It is hardly a novel observation to say, the world has changed. And the way we are perceived by our peers has changed, too. These changes might be toughest for baby boomers, because we grew up thinking busy is better. But is it? Wendy Shade has figured it out. She doesn’t want to be too busy any more.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
I am an out-of-work baby boomer. We are hardly the first generation to suffer these levels of unemployment, but it feels different now, because we live in a world where if you are not seen juggling several challenging tasks at once, you are seen as being unwell, unproductive, lazy, a selfish-no-good-pariah! This is how I have been made to feel as I navigate my way for the first time in my 49 years finding myself unemployed.
Which contributes to a real malaise of spirit. I am no expert, just a simple baby boomer. But what I see in today’s “Gotta have the latest gadget!” society is that people feel a need to appear more important and busier, that no one wants to admit that perhaps maybe they are not so much either of those things.
I’ve been employed for the past 20 years by the renowned McGill University but on the first of September, our 1,700 non-academic support staff voted in favor of striking. I did not think the strike would last this long. I thought it would just be a one-day show of solidarity, disapproval, and disappointment that our demands for job and salary parity — which have been ongoing for several years — have not been met or even taken very seriously. Now, as with the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, it looks like we are in this thing for the long haul.
Now, as this strike lingers and I find myself having no job to attend, no awaiting projects or tasks piling up on my desk, no reason to tell friends that I’m “so busy,” I decided to come clean and embrace the truth of my newfound situation.
It’s not easy to admit that you’re not “busy” and actually have spare time in today’s high speed over-achieving world. These words are seen in the same vein as “I have warts.” As if they should be uttered in a dome of shame and silence. Friends ask how I spend my day, and I have to wonder, am I going to make stuff up or do I tell them the truth? An image of me sitting on a park bench and feeding the pigeons appears. I try to push this out of my mind and end up reluctantly mixing the truth with a dash of exaggerated details. I mostly tell them that I’m doing things in the house that I’ve never had a chance to do before, like preparing and cooking a hot meal and having it ready for my husband when he gets home from work.
I haven’t morphed into some “Mad Men” or “Stepford” version of a housewife, though; I’ve been careful to explore only a few of these old-fashioned concepts. I haven’t welcomed my spouse home in Saran Wrap, yet! But I have been doing a lot of laundry, and keeping the house neat, clean, and cozy. And I am trying on for size the notion of being kinder, gentler, and not snippy and bitchy. I am not sure if this is tied to having more time or just feeling for the first time in my life that I need and want to change.
Where as I used to wake up and rush through my morning routine and curse at the numerous new creases on my face, I now wake up and smooth over these fine lines with wrinkle cream and the knowledge that this is all part of getting older. It is all part of life. And that maybe this new phase in my life is not really all that bad and I need to embrace it positively. While I do find myself lately channelling the Dalai Lama and feeling more “Zenlike” and less “CNN” frenetic, I know this time will not last. But for right now, I’m learning to enjoy the simple pleasures of not doing all that much and being okay with it.
I am so busy doing nothing, that the idea of doing anything — which as you know, always leads to something — cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.
~ Jerry Seinfeld
Category: Boomer Lifestyle