For some reason the following Karl Marx statement has stuck in my mind since I first read it as a young adult:
“In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” [from German Ideology, 1845]
Though I don’t share his choices of activities, I always thought that an ideal society would make it possible for people to do various activities and not be confined to one, potentially boring, job. His hopes for creating such a society never came to be except in one way. In well-off first world countries, if you have the good fortune of living to retirement age, and you can afford to retire, there is a limitless wealth of activities from which to choose. Here is a sampling of my own choices from the last couple weeks.
Everyday: I wake up whenever my body tells me to wake up. I stretch, brew some coffee, and read the local paper. I walk over to my computer, check my e-mail, and write for 2 hours. I follow up on any letters related to political and professional groups with which I’m affiliated. I also read various journals online, such as Tablet, Tikkun, The Forward, and interesting links that Facebook friends post. What a pleasure! I like to walk an hour a day. Not a day goes by when I’m not grateful that I’m able to do this. When I was wheelchair bound, 13 years ago, I wasn’t sure that walking an hour a day was in my future.
Typical Monday includes Barre Assets class, a ballet-based core strengthening and limb stretching exercise class. After that, I go grocery shopping. I take my time because I can! I cook a delicious dinner that will last a few days. Included will be a walk with my husband and perhaps a Netflix movie. In between activities I’ll read from one of the three books I’m reading. Right now I’m reading The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch, Sam Harris’ Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, and Oliver Sack’s autobiography, On the Move: A Life. What a joy! Another typical Monday includes preparing for Toastmasters which I attend every Tuesday.
Typical Tuesday includes a great Tai Chi class taught by Cecilia Tom at the UCSF Mission Bay fitness center, Bakar Fitness. She runs a demanding but rewarding class. I rush off to Toastmasters across the road. Our Toastmasters community is warm, supportive, diverse, and, wonderful! I look forward to participating and hearing the speeches. If you want to learn to do public speaking in a supportive environment, I highly recommend Toastmasters!
Tuesday activities continue into the evening. Lately, I’ve been taking a storytelling class at The Marsh, a local small theatre that specializes in producing monologue/plays written and performed by one person. I’m creating a short piece, receiving coaching from Charlie Varon, a stellar writer, performer, teacher – stretching myself to my limits! Yikes! This is HARD!
The high point of Wednesday is caring for our 10 month old grandson. He’s a joy to be around. Seeing the world through his eyes is a special rewarding experience. We adults become so jaded as we get older, seeing everything in a habitual way. Looking at the world and hearing sounds by closely observing a baby is a great learning experience. You don’t need a grandchild to do this – find a baby and see if you can hang out with him/her!
Thursday is play rewrite day. Also, it’s a day for Zumba (aerobic dance) and Feldenkrais (a form of movement education – especially good for people who have range of motion issues, as I do from a serious injury).
Friday is open; a time for reading, writing, and whatever comes up. I may decide to make it a Shabbat preparation day.
Saturday is Shabbat, a non-productive, restful day for mindfulness.
Sunday is socialize with friends day.
I’m so happy to do my own creative work and to have time to exercise, babysit, and cook. I realize that I am privileged to do these activities. Not everyone is able to retire. I had the good fortune of working at a place that offers a pension. This is just the beginning of my retirement. It’s been less than a month. I’m still looking for volunteer opportunities. What a joy to be able to do this! I am grateful beyond words!