Preparing for retirement (asking myself, what are you going to do with this time?), I made a Concepts List (write, read books) and also a Niggling Matters List.
Niggling Matters were smallish quality-of-life things that I hoped to improve as an RP.
Rereading this list, I haven’t done very well. I’ll post it here anyway; fear of looking foolish has almost never stopped me.
When I retire . . .
I will not do laundry on Sunday.
When I do laundry, I will put it away as soon as it’s dry, and not use the laundry basket as a bureau drawer.
I will keep the upstairs neat even though no one sees it.
I will still wear a skirt sometimes, but not buy any new ones.
I will still get up at 5:30 a.m.
I will write in the morning. No phone, no e-mail; not even any volunteer work.
I will not let my e-mail inbox get over 100.
I will write one nice note to someone every day, even if it’s an e-mail.
I will brush Lulu once a week.
Lulu and I will take a special walk at least twice a week.
I will go back to cooking dinner.
In winter, I’ll have a hot breakfast every morning, after I’ve written to a stopping point.
If the situation becomes such that I must let go the cleaning lady or eat nothing but chicken broth for a week, I will eat chicken broth for a week.
* * *
Kind of sweet, isn’t it, in its hopeful organization. I was going to comment on each entry, but it was too depressing. I do get up at 5:30, but my e-mail inbox this morning is at 341, and that’s even with folders to file mail in and then never think about it again.
Later I discovered, with pleasure, niggling matters that hadn’t made it to the list. For example, I no longer pack my lunch at night. As a writer with an unremarkable income at best, I have always carried food—coffee in a thermos, lunch, snacks. For as long as I can remember I put my lunch together weeknights, because there wouldn’t be time before work in the morning.
I hated packing my lunch at night. I don’t know why, I just did. I was happy the next day when I had my own food, and I would remind myself that on a global scale, this was a very minor problem, but I still gritted my teeth over it.
Now I don’t have to think about lunch before noon. Amazing how such a minor change can improve quality of life.
Outdoors, I have time to explore. Despite my terrible sense of direction, I am now never really lost—I’m just driving through new territory. This applies whether I’m seeking out the starting point of a Columbia Land Conservancy hike or shopping.
The month after I left Bard College, the kitchen dispose-all gave up the ghost. It was not an appliance I would have asked for, but having overcome my fear of it, I’d got used to its reduction of smelly garbage.
With a couple of phone calls I found a store that would sell me such an item, on a street, about a mile from my home, that I had never before traveled. I mean, I had trouble finding the street, and then trouble finding the store, which is so confident of its value that it doesn’t have a sign. Driving up and down the street, I discovered a collection of useful businesses, selling things that many of us would one day need. In the store, I met the Bob and Ray–type proprietors. We chatted, and they sold me a new dispose-all.
But I hadn’t so much shopped as explored, and discovered. To paraphrase Alain de Botton in The Art of Travel, if we consider everything of potential interest, then objects and people release latent layers of value.