Un-knot the Nots

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.

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13 thoughts on “Un-knot the Nots

    1. Ahh Maddy, did you sense in there a “bad girl” wanting to come out? Nobody else has caught her, but yes, she is in there! Not sure how she will emerge….my values are rule-based and structure/security, so any rebellion will be minor! But I do think she will emerge a bit this coming year.

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    1. Carol, I have been in self- discovery most of this year! It is not a quick task, I have found. But I am starting to be the person I want to be versus the one I think I should be. Keep on your discovery path to your true self!

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  1. Pat – I love your new outlook. I hope it is very freeing for you. I felt that when I retired I was finally able to just “be me” – no pretense, no excuses, no “shoulds”! When somebody asks me what I do, I answer truthfully – “I’m retired and I LOVE It!” I am a grown up that has finally been given the freedom to be whatever I want, whenever I want.

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    1. It’s taken me almost 16 months to feel comfortable saying “I’m retired”. And feeling free to do what I want to do. I still worry about what others think sometimes….it’s hard to turn off years of habit! But it’s getting better, especially when others validate your new ways of thinking. Thank you for that!

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  2. I resonate to this post. The “so what are you doing now?” question makes me very uncomfortable. Perhaps it is because I do not think of myself as retired. A friend suggested I tell people “I am on a sabbatical” – defined as unpaid time to explore and research creative endeavors. I find this an easier answer to give as it describes more fully the current phase of my life. Also, your comment about “should” rings true to me. It is a word that I work hard to eliminate from my vocabulary – it is the most stress inducing word I know! I continue to enjoy your introspection! Sandra

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    1. Sandra – thanks for your comments. I have learned to be OK with saying “I am retired”, even if that follows with “what do you do?” asked incredulously. I answer with whatever I have going on that week… which could be taking classes, going to the theater, meeting friends mid-week for dinner, walking in the park. (That was just a few things I did last week!) Between comments here and on my FB posting, many have agreed – don’t should on yourself.

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  3. Yay, you! I think you are doing things exactly right! Everyone retires a little differently and what is comfortable for you now may be different in a year or two… or not. Also, “giving back” could mean volunteering as a usher at a local playhouse – which means that you see the play for free. Win-Win! “Shoulds” come from envious busy-bodies.

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