Learning to Do Less

women over 50, lean in, lean out

How can I not work hard when my husband does? Is that really fair? I wondered if he resented me for slowing down just when he is revving up.

By Sharon Greenthal

I started working when I was 14, and was never without a job until just before I got pregnant with my first child when, coincidentally, I was laid off. After 20 years as a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t have that job anymore, so I began writing a blog and that led to co-founding a website, which I edited and managed for three years, a job that took eight to 10 hours a day five to six days a week.

I got shingles a few months ago, and when I was just about all better I badly sprained my ankle. All told I spent nearly four weeks off my feet from the first shingles pain to gingerly putting weight back on my still-swollen ankle. After that, my mother had spinal surgery and I spent many days commuting an hour each way to be with her while she recuperated, all the while fearing that she would never be ok again.

(She’s doing great.)

The new year arrived and I had no resolutions, because frankly I’m doing ok. Other than the eat healthier/exercise more mantra that I’ve been repeating for as long as I’ve known what a resolution is, there is nothing I feel I need to drastically improve in my life. Except for one little thing. The voice in my head telling me I don’t do enough.

That needs fixing.

I stepped down from my position at my website in November and took a part-time job that I enjoy very much, which left me a lot more free time than I have had in, well, forever. I planned to relax a bit, read more books, spend more time with my mother, meet friends for lunch, go for walks on the beach, make soup…

My husband is working harder now than he ever has before, and loving it. Each day he heads off to work with a sense of purpose and excitement that makes me proud and was, for a while, making me uncomfortable. How can I not work hard when he does? Is that really fair? I wondered if he resented me for slowing down just when he is revving up.

Turns out he doesn’t resent me at all. Because he’s the best husband in the world, he just wants me to be happy. Maybe there’s a little bit of self-preservation in that, but it’s still nice.

So we decided that, for me, this will be the year of F*&k It and Feel Good. No more “shoulds” or “I don’t want to but I wills.” No more doing things because I feel obligated or guilty or that most shameful emotion of all, lazy. This year, I will do what I want, when I want. I will not stop myself in the middle of reading a good book to get up and DO something. I will not feel like I’m wasting time when I binge watch “Transparent.” I will not be hard on myself because I pass on an invitation that just doesn’t interest me. I will do my best not to waste a minute of my life doing anything that doesn’t somehow — physically, intellectually, emotionally — make me feel good.

There are times to be busy and crazy and work your ass off and times to sit a while. There are periods of life when being idle is not a crime, but a necessity. There is something to be said for doing nothing, but no one wants to admit it anymore. Sometimes I think I stay busy just to be able to say I’m busy. What for? Who am I trying to impress?

My grandmother had the most wonderful gift for stillness. She could gaze out a window for the longest time, watching the leaves move or a bird in a tree. She could sip a cup of coffee for hours, chatting and laughing. She could see the beauty in the most ordinary objects, play her piano and sing just because it was fun. I want to be like that. I want to be still and peaceful and kind to myself. I want to do things that make me smile, that make others happy, that mean something to me. I may never get to be that way, but f*&k it, I’m going to try.

And I want to do it all without a moment of guilt.

Wish me luck.

Previously published on Empty House Full Mind

Sharon Greenthal is the Young Adults Expert at About.com. Her personal blog is Empty House Full Mind. Sharon is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Purple Clover. The mother of two grown children, Sharon lives in her empty nest with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau.

Image via pixels.com/CC License

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