Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chronicles of Superannuation (2)

Susan B writes in a comment appended to this post: “Tell me the secret of your routine, Frank. I had six months at home to finish my novel and I spent about six days on it. The rest of time I was distracted by all kinds of things I preferred to do: read, garden, cook, hang out with family and friends. Only deadlines make me write. As far as self-starting goes, I'm a wet match.”

The secret, to the extent there is one, involves pretty much what Lee Lowe intimates in another comment on the same post: “When I stopped working at the university in order to write, it only worked out because I told myself it must be exactly like a job, with regular working hours (and a word count) to which I then held myself with strict self-discipline.”

To begin with, I was helped by the fact that there was no abrupt change, actually. There was plenty to do in effecting the transition into retirement — pension matters, severance pay, vacation pay, health benefits, flipping my 401K into an IRA. That sort of thing. I also had things I had agreed to write.

In addition, though, this blog served to anchor me. It became something to do every day throughout the day. These more discursive posts have developed out of that. And anything is interesting if you pay close attention to it, including retirement.

Friday afternoon, for example, I decided I needed another panama hat for the summer. So I went out to buy one — ran into Debbie at the hat store, oddly enough. The first thing that struck me, though, as I strolled about was precisely that — that I was strolling about on a Friday afternoon, because I no longer needed to be at an office, or anyplace in particular. I was — sort of — free, at the start of the far end of the long journey of life. And I began to notice the sunlight and the houses and the passers-by (and also wondered why those guys in the playground, who certainly looked old enough to be holding down a job, were ... in the playground, tossing frisbees, playing softball).

Which reminds me that one of the first things that took me aback when I no longer had to go to work was that I would be getting money deposited into my bank account without having to earn it (oh, I earned it, I know, but getting a pension isn’t the same as getting a paycheck).

Anyway, to return to Susan’s question, I actually haven’t hit upon a precise routine yet, but I notice that one is emerging. I’ve written four short poems since I retired — one that just popped into my head when I awoke one morning, two to my wife, and another that is a kind of private joke between Debbie and me. I still have assignments to meet.

What I need to do now is figure out how to find time for the things I have wanted to write but never had the time to while I was working — and also time for reading books purely for my pleasure.


  1. I hope you continue to post these more personal, ruminative posts, Frank. I think they're terrific.

    I'm in the midst of moving and all it involves, so I find it impossible to do much creatively right now. But I find that I do need distraction time, to get the monkey-mind away from its endless loop of anxiety, and so I find as usual that reading and writing helps with that. I haven't written a new poem in a few weeks, but I have made a few posts, a few replies, and watched a few interesting dialogues.

    I think your blog is living proof of the validity of PL Travers' style of connecting the whole cloth of the world into one, as she called it, "Thinking is linking." Thanks for all of it!

  2. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Lovely post, Frank -- thank you for sharing it.
    Susan B has a way with words, that's for sure. She always hones in on the precise phrase -- yet unique to her. "wet match"-- love the usage - imaginative and economical at the same time.