Getting Stuff Done: What stops us? Could it be a blessing in disguise?

dogs in the snow

When I imagined life after retirement, besides traveling, I imagined myself getting stuff done — all those things I didn’t have time to do when I was parenting or working. Those were the busy, stressful years of life, right? Retirement, that’s when the fun begins.

I’m not complaining. I’m simply confused because I’m not traveling; my house isn’t downsized, decluttered, and organized; and yet I feel like I work harder now than I did when I was working!

Good thing my old boss doesn’t read my blog…

The accepted logic is that when you’re parenting and setting yourself up in the adult world, that’s when you’re busy. And because I know how irritating it is that society thinks that only people with children are busy, there are other busy makers — a career, your health challenge or someone else’s, like your aging parents. So many things can eat up your time.

During my parenting, career battling, taking care of elderly parent years, I was brittle with stress, afraid if someone tapped me on the shoulder, spider-like cracks would spread throughout my body and I’d fall in pebbles of tempered glass to the ground. What kept me going was that I knew things weren’t going to always be that hard. There was a promise of relief off in the distance. Time still stretched out ahead of me, with all of its possibilities.

That’s the big difference between those years and my life after sixty — the change in my sense of time. Even in my fifties I didn’t think about how few years of my life were left. Choosing how to spend my time didn’t feel like such a weighty decision. Every day seems to pull more sag into my face and derrière, and my body is determined to make me aware of its every moving part (and not in a good way).

That isn’t all bad. I have never noticed or appreciated every blessed, little thing I can still do as I have noticed this year. I especially love the things I have regained after my broken shoulder. “Wow! I can reach the top shelf without pain!”

I realize that perhaps I’m so busy now, not because I’m doing too much like I used to but, because I’m moving at a less productive pace. In other words, I’ve slowed down. The next thought or question that comes to mind, “Is that bad? Should I try to fix it? Could I fix it?”

Despite eating better than I ever have before in my life and exercising more frequently and more intensely, I’m not upping my ability to Git er done! What I have accomplished is that I feel better physically and emotionally. I have more energy, which sounds like I’m contradicting what I said previously about slowing down. This confuses me as well.

The energy I feel is different than what I felt in my youth, and despite the fact that the energy gets spent faster than I’d like it to, I am grateful for the electric-alive feeling for as long as it lasts.  Actually, alive is the word I’ve selected for 2020 as a reminder to not walk through life on automatic pilot. It’s the word for how I wish to feel, rather than what I want to do. Being alive is a given as long as I’m still thinking and writing about such things, but feeling alive is not to be taken for granted. I know. I’ve felt dead many time in my life.

As I said earlier, choosing how to spend my time feels like a very weighty decision now that there’s less time in front of me. Unfortunately, my ability to feel sure about my choices hasn’t improved with age. The uncertainty comes with trying to recognize what I REALLY want versus what I THINK I want, which is so often confused with what I think I SHOULD want or with PAST wants that I’ve invested a lot of time in, thus, making me feel I need to remain on that invested path. Aren’t I too old to not simply KNOW?

Here’s what I do know:

  • I love learning new things.
  • I love new experiences.
  • I’d like to love traveling because there are so many places I want to see and experience.
  • I love being with people who I feel a connection and ease.
  • I love plants, trees, creatures and being surrounded by nature.
  • I love making things from scratch: the chemistry of it, the hands on feeling, having a solid result – a completion point.
  • I love research and writing about what I learn.
  • I love sketching my dogs and keeping a journal of my days.

getting stuff done - sketching

As we end November, are you beginning to think about what you want more of and what you want less of in 2020? Are you focused on getting stuff done in 2020 or on what you want to feel and be? Please leave a comment. I’d like to know what you’re thinking and planning as 2019 draws to a close.

Similar Posts


  1. I want to get things done in 2019 so I can be in 2020. Of course, by then I’ll have more things that need doing. Though I hope to continue to both chip away at and curate my list of to-dos so that fewer, more pleasurable things remain.

  2. I am definitely focused on things I want to DO in the new year, but it’s all related to who I want to be. I’ll be retiring midyear, & before then I’ll be moving to a cheaper place to make my smaller retirement budget more doable. And I have a scramble of other intentions to discern & plan for–travel to Portugal/Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago; bopping over to the UK to visit a site related to a children’s book I’m writing/illustrating; other writing projects; starting a venture publishing children’s books in Colombia; &, probably not till 2021, a long land trip through Central America & south along the Andes all the way to Tierra del Fuego. I feel some urgency for the travel because I want to accomplish it while my body is still resilient. But who knows–I can’t be sure that it will all come together; for example, my health could take an unexpected downturn. Like you, I believe the point is to be deeply, fully alive. I want to live in generosity & kindness & creativity & protest.

    1. Hi Ruth! I love your retirement plan! I feel the same urgency around travel. After breaking my shoulder and the pain that has hit other parts of my body, I’m more aware that my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. I’m pulling for you and your travel and writing dreams!

  3. Such a thought provoking post Maery. (as usual!) I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure what I want more or less of in 2020. I feel like I just keep my head above the water and can’t even think that far ahead. So much of it has to do with the status of my mom and her end of life path. But I do know there’s an end. Putting all that aside, I do hope to write more… to do more art…and just appreciate life more. So as we near the end of the year (I celebrate the Winter Solstice as my New Year) I’ll just say…Please be a less stressful year ahead!

Comments are closed.