July 17, 2019

The Toughest Time of Day - For Me



So What Do You Do All Day? remains the most popular blog post for the last nine years. People are fascinated by how retired folks fill their days, maybe hoping to find new ideas. Certainly I found myself spending extra time in the section of my recently revised book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, that details what the respondents do to stay busy. The variety of activities and interests is really something.

To be honest, though, there is a part of my day that I constantly wonder if I am making the most of my time: evenings. After I first retired I would watch baseball games several nights a week, not because I really cared how the Diamondbacks did, but the game filled 3 hours. After having cable pulled from our house I found myself reading for a few hours each night, killing time with silly make-do jobs, and going to bed rather early. Last year I discovered Sling TV, so the D'backs games are available again. Depending on the score, I am again watching too often, because it is easy.

Even with the lure of baseball (or recently, the World Cup), I am making an effort to use the time from dinner until bed in a positive way. I don't have to be "productive" in the sense that I must necessarily complete a task or accomplish something. There is nothing wrong with purely relaxing with my wife and watching something on Netflix.  But, I do catch myself racking up too many movies or shows all while checking my smartphone.

There have been various activities on my "what to do when I don't want to watch TV"  list. For a few years I was a fan of the the Great Courses from the Teaching Company, especially when they made their material available as a streaming service. After awhile, I found myself taking courses as a time-filler or because i was paying a monthly fee, not because the subject matter really grabbed me. 

There are a few radio shows that I found on the Internet that I listen to now and then. One that I particularly enjoy is Celtic Heartbeat from BCC Radio Wales. Featuring folk music and Celtic artists, the music is entertaining and different from my normal fare.

Another outlet I like to check for its eclectic approach is the community radio station in Bisbee, Arizona. Staffed by local residents, some are rather professional-sounding while others are definitely not. That, along their interesting music and talk programming choices, is what makes listening fun. Since the first of the year I have added Spotify to my life. That has opened up a whole new world of music styles and types to me.


For some reason, I have become interested in turntables and old vinyl LPs again. For well over a decade, I made my living using both on the radio. But, with the advent of CDs, and then streaming music, physically playing an album seemed silly. Now, they are drawing me back.

 Maybe it is the album cover art, or details on the back cover. Maybe it is the physical act of cleaning a record before gently placing it on the turntable. Maybe it is having to get up after 15 minutes to play the other side. I'm not sure why, but this is a "everything old new again" interest.

Betty has always been the photographer in our family, becoming very good with photo editing software. Recently, I have decided to give her a run for her money (only in my dreams!). I started learning how to use her Nikon camera. Then, I downloaded a photo editing software program from Corel to learn how to improve the photos I took. Frankly, it is scary what someone can do with digital photos and a few spare hours to reshape and rearrange reality!

A friend pointed me to an excellent online guitar course. To unlearn bad habits,  I have started at the very first beginner's lesson. Fingers and 70 year old hands are not happy but I am pushing forward, very slowly, but forward.


Is it possible to read too much? I hope not, since I usually have at least three books at various stages of completion at any one time, lying somewhere around the house.

So, that is generally it. The point of this post is actually somewhat selfish. I am hoping you will have some feedback on how you spend your evenings that I can learn from. Because we tend to eat dinner early, I have between four and five hours each evening open for something. That is a substantial chunk of time. 

Help me, and others, make the most if it. Tell us what you do after dinner and before bed?


42 comments:

  1. I read, try to do a few dishes, read blogs, sew a bit. I read that games of strategy, like Hearts, stave off dementia. I have no one to play with so my friend who comes once a week is going to play Hearts with me, but in the afternoon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Board or card games are something we haven't really tried in the evening. We play a lot with the grandkids, but Betty and I should try some good two-person games.

