The Joys Of Not Working

A 'work' day of hiking

A ‘work’ day of hiking

Last weekend was a long weekend for workers in the United States as our country celebrated its birth on the 4th of July, Independence Day. Sacrosanct among holidays, it is one of those dates modern day Congress has not fooled with to deliberately make it into a three-day weekend. It happens only by the rotation of the calendar as was the case this year. Before I retired I looked forward to such a weekend. Oh goody, the 4th is on a Monday this year! No longer do I think that way.

After all the fireworks, parades and barbecues were over, Tuesday morning America’s workers returned to the grind, while I slept in, lazed around the garden after breakfast with my cup of coffee, picked blueberries and finally headed into the woods to do some real work. Ahhhh, the joys of not working, the pleasures of real freedom.

As a child older members of my family often told me the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper. The Ant and the Grasshopper is one of Aesop’s fables, which trumpets the strong work ethic of the ant while denigrating the grasshopper’s laziness as he fritters away summer only to starve during the winter months. Raised on a strong work ethic highlighted with stories such as this, I always found it difficult to be anything but productive.

Wasting away my hours at any time of the year in the manner of the grasshopper is never happening for me. It is not in my make up. Neither, however, am I the previous corporate ant, who dutifully put in a long productive work day week after week, month after month, year after year. It took a couple of years to re-program myself to enjoy days of simply browsing, from reading a good book to strolling through my garden to leisurely watching the sun go down. I also enjoy my more ant-like productive days of writing, working in the garden or hiking one of the trails in the local state parks. Eventually, I developed a new mindset mid-way between the ant and the grasshopper.

Among the joys of not working is not having to ask a superior’s permission to take time off to partake in the activities you love doing. You can do them every day. Even if they are work, they don’t seem like work because you are doing what is pleasurable to you. Another of the joys of not working — work is not work. And, another joy — you have no superiors.

With freedom also comes responsibility. That, too, can be a joy. Though it may seem daunting at first to fill your previous work hours with activities of your own making, savor the luxury. Few people on Earth get to experience the joys of not working. Revel in your accomplishment. Luxuriate in the ability to choose or not choose, to do or not do, to bore yourself silly today or find something to do heretofore unknown to your senses. You are no longer a worker looking forward to a three-day weekend and perhaps loathing the return on Tuesday. You are free! Enjoy the joys of not working.

19 comments on “The Joys Of Not Working

  1. Dear Kathy,
    This one really resonated with me as this July 4th was my first holiday as a retiree. It was the first 4th that I can remember in a long time that I didn’t feel rushed or frazzled or wishing my children/grandchildren would go home early so I could get ready for work the next day! I thoroughly enjoyed the day in a relaxed manner and encouraged my children to stay even longer! I like that you mentioned it might take a couple years to re-program myself and find that sweet spot between the ant and the grasshopper. Meanwhile I’m doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and finally after many years of working, I can take a deep breath and enjoy each moment. Thank you for your wonderful blog… I look forward to it every week.

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  2. This blog post is insightful and ‘right on’ as all of your’s are, Kathy. But, I must fess up that I did not transition into the sense of ‘freedom’ of not working very easily. Initially I still felt a sense of bondage to the identity, and the expectation of working. Over time, one builds a new life and a new set of perceptions about ‘not working.’ Finally , two years of retirement later, I feel like I have finally arrived at that point where I can “luxuriate in the ability to choose or not to choose.” I feel grateful I can be at this point in life. Thank you for all your blog posts.

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    • Thanks Bill! And, you are ‘right on’ about your transition taking two years – that is normal. Informally surveying through the blog and what I hear from acquaintances and friends, it takes most people around two years to adjust to retirement. It took me a couple of years to re-program myself, but I really did not hit my stride until toward the end of year three. Thank you for following me! K

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  3. You’ve reminded me that I can take a day and do absolutely nothing. Six years into retirement, I still have a to-do list. Mostly that’s because I can’t keep everything in my head. However, picking blueberries is an excellent idea for today!

