Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 13 What do you do?

This is Retirement Talk with Del Lowery.

I hear that question so often: “What do you do?” I never know how to respond. Easy to answer that question when one is working at a job: I teach, I’m a lawyer, I drive a truck, I farm, etc. But when one retires, then it’s not so easy. You can’t just say: “I’m retired”. That doesn’t really answer the question as to what you really do. It is just too - nebulous. It says that you have reached a stage of life where you do not hold a job, but it leaves unanswered “What do you do?” If you answer honestly to this question, it is impossible to give a short answer.  I thought in this podcast I would like to illustrate the difficulty.

I know some people who say they don’t know what they would do if they were retired. Well, my experience tells me that you will, or can be, very busy. Busy, but busy doing exactly what you want to. The week is pretty normal in most ways.

Seven mornings of the week start with Tai Chi and a short walk. Not a lot of time, but important to the rest of the day. Following the Tai Chi and walk on the five weekdays comes two hours of classical guitar and then one to one and half hours of exercise. Those are my mornings during the week. Brenda’s, my wife, consists of an hour and a half of painting in her studio and then joining me for exercise in one form or another. Three of the mornings it is biking. One of the mornings we walk into terrific wind out to and along the shores of Bellingham Bay . This is for exercise and excitement. Whenever the wind blows really, really strong, we like to walk by the water and feel the excitement of waves crashing into the shore, water spraying high and wide; tasting the salt on our lips; and watching shore birds battle the wind and read the drafts. It is exercise for the heart in more ways than one. Two mornings of the week I lift weights. Brenda lifts one day. I row two days on Concepts 1 rowing machine; Brenda one.

A short rest always follows lunch. I like to think of it as a nap, but in most cases it is just twenty minutes of listening to talk radio and being lazy; letting the body catch a breath and the mind sort of wander. This is very valuable time. I’m sure all who take afternoon naps know exactly what I am talking about.

Every afternoon I spend at least two hours working on creating these podcasts. Sometimes another hour or two follows in the evenings. I like to think of this as my community project for the year: the community in this case being people who are retired or on the verge. This past week I spent about twenty hours recording and trying to figure out related technological stuff.  

But the high point of every afternoon has to be our time in local coffee shops. We try to spend at least one hour sitting in one and enjoying a great cup of coffee. Talking to friends, Brenda doing her crossword, me reading a magazine, or – as I am doing right now – writing a podcast episode. There is something about a coffee shop that is so civil. People sipping a carefully crafted drink, open to discussion, lost in reading, writing on a laptop. We love the coffee shop part of our day. We rarely miss it.

And what of the evenings? This was Halloween week. We were in Vancouver and went to some friends' house. I went trick-or-treating with their kids and mother. It was great to walk around on a crisp, clear fall night with all that young excitement. And the salmon dinner and conversation that followed didn’t hurt either.

A play at a local repertoire company took up another evening. A play, written, incidentally, by one of our baristas at our local coffee shop. What fun! It was made special when five other baristas whom we know by name walked in and sat in the row right in front of us - a great evening.

The following night was dinner at some friends' house where we indulged in spicy Moroccan lamb stew served over couscous accompanied by cucumber and yogurt salad, topped by a chocolate pudding to die for. I almost forgot to mention the two bottles of wine. We all share the delight that comes from eating new dishes, a crackling fire, and thoughtful conversation. Yes, conversation. It is an art and these two friends are pros. Hours speed by while we settle life’s essential questions.

The following day found us with another dinner at our house with other friends. Brenda is a gourmet chef and we lingered around a table of some sort of pasta dish accented with sausage and chicken in some sort of sauce. Our friends' 11 year old daughter, Sarah, made a lemon meringue pie for the occasion and we loved the tart flavor and gallant success.

The week drew to an end on Sunday, which saw us spending the morning with the newspaper, phone conversation with our children, a bike ride, and then our drive into the city to start a new week. Here we squeezed in some pizza and beer at our favorite brew pub and a movie on DVD.

Retired life is busy. Busy in a good way. I suppose I have left out a some things like a few hours in the garden, a visit to the doctor and cleaning the house and doing the laundry.

My point in all of this is to point out how difficult it is to tell someone what we are doing in retirement. I suppose our life would seem boring to some, but it is just exactly what we want to do at the time. Retirement can be a time for self direction and self affirmation. Nietzsche would love it.


This is Del Lowery with Retirement Talk. You can find our website at



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