It’s 4:00 a.m. Some habits die hard and some, I’m learning, never die.

My first clue that I was retired was when the secretary ushered me into my financial planner’s office with a completely serious, “Leaving for warmer weather and some shuffleboard this winter?”

As a child of working class parents and grandparents (and farmers and coal miners before that), my dream – like theirs — was to live long enough to “retire.” I must confess that I wasn’t sure I would make it. I had a recurring feeling that I would die of a heart attack in a hotel in Hays, Kansas. Not that there is anything wrong with Hays, Kansas – I bought my “Beer Snob” t-shirt (one of my few t-shirts that is not from Life Is Good) there.

When I was a graduate student in sociology, my passion was the study of aging, retirement, long term care and medical sociology. I wanted to write the definitive book on socialization to old age – a state in which those of us lucky enough to live that long will spend nearly a third of our lives. Beyond the “gold watch” and retirement party, there remains little to no preparation for this phase of our lives.

As I muddle through my first days of the “newly retired,” those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I made a “to do” list. What’s on it? Things that I had long wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time before now. Like, changing my will since Wendy and I were married, tallying up how much I had spent rehabbing my mom’s house, cleaning out the basement of glassware collected from thrift shops for our wedding (25 boxes, no less!), taking the cats to the vet for shots, reorganizing our bookshelves so all the books I want to read are in one place, going through my filing cabinet to clean out things I no longer need, and so on. I get such satisfaction from crossing things off this list and adding others that I think of along the way. Finally, I have time! I’m feeling organized and ready to start something new.

“New” includes taking better care of myself. Three weeks into retirement, I’ve not missed my gym appointment even once and I’ve added 30 minutes of cardio three times a week (compared to none before!). I want to do more, but it’s a start. “New” also included taking time for a pedicure. As April labored over feet that resembled the Gobi desert, I resolved to actually use the lotions and foot balms that sit in my linen closet upstairs.  I’ve also been thinking about getting a dog…

“New” has included a bit more focus on being more economical. For instance, I got a free pound of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee by donating a pint of blood by January 31. And I’ve been trying my hand at doing a bit more cooking at home rather than opting for eating out.  Still haven’t gotten to the food co-op to work in exchange for discounts on my shopping, but this gives me something to work toward.

“New” also includes being more spontaneous. I had no sooner put my son Sam on the plane when I turned to Wendy and announced that I was going to Fort Worth, Texas, the next day. And so I did. Although I have to admit that there was something awfully familiar about getting up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 6:30 flight. Not to mention the fact that I met Lisa Callahan at the Albany airport as her “Gelato for Lunch” trip was already well underway.

Once in Fort Worth, I slept in at the B&B until 7 a.m. and after a hearty breakfast, I walked through city streets during a time that most people were “at work,” feeling the sunshine on my face, and seeing pansies everywhere I looked. Life is good, indeed, I thought. And so it is.