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  4. Hi, I really enjoy reading your blog. I retired almost 9 months ago and still can’t believe that this is my life now. I am always very busy sewing, knitting, quilting etc etc, but I am busy doing things I love. When I worked I was always rushing and didn’t really appreciate the joy I got from my crafting. I feel so lucky to be able to retire at 60 and just enjoy my life. The 4th July is not a holiday here in Scotland but I know exactly what you mean. I especially appreciate not having that Sunday evening feeling as the weekend drew to an end and you knew it was work tomorrow. Thanks for your lovely blog xx

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  5. Great post again Kathy, thank you. No doubt one of the challenges of retirement is to allow yourself to do as little or as much as you like. Not finding that balance can lead to overwhelm and/or depression. I love the way you describe your ant and grasshopper activiites.

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  6. Wonderful post and my feelings exactly. I’d share on my facebook but know I would make all my working friends envious. J

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  7. Kathy- not only are we enjoying not working, we are enjoying living in a country with the freedom to do whatever we please whenever we please. God Bless America and help it through these difficult times.
    P.S. – Monday was always my most difficult day of the work week because I stayed up late Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Now every Monday at 8:00, I wake up with a huge smile. Really Blessed !! Also do you live in North or South Carolina? We are planning a 4 day road trip from Florida and would love some recommendations!!

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  8. I am slowly getting to the point of doing what I want, when I want. It only took 3 years and I am getting happier and feel less worthless!

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    • Hi Twil, I’m happy to hear you are feeling less worthless. That is a big accomplishment as creating a retirement identity is, for most of us, an adjustment taking both time and effort. Keep working at by trying new hobbies and interests. You are doing great! K

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  9. So true, Kathy. I like what Paulette said about the expanded choice menu. I love that I can say “yes” and not “no” so that I can get to bed so I can get up and go to work. I was reminded of the expanded “weekend” when a quadding trip with a friend got rained out. We were trying to find a weekend day that would work for us; we laughed when we realized that we also had Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs & Fri, not just Sat & Sun!! In the past 2 weeks, I’ve been able to attend a Fort McMurray benefit concert on a Wed, a birthday party at the lake on Sat and sleep in the next day knowing there was time to get the chores done, host a mid-week reunion of colleagues, schedule mid-day appointments vs >5PM, and volunteer at 2 community events knowing that I would be able to rest up the next day. Oh the joys of not working!

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    • That’s a funny story Mona. It also points out the adjustment we all have to make with our work years mindset of having only weekends for fun and relaxation — once retired, everyday becomes Saturday! K

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  10. Kathy, 6 months into retirement I still have a long to-do-list, like any respectable ant 😉. I still can’t manage to read a book or nap during weekdays. But I look forward to being more relaxed. Thank you for reminding me that it is a luxury and a privilege to be able to do or not to do. I started reading your blog long before my last working day and It has helped me in so many ways. Keep well

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    • Mada, I’m so happy to hear the blog has helped you in so many ways. It is hard to re-program yourself after decades of working – believe me, it took me two years to relax! You are on the right track. Just keep working at it and it will happen. It may even take three years or more. Best to you also. K

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  11. Hi Kathy, I, too, have always had a strong work ethic and find it very difficult to be anything but productive; I am just hard-wired that way. But, I am just now trying to make the effort towards re-programming myself. It is so hard! I force myself to “just be” in the moment, read a book, walk in nature, to slow down. That being said, I do love the newfound freedom to do what I want when I want and thank you for the reminder that not everyone gets to experience the joys of not working. It’s been a life time for me to get here and I need to remember that and enjoy my freedom.

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    • Yes, Marianne, after decades of being ‘ants’, it is very difficult to rewire our brains to simply be in the moment and enjoy. But you are on the right track and if you continue making the effort, it will happen. Keep going! K

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