I vowed not to over schedule my days when I semi-retired in June of 2013. I wanted more white space on my calendar. A year later I discovered this was not only a sensible way for me to live, but the only way to live with Parkinson’s.
I left a demanding academic dean’s job where days were scheduled with back-to-back meetings and more back-to-back meetings. Many days I never made it to the To Do list. However, the list continued to grow longer as I left meetings with new responsibilities. I was skillful at multi-tasking and well-organized. Calm by nature, I credited my serenity fountain as my secret prescription for maintaining and even flourishing under such a schedule. But it was not how I wanted to live in semi-retirement.
Trying Out White Space
I was selective on what invitations to accept, what club meetings to attend, and how to schedule appointments. Therefore, I did not say yes to everything that came my way. I was in an experimental mode as I considered how to spend my retirement time. I quickly discovered I did not like having a meeting or appointment more than two days a week. My preference was a large gap between major events.
My favorite day was when there was lots of white space on the calendar. I had the freedom to create any kind of day—from baking to reading to napping to writing. Or maybe I would watch Little House on the Prairie. Or lounge on the patio or take photos of my cats. Letting the day unfold without having a destination in mind suited me now. If I did any multi-tasking, I became stressed. Therefore, I stopped. One thing at a time—it worked for me! My calm nature followed me in my new chapter.
The New Normal
When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in May of 2014, my previous year of embracing a slower pace and following a less demanding schedule was ingrained. I quickly learned that Parkinson’s and physical stress were a deadly combination. A sinus infection or hairline foot fracture exacerbated my Parkinson’s symptoms. Consequently, I needed to minimize psychological stress as well. The way I did that was adapting to the new normal, quickly and calmly.
Plan White Space to Adapt to My Day
I simply need more time to do most anything, like getting dressed, preparing a meal, and caring for the cats. I have learned to determine realistic time requirements. A simple 2-hour lunch with a friend plus getting ready and driving can turn into a 5-hour activity. This is not the day to tack on grocery shopping. I need planned white space to recuperate or to move on to a less demanding activity. I am no longer good at multi-tasking. Carrying a bowl of cereal to the dining room while thinking about how to answer an email is not easy (or smart) for me. My calendar requires abundant white space to allow for adaptations and to craft that email later in the day! That is okay. It is my way of managing Parkinson’s.
Question: How do you use white space?