The Real True Circadian Rhythm Of One Retired Middle-Aged Woman, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am

Retirement is teaching me about my self, absent structure.┬áSome lessons are grandly philosophical. “Where do I end and the world begin?”

Some not so much. What are my circadian rhythms, for example, when I don’t have to be much of anywhere if I don’t really want to?

  • Very early morning: Wake up. Isn’t life grand? So happy I have white walls. Gee whiz my down pillows are awesome.
  • Early morning: Have breakfast at the kitchen counter and read the Internet. Ah, the tea, toast, and peanut butter + chocolate hazelnut butter I have been looking forward to since last night. There is no reason to ever change this meal.
  • Late early morning: Move to the sofa. Time to write. Type type type type type procrastinate type type type get distracted type type type come on Lisa persevere. If brain refuses to generate quality prose, handle administrative tasks instead. Type type type.
  • Mid-to-late-morning: Cease typing. That’s it, I can’t stand it any more! Burst out of the cocoon of self-discipline and do something physical. Transplant burned hydrangea. Clean the bathroom. Go to yoga. Move.
  • Late morning/midday. Besieged by hunger, eat a big lunch. Feel satiated.
  • Late morning/midday five minutes after finishing lunch. Complete exhaustion. Rest. Stave off rising anxiety with whatever television series I’m currently watching.
  • Early afternoon. Still resting. Why is the world so vast? What means anything? Do I matter at all? And why didn’t I get more done?
  • Mid-afternoon. Oh I guess someone has to make dinner. Lay out ingredients and stare at them. Alternatively, get in the car and go visit my mother. Either way, meaning has been located. Perform the chores of care and support.
  • Late afternoon. More progress on dinner. Alternatively, say goodbye to Mom and go to Whole Foods. Funny, what happened to anxiety? Oh never mind, no time for that now.
  • Very late afternoon. More progress on dinner. Dinner prep is kind of episodic, given that it must begin in the depths of my circadian despair. Just looking at a radish and a carrot lying together on a cutting board cheers me up.
  • Early evening. Husband comes home! Joy restored! Also must hurry to finish making dinner! Chop all the things very quickly!
  • Mid-evening. Eat. Sigh.
  • Later evening. A little more television.
  • Later evening yet. Hooray, burst of energy! Bustle about tidying, preparing! Write a To Do list for tomorrow!
  • Later evening but still not late by any measure. Get into bed. The walls are still white. The pillows still soft. So lucky to be here.

In brief, if you would like any of value from me, send an email at 6am and I will do my best.

Have a wonderful weekend, and may your circadian nadir be short and shallow.


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  • Very very familiar. Comfy, isn’t it?

    11:52 am
    Lisa said...

    @Annie Green, Comfy, but, I’d be comfier if I could just let myself off the hook for the need to lounge!

  • Still figuring mine out, but I tend to fit the anxiety in earlier and to spread the writing more throughout the day in chunks. . . There is something reassuring about the cooking and the caring, I agree. Or maybe not so much reassuring, but something like getting placed gently back on a path, shown that it matters if I take a step or two, then, the three or four that follow, and then somehow the motion seems to make sense of its own accord again. I no longer have a parent to care for, but grandchildren serve a similar purpose (without the emotional wrench, I must acknowledge).
    hugs to you this Saturday morning, having to confront the days’ horrid events more closely than I do, although surely they horrify us all. Take care.

    11:53 am
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, It is exactly that, a being placed back on a path where small steps matter.

    And of course none of this matters terribly much in light to today’s events, except to remind of us all of the frailty of the human ego. :(

  • LOL! Funny. True. Familiar. Blush.

    I have a daily schedule of to-dos I keep on a Word document. Mine are sectioned into:
    * Early morning (today that started at 3:00 am)
    * Morning
    * Exercise
    * Errands, appointments
    * House, yard
    * Midday
    * Afternoon
    * Evening

    It gives me immense pleasure to check off stuff like: coffee, vitamins, brush teeth, dishwasher. I’m surprised I don’t have “breathe” and “pee” on the list.

    The best thing about my daily list is that in the evening, if I haven’t done everything on the list, I still check everything off because, as that woman who in a pinch wore her curtains said, “Tomorrow is another day!”

    11:54 am
    Lisa said...

    @Ann, Oh my gosh this is absolutely adorable. Also you get WAY more done in the morning than I do if you do your errands AND exercise and house and yard in the morning!

