Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


573 What do you do?

This is Retirement Talk with Del Lowery.

“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 - vague. 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?” We usually respond with, “Not much”. But, if you answer honestly to this question, it seems impossible to give a short answer. I thought in this podcast I would illustrate the difficulty.

I know some people who say they don’t know what they would do if they were retired. For or myself and many others, experience tells us that you will or can be very busy. Busy, but busy doing exactly what you want to. And just as busy as you want and no more. The week is pretty normal for me. Here would really be a more honest answer to that questions.

Seven mornings of the week started 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 came two hours of classical guitar practice and then one to one and half hours of exercise. Those are my mornings during the week. Brenda’s, my wife, consisted of an hour and a half of painting in her studio and then joining me for exercise in one form or another. Three of those mornings we biked. One of the other mornings we walked 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 energy 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. The remaining two mornings of the week we lifted weights.

A short rest always followed lunch. I like to think of it as a nap. We are letting the body catch a breath and the mind sort of wander. This is very valuable time. All who take afternoon naps know exactly what I am talking about.

Every afternoon I spent 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.

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 a local shop 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, etc. We love the coffee shop part of our day.

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!

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, and of course 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 great 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 illustrate 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. I'm sure other retirees could describe a similar story of their time spent in one week. It isn't easy and I'm sure very boring or perhaps self-serving. That is why we usually respond with the question of what we do in retirement with the catch phrase, “Not much”.

I hope you have thought through what you want to do with your retirement time and find each hour and day filled with exactly what you truly desire.

This is Retirement Talk.

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