Episode 789 What Do You Do?
This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.
Since retiring I often hear the question, “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. If you answer honestly it is impossible to give a short answer. The answer can be long and that is out of fashion. We are used to sound bites.
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? With your time? With your life?
I know some people who say they don’t know what they would do if they were retired. My experience tells me that you will, or can be, very busy. Busy, but busy doing exactly what you want to. I wrote the following at age 65. It was a pretty normal week at the time in our retirement life.
Seven mornings of the week start with Tai Chi and then shooting a few baskets.. This is followed by twenty to thirty minutes of reading a novel or book of some kind.. Then 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's morning, consists of an hour and a half of painting in her studio and then joining me for exercise in one form or another. Three mornings it is biking. It is exercise for the heart in more ways than one. Two mornings of the week we lift weights. If it is raining hard we may row for two days on a Concepts 2 rowing machine.
A short rest always follows lunch: 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.
A few afternoons a week 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 a local coffee shop. 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.
A play at a local repertoire company took up one evening. A play, written, incidentally, by one of our baristas. 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. Two bottles of wine accompanied the dinner. We all share the delight that comes from eating new dishes, a crackling fire, and conversation. Yes, conversation - sort of a lost art.
The following day we had a similar dinner at our house with other friends. We llingered around a table of some sort of pasta dish accented with sausage and chicken in some sort of sauce. (This was in our pre- vegetarian days.) 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.
Fifteen years have passed since I wrote that. At age 80 things have drawn in a bit. Covid very much changed our lives. We socialize less. We are active in the community much less. Our dinners have been replaced with lunches outside - even during the winter. Coffee shop visits have disappeared and been replaced by coffee and reading for an hour or so each afternoon in our own house. Sad but true.
Retirement is a time for self direction and self affirmation. You can do as you wish. All it takes is a little thought and self-control. We might all benefit from taking a good look at how we are spending our time. We might find some surprises.
This is Retirement Talk.
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