Despite the fact that I’m retired, the weekend is still a special part of my week.
You might think that since I no longer punch a time clock, each day is pretty much like any other, always with the option to stay up late or go to bed early, rise with the sun or sleep in until noon, do the yard work or the shopping or just sit and read.
I suppose that would be true, if I’d allowed it to be.
But even a retired person needs a balance and rhythm to life, a structure that includes highs and lows, busy times and relaxing ones. It takes deliberate choices to see that that happens. And maybe it takes having been a Benedictine oblate for nearly 40 years, living a rule of life that encourages a balance between work and play, between productivity and prayer.
Even now, sitting here on a Friday night, I’m anticipating the Saturday and Sunday before me. Some of the excitement is probably a holdover from my working days when the weekend meant respite–but not entirely, because the weekend still means true respite.
Saturday starts special with a special breakfast. It’s the day we break our healthy food regimen and feast–in moderation–on bacon and pancakes or waffles. Tomorrow, since it’s strawberry season, it will be strawberry shortcake with the bacon. Dessert for breakfast! I feel like a kid, getting away with something.
There will be no interviews for freelance articles; no major housework since I make sure it’s pretty much done during the week; no meetings, no obligations. I might putz in the garden, or spend some time in the sewing room. I might do some baking–because I like to, not because I have to. Sometimes George has a gig, and I might go if it’s a public event. If not, I enjoy the solitude and the silence.
Sunday is Sabbath, with all the reverence and separateness that concept implies. On Sunday we go to 10:30 Mass, so the morning is a buildup to that main event. Breakfast is simple, Morning Prayer is leisurely, “nice” clothes have been laid out to mark the solemnity of the day, and we go together to church to offer our past week as our gift, to give thanks in the best way possible for gifts and blessings received, to be part of a worshiping community, just as God is part of a community of Three.
Sunday is our day of rest. Even retired people need that both mentally and physically, as well as spiritually. On Sunday we don’t do laundry, buy groceries, clean the house, wash the car, go shopping or “catch up” on the things we forgot to do the rest of the week. On Sunday we let it all go, and we re-create ourselves.
There was a time when Mass was followed by lunch out someplace–and that still happens occasionally–but we figured that if Sunday is a day of rest for us, we shouldn’t contribute to a system that doesn’t allow it to be a day of rest for others. Does our effort make a difference in the lives of sales clerks and waitresses for whom Sunday must be just another workday? No, but it makes a difference to me that I haven’t practiced a double standard.
So instead of eating out, we plan something especially tasty for our meal at home. Maybe a steak on the grill, or a roast in the crock-pot, or a new recipe that tempted both of us. Then, if the weather cooperates, we might walk Lady in a “special place,” somewhere different from her usual jaunts. We might spend the afternoon on our personal fun projects–sewing or reading or catching up on Catholic newspapers for me, perhaps; music undoubtedly for George, or a few games of M.U.L.E. on the iPad.
It’s a free day, a break from obligations that’s savored with a kind of joyful glee. It’s a day to notice that the floor needs vacuuming, and to feel not one bit guilty about ignoring it. A day when the myriad things involved in running a home can just get in line for Monday, or Tuesday or the days that follow. It’s a day where I can spend hours just reading if I want to–and anyone who really knows me, knows I often want to.
Our weekend ends with one last, simple splurge: ice cream! We’re fairly health conscious, but it’s the occasional treats we allow ourselves that help us stay on the straight and narrow the rest of the time. Two quarts of ice cream wait in our freezer at all times; one is my pick, one is George’s. Like two kids, at some point during any given Sunday, one of us will announce to the other, “It’s ice cream day!” I like mine in a cone, George wants his in a dish. Yum.
Then Monday arrives, and the rest of the week follows, and although we don’t go to work, little obligations rear their heads here and there. Always, though, the weekend lies ahead, two days that we’ve chosen to make special. Rhythm and balance. St. Benedict would approve.