Tuesday September 12, 2006
The transition to a regular and sustainable routine after all these months in the wilderness is proving to be difficult for me. It’s my own fault. I haven’t prepared and don’t have a plan of action. Rather, I’ve been sort of expecting that it’ll just happen by some natural law, like the one that governs the formation of the planets and their subsequent orderly progression through the heavens.
Talk about the triumph of hope over experience.
Fortunately I was brought face to face with the problem today, before my inherent tendency towards idleness sets me firmly and irretrievably on the path of chaos, bouncing around my own heavens, reacting rather than directing.
My over consumption of wine yesterday evening took me off to bed early, to fall into a deeply bibulous sleep from which I was woken at about one o’clock this morning by Graham, calling me at the end of his shift. This is an arrangement that works pretty well, assuring us both that the other is safe and well at the end of our day, and providing for an exchange of sleepy pleasantries. Sleepy on my part, anyway. It’s a brief exchange, and I normally turn over happy that all is well and go back to sleep until the sunshine or internal pressures wake me somewhere around first light. I like to be up in time to greet the sun of a morning.
It was doubtless the wine that did it but I couldn’t go back to sleep this morning, no matter how I tried. My body could have slept but my brain was fizzing, ready for action. I lay there for about an hour, going through all the tricks I know that can lead to sleep. Didn’t work.
So, there I was, somewhere between two and three in the blessed a.m., wide awake and in search of action. Living in a terraced house for the first time in a lot of years I’m conscious of the need to be reasonably quiet at night if I’m to avoid disturbing my neighbours. The house is well constructed, but there’s no way completely to eliminate the transmission of percussive sound through the party walls. Normal routine chores, vacuuming, running the laundry through the machines, and bouncing about the house with a duster were out of the question, then.
I occupied the quiet time with some writing work, including the journal, keeping the long watches of the night in a happy and civilised manner until the first patch of light appeared in the sky and crept round the blinds. It was pleasant enough.
Then, finally feeling tired once more, I carried the sacks of refuse out to the kerb for the weekly collection as quietly as I could manage, saluted the sun, and fell back into bed, where, predictably, I slept heavily and too long.
And then followed the disorientation that arises from an absence of proper routine. I’d already done my writing, so wasn’t able to use that activity to start my day. That was doubtless the reason why the day just didn’t get started at all.
I’d made a list of the things I wanted to get done but they all of them involved pootling around the town. I simply didn’t want to do it and couldn’t find the motivation to make me do it. Instead, I spent much of the day in my rocking chair, waiting for laundry machines to finish, and looking out of the window thinking of the gardens to be. I got the laundry finished, at last, neatly folded and stacked away, but all the other items on my list are still there, waiting for Friday, after Graham returns to work on Thursday.
Not a good way to start life in the little townhouse here in Somerset. Or anywhere come to that.
You see, in retirement just as in one’s regular working life, you need the structure of a regular job of work. If you just sit in your chair waiting for God to take you, you’re liable to have a short retirement. We need a job of work, paid or not, as an anchor for our lives round which all else may orbit in an orderly progression. It provides a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to organize our time, and to make it all worthwhile.
I have my job of work, to which I apply myself assiduously. I write. After years of application I’m now blessed with the habit of writing, a habit that needs to be fed each and every day. That’s my anchor. Just now, though, the rest of the things I need or want to do are not orbiting in an orderly fashion. Some of them are not in orbit at all, just sitting there, rocking the days away, stationary and motiveless. And that will not do.
So, I need to give myself a good slapping, stop falling back on excuses, and get stuck in to the job of ordering my life once more. To reuse a risible phrase, this life needs more order, that’s what it needs.