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Posts Tagged ‘autonomy’

Planet boredom
On Mars I learned that boredom has two sides – it can either rot the mind or rocket it to new places…

This essay provides a fascinating look at the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) Mars training mission from the inside. Written by Kate Greene, a science and technology journalist (i.e. not an astronaut), the piece gives a great inside look at what a trip to Mars might be like. For speculative fiction writers, this sort of research provides terrific insight into what life in space would actually feel like to those living it.

Short answer? Boring. Longer answer? Sometimes boring can be a good thing…

Find the full essay at aeon Magazine. For more on the pitfalls of life on Mars, you could also check out Andy Weir’s recent novel The Martian.

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My mother retired recently and found herself staring down whole days of formless, empty time. Given my experience with school, more school, grad school, writing and consulting, I thought I’d put together a handy guide to living outside the tyranny of the office. It works for me, it may just work for you too. Long but hey, retirement is a big deal!

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On the Joys of Self-directed Living
I think you deserve to enjoy a little time off. When you get sick of that, I suggest these few tips; they’ve been instrumental in keeping me sane while working at home all day and they may be helpful in retirement as well. These are the rules I try to stick to:

Get dressed. This is probably the single most important thing you can do for yourself. Putting on a pair of real pants and a shirt signal to you and everyone else that you are not just home doing nothing, you are ready for anything! Myself, I put on a comfortable pair of pants and work in them during day, then change into stretchy house pants when it’s time to chill at night.

Develop a routine. It doesn’t have to be all day everyday, but I find that getting up at the same time, taking a shower, getting dressed (see above), getting a delicious cup of hot water (hey, it works for the Dalai Lama), then writing three pages in my journal really helps. After that I read the news online and get to work. I know I’m going to break for lunch around noon and knock off when Mr. Man comes home, and that gives structure to the rest of my day.

Exercise. This is both critical and (in my own personal experience) hard to do. We all know that exercise is good for you, helps stave off mental and physical decline, keeps us happy and healthy, all that. Still, for many, finding time to work out is hard. I’m one of those people. I also hate going to the gym, as in I just don’t. The key for me, I’ve found, is to pick something I can do on my own and make it a mandatory part of my day. If I add it to my list of things I do first thing in the morning, I’m much less likely to slack off. Also, wiggle room is bad, at least for me. Monday, Wednesday, Friday can all too easily become Monday, Thursday and oh well, so I have to make a rule: Monday through Friday I work out. If I’m traveling or sick I’m off the hook but that’s it. It takes me about a month to make the routine a habit but after that I no longer have to think about it, I just do it. That’s what works for me; think about what’s worked for you in the past and go with it.

Eat. Not too much, obviously, but eat well enough to keep your mental and physical energy up during the day. In between, find something to snack on or drink that won’t turn into 100 extra pounds by summer;) That’s one reason I like hot water. The other is that if I spill, my work clothes still look good.

Make goals, then do them. This seems easy but can quickly become overwhelming if you let it. It’s simple enough to say, “Retirement is terrific, I now have all the time in the world to tackle those ginormous projects I’ve been avoiding for the past twenty years. Today I think I’ll rearrange the entire basement storage system.” Next thing you know you’re on the couch with a pint of ice cream and cheesy daytime television shows. Don’t let this happen to you! There’s a reason you’ve been avoiding these things forever: they’re hard, either actually or by virtue of being insanely dull. Instead, make teeny weeny little goals that, when combined, add up to something good. Want the basement cleaned out? Awesome. Start with that one box at the bottom of the stairs that’s been annoying you (or your partner;) for the past six months. That’s it.

Reward yourself! After all, you’re retired, you deserve to do fun things. That said, your first goal might be to figure out what “fun” means. This may be one of the first times you’ve been unconstrained since childhood. What about university, you ask? Ha! What I remember from grad school is the constant feeling of guilt, even when I didn’t technically have anything to do. Now here you are, the days stretching before you like endless summer. The problem is, you aren’t eight anymore; take some time to remember what *you* like. One approach is to make a list of everything that sounds good to you, just write it down as quick as you can. Then go make yourself a cup of something hot. Come back and drink it while crossing off all the things on that list that feel like “shoulds.” You know what I mean: cleaning the house is not “fun,” and following up on the dreams you had when you were twenty may not make sense any more. What interests you now? Not sure? That’s ok; let’s face it, you’ve been chained up in an office for the past several decades, it’s no big shock that your brain’s fun centers are a little rusty.

There’s an easy fix for that. Toss on a coat (see how easy getting out the door is when you’re already dressed?) and head to the first place that sounds remotely interesting. I’m talking places like the library, a museum, a bookstore, an antique shop. It doesn’t have to cost anything and probably shouldn’t; the point is to go somewhere with a variety of offerings and check them out. Once you get there, pay attention to what makes you pay attention. Do your eyes glide past the “Top 10 Books of Postmodern Poetry” table and come to rest on a haphazard pile of “trashy” romances? Go with it. Heck, join the local “Trashy Romance Book Club” while you’re at it. Do you discover an unexpected interest in the tactile presence of bronze statues when all these years you thought you were into painting? Well, isn’t that fascinating? No judgements here either, you’re just playing around. Next thing you know a flyer for clay modeling classes will catch your eye and you’ll think, “That could be cool.” Indeed.

Do. If in doubt (and by “doubt” I mean, stuck in a morass of inaction for whatever reason) Do Something. It’s true that the world won’t be changed by you folding the laundry, but it will help *you*. Action, even of the simplest and least important kind, gets you moving, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. If you can’t do the thing you are “supposed” to be doing, just do something. Eventually you will take care of your to-do list, and even if it doesn’t get done today, you will have accomplished something. That is worth a lot.

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