      Delete
  2. What we do to "use" up time is totally up to each of of. That is one of the major perks of no longer having our work use up our time. I really don't see the difference between watching TV and listening to records. They both are passive activities. Myself, I enjoy the two hours each night I dedicate to TV. We have a DVR so can record what we want and watch it at our pleasure. We are finding PBS and BBC to have a lot of good programs that teach us about other cultures and are just downright entertaining. I just don't understand all the snobbery about watching TV. Like anything else, you need to be selective in what you watch as there is a lot of garbage in that venue like in all others.

    Getting back to the original thought, I use my time on whatever gives me joy at that particular time. My wife has gotten me hooked on picture puzzles so some evenings I spend sometimes hours staring at this piece or that and trying to figure where it fits in the overall picture. That, to me, is calming and relaxing in the age of "Trump" and his vitriol presidency. And of course, there is the blogging. I like I imagine you spend significant hours thinking of topics and putting down just the right words. It seems that morning are my most fruitful time for this activity. My brain just seems to be so full of ideas from the sleep time the night before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I am trying to control is watching TV just to fill the time. Documentaries or some non-mainstream fare on streaming services like Kanopy can be both educational and entertaining. But, 45 minutes of a typical shoot-em-up crime show leaves me cold.

      I compliment you on your puzzle efforts. They drive me crazy. Except for the edge pieces, I am lost.

      I find listening to music with headphones to be a bit more active. By paying attention what what I am hearing that I never noticed before (background sounds, cymbal crashes, faint vocal sections), the music becomes fresh and engaging. I can't read with music on, so my listening is not passive.

      Delete
  3. That was fun to read. I'm still working but if I do anything in the evenings outside the house, it's yoga/pilates classes or a walk, since I need to get my exercise in the evenings. Will retire in December so should be paying attention to these posts! Could you post the link to the online guitar course? I'd love to pass that on to a friend of mine. Thanks! Lynn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The guitar site is justinguitar.com. He has hundreds of free video lessons, broken into beginner, intermediate, and advanced topics. He offers material on playing by ear, music and chord theory, too, if you want to really become serious. I am just about to finish the first part of the first section of beginner's course.

      While you can buy some of his printed material, it really isn't needed. The hundreds of free lessons are all most of us need.

      Delete
  4. One thing we recently changed up, for just the reason that motivated you to write this post, is that we are now eating dinner later than before, generally between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. After eating and cleanup, we have just enough time to stream one episode of whatever we're following on Netflix/Hulu, which works perfect for us. The subsequently longer day is much easier to fill than the PM hours, when we are more apt to be tired.

    During the longer days of summer, and the warmer nights here of fall, we also try and eat dinner outside as much as possible, though currently here in coastal S. California it's still a bit too chilly in the evenings (NOT complaining). Eating outside revives us both, so we're more apt to keep going afterward, rather than collapsing onto the sofa in front of the TV.

    I've also returned to readinf paper books via our local library, instead of ebooks. I'll happily read a paper book into the evening hours, vs. an ebook, where I find myself getting distracted by email and my weakness, Instagram (speaking of photography!). I also enjoy reading travel books after dinner, my grand passion.

    We've also recently stocked up on board games, plus some backyard games, and it's also a nice to do a little light yardwork.

    We do have many, many nights when we are out and about with social, dinig, discussion, or entertainment engagements, so for the most part we enjoy our evenings at home as they occur. That's probably my best tip for filling the evenings in a meaningful way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eating later as a way of approaching the problem is something I never considered. We are more tired in the evenings, too, so that is a possibility.

      During this time of year we cannot eat outside..just too darn hot. In the winter the weather is perfect as long as we add a hurricane lantern or two since it gets dark around 5-5:30pm.

      I have never gotten into ebooks. Like you, it is too easy to get distracted. Frankly, I also miss the feeling of moving the bookmark through the pages to gauge my progress. Right now I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo. At almost 1300 pages, I would probably give up with the ebook version. But, I am one quarter through it at the moment and see that bookmark sticking up. It makes me feel I am moving forward. It helps that I am enjoying the story quite a bit!