  • Still trying to figure mine out but like you find that early morning is often best writing time. Mid-morning to mid-afternoon I tend to be restless and have trouble getting my mind to settle and work. So that’s when I walk dogs, run errands, meet friends. Late afternoon the focus returns.

    But I don’t usually get any rushes of energy in the evenings. By 10pm all I want is sleep.

    11:55 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan B, Yes, by 10pm I also sleep. My rush of energy is generally around 8 or 9:). It is a restlessness I feel that gets me up and moving in late morning.

  • My curiosity has been aroused…are you writing a book?
    Your retirement sounds very lovely and there is a definite rhythm to your days…
    hope you have a relaxing weekend.

    4:07 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, Not writing a book, yet:). Hard to relax with today’s events in Charlottesville, but that is our current reality.

  • We all learn to live in our rhythms after retirement. My biggest problem was realizing it was ok to do NOTHING. Now I revel in it, but still feed husband and keep house clean. Have not done well with yard this year, so demerits for me.

    4:07 pm
    Lisa said...

    @MaryAnne, What is your version of nothing, I wonder?

  • Lisa,
    How were your circadian rhythms on your UK trip? The last time I went to Europe my circadian business made me hot – overheated often and awske at sll the wrong times in spite of working to counter jet lag etc etc. It was perfectly aeful!

    10:32 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary Kay, I was surprised at how OK I was. I think the lie-flat sleep made a huge difference. But I have had that experience you describe and it really is AWFUL.

  • Not being productive. Staring out window, listening to doves. Hair twiddling.

    10:32 am
    Lisa said...

    @MaryAnne, That actually sounds wonderful. Peaceful, calm, zen.

  • Ah, you ladies all make me feel heaps better. Finding that rhythm for me is an exercise in staving off guilt. Since I am a stagger out of bed, drink three cups of tea before I do anything kind of person, and I live with a bolt from bed at 6:00 am for walking, gardening, or golfing, followed by the grocery run kind of person, who often arrives back home before I’ve even started my day. Sigh. Couple that with the occasional query from my mum as to whether I’ve “earned my keep” today. Okay… she said that once, and I bit her head off, and she’s never said it again. I had to remind her (and myself) that I do have my own hard-earned pension, and that Hubby is, after all, out playing golf, which is recreation, not down the coal mines. Ha. I’m better with the whole thing now. Now, it’s morning tea and toast with the internet. Then exercise of some sort, shower, and then writing, shopping, or whatever I had planned which sometimes is just settling down with my book. Sometimes I clean house or make dinner but rarely on the same day:)

    10:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, I like your attitude! And surely there’s no virtue in golf, ha!

  • Well I am glad to hear that I am not alone in my “restlessness and anxiety” My best time is the morning as I am a natural “lark”. I try to get as much blogging done as possible in the morning unless I am grocery shopping or going to my once a week pilates class. If I feel satisfied with what I have achieved in the morning I take some time off to have lunch and catch up on the internet. Then maybe another hour or so on the blog and an hour at the gym if I have not done any other exercise. I find this clears my head and lifts my mood. Then like you I start to think about preparing super etc. I am quite disciplined as I have worked freelance for so long but some days I can get very easily distracted and go blank loosing any sense of creativity and wonder if what I am doing has any merit at all in the wider scheme of things.

    10:37 am
    Lisa said...

    @Josephine Chicatanyage, I think your numerous readers are proof of your merit. We can only do what we feel is right, and take cues on the value from those who benefit. But I know, it’s hard, especially in light of world politics. <3

  • After reading your post and all the comments – I don’t understand why am I so busy?

    In thinking about….. painting is very time consuming, but I love it. So, I guess I always feel like I’m squeezing all the other stuff around it?

    4:36 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy, I am sure that is right. And I think I’d like that, to have something that consumed me, something that took precedence and everything else (save my family) took second place.

  • This was a very helpful post for me. As you know I have just entered this retirement phase (though I quite possibly will be looking for some type of legal work this fall) and am having trouble with it. Most of it is tied up with guilt, money, and facing the blank page.

    My general rhythm is quite similar to yours. I have always awakened with anxiety, hence I am an early riser. I like to leave the house, though, as I have found that by doing so, I leave the anxiety behind. My mother was a morning “ruminator”, also, as I call it, but she used to worry out loud about all she had to do, and watch morning TV. This makes me claustrophobic.

