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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Art of Doing Nothing

     Now that I'm retired I often get asked what I do all day. I'd love to be able to say I've come up with a solution for the major problems of the world. And in my spare time I've figured out how to open plastic encased items without using every tool you own. But instead I just answer jokingly, " a lot of nothing".
     I guess if your not gainfully employed you can't be doing much, otherwise why do people feel the need to ask. It's kind of the same thing you run into when you're "just a housewife". I do everything I did when I was working outside the home. I clean house, do laundry, cook meals, grocery shop. All the mundane things most people have to do. But I also have more time to pursue my many interests and hobbies.

      The other thing I have time for doing is nothing. I can hear people gasping, do nothing, how can you even consider such a thing. Socrates said, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life". Even back in his time this need to be busy all the time evidently was an issue. People think they have to be doing something all the time or they're wasting time. But just because you're busy doesn't necessarily mean your accomplishing anything.
     I also think many people are afraid of their own company. If I stop and do nothing I might have to think and I might not like what I'm thinking. There also is a great fear of being bored. You see people running from one activity to another. If you ask someone how they're doing as often as not you'll hear, "busy". Have you noticed how many people can't just sit and wait? Learning to do nothing can be helpful to a person's mental health. It can give you an opportunity to recharge. A chance to clear your mind and regroup.

Watercolor painting

    A person shouldn't wait until retirement to learn to savor the moment. Sitting on the front porch watching a summer rain. Walking through the garden to see what's blooming. Sipping a cup of tea and watching the birds dine at the feeders. Horror of horrors you're wasting time. But as Bertrand Russel said, "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time".  That's what I'm enjoying about retirement, I can do "something" or a lot of "nothing". It's my time to do with as I choose. Unless I have an appointment for something my time is my own. Waking in the morning without an alarm clock is wonderful. I don't have to leap out of bed. I can stretch, rub the dogs tummy, look out the window and watch the trees turn from dark to golden as the sun comes up. Knowing I don't have to be any where in particular is such a feeling of freedom.


     If your career is everything to you and you are happy and don't want to retire, then don't. I've never regretted my career choice of nursing. It didn't just give me a paycheck, it also gave me enormous satisfaction. But after 47 years I'm ready to try something new. I've learned over the years that I don't need to apologize to anyone for what I do or don't do. I'm not here to impress anyone. I've been through many phases in my life, retirement is just one more. It's a learning experience just like the other phases: daughter, student, newlywed, married with children, working outside the home with family, empty nester. Each time my life changed direction was an opportunity to learn and grow. Over that time I did learn a very important lesson; to make the life that I wanted; to not judge or compare my life to another person's. It's not an easy task. We're bombarded with so much information and advice, it's easy to loose sight of what is really important to us as an individual.

  Travel (Goblin State Park in Utah)

     It's good to cultivate hobbies and interests before you retire. I've always been a believer that no one thing should be the only defining part of me. I'm more then a wife, a mother, a nurse, a grandparent. I'm all these things and more. We are all the sum of our life's experiences (good and bad), this is what makes us who we are today. I hope I never stop learning and discovering. Retirement just offers me the opportunity of more time to do just that. Or maybe I'll just do "nothing".


A thought to ponder: "When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen."

Participating in:No Rules Weekend


  1. I love your quote at the end. I think we often do let others take the pen out of our hand and try to write our story.

    And I love being bored every so often!! As a mom with 5 kids, life is busy. I cherish the quiet moments.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you liked the quote. I love quotes and try to find one that will go with each of my post topics.

      We are busier when we have children at home. I'm sure five keep you hopping. You are smart to appreciate down time. It's so important for helping keep our lives on an even keel.

  2. How did I miss this wonderful post? I couldn't agree more, or say it better myself (especially your thoughts and observations in paragraphs #2 and #3! Right on!) As they used to tell us all the time in life coaching school, "You're a human being not a human doing :-) Love the Socrates quote, went and grabbed one for my simplicity Pinterest board. Speaking of which, I LOVE that gorgeous photo of the maple whirligig seeds, may I please pin it? And how come I've never seen your amazing parrot painting? You sure are talented, must be fun to be you! (It's sure fun to know you!) :-)

    1. Yes, you may pin the whirligig picture. Feel free to pin anything from my posts, I appreciate it. I'm pleased with that picture also. I was noticing how the late afternoon sun was shining on them and had the idea of adding water to the mix. So I sprayed the tree with the hose. I just love how the lower angle of the sun in the fall colors things.

      Thank you for the compliment on my parrot painting. It's one of my favorites. I'm not always happy with every painting I do, but I enjoy it and that's the main thing.

      It's funny that I wrote this post and then we started having a conversation about simplicity etc. It was something that had been on my mind for awhile, glad you liked it.