life, for sure. Leo is a little sweetie. I can see why you'd look forward to spending time with him.

  7. In Billy Graham's book, "Nearing Home", he mentions the wisdom of having purpose and something to do in retirement to make it enjoyable as well as help with the transition from an active work life. Those who don't do this seem to end up with depression and eventually poorer health than the other group. So you are doing the right thing.

  8. Leo is absolutely adorable, looks like he might be a ball of energy. As for those shoes, I have heard they are comfortable but my high arches need more support. I can see why they would not be suited to wet days.

    Structure is good and I'm glad it fills your needs DJan. My work life was never that scheduled. I planned my own days but always had to be ready to make changes if something came up.

    I've been reading about your snow today. It's headed over to us and looks like we could get quite a bit tonight and tomorrow but not as much as you sounds like. Lots of moisture when the Pineapple Express hits town.

  9. Those shoes are uglier than my Crocs! I don't think my toes would like them.
    That Leo he is a doll..do you read books to him from your iPad?
    I am so not a routine same time of day person..some things I do in order after that I throw caution to the wind and do whatever I want..unless I have to go to work or IF I have a list. ( 14 more days of the list left.)

  10. What a cute little boy! I'm sure you miss seeing him as often.
    My sister got a pair of those shoes for Christmas. She swears they are comfortable, but I'm just going to take her word for it.
    I imagine that many people would notice your absence. You are not the type to fade into the woodwork; I imagine it's a trait that's even more pronounced in person. I say this with great affection as my husband and sister are the same way! I, too, need some sort of routine or I turn into a lazy mess. The kids and their needs provide a rough outline for our days; what I choose to do inside those parameters varies.

  11. My friend has a pair of those shoes, they are expensive and she loves them.
    Leo is a sweetie, what a joy to spend time with him and watch him grow.
    I love structure my friend but I also like a bit of impulse.

  12. You amaze me.You are a true Sadge, a nomad at heart. In your younger years, that nomadic hunger seemed to be filled with travel. Now it;s exploration, a more inspired and genuine expression of the archetype we call Sagittarius.

    Great post.

  13. The generosity with which you share details of your AMAZING life keep my coming back. I love your coffee and chats with Leo, I love your hikes and I have nearly forgiven you for the kicking while swimming caper.

  14. Your coffee shop has the right idea because little children are great fun . I love drawing for them (though apparently my fire engines aren't quite right) and they do tell the best awful jokes .
    If the cartoon-toed shoes let water in they're neither use nor ornament ! But they might amuse Leo .

  15. Leo is a such a cute little one!
    Those shoes don't look comfortable to me in the first place and the wetness factor was already answered in one hike--lol!
    I am much more spatial, I guess. I've had to be even more adaptable than ever before to changes over these past several years, but I was never one to follow routines well in the first place. *chuckle* BUt if I didn't have my lists of "plans" to kind of push me along, I think I would just vegetate more. ;)
    I love that you have kind of fallen into a routine and a community that you enjoy. I look forward to your posts and your comments, my cyber friend. :) Have a great day!!

  16. I love how you structure your life and fill your days with the things you love.Leo is a cutie! And what a nice place that coffee shop seems to be for families! Have a lovely day.

  17. Dear DJan,
    When I retired, I went right on with my schedule of writing daily and having lunch with friends and walking.

    Meniere's Disease disrupted that schedule for 18 months and getting back on a routine has been difficult And yet, like you, I need one so as to get to the end of my day and to feel that I've accomplished something and had human contact.

    By the way, on one of your two blogs recently you wrote about you authors who have helped you eat more nutritiously and helped you balance your weight. I'm going to read all three authors. I started with Pollan and read "Food Rules." Such common sense! Thank you for the suggestions.

    Finally, I do so appreciate your commenting on my blog postings. There is a depth of sincerity and serenity in your comments that always spans the distance between us.


  18. Hi DJan!

    I think I've said before (or just thought it!) but when I retire, I want to be just like you. As I read of your adventures, I yearn for the time to participate in activities that feed my heart and soul, as you do. Because I especially love the outdoors, I never seem to get my fill of being out there, while engaged in a heavy work week. There are just not enough hours in the day!

    I love the reflective mode in this post . . . how you didn't necessarily expect retirement to be "scheduled" yet you're thriving through your activities that happen with regularity.

    You paint a lovely picture of a healthy and happy person, blossoming with eager anticipation for the next event!

    I want to be just like you!!


  19. It is nice to see a photo of Leo and his dad after hearing about them in your blog. And it is fun to hear about his changes into a pre-schooler.

    You write with enthusiasm about your hiking and your routine. I think that you choose to be a happy, busy retired lady with a well rounded life shows in your words.

    Our ancestors did not stop their lives when it snowed; it surprises me when some people say they don't go outside if it snows. So good for you for getting out to the bus and your latte and your exercise at the Y.

  20. You have made a great life for yourself, and some of your recent comments about structured days have me thinking about my own schedule, or lack thereof. I'm going to do a post...when I get around to it. :-)

  21. I'm afraid that retirement has got me into a set routine. I need a little surprise in my life. I am not super organized and plan.
    I wish that all retired people were as happy and satisfied as you.

  22. I, too, need structure in my day-to-day life, even if it is to write down ideas of what I might do on my planner each day. Somehow lately I have achieved very little, and yet the days are full. I'm working on not being so hard on myself for not accomplishing something every day.
    What impresses me about you is how you reach out to other people and form friendships. Your social life is so rich.

  23. I was thinking of you last night, when I saw the news about Seattle getting now. lol..wondering if you'd be taking toboggans along on your hike.

    I am really impressed by the design of the retirement life you have built. It feels so right to me, somehow. And I know how hard it is to overcome some of those years of habits we develop in our work life. Maybe we should just do what you seem to have accomplished so beautifully--incorporate the best parts and ignore the rest.

    Have a brilliant day, my friend!!

  24. Lovely pictures D-Jan and no, I haven't seen those shoes before.
    Like you, I am really enjoying these Golden Years and look forward to each new day with interest and anticipation.
    I hope you don't get snowed in.


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