      Delete
    2. I just read that book and enjoyed it immensely. Keep going! My husband and I usually browse on our lap tops in the evening. Sometimes this can be boring!

      Delete
    3. Our book club read Count of Monte Cristo a few years back over a three month period, and we all really enjoyed it. Coincidentally, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was doing the play as well that year, so we went to see it after reading the book. That was really fun!

      Delete
  5. I do my best thinking and my best work in the morning when I have the most energy. I've been retired for 6 years now. Prior to retirement, my response to the question - what will you do? - was: That stuff I did <8 AM & >5 PM was going to get done between 8 AM & 5 PM, leaving my evenings open. I enjoy the down time to watch favorite programs, read, write, talk with friends/family, reflect on the day, plan for upcoming activities, meal planning/preparation, grooming, play games. Summer is very busy with lots of socializing and physical work outside and I'm ready for chilling at the end of the day. I don't consider down time as wasted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since I started the online guitar course I am finding that is a good stimulation for early evening. So far, I am managing the 30 minutes a day of practice time that is recommended.

      I have amateur radio (ham radio) gatherings on the radio twice a week, right after dinner. Those are fun and allow me to talk with the same group of guys every time.

      Delete
  6. I try to do as much during the day as possible, from working around the house and yard to exercising and so on, leaving the evening free for whatever pursuits I like. Recently Deb fell in love with her Kindle Unlimited subscription so she got one for me. While I had plenty of choices on the Kindle between free downloads from the TN library system and low cost Amazon book choices, I must admit this has opened up a huge # of books for my enjoyment. So, I find myself reading a lot during the evenings now, also having 3-4 books open at any time (e.g. reading a book on the ultimate booklicker, Josef Goebbels, but that gets really depressing at times so I'll move onto another for awhile before going back). TV watching is really dropping off for us, which is a good thing, but I have refound a series from the 1960s that I'll watch an episode from while eating dinner, namely "The Outer Limits". The stories are actually good if you can get beyond the cheapest and cheesiest special effects ever imaginable. Since the episodes I am on are from 1963 you will see young actors and actresses just starting out that went on to greater things, such as a young Bruce Dern who was only in for a few minutes in the episode "The Zanti Misfits" (good story, btw).

    No matter what we do it is all good, since most of us earned it after a lifetime of work and effort. Besides, we probably do a lot more each day than we give ourselves credit for, particularly since we aren't wasting so many hours on that paid work thing. Looking forward to seeing others comments as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always enjoy posts like this because of the range of ideas that are left by readers. I remember "Outer Limits" and its companion show, "The Twilight Zone." You are so right: get past the really poor lighting and staging by today's standards, and the stories can be quite engaging.

      Delete
  7. I try and keep my evenings free for, well, not mindless stuff, but only relaxing stuff. Which means embracing some of what you try to avoid. Smart phone and non kindle devices go away after dinner. Period. Occasionally I sew or draw but I prefer something akin to real light for that. I firmly believe that post dinner time should be relaxing so for me that includes regular TV as opposed to courses, reading or knitting, enjoying the patio, or taking a walk when the weather suits. I'm not trying to be productive but rather to unwind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recently stumbling across all the Bob Ross painting shows. I was aware of him, of course, with his "Happy Clouds" and soft voice. But, I hadn't really looked at his earliest shows to see if someone like me who feels he has zero painting skills could do what Bob teaches. After watching his very first episodes from 30-some years ago, I am ready to give it a try.

      My dad started painting in his 60s and produced some decent stuff. Maybe I am ready to follow in his footsteps. This would be a good nighttime activity.

      Delete
    2. There are SO many tutorials and classes out there! I love Bob, but the hair! Im.one of those folks who think the learning and doing is the point and if you never get to be "good" that's okay.

      Delete
  8. This is an interesting topic. I will be 77 Friday and my energy level is inconsistent while I have all sorts of things I would like to do. A good reminder that I need to be a better steward of both time AND energy in order to fulfill some dreams I still have.

