So far I’ve been studiously avoiding this week’s prompt word of ‘busy’… but not because I’ve been ‘too busy’ to write a post about it…
‘Busy’ conjures up for me all the restrictive oughts and shoulds of constant and visible busy-ness prized so highly in our Western capitalist consumerist society, and feelings of shame that by that reckoning I’m not worthy of comment in that regard. It’s not that I don’t do busy – I can (and do) still have periods of extreme busy-ness in my life. But at 55 I also have plenty of prolonged periods of rest and relaxation, those magical spells of mental and physical time out from… well, from all of it really.
I’m tired of having to justify myself to others who respond judgementally to what they consider my lack of involvement in the treadmill of modern life. I mean, I did that for years – for decades – out of necessity. I brought my three kids up as a working single mother, and now they’re all grown up with families of their own I can choose to work part time and be a (rather lazy) housewife the rest of the time. And I don’t see my lack of rushing around in the rat-race as a negative thing – for me, it is a truly positive choice.
The whole ‘work/ life balance’ thing is a bit of a 21st Century theoretical buzz-word just now, but not many people actually consider what that means in practice. The reality of achieving a successful work/ life balance will in all probability look different for everyone – in my experience it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all concept, because people want different things in life. But the important thing is it always has to be about balance. If you always prioritise the importance of work over life regardless of personal circumstance, then where’s the balance in that?
For me, I’m considering the concept of work/ life balance over my entire lifetime – I worked hard to do well at school, leaving at 17 with a good education, then got married at 18 and had my three children before I turned 22. I had a very difficult marriage and got divorced from their dad then worked a combination of part time and full time while bringing them up as best I could. After my children grew up I studied full time for a degree, then worked full time again for the next decade while paying off my student loan. I’m re-married now, and my husband and I have paid off our mortgage so we are embracing a kind of pre-retirement limbo-lifestyle.
People (usually working people, actually) ask me a lot what I do with my time when I’m not at work, as if I’m being somehow over-indulgent and selfish in allowing myself so much ‘free’ time. Well, I do a bit of housework, and a lot of reading, photography, colouring in, walking for leisure, enjoying nature, cooking, watching TV, blogging, thinking… so in a way I do have a busy life, but my style. Busy too enjoying family relationships to an extent that hasn’t been possible in years, invaluable with ageing parents and young grandchildren in the mix.
Honestly, I really like my life this way, quiet and unassuming and relatively easy compared to how it used to be. I don’t need pity from high-flyers for not being a career-minded go-getter like them, that’s just not me and never has been. OK, so I have a good degree under my belt yet I choose to work part time in a local pub – so what? I could go back to working for bigger bucks in central London again with all the stress and responsibility that goes with it, but why the hell would I want to do that? Been there, done that, happily wearing the T-shirt with my jeans every day instead of being all trussed up in ‘smart business dress’.
Roll on retirement, that’s all I can say, then I can legitimately start being busily retired and to hell with having to explain myself to others… and I honestly, genuinely, really truly can’t wait! 🙂