Nothing Wrong With Nothing New

Asking “what’s new” is common when talking to someone we haven’t seen for a while; what generally follows is an excited exchange of the latest activities, family events or accomplishments.  But lately I’ve noticed I often answer this question with a pause and have to think for a minute before responding.

Not much is new or exciting, I realize; my tepid reply might give the impression that I’m unhappy or bored when nothing could be farther from the truth. But I feel sad when I don’t have much to report even though I’m busy every day. As I look in my appointment book, next week is quite usual.

Yoga on Monday. Lunch with a friend on Tuesday. Tutoring with grade school students on Wednesday. Friday off to a birthday party with girlfriends. Thursday is the only day I have nothing scheduled. These activities take up only an hour or two a day and that’s just enough. So, how did I manage when I had to work a full day and also attend to my private life? How did I get everything done!

That’s probably why adjusting to retirement was so difficult. I was accustomed to the frenzy of always searching weeks ahead for an open slot in my appointment book. Then once retired, it made me nervous when I had nothing to do and the blanks in my appointment book seemed like a failure.

So I was going out just to go out. A trip to the mall, though I had nothing to buy. A trip to the coffee shop, though I’d already had three cups that day. A trip to the library, though I had a pile of unread books stacked up at home. Soon, going out so much turned into a chore. So I stopped.

Now, I’ve become more comfortable with the knowledge that each day there is only one question: what do I want to do today?  I still have a to-do list. I still rely on my appointment book; some habits die hard. But this also helps me stay organized and those are things I don’t want to let go of.

My pace has slowed. It’s okay to stay home. I can even put off getting dressed until noon if I feel like it. The uncomplicated life is the one I really want. The one everyone says I earned and should enjoy.

So, now when anyone asks what’s new, I begin by saying that things are good. That’s really what people want to know anyway. I follow that with appreciation that my life is calm and quiet, that I’m as busy as I want to be. Then I can share the latest details of my not very important but delightful news. Nothing new and exciting is a good thing.

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