Arbitrary rules and a life worth living

Thursday, February 2, 2017 Permalink

I tend to have weird rules. I mean, don’t we all? Some make sense and stop me drinking champagne for breakfast, but some aren’t quite so logical.

Given my recent contemplation about ‘to-do’ lists and how I spend my time, I’ve been thinking – in particular – about two very arbitrary rules I’ve been living by:
1. No television or DVDs etc during the day
2. No reading during the day

I think these rules made sense when I first enacted them into the legislative tome that-is Deborah’s world. But I’m now struggling to defend them.

I should mention that – although I general fail self-imposed goals (re exercising, food, writing etc) parlously, only rarely…. and I mean rarely, have I broken these rules. Indeed, I still only allow myself to read after 5pm when I allocate my 2hrs to the bathtub. And TV comes after that.

Arbitrary rules

I think the rules started when I made my seachange and was worried I’d become someone who watched daytime television and quoted Oprah and/or infomercials.

Post seachange I initially decided I’d try to work for myself and take my blogging / freelance writing more seriously. My days – most definitely weekdays and weekends, as there was no differentiation – were supposed to be about ‘productive’ stuff. Even if I procrastinated at my desk or threw myself down on my bed. I wasn’t really allowed to loll in front of the TV or read during the day. During working hours. And that rule kinda made sense.

However… given my recent tantrum about my habits I realise that I’ve carried that over even now I’ve started part-time work and have no ‘business’ to pursue at home. Sure I might still have writing goals. Or not… depending on my mood; but I wonder why I can’t do whatever the fuck I want when I’m not working.

arbitrary rules

Not retired, but no longer ambitious?

My part-time job is 5 days a fortnight. It pays okay but not great. In all honesty earning some extra via my writing would be a good thing and allow me a holiday occasionally and less stress when I waste money on floor rugs.

But really, I’m answerable to no one outside of my work hours. My time is my own. I’ve made that decision that time is more important to me than money, so I can’t help but wonder why I’m still not letting myself enjoy it.

Working 5 days a fortnight leaves me with shitloads of time to do other stuff. Time in which I’m not SUPPOSED to be doing anything else… other than the odd yoga class, chores or other occasional commitments. It means I could sit home and watch TV or read during the day. So the fact that I still don’t feel like I’m justified in doing that is what interests me.

And I’ve realised there’s a sense of guilt. Guilt that I’m not working more. Earning more money. Being more ambitious.

We’re indoctrinated from a young age that work is all-important. Aren’t we?

I remember in my last pre-change government job, I wanted to work do a 4 day week or 9 day fortnight. When I mentioned this people were surprised: I didn’t have kids; I wasn’t studying. Why else would I need time off?

I tried to explain that I wanted time off for me. I’d been working for 20+ years. I needed to find out what else there was to life.

I used the same justification for taking a redundancy and making my seachange. I use it now and often have to remind myself that I’ve prioritised ‘life’ over ‘work’ when a job pops up I think I SHOULD apply for.

Someone asked me if I was semi-retired. “Hell no!” I said, because in my mind retirement’s like a reward for working for years in jobs you hate to pay bills and mortgages so you can retire and live vaguely comfortably.

I’m not at that point. I can’t afford to retire. I’m a decade or two off retirement age. I still have bills, a mortgage. Commitments. I need to earn an income.

And that’s what I’m doing… so what I can’t get my head around is WHY does my life (as it relates to work) feel like a bit of a cop-out?

Can anyone relate? Do you struggle to prioritise ‘life’ over work? 

(And yes, I realise I need to appreciate what I have and enjoy it rather than stress about it!)

the-lovin-life-linky

I’ve joined Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebz. You can link up via any one of us!

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
Johanna from Lifestyle Fifty
Min from Write of the Middle.
and Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit.


46 Comments
  • Jan Wild
    February 2, 2017

    As one who is ‘retired’ (sort of) I totally understand where you are coming from. I think allowing ourselves time to do whatever we want is one of the hardest things ever. I still struggle with it. I allow myself to watch daytime TV or Netflix when I am ironing but I rarely do so otherwise. I can quite happily waste time on Facebook or other pursuits however.
    Oh, and what’s wrong with champagne for breakfast? Perhaps not every day though 😉

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      It’s funny… I took out a bit in the blog post (as it was SOOOOO long) when I mentioned that my mum will sometimes talk about having a lie down during the day and seems a bit defensive about it. I keep saying “You’re retired, you get to do whatever you want! You’ve earned it!”

      And I guess I’m not at that point and won’t be for a loooong time.

  • Vanessa
    February 2, 2017

    I’ve always wanted to work part time, but as the sole income earner, full time is what I have to do to cover my bills.
    Government still has its head stuck where the sun don’t shine in some regards, they’re great about being flexible for parent/kids but gasp a young worker who is carer…it’s like a robot blowing up after going “does not compute”. Cough. In my experience, anyway.
    I think you need to break your rules! But you’ll do it when you feel comfortable to.
    I hate rules. It’s like people who give the advice to new work-at-home-peeps that you get dressed in work gear and set work hours and snoooore. Why are you working at home for yourself if you are acting as if you are in an office? Defeats the point in my book. But that’s about my personal goals and views and point in wanting to work for myself.
    It’s like when the mysterious they say “don’t put a load of laundry on during your work time at home” … I’m sorry, so still squeeze $hit into the end of the working day, making the evenings more annoying and less relaxing? Really?
    Um, not that I have strong personal views on this or anything….continue your day as planned. Or not planned.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I still love the idea of working from home Vanessa – but like you I’m the sole income earner, even in my house of one – so I need to earn money to pay the bills. I used to have a ‘get dressed’ rule but ditched that pretty quickly. I never dressed in work gear but changed out of my PJs into something equally as comfy!

  • Jo
    February 2, 2017

    Aaah that old chestnut. I work 4 days a week – ostensibly to leave Friday for mg writing work. The idea was to use Fridays for creating blog content, scheduling of blogs, tweets etc & general admin & marketing. The real writing was supposed to happen at night. With my commute, I’m knackered by 8.30, manage about 30mins writing at 5am & Fridays have of late been chores & house stuff.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      When I cut back to work an 8 or 9 day fortnight my day off was spent on chores etc, though it did free up my weekends for stuff. Back then it was more just about cutting back on work than committing to anything else.

  • seizetheday20
    February 2, 2017

    I worked part time for several years when our children were younger. Now with my own business, I work pretty much full time, but my spare hours depend totally on the demands of my clients. I find myself giving up my “free” time to get things done for clients, even on weekends. Me thinks I need to draw a deep line in the sand!! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      Ah yes, that would be the hard thing about working for yourself. I did a lot of stuff at home in some of my govt jobs and had to monitor my emails cos Ministers’ offices would send emails at 10pm with stuff they wanted at 9am and that sort of thing. I don’t miss that at all but even now – in my part-time lower-level job – I feel bad if I don’t check my emails regularly. I didn’t on Monday and something came through I felt I should have dealt with. (Even though I don’t work Mondays!)

  • robjodiefilogomo
    February 2, 2017

    How funny, Deborah, because these rules really are arbitrary. Certainly started with good intentions. But when it comes right down to it, it might feel fun to “break” them!!
    Sometimes I have my tea & snack around midday and read a little for enjoyment. To me, it feels so luxurious to be able to do that after working hard for so long. Of course, sometimes, I can’t keep my eyes open so a nap happens instead (not as often as I’d like, I admit).
    Because I do have that nagging feeling that I “should” get something done. Especially since my husband is at his job!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com
    #lovilifelinky

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I didn’t ever have kids, so I wonder how I would have been if I’d been home with them or even home once they’d gone to school. Would I have felt guilty or felt like I needed to be more productive? I certainly don’t know.

      I joke that I wish I’d found a rich husband – who enjoyed working – cos I’m conscious that I’d feel bad not working if they were… (Ahhh, damned guilt!)

  • Denyse Whelan
    February 2, 2017

    I know what you are talking about. I do believe that you and I (having read other things you have posted) have these rules in our heads because of dominant fathers. There I have said it. I am only just now, at age 67 ‘allowing’ myself to sit and not do much at all. Infact, to read, to chill via social media. If you do not want to be like I was for this many years, then you can choose to chat back to your inner voice and to thank it for the care from the past but now, as the adult you are choosing. It is not as if any of us knows what’s ahead. I agree there needs to be some kind of balance with some chores thrown in but I am finally fully retired..with not a wonderful super payout but an adequate amount of pension to live on. Breaking or amending the rules is something I am doing now on a regular basis. Don’t leave it too long. Next week’s post..should you choose to follow the prompt is a “what is enough money” and it stems from my fear of not having ‘enough’ but if you asked my what is ‘enough’ I cannot quantify ! Thanks for linking up and giving me and the readers more to contemplate! Denyse

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      Oh… the concept of ‘enough’ is a biggie for me Denyse – in many ways, so I’m definitely planning to link up there.

