The Joy of Not Working

My word for this year is Joy. Living a year of finding joy in the little moments, finding joy in not working, and finding joy in exploring new things has been uplifting.

New things that added joy to my life: a long-weekend trip to NOLA with hubby, Zumba, Cooking Boot Camp, regular beach yoga in Florida, park hikes with friends, visiting a fall festival corn maze, a mid-week visit to an iconic dairy-whip, going to a local soccer game, celebrating summer solstice, my mid-week foodies club, taking a pottery class (and using my hand-made, not-quite-round, beautiful snack bowl regularly), regularly shopping at our favorite specialty food store, morning journaling, getting more comfortable standing on my SUP.

Choosing to be happy. Part of finding joy has been choosing to be happy.  As a natural pessimist, I have found a sequence of tools that help make that choice a bit easier. This year I am actively practicing gratitude. I am learning to be more emotionally aware and labeling negative emotions. I am creating (daily, weekly and monthly) intentions for things I want to do and then celebrating the little “accomplishments” in completing them. I am actively connecting with others – from being more mindful in listening to others to reaching out and attempting to create new friendships/support networks. I am learning to be OK with the transition process – from accepting the fact I am a beginner at much of this not-working, living stuff and that everything I try will not work out.

Finding joy by realizing what makes me “spark”.I am a structure-girl, a synthesizer, a list-maker, and a planner. Those terms make many people cringe, but for me, life is more joyful with some daily/weekly structure, something to research/learn about, a to-do list, and a life action plan. Drives my non-planning, non-list-making hubby insane.

Finding the joy has really helped me to transition from being a workaholic to living life.

What brings joy into your life?

Picture Credit: Pixabay


Does Zip-Lining “resolve” my childhood belief systems?

One of the core premises of the most recent (self-help) book I am reading is that your current life challenges are based in belief systems established in your formative years. While I had never ascribed to the premise that your childhood defines you, there is something to be said for how this book has recently played out in my life-learning.

Thinking about childhood and personal belief systems, I looked more deeply at both mine and hubby’s to see if there was something real about understanding childhood better in this way could help us in our retirement transitions.

First me: Because of an early heart health scare, doctor’s encouraged my parents to limit my physical exertion.   I was not allowed to take dance lessons but rather encouraged to take piano.   It was before Title Nine came to really impact girl sports, so there wasn’t a lot of sport to not be engaged in, but summers for me were still more about reading than swimming and running around outside.    I became “the smart one” – possibly because of some innate talent or possibly because of all the book reading.  I wasn’t ever the athletic one, the active one, or the outdoorsy one.    And so, even today, I don’t consider myself “physically capable” and getting into situations where I need to be physical scares me. Yes, I have realized that one of my biggest fears started in childhood and continues, to this day – I do not believe I have the physical ability and strength to do “that” – “that” being anything physically active.   So I avoid it, procrastinate; I don’t even try for fear of failing, because I’m not the active one.   Yet, being more physically active is a huge element of my retirement life vision.


So why does this blog have Zip-lining in the title and picture?   This past weekend, I went zip-lining (that is me in the picture!).   We ended up having a free afternoon in Northern Ohio, the leaf color was amazing, and there was a zip-lining activity near our hotel called a “Canopy Tour”- a guided tour through the tree-tops on a combination of zip-lines and rope-bridges. Zip-line had been on my bucket list, for years; and I had procrastinated doing it, for years.  I did it this weekend – I climbed up, zip-lined, hung off trees, and rappelled down – shaking inside for almost the entire 3 hours in the tree-tops. (And with very patient Canopy Tour guides!)

Will breaking through the fear here help me break through it for other activities that require physicality?   Will other physically active things on my Possibilities List become less scary?    Will I become a physically active individual I vision in retirement?   Not overnight for sure.  Recognition of the childhood beliefs and doing things to modify those beliefs takes time. So the fact I’m doing Zumba regularly (no longer “no, you can’t take dance lessons”) and trying things like zip-lining and stand-up paddle-boarding are all elements that are slowly changing me.


