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Regulating life by the days of the week

Published June 23. 2012 09:01AM

Last week, when Dave and I invited friends to kayak with us at a new spot, they were all for it until we mentioned it would be Wednesday.

"Ohhh, Wednesday," said the wife, "that's the day I clean my kitchen and scrub the floor."

I think I giggled.

"When do you do your cleaning?" she asked.

"Whenever I want," I told her. "And when I don't want to, I don't."

That solicited another "ohhh" from her.

"I wouldn't get anything done," she said, "if I didn't have a specific day when I do it. That way, I know when not to schedule something else."

I remember when life was like that for me but it was another lifetime ago.

Monday was washday. Tuesdays, I worked late on deadlines. Wednesday I cleaned the upstairs and Thursdays I cleaned the downstairs.

I got that system from my mother. She had set days for everything and by darn, it better be done on that day. Or Else. (You never wanted to be the brunt of my mother's or else.)

Every Thursday, my job was to brush down the living room furniture with a stiff brush and vacuum all the rugs.

Friday we cleaned the kitchen and scrubbed the floors. Each and every Saturday, my job was to scrub the porch.

"Cleanliness is next to godliness" must have been tattooed in my mother's mind. And it all got done because everything had a set day.

She even carried that regulation over to her meal planning. I loved Wednesdays because I knew every Wednesday she made spaghetti and meatballs. On the other hand, I hated Thursdays because that was when we had her version of steak.

It didn't take my friends long to learn they should "drop by" on Wednesdays but don't come near our house at dinnertime on a Thursday. Mom made an incomparable, lip smacking Italian dinner but she cooked steak until it was shoe leather. Shoe Leather was probably easier to chew.

When I got married, I kept a bit of regulation in my home chores but when I retired, I threw all "regulation" out the window. Instead, I do what I want, when I want.

I tell my friends I no longer wear Days of the Week panties (remember those?) and I no longer let the calendar control my activities.

This week, I was down on my hands and knees, cleaning the woodwork in my house. When a friend rang my doorbell, I laughed and said, "saved by the bell."

I never tell someone I don't have time for him or her because I'm cleaning. I remember all too well when I was first married and didn't have my own car. One day I walked a few miles to see my mother. When I got there, she told me she could sit and talk only after she scrubbed the kitchen floor and cleaned her stove. After all, it WAS Friday.

One of the joys of retirement is that there is no regulation. Not unless you want it.

I love spontaneity and will drop any chore if something better comes along.

For me, listening to a bird sing is "something better." Calling a friend is something better. So is watching the ducks in the water outside our home.

I got a wonderful email from an East Penn reader named Jeanne Trump that resonated with me. This is part of what Jeanne wrote:

"Sometimes I just sit outside (weather permitting) and listen to the sounds of nature. Does a room need cleaning? Oh, well, it will be there after I sit at the train station in Macungie and watch the trains go by.

Do my windows need cleaning? Oh, well, it's too sunny today so I'll play the piano instead."

It was her note that made me think about how regulated life used to be compared to now.

Some, like my kayak friend, may still be ruled by the calendar. But I'm ruled by whim. How about you? What regulates the web and flow of your life?

If you're still working, life must necessarily be dictated by fitting everything into your work schedule. But when you retire, you will find much of that structure can be rewritten any way you want.

It's called freedom. And it feels great.

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