Years before I left formal employment, I’d occasionally try to sketch out daily and weekly routines I might follow once found myself free (that is, retired or in some other way financially independent). Usually this exercise would arise as part of my annual year-end review and year-ahead planning, an event that included drafting my Yule letter to family and friends.

I remember my wife’s reaction on chancing across one of those, once I’d remarried. She thought I’d left a lot out – essentially, I’d overlooked all the important stuff, and not just more time for the two of us to spend together. These days, I think she’s right, and that’s even before I reopen any of those proposals.

What I’d envisioned was more time for meditation, yoga, reading, and reflection – none of which have manifested, by the way – plus deep pockets for writing and serious literary enterprise accompanied by intensified Quaker activity. Whatever I’d considered for home maintenance, inside or out, now appears totally inadequate. And that’s before adding time for activities that weren’t on the horizon in the earlier grid sheets – choir (which occupies most of one afternoon and evening), my daily laps in the pool, and blogging and other social networking.

Maybe downsizing to a smaller house would free up something, but just thinking of that effort’s intimidating.

I remember pondering what kind of schedule would work best for me – a rather strict daily round, but that somehow always seemed to shortchange something, or a more flexible weekly one based on blocks of time, somewhat the way an attorney bills clients for hours worked. As I recall, that seemed to settle into two-hour blocks for most of the activities, with the option, for example, of using all five of my literary blocks for the week in a single day or stretching them out.

Let’s just say I’m still looking for a workable system. My late-night commute to Boston for choir throws the next day out of whack, I’m still not napping in the afternoon, the best swimming slot depends on what opens up around the indoor pool’s schedule of teams and clubs, and rising early is something that fits best with my wife’s natural rhythms and my creative energy flow. And that’s before we get to something like trying to help the carpenter in major house renovations or addressing an unexpected emergency of crisis (aren’t they all unexpected?).

I’m thinking, too, of the many different ways individual writers approach their use of time. Some, like Jack Kerouac, would go off on binges – two weeks of nearly no sleep to pound out a frenzied draft, followed by months of recovery – while others put in their daily “butt time” at the keyboard, as Charles Bukowski phrased it. I prefer the latter, though in my employed years often had to indulge in the Kerouac method over holidays, weekends, and vacations.

Perhaps my central concern here is that without some structure – a daily routine, a weekly pace, a monthly and yearly calendar, nothing of note will be accomplished. I harbor a nagging suspicion somewhere – could it be a seed of Protestant guilt carried from childhood? – that the endless interruptions of life will engulf and swamp any greater ambition? (Or is it even, as one beloved uncle has sensed, that we Hodsons have never known how to have fun?)

So here I am, needing to dress for the day and charge out into the garden as promised.

One thing I can definitely say: Everything takes longer than planned.


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