Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


                                           Episode 149 Out of the Box   

            This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery

            Retirement is a major life change. We find ourselves out of the "box" we have been living in for years. Dick Smith shares some thoughts on this new beginning. 


           The habits of a lifetime can be hard to break. At retirement, the comfortable routines are gone and we may be tempted to recreate them. The retired executive who attempts to organize his stay-at-home wife’s routines is a sad example.

           Many jobs are highly specialized and workers may begin to feel like part of a machine or the work station or cubicle. Formal education in classrooms can produce the same effect. Even children’s activities can take on that structure. In the past farm children learned to play, work and learn at the same time by watching and helping their parents in everyday activities.

           Richard Bolles describes the three boxes of life- EDUCATION, WORK AND RECREATION and urges us to integrate these elements at every stage of our life. He developed the idea of career counseling used by rehabilitation counselors. It begins with, “What do you really like to do?” rather than listing your experience or education. Recreation can be part of a job and it nurtures our spirit.

           Routines are useful and satisfying. I like to take a bike ride in the morning and then read the newspaper and discuss the day’s schedule with my wife. I write on my computer, meet friends for coffee, water the garden, or do some maintenance work. After lunch, it’s nap time followed by a trip to the library or a movie. But we often avoid the usual program and go camping in a state park or check out the local farm outlets or community events.

           The eight-hour day is another obstacle to an integrated life. I try to stick with something for only a limited time rather than compulsively trying to finish after I am tired. Home maintenance can be done effectively in small increments. I can take time off to chat with a neighbor or have a cup of tea with my wife.

           I enjoy attending Elder Hostels and taking Community College courses and attending a Memoir writing Group at the Senior Center but most of my educational activities are through discussion with friends, reading library books, traveling or exploring the natural environment.

           I am not much interested in organized religion but I appreciate some of the spirituality of young people and older free spirits. I read my horoscope occasionally and am sometimes inspired to follow the advice. It may suggest an impulse that leads in new directions.         

           Most of us have a family we were born into, a family of origin. Our parents and other caregivers presented us with a lifestyle we can accept or reject as we grow to maturity. In later life, we create our own families and pass along what we have learned to our children. The culture changes continuously and we must constantly reexamine our values and actions 

           From time to time I am attracted to a motto or quotation that seems to apply to my life. In my medical record, my doctor noted “This man takes life as it comes.” I suppose he has contacts with people who cannot accept their physical or mental problems. I have that attitude myself sometimes but I like to remind myself that it is best to be realistic about my eventual decline and to accept it. I don’t understand the idea of “fighting cancer”. When my number came up, I followed my doctor’s advice but decided that cancer was not the center of my life.

The Indian chief Black Elk said, “Any place is the center of the world.” We call some place home and it is the center of our life when we are there. That center moves with us as we walk or drive or fly to other places. As a small child I remember wondering if the world unrolled before me and rolled up behind me as I walked along. Black Elk may have been thinking of the continuing displacement of his Indian people as he tried to hold the center together.

           A quote that I have long admired is from Voltaire’s Candide. Candide and his lady friend Cunegonde traveled over the world through wars, slavery and misery of every kind while his philosopher friend insisted that this is the best of all possible worlds. He ended in humble circumstances and responded to the friend with, “Yes, but we must go and work in the garden.” It keeps me from being disabled by too much introspection. There is a real world and where I am is the center of it. I will take it as it comes. Today, we had fresh cauliflower from the garden for lunch.

           For our health and security as we age, we must eat right and exercise, save some money, and establish good habits of living. We can get stuck in a box. The world is continually changing and we need to adapt and change with it. A good mix of education, work and recreations is essential for continued growth.


My guest has been Dick Smith



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