This morning I woke at 6:30, not by an alarm clock but by the quiet lurking of my 6-year old son as he crawled into bed with my wife and me. I rolled over, told him good morning, and just rested quietly with him next to me.
This rest I experience in the morning now is a deep rest. Not just a physical rest used to mentally prepare for another day. This is also a mental and emotional rest. It’s a deep relaxation. It’s the outcome that hard working folks seek as they leave the office at lunchtime to go to yoga class, and what many yearn for when they join meditation groups (sanghas), exercise daily, and why they drink alcohol after a long day at the office.
And so this morning, like every morning since I’ve retired, I laid there and rested. I focused on my breathing, I listened to the birds chirping outside my window, and I slowly began to awake. Unlike when I was working, I didn’t immediately kickstart my brain into planning my day, writing a mental list of what I needed to do that day, and worrying about how I would keep up. These days I don’t worry about my day at all, because I know the day will come to me. And boy does it come to me.
That’s right. Although I’m in a different and far superior mental state of relaxation, I’ve never had so much time, energy, and desire to do so much.
Most mornings, after I eventually roll out of bed, I’ll head downstairs to play with my two kids as my wife (usually) cooks up a hearty breakfast. I sip fresh coffee as I play games, read books, or play guitar with my two kids. This morning, we did origami together using some instructional books my kids found at the library. And so we folded and twisted paper in our front entry room, a room where I recently replaced the nasty 20 year old carpet with a dark, clean hardwood. I did this myself, saving a few thousand bucks with just a few days of effort. It’s unsettling to have the floor ripped up and furniture piled up in another room while the work is in progress, but a benefit of early retirement is that time is plentiful, and so I was able to finish the flooring myself in just a few days.
After we finished reading books and eating breakfast, I grabbed the fish food and journeyed outside to my backyard aquaponics setup that I recently built (again, after I retired and found myself with so much time). The plants are really starting to grow now, as the nutrient rich water is finding a natural ecological balance between the ammonia fish waste, the bacteria that converts ammonia to nitrates and nitrites, and the vegetable plants that feed off the nitrates and filter the water for the fish.
As I feed the fish, I think about the eCommerce store I’m beginning to research and build. I’m reminded of it because it’ll be a store that sells aquaponic supplies and equipment for other modern gardening techniques that I believe will be the future of a decentralized, healthier, and cheaper food supply.
I’m then reminded of the stress I used to feel when I would think about starting yet another nano-business. I smile to myself, thinking about how I used to get so terribly stressed when I had an idea for a business but I lacked the time and energy to go make it happen. My mind would be torn, wanting badly to work a side business to fulfill what seems to be a deeply engrained entrepreneurial spirit, yet lacking the time and energy to fulfill those needs. But not today. Today, I’ll have the time. But I’m also able to relax, knowing that tomorrow I’l have the time as well. So if I have the itch this afternoon to work on it, I will. If I don’t, then I’ll wait and reconsider it tomorrow. I have many other things to do…
After taking care of my aquaponics, I went downstairs to my new office. A month ago, this was an over-crowded guestroom that we barely used, except to traverse on our way to the laundry room. But with all the free time retirement has granted my wife and I, we’ve now converted it to an office for our nanobusinesses. Soon, I’ll be building a cheap DIY murphy bed, so that our guests can still have a nice place to stay. But that’s for another day.
In my new office, I began my work. Last night, I built a DIY photography lightbox for $1.50 plus some materials laying around the house. I’m using it to take picture of products that my wife and I have for one of our other nano-businesses, buying liquidation products in bulk auction and selling them for a profit on eBay. That business makes about $1000/month these days, which works out to about $100/hour considering the limited time we spend on it. We don’t need the money, but it’s a fun activity for us after the kids are in bed – and our thought is that it’ll pay for any over-the-top discretionary expenses that we haven’t budgeted for. That business alone could have us taking a vacation every money or two (or three, if we took a really fancy and expensive trip).
After I finished taking pictures, I went back upstairs and helped get the kids ready for a play date (yesterday was the last day of school). Now my wife and kids are gone off to the playdate, and I’m back in the office writing this article. It’s not quite lunchtime, and I’m already as satisfied with my day’s output as I was from any long day in an office. Actually, much more so.
At 4:00, my son has his first ever karate practice at the YMCA. I’m grateful that I’ll be able to go and watch some of it, even though it’s held at a time that most people are still at work. I know that many working parents are lucky to have just one adult that can get away from their job to pick their kid up from daycare and rush them to an activity like this. It’s not lost on me how fortunate we are that both my wife and I can be there on his first day, and in the future we can split up this task so that the other can have some more free time.
Life is good right now. My passive income continues to pay for our basic necessities (and growing at a rate that should be faster than inflation), and our nano-businesses are more than capable of paying for some any luxuries we might want. Time is plentiful, and stress is at an all-time low – which says a lot considering we have a 4 and 6 year old! I know how fortunate I am, but I also know that my circumstance didn’t come without making some serious life changes. The good news is, for many people reading this, it’s a life that’s possible for you if you’re wanting and willing to make similar changes.
It’s lunchtime now, so I think I’ll go upstairs and make something to eat. After that, my kids will come home. Maybe we’ll all go swimming. Or maybe I’ll go outside and work on refinishing my deck. Or work on that aquaponics website. Or maybe I’ll just relax and read a book. It doesn’t matter, whatever I don’t do will be waiting for me tomorrow.
Socrates once said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I believe he was right. I don’t lack things to do these days, but I’m not “busy.” Most importantly, this life certainly isn’t barren.