Just an average day in retirement

When I first retired, like most new retirees, I was frequently asked what I was going to do with all my time. Now, over three years in, the most frequent question I still get asked is what I do with all of my time. Like I have an excess of time now…geez! How do I explain to people how much I enjoy my slow mornings, without sounding lazy? Or how going into town is an event and not necessarily an everyday occurrence? How do I explain that there is no average day in retirement?

What does your ideal, average day look like in retirement?  I say “average” day because many of us envision travel as part of our ideal retirement.  I know I do.  Travel days take on a life of their own.  But there are many days in between travel.   Average days when you do not have anything special planned.  How does your typical day or week at home play out? How do you visualize your ideal retirement lifestyle? How do you shape it to be more what you want? It is preferable to figure this out prior to retiring but it is never too late to think this through and then take the action steps to make it happen. After all, retirement is the perfect time to practice a little Alchemy. Three years into retirement and I have developed (or should I say evolved into) a loose structure to my average days when we don’t have anything in particular planned.

What does an average day in retirement look like?

Below is my perfectly average day in retirement:

  • Definitely, definitely wake up without an alarm.  This is usually around 6:30. Not waking up to an alarm clock is one of my favorite things about retirement.
  • Mr. U and I have our morning “coffee” time.   This is something we have done since we first got married and I attribute it to keeping our marriage solid for over 40 years.  It is our time to talk over our thoughts, plans, and dreams, as well as the nitty gritty organization for the day.  
  • After our coffee time, we each fix our own breakfast and have some time to ourselves.  A day or two a week Mr. U will cook a breakfast for us, or we will go out to eat, but we are talking average day here.   We do not usually meet up for lunch.  How does that sayings go, “I married for life, but not for lunch?”  It is an adjustment spending so much time together when you both retire, and we feel like we bring more back to the relationship if we have some time apart.  
  • I love slow mornings when I have leisurely time to read, blog, journal, pray and just reflect. I absolutely need this down time to ponder. And just so I don’t ponder the whole day away, I also jot down what I want to accomplish for that day.  If I don’t do this, the day slips by and I don’t get anything done that I intended. Like many people, I have also jumped on the Wordle band wagon and try to solve it every morning.
  • Get up and move. Time to do household chores, because apparently, they do not magically disappear in retirement. (My perfect average retirement day would not include chores, but just keeping it real.) I try to do 15 minutes of gentle yoga to maintain balance and flexibility. Then I head outdoors whenever possible. I prefer to fill my water bottle, pack a light lunch, toss my journal into a bag and hop on my bike or just take a walk.  My favorite excursions are next to a river or lake. 
  • Afternoons are open to what fun the day presents. This is where play happens. It is a good time to consider doing what puts you in a state of “flow.” Where you get so absorbed in what you are doing that you lose track of time and suddenly realize that it is already dinner time.  This could be spending the afternoon with someone or pursuing a personal interest or project. It is different almost every day. I try to purposefully decide how I want to use this precious time. Your retired so you get to pick!
  • I like to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day, preferably while something is grilling on the BBQ. While we do not typically have breakfast or lunch together, Mr. U and I almost always eat dinner together. And unless there is something significant on, we do not eat dinner in front of the T.V.
  • Evenings are still a little unsettled for me.  My energy has dwindled by then, both mentally and physically.  When you are retired, you get time during the day to do what you love so you don’t need to cram it into the evening.  For example, I used to read every evening that I had the chance but now that I have time to do that in the mornings, I don’t have a strong need to read in the evenings. I have started watching a little evening TV, but I am not a huge fan. I am curious how other retirees use their evenings.

My perfect average retirement day

Keep in mind that this is my perfect “average” retirement day and not necessarily every day and not my perfect retirement day.  That would be out on the boat in flip flops, pulling up to dock at a waterfront restaurant for dinner and then watching the sunset from the bow of the boat with a cold drink and good company.  Or a day traveling to new sites, going on a hike and then dining alfresco.  However, this post is about a retirement lifestyle that I can enjoy on an average day that feeds my soul.  Average days are the meat and vegetables that make up retirement life.  Travel and other special experiences are the spices you add on top. 

If you have not retired yet, it is never too early to think about how you would like to live your average retirement days. If you are retired, are you living your best life on the average days or do you need to tweak them a little? We want to make every day great and not just tread water until we are on the other side of the dirt. What does your perfect average retirement day need to include?

Take the Risk

Over 36 years ago I took a risk that has paid off over and over again through the years.  Over 36 years ago I was pregnant with my first child and working night shift in the ICU at our local hospital.   It just so happens that another nurse was also pregnant with her first child and working night shift in the OB Unit.  It was a small hospital and it is a little hard to hide being seven months pregnant, so during breaks we ended up comparing notes about our pregnancies.  Turns out we were both due on the exact same day.  

Fast forward a couple of months and we were both home on maternity leave.  Being first time mothers we were tired, swollen and insecure about the responsibilities of taking care of these tiny human beings.  Another co-worker just had her first baby several months prior and was a little further down this motherhood journey.   We saw her as an experienced mom and mentor.

Even though I was exhausted I knew I needed some adult interaction, so I took a risk and invited them (and their new babies – duh) over for lunch.  It was no easy task taking care of an infant, getting the house cleaned up, the table set and making a nice hot lunch for people I barely knew.  I am so glad I took that risk.  We became good friends and spent countless hours talking, changing diapers and sharing lunches.

Friendships that developed with our first babies. My long term bestie is far left and moi is second from left.

Fast forward another 36 years and one of these wonderful ladies and I remain the best of friends.   We have shared the ups and downs of parenting,  from sending our children off to kindergarten to graduation from college and the empty nest.  And now we compare notes on our aging bodies instead of pregnancies.  

Bestie and I at Hill’s Resort a couple years ago. Make-up & filter free and totally relaxed.

We meet people all of the time but they do not usually develop into a friendship.  Friendship must start with a willingness to take a risk and reach out to someone: make the invitation for lunch, suggest taking the enrichment class together or meeting up for a walk and coffee afterwards.  Someone has to take the first step and risk.   It doesn’t always work.  I have made several attempts to get together with an acquaintance or coworker, and while we enjoyed the time, it never really took off into a longer term friendship.  But, as the sayings goes, you never know until you try.   

It takes continued time, effort and forgiveness to develop deeper friendships.  When we lived in separate cities, my dear friend and I took the time to meet up for a yearly trip.  While we, thankfully, live in the same area once again, we still take our annual trip.  The last several trips we have gone to Hill’s Resort.   It is a beautiful, rustic, family owned, lakeside resort tucked in the trees of Northern Idaho.  The perfect spot to hunker down, talk, laugh, go on walks, sip wine, eat delicious food, and sew.   Yep, we haul our sewing machines there and set up shop at the dining room table.  We get a few crazy looks, but therapy is worth a few crazy looks.  We just got back from our trip a couple weeks ago and it was as beautiful and therapeutic as always. 

The car all packed with sewing supplies & food.
Sewing central.

Lest you think we just sit around and eat and drink, here are a couple pictures of finished projects:

We also do a little walking.

It can become a bit more challenging to make friends in retirement. We do not have the built in option to meet people through work and our kid’s activities. However, friends become even more important during retirement.  They round out our lives and help us realize that we are not insane (smile).  There is nothing more validating than hearing someone confirm that they are experiencing the same things at this phase of life.   So, I encourage you to take the risk and reach out to someone you would like to get to know better.   You never know which time it will develop into a deeper friendship. 

Fireside chats.