If you think work is hard, you may be surprised to learn that leisure can be harder.
Think about it. What have you been educated, trained, programmed and rewarded for doing over the past 25-30 years? I doubt that the answer is leisure, play or relaxation. And yet, when it comes to managing our retirement years, these are the areas where we need to develop new skills. We need to learn how to, "Enjoy the fine art of relaxation." We need to take time to play.
You may think that once you're retired, you'll have all the time in the world to play. And you will. But, until you give yourself permission to play, until you learn the fine art of relaxation, and it is an art, you may be approaching each day with the same mindset as when you were employed—believing that you need to be productive, to get the most out of every waking minute.
Soon you'll realize that when you're no longer spending 8-10 hours per day commuting and working, there are a lot of minutes in a day. Trying to fill each one with the same intensity that you did while working can be exhausting. You can carry this burden every day, or you can commit to taking time to play.
Learning how to get the most out of leisure time is an area that I'm working on right now. Taking time to play doesn't come easy to me. I've always needed to feel productive. To give you an idea, when I was a stay-at-home mother of three young children, I remember painting the bathroom walls with my one-year old son in a harness on my back. During their naptimes, I sewed a new outfit almost every day. I had to have something to show for my time. Learning how to play is going to take practice.
Last week I decided to practice this mindset while driving to NH to visit my parents. I had all day to make the 4-1/2 hour drive. Since I wanted to bring them a new birdbath for their front lawn, I drove 25 minutes in the opposite direction to go to my favorite nursery. It didn't make sense to add another hour to my trip, but since I had time to play, I went for it.
At the nursery, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of casually selecting my favorite color and style in birdbaths. I walked through the other areas of the nursery just to savor the beauty of the flowers, the soothing music playing in the background, and the other lovely gardening items on the shelves.
Then, two hours into my trip, I stopped at a Barnes and Noble bookstore to use their bathroom. Normally I would have rushed in and out, doing my best to not lose time. This time, since my intention was to take time to play, I savored the experience of choosing a few cards for upcoming birthdays and other celebrations.
Just one hour further into the trip I stopped at my favorite rest stop—the Vermont Welcome Center. The building is a post and beam structure with the rich smell of wood. There are displays of items made in Vermont, including beautiful handcrafted furniture that feels like velvet to the touch. I called my husband from this location while sitting in one of the handmade rocking chairs. I took time to play.
You might be wondering if I ever got to NH. I did. But not until one more stop at a party supply store to buy special paper products for my son's new apartment. (He doesn't own dishes yet.) I had fun selecting square plates and modern design napkins that complement his color scheme. I looked forward to giving him this gift when we helped him move into his new apartment over the weekend.
By taking time to play, I had a really enjoyable trip to NH. I arrived feeling refreshed and fulfilled. I had made time to play, and it was fun!
As you design your retirement lifestyle, I encourage you to make it your job to develop the skills needed to get the most out of leisure time. Practice often. And master the fine art of relaxation.
Copyright 2014 Patrice Jenkins