A boomer with time on her hands

“This road to a happy retired life isn’t always a smooth one, but it’s worth it :)” That’s how certified life coach Marcia Smalley of Temecula, California, began her email to BoomerCafé. What followed was a fun essay that rings awfully true to us. She calls it, The Truth About Having Time On Your Hands.

I used to be a great time manager.

I’d transition to a new activity at 9:16AM and again at 10:12. And so on throughout the day. Bells would ring, bracketing precise pockets of time, neatly managed. Working life in a public school.

Marcia Smalley

I’m happily retired from my school career, but some days I miss those bells.

Nowadays I do a lot of creative work. I’ll look up, and four hours have passed. I’ve forgotten to eat. Never mind walk the dog, run the errand, do the yoga.

I’ve become a time management disaster.

The thing is, when Creativity is in charge and the Muse is in the driver’s seat, structure and natural order disappear.

Oh, how wonderful! you think. How delightful to be living daily life with such freedom!

True. The benefits outweigh the ringing of an alarm clock (my least favorite bell).

Except my pendulum doesn’t always swing to center. Because I’m the one in charge. Of the bells. The time limits.

These days I can sound almost like one of “those” retirees. You know the ones I mean.

You’d schedule a lunch date for the 45 minutes allotted in your workday for luxury dining. And they’d show up all rested and dewy skinned and declare, I’m so busy, I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!

I confess to rolling my eyes. My dark-circled, baggy eyes.

In fairness, some of them were telling the truth. They were running non-profits, doing good works. Taking care of grandchildren. Saving the whales.

But now I believe that a lot of them were just like me. Learning how to effectively manage this “expanded time”… literally the same amount of time we always had.

It’s ironic that this can be the season of life when we fear we may run out of time.

My experience is the opposite. Time is re-shaping even as I write! It’s stretchy and elastic and bends in every direction. Time can feel like it’s running amuck and needs a ringing bell to harness it.
Two years have passed since I designed my daily life around ringing bells. This newfound flexibility is still tricky. I can certainly feel delighted. But sometimes I can feel disoriented. Like I’m back in school in a whole new way. Like in that dream where I miss the exam because I didn’t know about it (I can’t be the only one who has a dream like that…).

Since the year I was born, eleven presidents have been inaugurated, technology has changed our lives, air travel has become a chore, and one Queen has reigned over the Commonwealth.

But I’m still a work in progress. And that’s OK. I’m leaning into Structure Lite. No bells, but slightly scheduled.

I’m learning how to restrict the Muse’s chatter about new ideas to appropriate times when I’m ready to listen. Usually not at 3AM.

As I sign off, I see another hour has ticked by. Creativity should be checking her watch. Except she doesn’t wear one.

I hope there’s something in the fridge. It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve eaten.


  1. Time seems to be fleeting as we age. It’s a weird phenomenon. I feel like there’s never enough time in the day to move the needle forward. I’m juggling two careers (public relations and real estate) and volunteer civic work and it seems like my days fly by. Any tips would be appreciated. Loved your article. Go and eat!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Charlotte. Days do fly by, ideally while we’re doing things we love. But that’s not always the case; “juggling” can be tough. Enjoy the moments in between, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Sometimes that’s all we have! And thanks for the reminder, too…I did grab lunch :))

    2. Charlotte, you are a very busy person. What is it you want to achieve? Do you have a bucket list? Sounds like you don’t have much time for yourself.

  2. What a lovely article. Marcia, you have captured a universal situation. I can relate to many of your insights and experiences. I enjoyed your description of time stretching and bending:

    “Time is re-shaping even as I write! It’s stretchy and elastic and bends in every direction. Time can feel like it’s running amuck and needs a ringing bell to harness it.”

    It always amazes me how less alone I feel when I see others are having a similar experience. I successfully multi-tasked my way through many jobs for over 30 years. But, when I retired, I choose not to join groups or make long-term voluntary commitments. After I retired, I wrote four books and a few articles which helped structure my life and give me a sense of productivity. But, after the last book, I have been searching for another outlet.

    On one hand, I like my freedom, I am open to go wherever I want when I want, on the other hand, I am a homebody, so I am not maximizing this opportunity.

    But, I actually like being a homebody. When I worked, I was paying for a home I slept in but rarely used for much else. I had to weed the garden with a flashlight, I had so little time. Now, I am trying to teach myself how to cook 🙂

    1. You’re definitely not alone, Rita! I’ve found that creating a new life after working full time is a process. Much like creating a career for the first time. We don’t do it all in a year, maybe not even in a couple of years. It sounds like you’re finding your rhythm by following your curiosity and seeing what’s out there. I can relate! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  3. It will get easier! I’ve been retired a long time, but can well remember those first years, when I missed my routine. Sounds like you are almost there!

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