    One of those dreams is to try to play my son's guitar that came to me upon his unexpected and sudden death nearly 4 years ago. I don't expect to become proficient but I would like to feel that connection to his love of music and amazing talent. You have spoken of your guitar playing various times and I am sure others have had an interest as well. Would you please post the link to the online guitar lessons that you like? There are soooo many choices online that this could narrow it down.

    I read every post you publish and found you years ago through your Amazon book deal. Your blog is always worth reading, long enough to have some substance and the commenters have great added value!
    Thank you,
    Jeannine in Iowa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the nice words. I think the commenters are what makes the blog. Active participation adds so much to what my thoughts might be.

      The free guitar course is at justinguitar.com. There are hundreds of hours of instruction from very basic to advanced. Each lesson has a specific goal so you never feel overwhelmed and you can take as long as you want to complete each task (like learning how to play the A chord).

      Delete
    2. Just wanted to second Bobs endorsement of justinguitar.com. I'm a long time guitar player (40 some years) and a recent retiree (less than 1 year). I find Justins site is really good and he is excellent at breaking down tunes, usually offering a beginner version and a more advanced version. He also covers a wide range of musical material. Even as an experienced guitar player I still learn a lot from learning songs that Justin has available.

      Delete
    3. As Bob knows, my husband loves this guitar site-- he is on year 2 of lessons with it and is improving all the time.. and more importantly, having a lot of fun with it. He practices every single day!!

      Delete
    4. Wow! Thank you all for your ringing endorsement of justinguitar.com. Having played piano, violin, and French horn over the years I enjoy music in every form and have enough background to take on such a challenge online. This sounds like a perfect after dinner activity to help me avoid the dreaded "surfing for information" that I end up filling in the evening hours with instead of tv. You folks have made my day!!!
      Jeannine in Iowa

      Delete
  9. Evening is a low energy time for me, and I have accepted that. I choose to do things during this time that are not too taxing, either physically or mentally. I read, watch something on the computer (I no longer have a TV), take a bubble bath, maybe a walk at strolling speed, text or chat with friends. Occasionally I will sign up for an evening class if there is not a daytime option. And once a week I babysit for grandkids in the evening while my daughter attends class.

    For a while, I tried to add an evening meditation time (I usually meditate in the morning) but even that required more effort that I was willing to expend. So I just relax in whatever way seems appealing to me on any particular evening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember when you'd try to never miss a Tennessee Titans football game, but that must have ended when the TV went away!

      My worst energy time is probably from 4-6:30pm or so. I do perk up a bit until bedtime, which is why I keep searching for something to keep me engaged.

      Delete
    2. My football fanaticism ended with all the incontrovertible science around brain injury. It just wasn't so much fun after that. But yes, with the TV and cable gone, I've shifted my watching habits. I still spend plenty of time in front of the screen, but I'm more selective. It's hard to just sit and channel surf, so I choose what I want to see from the available options I can access from my laptop.

      Delete
  10. Hi Bob! My husband and I tend to prefer the summer hours over winter hours because when it gets dark at 5 p.m. it makes that after dinner time much longer. During the summer we tend to spend time on our daily projects longer than during the winter. We still do our best to eat around 6:00 because we believe it far better to not go to bed on a full stomach. We then do our best (even in our hot summers) to walk around the block once the sun goes behind the mountain. And then, we also DVR programs but nearly ALWAYS our laptops going on at the same time. We also read, play a game or two . (a great 2-person game is "Hive.") and usually go to bed around 10:00. In addition we like to entertain and have friends over--sometimes we just talk or play cards or dominos. And I have taken a class or gone to a lecture if something interesting catches my eye. For me at least I do my best to plan different experiences in the evening, because like you sort of said yourself, it is too easy to fall into a routine of eating, then watching tv, and then going to bed. That's fine for some of the time but I sure don't want to do it for months at a time. ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Without much problem I could drift through the evening hours until bed. I tend to get figgity or bored easily so I am constantly looking for something new to grab me. The guitar, building wooden models, and maybe the Bob Ross painting attempt are helping me, at the moment. And, reading. I must read. It is like breathing for me.

