A Runner’s Guide To A Spouse’s Retirement

It was on November 8th of last year that I announced my husband’s anticipated retirement. The plan was that he would begin working from home the first of the year and retire a few months later. It was a good plan.

The revised plan was that he would only spend 3 days each week in the Atlanta office and work from home on Monday and Friday.

Finally, a date was set to quit cold turkey. It was the only way.

On May 31st, my husband finally retired.

On Sunday night before the first day of “no work”, we discussed alternative ways of filling time during these days of void.

Monday morning arrived. As we were having coffee, his phone rang…. twice. Each time there was some nice person from the office that had already forgotten he had retired. Later that day, there was a conference call.

On Tuesday, I took my first trip away from the dogs in many months and visited my family. At lunchtime I called to see how it was going. He was cleaning the windows. The next day he swept the leaves off the roof.

We’ve worked in the yard, cleaned the chandeliers and the fireplaces, eaten our lunch on the back deck and marveled at the beauty of the forest around us. Then we retire to the family room for an episode of Judge Judy…. well, Judge Judy is the backdrop for a much needed nap. Life has been simple and glorious.

An article on MarketWatch.com said, “Dead is the new retirement.” Good lord. That can’t be good for us. The journalist, Robert Powell, referenced the on-again/off-again retirement of Brett Favre.

After announcing his retirement, Favre was asked, “What are some things that you are looking forward to doing?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “And I am going to stick to that until I do something else.” As we all know, that didn’t last long.

The greatest challenge for my husband’s retirement is to allow himself to do absolutely nothing. How do you suddenly stop after decades of go-go-go-go?

Marshall Goldsmith, an executive educator, coach and author of some 30 books, says to make a contribution. “Whatever you do next, it should be meaningful. It should make you happy…. And whatever you do, don’t let your age be the limiting factor. Consider, for instance, the life of management guru Peter Drucker. “Many of his greatest contributions came after he turned 60,” Goldsmith said. “Imagine if he had retired at that age.”

In the time since my last paycheck, I have learned things are not what make you happy and that contribution is a very personal definition. I also follow the strict rule that age will not prevent me from pursuing my dreams.

What I have learned from just two weeks of my husband’s retirement is if you are truly happy with yourself, happiness can be found in doing even the simplest things.


4 thoughts on “A Runner’s Guide To A Spouse’s Retirement

  1. Marcia – I appreciate your honest reflections about the challenges of actually entering this new phase. We are wired by God to ‘work’ (given that mandate BEFORE the fall), but the work we do is going to vary. How nice that Mike can now choose what he is going to do. Our western culture doesn’t value introspection, so it’s a fight to justify thinking, praying, meditating, reading, listening to music etc. My parents loved bird-watching and gardening and just being in nature in their retirement. And now I see us moving in that direction, too.
    Today is day 1 of my 9 weeks of school vacation and I’m grateful. I want to hold on to each day and savor it. I have a whole stack of books I want to read. And I’m going to give myself permission to read in the afternoons:)
    Thanks for writing!


  2. I have found my 4+ years of retirement to be a very interesting journey. For the first time you are confronted with being personally responsible for every minute of your life. No schedules–no meetings–no deadlines. No one else is telling you what to do or when to do it. Many people leap into this void with little mental preparation and find themselves floundering in what seems to be a sea of nothingness. I kept myself busy doing anything and everything for quite awhile, but as the armor of stress I had unknowingly worn my whole life was gradually shed I now experience a lightness I never knew was possible. And I have learned that it’s OK–in fact glorious–to give myself permission to sometimes do absolutely nothing. Begin to let go, Michael, and live in the now. Breathe, relax, and be open to new possibilities that present themselves. This is your time–embrace it.


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