Mariner advises readers that the women on television who wake up, sit up, smile a big grin and stretch their arms skyward is a myth fostered by mattress companies. Mariner does not have this experience upon wakening. When mariner wakes up it is like disinterring the dead.
Mariner’s wakefulness begins as virtually unnoticeable stirring for about fifteen minutes. Finally, he rises to sit on the side of his bed not with stomach muscles but with the counterbalance of his legs falling to the floor. He sits motionless. The brain does not function – his brain is mesmerized by the pattern in the carpet; his knees and back voice dissent at the idea of rising. Blood begins to flow through his muscles as though it were oatmeal; the cells pass the word cell-to-cell: “He’s awake; get ready.”
Mariner looks out the bedroom window. Cat Stevens’ morning has broken; inside mariner’s morning is broken. After several minutes, thoughts begin to occur in the vacant brain: shave. Shave?! “What is this, a concentration camp?” It is the 995th day of the Trump Presidency. Oh no – mariner has been sent to hell! Mariner struggles to construct his day. This is an important moment. If mariner comprehends there is a schedule, he continues to sit a few moments then rises from the side of the bed. His muscles leap into action like first responders. On the other hand, if no schedule surfaces, mariner rolls back onto his bed, pulls his linen casket cover over him and retreats whence he came, perhaps to be disinterred later.
There is no alcohol in this scenario; no THC. (Though the mariner suspects the women in the mattress commercials are into crack and amphetamines.) Sleep deprivation isn’t an issue; during his life mariner typically averages 6-8 hours. So why does mariner greet the day with lethargy and the speed of a sloth?
There are two reasons: 1) Mariner pushes his day into the wee hours; this has been his style his entire life. 2) Mariner has no obligations that require precise scheduling or timely responsibility. In other words, mariner is retired. Somewhat responsible for himself, he tells friends he works an eight hour day – it just takes three days to do it.
Seriously, the lack of schedule is one element among many that leads to a degraded quality of life. On some occasions, it may cause depression and a tendency to become a recluse. It may contribute to earlier dementia. On the skill side, lack of participation in social groups, shared events and daily interaction with others diminishes the personality leading to shallow thinking and a reduced ability to solve problems.
At a more abstract level, one’s sense of self suffers from lack of a reason to be – a raison d’être. This, too, can lead to depression. It is important for retired folks, especially surviving spouses, to identify with a set of tasks that bolster one’s feelings of self-value. It may be an elaborate hobby, a responsible role in a club or church, volunteering in charitable organizations or finding a job. There are many mutual care opportunities where a couple of elderly retirees commit to supporting each other – an instant family!
Mariner’s death sleep aside, he keeps busy during the day on several fronts that engage him physically, mentally and socially.
Here’s to retirement – the good life!