      Delete
  11. I am a morning person. I am pretty energetic up till around 3 PM. We meditate together around 3:30 to 4-- then I am usually in kitchen preparing dinner, sometimes a lot of prep (I love to cook!) sometimes and easy meal (I am sometimes lazy,too!) I love to play music while cooking, and I like to set a nice table, and sit down and eat around 6. My energy and concentration are not great in the evenings. Ken may go down the hallway and practice his guitar, I will read a book (I always have 2-3 going at all times and I LOVE to read. We watch some movies in the evenings or lay around on the couches and read together.Maybe 1-2 times a week we play cards or Scrabble in the evening.I the nicer weather we found taking an evening walk really filled some time, felt good, was fun and good for us! Neighborhood behind us is farm-y with horses,donkeys,chickens to visit!! We Sleep better too!! But not this time of year! I don't worry much about evenings anymore--we just drift from TV/books/games/ ted talks.. and then to early bed 9:30-10:00. I'd rather go to bed at a decent time when I am tired and then get up early! Ken does go to a bi weekly meetup group every Wed. evening..i don't like to go driving at night, it's rare for me to go out in the evenings (wow,that makes me feel old!!) But we do go to a church social supper once a month,volunteer at paz de cristo from 4-7:30 one night a month, and go to Hale theater often. Soo--that's a full enough life for me! I also love finding "series" to watch in the evenings--I have never seen Downton Abbey and am gonna start that one soon.Big Little Lies?? OOH LA LA! Guilty pleasure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So jealous that you haven't seen Downton Abbey! I wish I could erase the memory and watch it all again from the beginning. Loved it!

      Delete
    2. The Downton Abbey movie is coming out late this year. Madeline, you'll have to get into the series enough to appreciate that show.

      Over the last few years I have also decided I am not a big fan of night time driving. My vision is fine, but the rush and blur of cars and the habit of people to ignore turning signals, change lanes abruptly, and drive aggressively bothers me more at night than during the day.

      Delete
    3. I am scared on the 202 and 101 in the DAYTIME these days! What's happened to the Valley??????

      Delete
  12. We tend to eat earlier (6 or 6:30) and have often watched the PBS Newshour (on at 7 here), but I have to admit to avoiding the news more and more as the drama in DC ramps up. DH likes to eat early, and I sleep better with an earlier meal. We often watch Jeopardy (competitively..ha!)and in the winter months we watch some of the PBS shows, e.g. Finding Your Roots. I like Call The Midwife & Masterpiece Theater, but DH doesn't. Usually about that time, he drifts off to his laptop for a bit and I watch an episode of whatever I'm binging that week. Right now I'm watching Brothers & Sisters which I never saw when it was current. It's soapy, but relaxing. We do the last dog walk together and DH and the dog go to sleep. I either watch another episode or read. In any event, I'm up later and always read one of the books I have going or my never finished stack of New Yorkers before going to sleep.

    We do have various meetings and groups we attend on certain nights, but overall, I just like to relax in the evenings and so does he. I get up early and do most of my chores, volunteer work, harp practice, etc. before dinner. I find I'm tired in the evenings and relaxing is what I like to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mentioned two shows Betty and I really enjoy (enjoyed!): Finding Your Roots and Brothers & Sisters. Parenthood was also a must-see for several years. TV news? Never anymore. Too depressing.

      Betty tends to be more of a nightowl than I so there are nights she will slip into bed well after I am sound asleep. Like you, she also wakes up earlier. I need 7-8 hours of sleep a night, she does well on 6.

      Delete
  13. Bob, you come up with the most interesting posts!