    Alone, I like to get coffee, sit with my journal, notebooks, and books until lunchtime. Basically, my best rhythm is that of a student, which I think were some of my best days. If husband is home, it’s a whole ‘nother story as like Sue Burpee’s, he likes to be out and about, is very chore-driven and basically much more responsible for I.

    It is a continuum, not a destination. I expect more changes ahead as well as more adaptations I already feel a little more in control since I set up a tiny studio area and am trying to keep some regular hours.

    Thank you for your always thoughtful posts!

    I have also found myself heading for a nap around 1:00. I cannot shake the feeling of “slothful!” at sleeping in broad daylight, so I never feel peaceful when I get up.

    I have trouble asserting a schedule over the day if my husband is around. He’s We talked about needing separate space and if I need to lay down with my laptop, not to come in and say, “What are you doing?” “Are we going to do anything?” “Why are you inside on this nice day”.

    3:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Loretta Marvel, I am happy to have your good mind and creative imagination here to join in the project to get this all figured out, to the best of our abilities. I am familiar with the challenges of a partner with a different rhythm, but as my husband is still working I don’t have many other-caused during the day. That’s OK, I do just fine on my own. Part of my issue is that I’m pretty extroverted, so the time alone is its own little swamp.

    It is, I believe, about finding a routine, making sure you’re doing something that has meaning beyond the time you spend doing it, and, well, learning to give oneself permission to lounge about, something I’m not good at.

  • Very interesting. Clearly retirement has some challenges. Time on our hands is the big one. Striking a balance and feeling fulfilled is the goal. .

    3:05 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, That’s exactly the goal. I should point out I feel lucky to have the option, it’s just not as easy as it seems.

  • Thank you SO much for this post. Your plain, honest ones are always my favorite. They always strike a chord! I am in a phase of early retirement–which is what I thought I always wanted and now believe I cannot stand. I am in my mid 40’s with the same feelings and routines you describe, though shifted to a later schedule (I’ve always been a night owl). It’s the blank canvas I don’t like. An existential crisis of some kind. What on earth is the point? I need ways to bring meaning to the day. Simply volunteering and having loads of “me time” isn’t what I thought it would be. Maybe it’s about learning to be okay without ongoing productivity. Are we wired for that? I’m not yet convinced. Thanks for letting me know how totally normal this is!

    3:10 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Stacie, You are very welcome. I make all my posts as true as I can, but, I sometimes can’t share the stories of other people, and sometimes I’m more focused on entertaining than truth;).

    It is totally normal. Especially for those of us who are project people, not process types.

    I plan to write more about this;).

  • Dear Lisa,something has happened with my subscription-I didn’t realize that you are back from your summer break-so,what a treat,two wonderful posts (and I’ve suscribed again)
    My son was(and hopefully,will be ,at least once more) my favourite travel company as well!
    It seems that you and your handsome son were having a great time. I loved the post and photos and find it very useful,too (and Uist!-I’ve just finished binge reading Shetland mysteries by Anne Cleeves :-)! Lucky you!)
    I am a morning person,too. I need an hour for coffee and breakfast in bed and than the day could begin…..usually errands,errands and more errands,visiting my father,preparing lunch,than I need a break (I would like to have a nap but it is usually not happening),than some paperwork,preparing dinner,sometimes going out (I like it very much but lately am too tired,so I prefer peaceful evening at home)…..
    I think that you are achieving a lot!

    3:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Oh thanks for going through the bother of signing up again.

    What happens is that somehow I get reported as SPAM (be careful with that button guys) and then my blog posts stop getting delivered in email:(.

    And we rarely go out, unless it’s for dinner, and then it’s pretty easy to do that if we’re in San Francisco.

    I’m struck by the parallels in our rhythms:).

  • Well, I awake with gladness most mornings, mostly very early. Then I putter. I’ve learned to accept that I need to putter in the morning, and write because that is the best time for me for those things. If either one is neglected I far too easily fall into grumpiness. But aside from that quiet time, anything, or nothing, goes.

    3:20 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, How lovely that you are so free with yourself. I wonder if those years of caring for your husband give you a beautiful kind of perspective now.

  • Well, that doesn’t sound like such a bad life. I’m exhausted just reading through your day!

    3:21 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, Ha! That makes me feel better, you are so impeccable in all you accomplish!