Tuesday, March 1, 2016

On Lazyness and Volunteering

I don't know about anyone else, but I have been known to struggle with retirement balance. Not all the time, but every so often I have to rethink where I am and how I'm expending my energies. My problem of course, is that I want to do it all: Volunteer, draw, quilt, craft, go out to lunch and take a class. Only well, I also want to sleep until nine, laze around and read when when I feel like it, or throw everything out of my craft closet (creativity is messy, after all).

 For two days each week (when I am not traveling), I volunteer for half a day at a residential women's shelter. Safe haven shelters are primarily for long term homeless women who have physical or mental handicaps. The women in the shelter's must have been physically homeless for at least two years (how they verify that I still have no idea), as opposed to sleeping on a couch or with a relative. 

 Once the women enter the shelter, they can (literally) stay as long as they need to until they are ready to move into what is usually assisted housing with support. They learn live with others, we get them the benefits that they need and medical care, and only two situations ever interfere with them staying in these shelters. Other than drug use in the house (anywhere else is not a problem) or being threatening, they can stay there forever, if it needs to happen.

Because of chronic under funding, each facility only has one person on staff at any given time-a case worker.  The two three to four hour shifts I am in the center allows the caseworker to do one on one counseling with a closed door, without the constant needs that would usually interfere. i answer phones, I hand out medications, I give supplies, and I am supportive. Mainly, I make connections and learn about these women and their lives. I am constantly amazed by what they have been through. Many of these women are homeless veterans.

In addition to being desk lady and house mother, I also plan games and crafts, teach them how to use their slow cookers..........and whatever else needs to be done. 

Only.............When I took on this volunteer gig (though my church), we were all assigned the hours of 9-12 (and we often stay longer).  There was just one problem with this. As many readers know, my getting up much prior to nine is  pushing it most days. While I may on occasion get up, being "alert and responsive" as we used to say when I worked in medicine-that's extremely unlikely.

The bottom line was that I was getting up at eight, throwing on clothes, grabbing McDonald's on the way, and generally getting there half an hour late.
Not only was I getting there late, I was also not making time for things that are important to me in the morning (waking up slowly, having time for meditation, eating a healthy breakfast). I loved what I was doing, but was feeling pretty frazzled.

Sometimes I'm slow on the uptake, as the saying goes. Last Thursday as I drove to the center, it suddenly hit me:  If they need me from nine to twelve, then they probably need me just as much at ten or so to one, or whenever I need to leave!  After all, they love me, mainly let me do my own thing and are happy to work around my vacation schedule. Sure enough, as soon as I asked the question, I was assured that they were happy to have me whenever I can come, and a schedule change was born.

Some of you wondering what the big deal is. After all, it's only an hour, right?  And besides, if you get up earlier, you'll get more done, and you might even get to see the sun rise.  To that I say, "humbug". People, trust me, in my life an extra hour of sleep in the morning cannot possibly be measured in morning people methods.

I generally go to sleep between one and two, and that's the way I like it, finally.  I did my "time". I got up and got kids to school. I even worked a job for awhile that started at eight. Heck, years ago when I was in the medical field I went to work at seven thirty.....in the morning. As a scout parent to a boy and a girl, I have seen the sun rise more times than I can count and in some pretty awesome places. These days, if you wake me up to see the sun rise? It had better be the proverbial "green flash" or the equivalent. Otherwise, I'll take the sunsets these days.

One of the blessings of retirement is to go with my own body clock. I'm a slow riser, albeit not as much of a night owl as I used to be (Thank you, pot cookies!!!!). It takes me time to be awake. And it's important to me to be able to have that morning time for prayer and meditation (I could write an article or two or three on my attempts to be silent and to listen).

I'm still rising earlier than my usual time of nine am. I'm still moving faster than many of those other days. After all, normally I don't schedule any commitments in the morning, and that includes Olli Classes and exercising. If I have to move my schedule again, I'll do so, but for now, I'm on an easier and healthier keel, which is as it should be in retirement-or any time at all.

And today, I'm off to find cheap Easter basket substitutes for painting and decorating for fifty women. Cardboard paint buckets perhaps?  I know I'll come up with something. But not until I've enjoyed that Jammies and meditation time, a shower, and time in the yard with the dogs.


  1. I so hear you about staying up late and getting up later than the "morning" birds. It's also the way I roll and rumble and no matter what I do to try and change it it doesn't work. Retirement has given me a whole lot of flexibility in that regard but such freedoms interfere with me wanting to do it all and have all the time I want to do my thing. In that way we are very much the same kind of "birds". Altogether these things keep retirement very busy and it sounds like you are finding more than enough of interest to do in retirement too.

  2. I'm 3 yrs into retirement. I'm still not over the slow mornings, a privilege of retirement.

  3. I delighted in indulging myself with doing as I pleased, whenever, staying up into wee hours, sleeping in if I so chose when I finally fully retired a couple years ago after a number of years with a decreased part time work schedule. My other indulgence has been to avoid or minimize all regularly scheduled commitments which has given me a much welcomed wonderful sense of freedom. Groups to which I commit have a "loose" attendance expectation which suits me fine. The downside is that I often work especially well under time pressure, so find myself too often procrastinating on tasks I don't particularly enjoy but really need doing. I really do need to take myself in hand with a little more self-discipline, but for now.....

  4. I am about on the same schedule. I too love my morning time. Every one close to me knows I do not answer questions or hit the road until I've had my leisurely morning coffee. I'm sticking to my guns. My mind and body work best on that schedule.

  5. I really enjoyed this post, Barbara. It is filled with great pearls of wisdom - including the importance of meaningful activities and giving back, listening to your body...and not being afraid to ask. Very well written!

  6. I, too, loved this post. One of the best things about retirement is that ability to linger over morning coffee! But more importantly, it's the ability to make your schedule fit YOUR needs. You answered to someone else for a long time! Now it's your turn!

  7. We are on the same page about retirement I see. It is great they let you change your time to 10 a.m., and I volunteer at an assisted living center similar in some ways to what you do, and I go in at 10. That time is ideal; we can wake up, not be frazzled, and be done with plenty of daylight left.


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