    My evenings tend to be short and boring. Because I'm a morning person, I'm usually up by 5:00 or 6:00am. I read while I enjoy a leisurely couple of cups of coffee, but then I hit the ground running and my day is often jam-packed. By the time we have supper - generally around 6:00pm - I've had it. Between 7:00 and 8:00pm, I clean up and prep for the next day, and finish up any small projects I wanted to get to that day. Around 8:00pm, I'll often pick up whatever reading material catches my eye that evening and read for about an hour or so. Then it's lights out around 9:00. But, that being said, because I front load my day I have no problem just relaxing - watching TV, catching up on email, reading - for a couple of hours in the evening whenever I choose to do so.

    It sounds like you've already developed some worthwhile options for your evenings. Could it be that you just need to give yourself permission to simply relax and enjoy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies

    1. Yes, I probably do need to be a little easier on myself. But, "killing time" just doesn't sit well with me. I can relax with the best of them for a time, but then I just must do something a bit more stimulating.

      Delete
    2. Mary,that's kinda how my day goes too. I am not too hard on myself ... I was a TYPE A in my careers..now..?? I give myself al LOT of slack.. evenings after 8 PM -- eh! ? Early bed, good sleep= health. And then BUSY the next DAY!!

      Delete
    3. One of the blessings of retirement is that it allows us to default to our natural rhythms. While you and I may have always been morning people, Madeline, I imagine that any night owls whose career was 9 to 5 might especially appreciate that benefit. On days that I spend outside my natural rhythm for whatever reason, I don't accomplish as much (whether work or play) and I look forward to returning to my comfortable-to-me routine. And, like you, I love to read, too. Fiction, non-fiction, a variety of magazines, blogs, travel literature - I enjoy them all, and I consider whatever time I spend reading a pleasure and a privilege of retirement.

      Delete
  14. Bob, thanks for sharing! This topic is one that most people who are still full time in the workforce ask those of us who are either part time or retired. I think I finally have my "new" footing after being retired 2 years now. I made some very early rules for myself when I first decided not to go back to work. One main one is no TV before 7 PM any day of the week. Now, this will likely change some for Saturdays and Sundays once football season begins again, but as a general rule, no TV during the day. Drives my wife a little crazy on her days off (she is in nursing so works 3, 12 hour shifts a week), but in general when she wants to decompress on her day off and watch TV, I just find somewhere to go to give her the space she needs. We do not eat dinner until nearly 8 PM most nights due to her work schedule (she usually gets home around 7:45 PM), so we have adjusted our dining schedule accordingly. During the day, I spend time reading up on key news stories, following the stock market, doing errands and chores, prepping and cooking dinner, and many other items. I volunteer for Meals on Wheels one day a week as well. I have really become interested in politics. Not any one stance or another, but instead learning the strategies being implored by each politician and political party. I find the strategies very interesting and what may appear to some folks as being knee jerk are actually very well thought out approaches, no matter who the politician. One may ask why waste your time with that area, and my response would be it intrigues me intellectually, nothing more. I find that having my time to do whatever I like keeps taking me down different roads where I am learning new and interesting things. What a fun journey it is shaping up to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have a TV in the living room and one in the bedroom. So, if I want to watch a ballgame (and Betty doesn't) or listen to music we have separate spaces to go. I try to end any TV watching by 8:30 so my brain can calm down from the visual stimulation.

      That is an interesting take on studying politics. As an International Relations Major in college I understand the complexities of politics. But, the current state of affairs in the U.S. has turned me off.

      Delete
  15. I play ping pong one evening a week. We usually socialize with another couple once a week, and the two of us go out to dinner or a music venue once a week. That leaves three or four nights to sit around with B and watch TV. And then I do my back exercises -- 20 min. -- and read until I fall asleep. Now you know almost as much about me as google does!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should I start placing advertisements especially selected for you next to your comments? Google seems to know things about me before I do! How else could all the ads be attractive to me?

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted