Two exciting projects are in my life now. This website with the writing that it has inspired and teaching Qigong classes. I talk about both of them and get really excited and have plans for both of them that keep me thinking and planning and plotting. And … I don’t want to do anything.
I grew up with a strong message that one is supposed to work and that doing nothing was being lazy. I followed that message all through my “working” life. And I have carried it over to my “retired” life. I use quotations marks because I loved my work and much of it felt like having fun and retired hasn’t been very retired. Since Bob died (about 15 months ago) I have taken time to do nothing. After the flurry of morbid paperwork activity that follows a death I did start taking time – to cry or to sit or to think. Now, much of the crying is over, the paperwork is done, and these two projects which I love are well underway. And now I don’t want to do anything. I am tired of sitting and thinking and crying. I want something pleasant and enjoyable. And then that old work ethic pops up!
I have been learning to take care of myself. Letting myself cry and grieve is the biggest lesson I have had in self care. Crying was something I was often ashamed of, but after Bob died that view changed. I knew I needed to cry and I did – a lot. I believe that is one of the things that has allowed me to start new projects and enjoy them. The murky, ugly thing that suppressed sadness can become wasn’t allowed to form because the tears flowed. I am still sad often, but it feels like a clean sadness, not something tainted that will destroy the rest of my life. It is there and it is evidence that what Bob and I had (and still have) was (and is) of value. It is a good sadness, if that makes any sense.
I did not grow up with models of self care and I certainly did not practice it during my career. Self care seemed indulgent, lazy. Putting that in the past tense was even hard. Learning new tricks is hard and the Puritan work ethic is working against me. My frequent question is “Is this moment of not doing anything (or reading a novel, or watching the birds or …) self care or is it lazy and indulgent?” I am working on going with the flow which feels like lazy and indulgent often – no deadlines for the flow.
This new phase of self-care learning seems to have a new flavor – pleasant self care. Reading during the daylight hours for fun is OK (I keep telling myself that, and still it is so hard not to feel guilty when I read for fun during the day). Watching the birds is OK. A massage is OK (haven’t been able to allow myself to do that, but I am getting closer). Visiting a friend for coffee is OK. Leaving things unchecked on my to-do list is OK. Doing something just for pleasure is OK. Those were all alien thoughts until a few months ago.
I am just starting to realize that the quiet time of doing nothing is when spiritual ideas sneak in, when insights interrupt my thoughts, when thoughts of appreciation abound, when new directions become clearer. I am trying to foster this new (to me) idea of doing nothing. The puritan pitchfork is not gone, but I am working to leave it out of sight for longer periods of time.
This doing nothing is foreign territory, but, at the moment, it looks like a friendly landscape. Think I will explore some more.