The most paralyzing question for a new retiree is “how do you spend your days?” Or its more accusatory variant: what do you DO ALL DAY? When I was working, no one seemed even vaguely interested in my daily minutia, but there appears to be ample interest in the life of the retired. I am going to assume good intent here: working people are just curious because they wonder what the future holds. And, I am going to try keep my paranoia at bay when I suspect what they really mean is: how do you justify your existence?
Before retiring, I failed to appreciate how marvelous it was to have folks accept that one’s weekdays were so packed with meetings, business trips, presentations and memos that it was thoroughly expected that one’s days off should be guiltless hours of hammock-swinging and binge-watching.
Alas, those of us not in the workforce are not granted this asylum. Truth be told, I can remember my own prior thoughts about retirees and stay home mothers. Something along the lines of: “what do they DO ALL DAY? I get the same things done and work 50 hours per week.” Here is where I eat crow and offer up apologies. So, so sorry – especially to the moms. I have been recently reacquainted with childcare. Frankly, you can get nothing done. It is an accomplishment to do the dishes. And for the retirees – now, I understand.
Retirement is not the expanse of travel, worthwhile hobbies and luxury that you may imagine. Oh, there is certainly some of that. I cannot discount that extended trip to Europe or the fact that I compiled my recipes into heirloom books for the kids. And there is plenty of luxury as long as you agree that a slowly sipped cup of coffee and a full reading of the morning newspaper is luxury.
But most days, what I DO ALL DAY are commonplace activities that we all accomplish, but done at a slower pace, at the time of my choosing and with more appreciation for the process.
A set of errands: groceries, library, bookstore, liquor store for example – no need to rush through this. A visit to the bookstore, located next door to my former office, is oft enhanced with an impromptu visit with a former coworker. The liquor store includes searches for the bargain malbecs (and oddly, an oft impromptu visit with former coworkers. People – it’s the middle of the day!) Grocery store: check out all the teas! Any new vinegars? And the library truly whiles away the time. And not bad people watching.
Exercise: though my commitment to working out predates my life of repose, exercising has now evolved into a very time consuming endeavor. Deciding what to do, getting ready to do it, doing it, recovering from it and showering can kill a couple of hours. And you can do this every day, twice on some days. I have participated in circuit training, Pilates, walking, running, swimming, yoga, hiking, elliptical and various one-off classes at the Y (Sunday Stretch, Cardio Fusion etc). You may be thinking: wow, she must be so fit. You’d be wrong. I am the same fit, but with more injuries and a better workout wardrobe.
Cooking: The half of the day not spent in pursuit of fitness, is spent in pursuit of dinner. Reading recipes, making grocery lists and food shopping are just the build-up. Late afternoons are devoted to “prep” – chopping vegetables, measuring spices, marinating. Then, a brief interlude for a glass of wine. Early evening is for cooking and eating. Repeat this every day, perhaps joining trends such as “meatless Monday” and “taco Tuesday.” Throw in some bread baking and you can see how days are filled (and also why I am not as fit as my workout schedule would indicate.)
I fill in the gaps with some marathon Lo-watching, visits with my mother, occasional social or cultural events, limited housework, “projects,” reading, TV watching, and a fair amount of over-thinking. Should I be doing more? Maybe. Is there a worthy cause that could use my skills? Possibly. But, I feel happy, lucky and open to anything.
So, when you ask a recent retiree what they DO ALL DAY, be careful, you might just get an answer.