      And god bless him but you’re very right re my dad. x

  • LisaD
    February 2, 2017

    So I can share my point of view on this with you – sometimes I struggle with the same thing. I don’t work – by choice. I’m lucky enough that my husband has a great job – but we’ve also made life choices and some sacrifices that allow me to stay home if I choose.
    There is guilt that comes with this but when I really think about it, the guilt is not really mine. It’s not guilt at all! It’s other people being jealous. Their McMansions, four kids, a Range Rover all have to be paid for and they work so hard for THINGS that they have no time to enjoy what they have.
    My biggest self doubting moment is when I meet new people, or ones I haven’t seen in a long time and, of course, I’m asked “what do you do”. “Stay at home kitty mom” doesn’t seem appropriate and “Nothing” isn’t accurate, I do plenty!!
    As for how I spend my time – well I guess that’s kind of day to day and honestly it’s my business. I try very hard not to get bogged down in what I ‘should’ be doing. I try to set a goal to do at least one productive thing a day. This can be getting grocery shopping done, cleaning done, loads of laundry done or it can be things like blog posts, book reviews etc. I like to go to bed at night being able to say ‘today I did this’.
    I don’t really watch t.v. – and hardly ever in the day but that’s because I just don’t find it interesting. My favorite time to read is a warm day in the shade. It’s quiet and relaxing and I think you should really give it a go. Set up a nice spot if you don’t have one outdoors. While everyone else is at work – enjoy the outdoors!

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      Ah yes, I vowed I wouldn’t make excuses or similar but I find myself doing so and over-explaining my decisions. AND… worse than that I feel obliged to mention that I did earn more money and have a more senior job but decided I would be happy coasting along etc etc. I HATE that I have to drop that into the conversation. Why can’t I just let people think I am what I am. As you said… we let the opinions of others worry us too much.

      I don’t know why I feel I need to say… “I’m not JUST this….”

  • leannelc
    February 2, 2017

    Here’s my actual comment!! 🙂 I loved that you work part-time – I work three days a week and I feel like I’ve earned the right to have my time in the sun. My husband and I have never had big paying jobs, but we are really frugal and have made a little go a long way. Big spenders may need a full time income, but we’re doing fine and I love having time to do my own thing and not be a slave to work.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I love that aspect too Leanne and LOVE not HAVING to go to work every day! Every so often when I see a full-time job I think I ‘should’ apply for I remind myself how much I love my free days!

  • kathymarris
    February 2, 2017

    Yes most definitely. I am almost 60 and I still feel that I have to work to contribute somehow to our household. I have recently resigned from my paying part-time writing job to focus more on “me”. Last year I felt torn between my job, my blog and the airbnb room that we rent out and I got overwhelmed by it all. I knew something had to go, so I decided on the paid job much to my husband’s astonishment. I can easily fill in my time and I don’t watch daytime TV nor read during the day either. I just want to focus on some other things in life. Work isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      True. I’ve had a lot of jobs I’ve put my heart and soul into Kathy and I don’t think it’s every really appreciated. It was only the very last place I worked that I actually felt valued at all!

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    February 2, 2017

    I’m not retired yet but can see myself having these conversations with myself as it nears regarding guilt at ‘not doing much’ yet feeling torn about wanting to just do things for me.

    Work in progress.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      Yes… I don’t even know what retirement age really is nowadays. Pre-seachange I was doing quite well with my superannuation etc but not working for a few years and now only working part-time means I won’t exactly be a self-funded retiree when the time comes!

  • Mystery Case
    February 2, 2017

    I wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a child, unless it was educational or sport related. As a result I’m rather allergic to spectator sport and documentaries. A sporting documentary would bring me out in hives. When I left home, the first thing I did was buy a TV and was known to host Melrose Place nights. It didn’t last long though. I’m far more productive without it, so as a general rule, I don’t watch TV. Hubby on the other hand grew up in front of the TV and finds it relaxing. I don’t. I wonder if that will change when we retire? I suppose I’ll have 40 odd years of television to catch up on.

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I watched a lot of TV when young but rarely watch anything ‘live’ any more. I tape stuff and watch it on a few nights a week. And now I have Netflix so….

  • maxtheunicorn
    February 2, 2017

    I really relate to this – I set myself ‘rules’ too. Rules for no ‘fun’stuff until I’ve written a blog post for example. I totally get the guilt thing too!

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      Ah yes, sometimes they’re a necessary evil I think!

  • writeofthemiddle
    February 2, 2017

    I can completely understand where you’re coming from. I walked away from the corporate life and have made the decision that after all those years of working to pay the mortgage, school fees and bills whilst juggling kids, house, husband, pets, schools etc … it was time to prioritise myself. It is hard to keep guilt at bay. I have done a few things that bring in a bit of money but nothing of significance and nothing that is regular. I also have rules – no TV through the day. No reading of books for leisure through the day. It’s either housework, errands or blogging during work hours. After many years of working, I still need to feel productive and have goals and deadlines and things like that. Retirement is a scary word to me. I’m not sure why?! #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I think it just seems as if retirement is a long way off for me. I know I cashed in my superannuation in my early jobs (in the early 1990s when I worked as a volunteer overseas, so I had travel money) so not sure what shape my superannuation is in, but think it’ll be years until I can access it!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    February 2, 2017

    So I’m still giggling over “Some make sense and stop me drinking champagne for breakfast,” ROFL!

