Octo Observations: Bye Bye to Multi-Tasking!

Our young minister is a husband, father of an active two-year old boy, and a busy, busy minister of a 100 year-old Presbyterian church. While membership has declined, as is evident in most mainline churches, our long-time members are loyal and dedicated. Many in our congregation are retirees. My husband and I fit the profile perfectly. We have made lovely friends. 

For several years until recently, many Sundays found me exceptionally involved. I served as a Ruling Elder on the Session for two three-year terms. I chaired both Mission and the Fellowship Committees. I was in charge of writing bios of new members, planning various events. Willing helpers were never in short supply. Those tasks required copious time and effort. Now, most church jobs are delegated to the younger generations, many of whom have never served on any committees. Understandable changing of the guard.  However, I believe that without the input of older people (still performing at full mental capacity), palpable experience and wisdom are lacking.

The thesis of last Sunday’s sermon was multi-tasking: its demands and difficulties for young parents handling full time jobs and little children. All kinds of memories flooded my brain. Yes, multi-tasking is an acquired skill. It takes practice, it takes thought and time to do it effectively, and it takes considerable energy. It takes concentration to decide what comes first: do I answer an early morning phone call, pack school lunches or fry the bacon? Or do I do ALL at the same time? Do I throw a load of clothes into the washer at 11 p.m., or do I plan to get laundry done at 8 a.m. With a workaholic husband who was often traveling during the week days on business plus four youngsters going in different directions, my life was a juggling act. BUT, like all moms, I LEARNED to cope. Even with a dozen corporate moves in twenty years. Many days I remember telling John that when my feet touched the floor in the morning, they moved non-stop until bedtime! I mostly loved what I did, and I loved being a mom.

As a family our biggest challenges were adjusting to multiple corporate upheavals. We adhered to company demands, as each move was a step up the ladder for my husband. It was a learning experience for our children, especially our daughters who were the oldest of the four. As our younger daughter Susie recently said, “Mom, you gave Allison and me three weeks to adjust to a new school….you told us it was an ‘adventure,’ and we would learn a lot.” True, but in retrospect, I would never opt to move children after 9th grade. Doing so in their junior years of high school is traumatic. Between making new friends, adjusting to new cultures and curricula, adolescents feel considerable stress. We were lucky each one survived. A sense of humor helped.

After moving to Virginia, there was only one more corporate move. Because all four chickies were launched from the nest, my husband and I were able to keep our house and commute back and forth to North Carolina until he retired permanently. Since then we moved twice locally, and NOW we are set for the rest of our lives in a lovely long term care retirement facility. 

Hence, the reality of Bye-Bye Multi-Tasking. These days it is no big deal to straighten up our cozy cottage, shop for groceries, or toss off a few loads of laundry. Even our suppers are available to us at The Big House or for pick-up to eat in our cottage while watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. Can you believe, sometimes it is actually FUN to make a pot of soup, a batch of cookies or a tray of lasagna? Entertaining is simpler, with no more elaborate dinner parties. Now, I can sit at my computer, work on an article for Woman Around Town or compose more pages for my new book. It is a wonderful, delightful relief. It is also okay to read until 1 a.m. if desired, because most mornings we don’t have to dash out of bed at the crack of dawn.

When we moved here last summer, I thought we would miss our beloved home, with its mature landscaping, pool, screened in porch and gracious space. Admittedly, these hot summer days have evoked a yearning to run back to our former home and jump into to the pool that now belongs to another family. A lingering wish like that is equal to an involuntary reflex, which must be suppressed. Look around, instead, and remind yourself of new blessings. That always helps.

The previous paragraphs are a preamble to an Octo Observation: Aging has untold benefits that are impossible to perceive during our younger years. Given good health, good genes, good exercise, decent diet, and a positive mindset, we retirees can embrace a delicious new time of life. We can free ourselves of so many ordinary tasks. We can use our time to satisfy our own hobbies, indulgences or passions. By simplifying our daily routines, we can indulge long awaited pursuits.

Spend time with those who truly touch your soul. It is okay to be selective. Cherish lasting friendships of many decades. Keep your mind open to fresh ideas. Read as much as you can. Never miss a chance to tell someone you love how important they are to you…..and listen to the hum of your own heart. 

Yesterday, I took my frazzled, frayed 70+ year old violin bow to the music shop for an overdue repair. Exciting! Now, I can hide in a bedroom, tune up my violin, and see if these old fingers can still play a few scales. I can unearth dusty music from the attic, and reconnect with old friends like Mozart or Bach. And, John and I can dash off to a movie matinee or a VA Museum exhibit. We are “uncluttered” mentally and physically…..like so many other Octo Olders, we celebrate freedom from overscheduled days! We are allowed to say, “Bye-bye to Multi-Tasking.”

Youth may be gone, careers set aside, children grown up and independent, but joyful awareness of our finite time on earth is a delicious state of being. “A word to the wise:”  Give yourself permission to reach out, explore those pursuits that nourish and enrich you. CARPE DIEM!

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

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