“I’m a great believer in men and women working, and I’m not necessarily saying you have to have a career. I think you have to get out of the house and do something on a sustained basis that is impersonal – something that takes your focus away from yourself and your personal problems.”- Lesley Stahl answering the question “What do you think is most important to living a healthful, low-stress life?”
I turned 50 last week and, along with thinking of working a lot less in my living simpler plan, I’m wondering what retirement will eventually look like. I’m not worried about being bored when I have less work hours, I’m concerned about having more time for negative and ungenerous thoughts.
I had a few voluntary minimally-employed years in my 20’s and, part of that time, was depressed. Getting a paying job outside of the home was one of the tools to help cure my depression*.
For years, I had the above quote by journalist Lesley Stahl on my fridge about the importance of doing something outside the house that takes our minds off our personal issues – and that could be volunteering, not just paid work. I embraced that. Throwing myself into a situation where I suddenly had to pay rent and make enough $ to support myself, I found I didn’t have time any longer for depression.
As a hausfrau, my mind was consumed with negativity, paranoia about what others thought of me, jealousy about my successful husband, and self-pity. Years later, I experienced the other side: living with an insecure partner whose unemployment increased the frequency of his jealous accusations. When my mind is consumed with work, I simply have little time for anxiety in my personal life.
I’m curious what people are really thinking when they say “I’m not ready for retirement” – if it’s not a necessity of $, are they worried about having that much spare time with their mind? Is it about keeping the mind busy so they don’t get bored? As we age, what happens as we get physically more limited and are suddenly alone more with our minds? It’s a reminder to me that mind training through meditation is a necessary preparation not just for my current busy daily life, but for impending old age, sickness and death.
With my lofty plans to ultimately scale back to a 2-hour work day, it’s natural that I’m reminded of that previous time when I was depressed while minimally employed. But I believe I have tools now for not getting consumed with negative thoughts when I stop working so much. The time my minimal schedule opens up for Dharma studies, mind-training, and activism will be instrumental along with crucial new skills that I’m developing as I age: the awareness and willingness to ask for help.
- *My depression is my depression. I figured out my own resolution, but I recommend anyone suffering from depression to please please please see a professional for guidance. What worked for me may not be the right prescription for you.
- no time to lose