Riding the Guilt Train at a Senior Discount
Why do I feel guilty for doing nothing? By doing nothing I don’t mean doing nothing to feel guilty about, I mean nothing in the purest sense of the world.
Like sitting like a couch potato staring at the television and eating a nacho kind of nothing.
I can’t seem to reconcile getting through a day without accomplishing something. I’m not quite certain if it’s my type A personality or just the DNA in my bloodstream from years of Jewish guilt.
Whatever the case I can’t go to bed at night feeling good without knowing what tasks I undertook and succeeded at that day.
So I imagine the question would be: what is an accomplishment?
Aha. There’s the rub, for at various stages of our lives the word task morphs into far different meanings.
When young a task might be doing homework, making your bed or taking out the garbage. We never considered reading a book, playing outside until the streetlights came on or buying a new comic book part of the task category. Those things were the fun things we did, the parts of our lives we felt total control over.
Then we became older and a task was far more defined. In college we did our homework, studied for exams, did philanthropic activities with our sororities and left ourselves time for the fun stuff like catching up with our favorite soap opera, partying, watching Charlie Brown specials and listening to music while we danced around the dorm. There was a definite disconnection between fun and work and we felt the difference as we accomplished both.
Marriage and children brought even more awareness of the lines between pleasure and production although our underlying motivations were slightly blurred.
Changing our baby’s diaper was work yet it was done with love. So there was that, a whole love work conundrum.
Of course housework, carpooling, shopping or cooking were all things a Mom undertook with love and tolerance because our choices to raise our family had been conscious and resolute.
Some of us worked outside the house as well and at times the work felt less like work and more like fun. At least it did for me when I was doing stand-up comedy.
The point to all this is the fact that we were all productive. Our days were filled with responsibilities that needed to be met and loved ones to care for as the days passed quickly by.
At night we didn’t ever wonder, “what did I accomplish today?”
We were too damn tired and our heads were usually swimming with thoughts of what we had to do the next day.
It was a far different time.
And now here we are at a very different point in our lives.
Most of us, and I can’t speak for all of course, but many have chosen to slow life down a bit. Like a horse that used to run races and now sort of wanders about the fields sniffing the clover and munching on hay, and if he’s lucky gets put out to stud occasionally.
Some still have significant others and husbands (I am in no way implying that a husband is not significant here) so we do have another person in our lives to answer to.
However, there are those who do not.
I no longer have to worry about meals. I can eat what I want, when I want.
I work part time at my own pace so I needn’t be so strict about that any longer.
Hmm. So what is there that I absolutely need to do now?
And I am not certain if playing maj jong is considered a task or fun as at times the lines have now completely blurred from simply okay-so-I’m-getting-out-of-bed this morning, to healing the oceans.
I’m brutally honest with myself, I can’t retire as I’d be bored out of my skull with nothing to do. I envy those who can retire, but are they really?
What is retirement?
Does that mean sitting idol all day or perhaps running from doctor appointment to appointment as part of the weekly routine. No, I’m not sure if those visits to the doctor count as work or pleasure. I guess we should invent a new category for that one. Perhaps pain in the butt would be applicable.
Some golf, the healthy ones tennis, swim, play canasta, hang with friends, maj jong, go to the gym, meet friends for lunch, write that screenplay or novel, volunteer for charities, see the grandchildren and all of the many things one can do to fill time.
Although we take on tasks each day, for me it has changed a bit. Where once I could get up in the morning and clean all day, now, I merely take on a chore at a time with even a respite in between.
However, I need to do something, anything to make me feel as if I’ve accomplished something.
For me it is a necessity and I feel incredible guilty if I have ended a day without being productive.
So let’s examine what is considered productive.
Could one consider binge watching the entire season of Mrs. Maisel or Grace and Frankie productive?
Is cleaning a drawer or your closet?
How about writing a blog?
Can I sneak in maj jong under than heading?
Is it perfectly okay to count going to the gym as a positive day?
Case in point: Would you consider sitting in front of the television all day binge watching NCIS productive? I’m not going to argue the benefits of looking at Mark Harmon for eight hours although I can see no downside there. I merely wonder if I should feel guilty because I didn’t invent the cure for cancer instead? Is having a non-productive day and merely enjoying oneself a bad thing? What is truly beneficial as an activity?
As we age shouldn’t we be grateful we are able to function, walk, talk, enjoy our children and grandchildren? Isn’t contentment and gratitude a goal; a benefit of being alive?
Where once we sought more days to spend on pleasurable uses of our time, now we are blessed with scads of it. Is taking advantage of those hours not okay?
Should one feel guilty about simply enjoying doing nothing in particular?
I still have problems justifying 24 hours without producing something, whether it be a blog, a cleaner house, a charitable endeavor or even a new recipe.
So I have found a way around this conundrum.
Each day I find one thing to do that I can feel is going to result in something positive.
So I blog, fix something, work on a project or charity, call a friend, or even just catch up on housework. Then after that I can feel good about my time with Harmon or binge watching Mad Men, which a friend has been urging me to do. So in a way this is very productive because I’m making my friend happy by simply watching the show. Two birds huh?
I once saw Joan Rivers open her date book and point to empty pages and tell the interviewer, “This is what terrifies me.”
Right on Joan, Having nothing to do terrifies me, also.
Yet, there are still those lazy days, but what the heck? I intend to live them guilt free and with no remorse.
At the end of our lives when we are faced with that flashback of our existence on earth will it be the individual moments we see or the totality of our achievements? Our children, grandchildren, the love we gave and received and the loved ones standing beside us to guide us into the next great adventure?
I imagine I won’t care at that moment how many days I just binge watched Netflix or chatted on the phone with a friend in lieu of saving the world. Hopefully I’ll just be grateful for all the moments I spent on this crazy ball spinning in space and sorry to have to leave.