I am not working. I am not giving back. I am not exercising every day. I am not busy.
Every single one of those statements is often met with a negative response from others. What do you mean, you’re NOT. If you’re not, then you are …. lazy, a sloth, morally weak, a drain on society, going to vegetate on a couch and die an early death. Yes, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins! I am definitely not being the “good girl” I was raised to be.
Yes, I have heard all the arguments for why I should be continuing to work in retirement for mental stimulation and connection. Work is connected to worth and identity. It’s not socially acceptable to not be working if you are a healthy, capable, relatively young person. Only if you are an unpaid caregiver – that is one marginally acceptable not-working arena.
[A British friend living here in the States informs me this is a very American thing. She also is not working (outside the home) and consistently gets strange looks as well, which she says is the cultural Puritan work ethic coming out!]
I have also heard the arguments for why I should be focusing on giving back to bring me life satisfaction. And why I should exercise every day for longevity.
In today’s society, busy is a sign of achievement and importance. It’s not socially acceptable to not be busy. Multi-tasking is the norm.
But it is the “should” word implied in all of those responses that gets me. I grew up on should. I should be the good girl and not fight with my siblings. I should study hard & get good grades. I should graduate with honors and get a well-paying job. I should work hard, adjust to the Company work style, and climb the Corporate ladder. I should be a feminist and a role model to other women. In many ways, I’ve done the should my whole life. Being the good girl, I have abided by most of society’s expectations.
Now, I don’t want to. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to give back. I don’t want to exercise every day. I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy. Maybe I want to live my terrible twos’s over? After all, I am in my second year of early retirement!
I do want to learn how to play. I do want to connect to friends and have fun. I do want to be active. But I also do want to have time to slow down and enjoy things.
And so I am exploring possibilities and trying new things. I am taking the time every morning to write in my journal. I am actively going out & about, to various events in town, to stimulate my mind and have fun experiences. I am meeting up with friends – for coffee, dinner, happy hour, and walks in the park. I am enjoying an afternoon reading a book.
And trying to find internal acceptance, if not societal acceptance, of not working, not giving back, not exercising everyday, and not being busy.