Back in my college days I came across a column by a magazine writer who was retiring. He mentioned something he had recognized early in his career, that if you want to be a writer or a serious reader, you need to get comfortable with having the longest grass on your street. (An editor is something of both.)
It’s been a powerful – and to me, helpful – image.
Studious reading and writing require large chunks of time and concentration. Sacrifices have to be made. Quite simply, you can’t hope to do all the things everyone else does … or seems to do.
With my wife back in the workplace (and me now retired from paid employment), she’s looking at the list of things she’d like to see done to keep this old house and our big garden in shape. As that editor was saying about the grass?
A few weeks ago, I revisited some notes I had made in looking forward to retirement. It was embarrassing. I had always anticipated this as a time I could finally devote fully to my literary and spiritual callings rather than as a time to kick back and indulge in a life of leisure. (No golf clubs or even tennis racquet on my horizon.) Still, even then, I felt challenged in trying to find a balance for all that I wanted to accomplish. Frankly, these plans looked like boot camp for a senior citizen. Rise at 5, sit down to meditate, exercise, and hit the keyboard for three hours. That sort of thing.
What my theoretical charts didn’t include was housekeeping and the like. And then when I did retire, I hadn’t anticipated taking up daily swimming in the city’s indoor pool or online Spanish lessons or weekly choir rehearsals in Boston.
As for the big household projects like painting or ongoing repairs or time in the mountains to the north or at the beach to our east? Fuhgetaboutit, as a New Yorker would say.