Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy birthday to me

No, it is not my birthday. That occurred over a month ago, and it was a milestone one in that it starts with a 6 and ends with a 0. For those who think adding one more year to 59 should make no difference, let me respond: HA! Not only do the aches and pains start becoming a way of life, but the focus of one's attention shifts drastically. For one thing, other people's opinions mean less and less. For another, time becomes elastic as the short term memory becomes more holey and those long ago memories rise to the surface with disturbing frequency and intensity.

Anyway, I decided to give myself a present this year, the gift of time. Toward that end, I reduced my work week, from five days to four. The original plan was to make this transition after the first of the year, but my recent health issues shook me up enough to accelerate the timeline. I'm fortunate to be financially secure enough to take a 20% cut in salary, and I'm extremely fortunate to have an employer who does not reduce benefits for part-timers.

So now every week ends with a three-day weekend, as I chose Monday as my day off. I make a loose list of things I hope to accomplish, but otherwise it is business as usual - sort of. For example, Saturdays may be spent babysitting or out and about, but now without the cloud of anxiety caused by worrying over what I was *not* accomplishing chorewise. Sunday is still the day for laundry and cleaning and cooking, plus this time of year, football (which I now actually sit and watch instead of glance at as I pass by the TV).

What I do on Mondays is still evolving, but I hope to turn them into project days, time for me to focus on all those things I want to do but that require more than an hour here or there, catch as catch can. I've done some extra knitting and cheese making and bread baking. I've done some extra cleaning inside and out. I've also done more reading and writing. And sometimes I do a whole lot of nothing.

I consider this time a way of easing into retirement. If I had gone from a full work week to no work at all, I would have found all those free (and empty) hours disconcerting. It takes a shift of perspective, from trying to cram everything into two days to gently uncovering how I wish to fill my time.

It would be easy to do only those things I want to do, letting the rest slide, but I tell myself "You'll be happier if you wash the dishes/do the laundry/vacuum and dust". It's true, and it is possible because now the days feel wider. Maybe it's from the expanded psychic space in my head or the lack of pressure or simply the extra hours. Whatever. Time just feels different.

I have to say, this is the best birthday present ever!


  1. Congratulations on the shorter work week! I would really love to do that. Three day weekends are wonderful. I love the new blog, too.

  2. Good for you!!!!! Looking after one's health is a really important choice to make. Looking forward to seeing all the fun things you get up to with your free Mondays!!!!!

  3. Good for you! I was just saying to GC over dinner that I'd like to ease up on work gradually over the next 11 years until I can retire. I want to go down to a 4-day week when I turn 60 and then a 3-day week when I hit 62. As long as I live well within my means -- saving money and avoiding debt -- I should be able to manage it financially. The thought of it makes me feel better about going back to work tomorrow.