A Comfortable Silence

Some years back while dining at a local restaurant I spotted an “older” couple a few tables down the way. There was nothing particularly noteworthy other than the fact they did not seem to have much to talk about. Glancing surreptitiously their way during the course of the evening I don’t recall catching them engaged in conversation once. I remember whispering to my wife “I hope we are never like that, with nothing to say to each other.”

What I did not realize at the time is some couples are comfortable with silence. They don’t feel the need to fill the air with small talk. They are perfectly happy simply being together. There is no pressure to perform, no need to come up with a good one, just a relaxed air of familiarity and acceptance. And it is a good thing.

It’s ok to be quiet. I truly enjoy mornings when I find my way to the backyard with a cup of java in hand and plop myself into a lawn chair. All the noise I need comes from nature around me getting under way for a new day. Birds of all shapes and sizes flit around the feeder engaging in their own dialogues. A slight breeze flutters the leaves in nearby trees causing a pleasant swishing. The pair of hawks that has taken up residence in the neighborhood circles above, climbing ever higher while voicing their distinct cries as they survey their kingdom. Misty the cat finds a comfortable spot at my feet and commences her enthusiastic purring of contentment. All the while not a word has been spoken and yet a smile graces my face. It’s ok to be quiet.

When I drive I rarely turn on the radio. I prefer to be alone with my thoughts, taking in the passing landscape. Although music can be relaxing I find all the advertisements and persistent news updates far more distracting than calming. Instead I quietly tool on down the road. As my dad would say, “the silence is deafening.” I find this time to be a perfect opportunity to catch my breath, let the stress gradually seep out of my body, and even Bronze of Old couple on benchthink up a good blog topic every now and then.

I admit I have never been one for small talk. Sure I could hold my own at those business cocktail parties and actually found it easy to raise a laugh or two. But after about an hour at it I find myself growing tired losing interest. I always feel if I have something worthwhile to say I will. If not, why monopolize the airways? There are more than enough people impatiently waiting for any slight lull in the conversation to share their wisdom and insights.

My wife and I enjoy the quiet we share. Neither feels the need to talk just for the sake of talking. We share our thoughts and feelings as they naturally arise. As fate would have it on occasion we find ourselves at dinner silently enjoying being together. Perhaps some younger couple looks on feeling pity mistakenly assuming we cannot think of a thing to talk about. Quite the contrary – we could not be happier. We are comfortable and content being near one another – nothing more needs to be said.

And while enjoying those quiet moments our hands remain iPhone free, a rarity for sure. Most people these days whether at dinner or in line or walking down the street do so with their ever present phone monopolizing their attention. It is one thing to be together in silence with your attention focused on one another. It is quite another to abandon your date as your attention is pulled away toward unrelated topics. I find it disrespectful and belittling to pay more attention to a phone than to the real live person across the table. The message sent is you are not as important as the next text or YouTube or funny cat picture. Too many feel they cannot do without their always connected life unaware they are missing real connections with real people right in front of their eyes. (Getting down from my soapbox now…)

My dad has always been a listener. He pays patient attention to the conversation and on occasion interjects something worthwhile. Dad never feels the need to say something just for the sake of speaking. There are plenty people out there more than happy to assume that role. The fact that he married a skilled conversationalist is a plus. Between the two they are the perfect couple to invite to events as their busy calendar reflects.

The world we live in is a noisy boisterous place with perpetual input assailing our senses. It is not easy to find a safe haven away from it all where you can hear yourself think. But it is important to find a silent moment, a time to refocus and recharge. Some down time in a busy world is a good thing. For my wife and me a little silent togetherness proves to be just the ticket.

Easing Into Your Retirement Role

Getting good at being retired is a process. Only a lucky few are able to flip the switch from work to retirement and smoothly make the transition. New members to this growing club rejoice in the freedom to do as they want and explore a new world without limitations foisted upon them by demanding careers. But the new lifestyle they are about to commence is just that: brand new. Never before has what happens during each day resided solely in their control.

New retirees must assume responsibility for replacing what was until now an organized schedule of daily activities. Duties on the job dictated how you spent your hours. Once you leave that behind, no one but you will populate your calendar with worthwhile activities and commitments. The freedom to occupy yourself as you see fit also comes with the challenge of selecting meaningful ways to spend your time for the foreseeable future. It is not just about next month, but rather next year and many years after that.

It is not uncommon to feel a hint of guilt about your sudden freedom and newfound ability to choose how you spend it. Most of us lived through hectic careers and lifestyles where spare time was an elusive commodity. Over scheduled working people have little time to waste and constantly search for ways to boost productivity. Now in retirement, that burden is lifted. You get to do what you want. But it can take time to accept that it is now OK to pursue something just for the fun of it. Imagine doing nothing at all without remorse. I still sometimes find myself at the end of the day tabulating where I “productively” spent my Cool seniortime, hoping to identify something worthwhile. I am beginning to realize I now define what is worthwhile, and somewhere near the top of the list is being happy.

One on one time with your spouse is about to get top billing as the two of you become a retired couple. You will no longer be separated by individual careers, and will now be able to spend as much time together as you want to. But don’t think that long weekends alone or occasional vacation travel is an accurate representation of life spent together every day. You and your spouse could potentially be together 24/7. It can be truly wonderful to have quality time to share, but maintaining harmony over the long term takes effort. Your journey will be smoother if you allow for alone time to pursue individual interests. If you do not have a lot of shared hobbies you may want to search for a new activity you can do together. Allowing for a little space and a willingness to try new things together can help the transition into this new phase of marriage to go more smoothly.

One of the best aspects of retired living is the incredible variety of activities and interests we are free to explore. I have discovered a renewed interest in learning about history and art, something I glossed over in my youth and never had time for until now. By watching courses on the Internet, reading books I now find interesting and traveling where my heart desires I continue to broaden my knowledge. You may decide to explore new ways to maintain physical fitness, learn a new language, upgrade your house, garden or express your artistic side. Retirement can be the perfect time to be as curious and creative as you want.

Making the transition from the working world into retirement is not as easy as it may sound. Some people find it difficult to step away from the need to be constantly productive. It’s important to have a plan for how you will spend your days once you leave your job.

From my article for US News & World