The Answer Is 5 to 6 Months

a campsite with a tent and chair on sand in the woods

How long can I bask in exploration and indulgence?

I’m coming up on the 6-month anniversary of retiring from my full-time job. The length of time it took me to adapt to not working at TVCC was a good night’s sleep. It felt natural from the moment I woke up on Day 1. What about settling into my new lifestyle though? When would that stop feeling new?

Since January I’ve had ups and downs – i.e., life. The deep difference from before is that I have the time to live better through the downs. I can deal with practical difficulties, sit with difficult feelings, and notice patterns so I can make changes. I have the freedom to explore new everythings and, taking reasonable pandemic precautions, I’ve done that. A lot.

Now I’m feeling satisfied with my experiments and I find myself settling into natural routines, even adding back in self-imposed limits.

When I woke up on Day 1, I’d lost my escape fantasies. Poof! Wide swaths of sparkly rainbow neural pathways – the parts of my brain that do imagination – lay open. Marie Kondo had been in my brain overnight, tossing out all the dramatic getaway ideas I no longer needed. I filled that space with sparkly rainbow cravings and impulses, doing and eating and saying and wearing and buying and going wherever and whatever I wanted. Or not doing anything at all, sometimes for days on end.

I mean, I have two kids and two cats and a house and car to take care of, so I’m not exactly living a wild life, but I think I acted on more whims in the last 6 months than in the rest of my life combined. My “kids” are 17 and 19, so while I am loving being a stay-at-home mom, I do try to remember they need independence (and little treats in their lunches, right?).

Many of my whims are fabulous and will continue – it’s hard to describe the level of joy I get from randomly driving to the beach to jump in the waves – but some were expensive or unhealthy or simply disappointing.

It’s been fun spending instead of saving, experimenting without worrying much about costs, but I reached a concrete limit with that as my savings ran dry. The universe did put the car of my dreams in front of me, at a price I’d never have considered before, and I bought it. I feel the opposite of regret every single day. It’s been 5 months and I’m still awed by my magical luck. I tried different styles of clothes and shoes and, well, found myself back with what I wore before, only with less money in the bank. I got gadgets for home and some were life-changing and others reminded me I don’t like most gadgets. I spent a small fortune on a trip to Newfoundland and I would pay double to do it again, even the hilarious fancy “meal” (four small bites of quail) my niece and I split that was worth it for the story (easy for me to say, she paid for it).

It also took me this long to sort out the balance between getting overwhelmed from taking on too much freelance work and not doing enough work to pay the bills.

As well as indulging whims, I said fuck it to things I don’t enjoy, like having my teeth cleaned and home/yard maintenance. My son cuts the “grass” (dandelions), and I shovelled snow when needed, but otherwise, I let it all go. Of course, when I did decide to give in and fix something that had bothered us for MONTHS (truth: years), it took me 15 minutes to walk to the hardware store and 5 minutes to do the repair. So. Perhaps I’ll stay on top of things a bit more.

That’s where I landed: Perhaps I’ll stay on top of things a bit more. I probably won’t go back to my overly responsible and organized habits, but I am starting to track my spending again, and my eating, and my work time, and my exercise (heehee because another favourite indulgence was an Apple watch). I even went back to the dentist, grudgingly. I have weekly walks with friends – so great – and a few trips planned in the fall. I will start saving for a return to Newfoundland. I will go jump in the waves.

I highly recommend dropping routines and limits for a while. Six months ought to do it. 😀

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