I have always been a slow starter. Now that I am retired, that slowness has decreased to a crawl. Some days my morning doesn’t get started until early afternoon.
Retirement living is wonderful. Rarely am I in a hurry. I can do what I want when I want most of the time. But as my dad used to say, “You can get too much apple pie.” He said this when he was bored with some activity that should have been pleasurable.
I am not exactly bored with retirement, but like any other good thing, it can become tiresome. I look around for something to do. My house is reasonably clean. Laundry is under control. No grandchildren are available for me to play with, and I have nowhere I absolutely have to go.
I consider my options. I could spend the day reading books or watching old television shows on Me-TV. I could don a headset and lie in the hammock listening to soft rock music from the 70s. I could sharpen my pencil and sit down with a crossword puzzle book. Those are all enjoyable pastimes for me.
Doing any one of those things occasionally is pleasurable. Doing only those things all the time, however, is not.
Like most people, I want to accomplish something worthwhile. I need a purpose, a reason for getting up in the morning. When I move listlessly from one unproductive activity to another, I feel useless.
A particular French word describes this condition. It is the word ennui (pronounced “on,” as in the word honor, and “we” as in the word we).
The Merriam Webster dictionary states this: Ennui generally refers to the feeling of jadedness that can result from living a life of too much ease.
Does that mean when I feel restless and unmotivated, it is because I am living a life of too much ease? Ouch!
Experiencing ennui is not merely unpleasant. It is actually dangerous.
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, said, “Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.”
That is another way of stating what we read in the book of Proverbs: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” (Proverbs 16:27 TLB).
When I was a child, feeling restless and bored, my mother showed no sympathy for me. Her response to my whining complaint of “There’s nothing to do,” was quick and certain.
“I’ve got plenty of things for you to do,” she would say. “You can start by dusting the living room, and when you’re finished with that . . .”
My mother knew the best cure for ennui was activity, particularly activity that helps someone else.
Around us live people with significant needs. Many need friendship, encouragement, or physical help of some kind. These people don’t battle ennui because they aren’t living lives of too much ease.
If you are feeling restless and unmotivated, find an activity that helps someone else. Volunteer at a hospital or food pantry. Spend an afternoon babysitting a busy mother’s children. Sign up at the library to tutor an ESL student. Visit a nursing home and strike up conversations with people who are lonely. Pick up litter in your neighborhood.
God didn’t create us to live lives of boredom. Go find a purpose.