Postwar Paris wasn’t all crepes suzettes and ladies swanning around in nip-waisted dresses.
You’ve got to love a chapter that opens like this. It’s from Karen Karbo’s new book, Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life. It comes out Oct. 1 and whether you dig Julia or not, you have to admit she could probably teach us a thing or two about living with gusto. It was in that spirit that I decided to join some other bloggers in “Live Like Julia for a Week” challenge that Karbo suggested to a group of “Kick-Ass Bloggers.” Yeah, that describes me, and if you follow my blog at all, you know I’m all about savoring life and living out loud. So, I chose the chapter “Work Hard To Be Happy” simply because working hard was part of my past but not so much part of my retirement. And there’s been a cost to that. Karbo sent me the chapter, so I’ve had a sneak peek. But no other compensation. I was curious–what advice would Julia have that could help me? I opened the chapter.
The reference to swanning around hooked me on the chapter. But it’s a phrase on the next page that spoke to me:
…a life of ease failed to bring out her best qualities
That phrase flashed in neon pink.
Since I retired from my business career, I’ve had a life of relative ease, at least compared to getting up every day and doing client or corporate work.
And frankly, it hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be.
With fewer commitments and more time to focus on myself, for the first time I’ve started noticing little aches and pains. Issues that wouldn’t have even made it to conscious awareness if I’d been involved and working at my old pace.
Now, too, with so much time on my hands, I found myself missing a reason to get up in the morning and sometimes even missing the hard-driving pace I had back then.
Ok, maybe not the pace. I love having the freedom to travel and do what I like.
But, I fear, like Julia, a life of ease isn’t bringing out my best qualities. So, I thought I’d try Karbo’s Chapter 6 advice inspired by Julia: To Be Happy, Work Hard: Throw yourself into something big, even if no one else cares but you.
Julia’s days were all about cooking and they were long: she began at 6:30 a.m. and ended at midnight, with time in the middle for a nooner with her husband. Oh yes, Julia lived a full life!
But that’s what it’s like when you’re passionate about something–the time flies and before you know it, it’s past time for bed. And yes, she was younger than I. I wasn’t going to be that ambitious. Oh, sure, the nooner sounded good, but an 18-hour day holds no appeal these days.
My passion is writing and I’ve been doing it for years. Still, I knew I needed some focus and a structure to my days because I just wasn’t being productive with my time. After reading Chapter 6, I was inspired to make two changes in my life.
HAVE A WEEKDAY SCHEDULE & KEEP TO IT
I decided to commit to writing every morning, either blogging or an essay and usually both.
Every weekday morning, that is. Let’s not get carried away–after all, I’m still “retired.”
An early riser, I’m at my best in the predawn hours and that’s a good time to jump-start my own writing. A natural break comes at about 8:30a.m., when we aalk our two dogs, and then again at 10am when I see my trainer, who I began to schedule a week or two in advance. Because if I don’t, I see him less and less.
Home, lunch and back at my desk. Hubby can fend for himself for lunch, at least for this trial week. I like eating alone at my desk while I work–maybe it’s a bad habit, but it works for me. Too many breaks in a few hours can be distracting. I like maintaining my train of thought for a few hours and a schedule helps me do that.
A schedule also means no more aimless time sucks, which is such a temptation when you report only to yourself. My favorite time-waster is watching old movies on our DVR and I decided to make that an end-of-day treat. It’s working, too. I’m keeping to my schedule and avoiding the time suck of TV.
And you know what?
Having a schedule worked. I’m in my third week of living like Julia, two past my trial period, and it gives form and structure to my days. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until I didn’t “need” it. I discovered I DID need it, to be happy.
MAKE A TO-DO LIST & FOLLOW IT
Call me old-school. It’s easy to ignore To-Do lists on my phone, but not so easy when a hard copy list is sitting on my desk. And a To-Do list was standard during my working years. It kept me organized.
So, I did one. And began to use it for everything from blog posts and writing jobs to traffic school and finding a new dermatologist.
The physical act of crossing off each item–keeping it still visible–allows me to feel the forward momentum and enjoy a sense of accomplishment–I really am getting things done. Although I have to admit to losing it for a few days –and I went into a panic. Because at this age, memory ain’t what it used to be. A To-Do list keeps me focused. And, I’m still using it, three weeks later.
Do you use one?
Here’s my favorite Julia Child rule:
DO EVERYTHING HUMANLY POSSIBLE TO AVOID HOUSEWORK
Everyone who knows me also knows that’s been my rule, too, for my entire life, and the secret to my happiness. I don’t like housework, never liked it and am more than happy to pay a service every two weeks to take that chore off my list. When we moved to our new house, I got a few maids through referrals and interviewed them. I picked the one who had the lowest fee and best recommendations and I haven’t been disappointed. Whether it’s once a week or once a season, if you can avoid drudgery and use that time to do happiness-inducing things, by all means do so! On that, Julia and I are completely aligned.
Thing is, to Live Like Julia, you don’t have to set up a huge infrastructure of rules. For me, my two new retirement activities–have a schedule and a To-Do list–plus my commitment to avoiding housework like the plague–were enough to significantly impact my sense that I was actually doing something. And having fun.
But don’t take my word for it.
Here’s Karbo’s book–a fun and insightful read that can change your life. Even if you aren’t retired, like me. It’ll be out in just a few days and is available for pre-order, too. Let me know what you think!