I have become quite convinced that retirement causes a chemical reaction.  Stimulated perhaps by the monthly receipt of the social security check, a bodily response occurs on the glandular level, resulting in the production of a certain pheromone.

Unlike the pheromones emitted to attract a mate, the substance in question triggers a very different kind of social response.  This perfume seems to be saying “I no longer work.  I have time.  Just ask me.”

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m a staunch proponent of volunteerism.  A firm believer in giving back.   Free time should not just be about “me” time.  That would be ungrateful.  Wouldn’t it?

Shortly after I retired, I did in fact offer my services to a cause that I considered worthy.  And true to the promise of giving, I did feel gratified , satisfied, and fulfilled.  I positively glowed with the aura of altruism.

Little did I know that it was to be the beginning of a descent down the slippery slope of saying “yes.”

So I innocently joined a second organization as a mere member of the rank and file.  But someone with a keen sense of smell soon approached me.  “How would you like to serve on the steering committee?” I was asked.  I was so flattered.  Of course I agreed.   The meetings doubled and the responsibilities naturally increased.

I really suck at asking people for money.  So when an old acquaintance called, and said she  heard that I retired, and would I like to be on the Board of her vital community organization, I, in fact, hesitated.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s not about fund raising.  We need your ideas.”  Oh, my ideas.  My head swelled just a little.  Yes, sometimes I do have good ideas.  So I said “sure.”   (Maybe that was not one of my good ideas.)

Before I knew what was happening, I had joined the free labor pool of three different organizations.  All worthwhile.  All valuable.  But when was I going to smell the roses, let alone do my laundry?

I needed to pause and reassess my situation.  Why had I become such an easy mark? Could I possibly still be harboring a guilty conscience over turning down the presidency of the PTA?  Or that I didn’t join Hadassah?  I had a valid excuse.  I was working at the time.

I was beginning to feel as if I were part of some data base of vulnerable retired people worried about having too much time on their hands.  Apologies to William Shakespeare,  but perhaps there can be too much of a good thing.

Then and there I made a firm decision to raise my hand only to scratch my head.  My volunteer plate was full.

That is, until a very dear friend confided in me that her not-for-profit organization was teetering on failure unless she could get some help.  Free help, of course.  In spite of my promise, I heard myself asking “What do you need?”  And there I was, overeating again.

So, at the end of the day, am I sorry about stepping up to all these commitments? No, actually, I’m not.   The responsibilities are really quite stimulating.  I’ve met lots of interesting people and even acquired some new skills.

But listen.  If you need me to do anything, the answer is no.  Unfortunately, I’m all tied up right now.  However, leave your name and number.  I promise to get back to you as soon as I have an opening.

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