Now onto hubby’s childhood belief system: He was never “the smart one”.   His siblings were better in schoolwork than he was and even to this day, he often talks about how he’s not smart.  He turned instead, with some innate athletic ability, to individual sports – running and biking and sailing.  He became the “active one”.   The fact that I have seen him hold his own in conversations with PhD rocket scientists, medical doctors, CPAs, and lawyers has not changed his opinion that he’s stupid. (Yes, we know a PhD rocket scientist.)   Hubby is amazing at so many things and is the one I rely on to fix and repair lots of our household stuff, even if I’m the engineer.  Even telling him the smartest thing he ever did was marry me doesn’t modify his firmly held childhood belief system!


So, do our childhood beliefs define us and hold us back still today?   Surprisingly, yes.    But, I think you can change them by being aware and challenging yourself, slowly.   Maybe someday I’ll be referred to as the active one and he’ll be the smart one.   One day at a time.

What belief systems of who you think you are might be holding you back?

The Work of Retirement

Recently I’ve heard a number of folks talking (both live and on blogs) about “failing at retirement” and returning to work fulltime. While in some cases, these individuals discovered that they get a lot of personal satisfaction from their work, others in fact failed to replace full-time work with anything, and therefore defaulted to go back to work. And in some cases, that work is not fulfilling but just something to fill the days.

On the cover of my retirement journal was the Thoreau quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”   A big part of my retirement journey has been to dream and figure out what I wanted my future to be.   Beyond having the finances in place, I had done very little envisioning of the future when I retired.   I don’t think I am alone!


Most folks will agree that a successful, fulfilling retirement is “doing what I want, when I want, and with whom I want”. What many fail to realize is, figuring out what makes a fulfilling retirement for you takes work.  Understanding your core values, strengths and interests take intense self-knowledge.   Knowing what you want to do versus what you should do takes self -reflection. Working through your grief (things lost from working life), fears, and bad habits takes effort. Knowing whom you want to spend time with and where you want to spend that time takes contemplation and conversation.

No one else can figure this out for you. Nobody else’s plan will be right for you. There is no perfect list of 5 Things To Do for a happy, satisfied retirement. You have to do the work – the self-reflection, the identification of your future dream path, the sorting of choices, the activation of your dream.

So my recommendation for anyone approaching retirement or recently entered into retirement: Take the time for introspection. Do the soul searching.   Create the life vision.   DO THE WORK!   You have to take the responsibility to do the work because your retirement path will be uniquely yours.


Tools that helped me:

  • Thinking through the 7 Life Domains (Work/Career, Relationship/Connections; Leisure/Hobby; Location/Lifestyle; Health & Wellbeing; Self-development/Volunteerism; Finances/Prosperity) and what I wanted each to look like.
  • Looking back at my whole life (in 5 year increments!) and remembering my accomplishments, my goals & dreams, things that made me happy.
  • Spending self-reflection time to understand which “benefits” of fulltime work I personally needed to replace – structure & time management; affinity & connectedness; identity & status; financial compensation; accomplishment & purpose?
  • Imaging five different futures via writing stories (creative writing class!).
  • Brainstorming a Life Possibilities List.
  • Creating a vision statement and then an action plan based on my values & interests.


Moving from a being workaholic to a living more relaxed way of life has been a big learning curve for me.   I am a beginner at living. I was an expert at working! I had mastery in knowing how to manage the work.   Yes, many days it was challenging and I needed to learn about new technical things or develop new skills. But I knew how to do it – the momentum of the day was familiar, if intense. In many ways it was second nature. Not anymore.   Day-to-day life is no longer routine; there is not yet a comfortable pattern. I’ve been at this for 2 years and I feel like I should have gotten the hang of it by now! But I am getting OK with being a beginner.

I am still experimenting with life strategies. Creating a fulfilling life for me means finding activities and interests that simulate the mind, connect me with others, and get me active.   Yes, there are days that I feel irrelevant, disconnected, restless, worthless.  Not everything works out. Not everyday is filled with mind-opening, soul-touching, physically-active activities/events.

So, I am continuing to work at retirement!  (Yes, I am a “work in progress.”) Someday I hope to become an expert at it!


Picture Credit: Pixabay