    • Debbish
      February 2, 2017

      I actually don’t usually have alcohol until after 5pm or so… unless it’s Christmas or I’m out or have people here etc…

      I worked with someone who had a ‘I don’t drink alone,’ rule. I said given that I lived alone that would mean I NEVER got to drink!

  • Johanna
    February 2, 2017

    I really relate to this too. When I have lots of time on my hands I end up doing very little. Mostly because I don’t allow myself to to the nice things or things I would really like to do because I think I might be wasting time if i did. But then neither do I do the things which I consider ‘productive’ either. But give me a day when I’m rushed off my feet and wow do I get a lot done – including some ‘me’ things too! Ironic!

    • Debbish
      February 3, 2017

      Oh yes I’m like that Jo. When I worked full-time (pre-seachange) I worked quite long hours, had a commute and did work stuff from home. And yet, I also blogged 6 days/wk (at one point) and read and watched TV etc… It’s almost like I have too much time sometimes and I don’t do anything!

  • Emma
    February 3, 2017

    Is there a rule that says you can’t have champagne for breakfast? It’s always noon somewhere in the world. I do tend to make odd rules myself though, trying to get a work life balance. I feel guilty if I break them but am not sure breaking them does any harm other than to me. Read during the day I say!

    • Debbish
      February 3, 2017

      I think that’s going to be a hard rule to break but I will plan to over coming days or weeks Emma!

  • charliegirl
    February 3, 2017

    I have a very hard time prioritizing my life over my work. As a public educator, you either put in the bare minimum or live at your school because you are a good teacher. I am the latter. I feel like a failure if all my ends aren’t tied up and things aren’t planned and engaging. But a teacher’s job never ends. I leave school well into the dinner hour and still work when I get home. Someone on my campus last semester (whom I don’t know well or socialize with) point-blank asked me if I had a life. She literally interrupted my conversation with someone else and asked me.

    I thought about it for weeks…and the answer was no. I thought back and realized I put my life on hold to do my job. To be good at my job. To be good at a job where I am constantly told by my supervisor and by the public that I am not good enough and not doing my job. And I made a decision for myself. I want to do as you did – make a change of some sort – to allow myself more time for me. I can’t afford not to work full-time, but just not where I am right now.

    • Debbish
      February 3, 2017

      I changed jobs A LOT over a decade or so in the early 2000s. (And I’ve changed professions since I left uni in 1991!) I was lucky as I worked in project management and – in government – I was able to move from project to project.

      I think in reality it wasn’t really the job that was the problem, but the place work held in my life. As a single person I had limited other commitments and outlets. I think it took my friends all pairing off and moving on with their lives, my father’s passing and my realisation I wasn’t going to have a family for me to really stop and think about where my life was going. I was only in my early 40s but when I considered another 10-20 years of the same I hated the idea and realised I needed to make changes.

      Having said that I couldn’t have afforded to stay where I was and worked part-time or taken a break from work completely (which is what I did for 9mths). I had a hefty mortgage so sold my apartment in the city and moved somewhere cheaper so I could buy a place without a mortgage. And – even though finding a job was harder than I expected – I don’t regret it at all.

  • Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
    February 3, 2017

    As one who worked 4 days a week for many years in a government job – I highly recommend it and think there should be more of it! I loved having a day for “me” each Friday and let’s face it, it made economic sense too because if I’d worked 5 days a week the tax man would have got any money I made on that extra day (it would have bumped me up into a higher tax bracket).

    • Debbish
      February 4, 2017

      I tend to be ultra slack about working that stuff out Janet. I haven’t even organised any salary sacrificing yet and I’ve now been in Qld Health for a year!

  • Sanchie @ Living my Imperfect Life
    February 4, 2017

    I’m not there yet but would love to cut down — I’ve actually just gone a bit overboard with work which is making me rethink everything. Apart from my full-time job (38 hours a week), I do the writing-psych job (8 hours a week) and still haven’t given up my casual Saturday job (not consistent but can be up to 12 hours a month). I should give up the Saturday job but I like the money {and sort of need it} and the work and people too! Maybe by June I’ll give it up and learn to relax and focus more on writing!

  • Greg Hill
    February 5, 2017

    I think we often are subject to preconceptions or ingrained rules about how to spend our time- and they can be hard to shake. We are taught that work is all important where sometimes if you’re not a workaholic you’re looked at askance. I’ve read about countries in Europe where they take a perhaps progressive role towards work/ life balance, and that’s derided as “communist” or “socialism” here in the States. sigh. No room for nuance.

    I mean work is important and one has to make a living lol but there is more to life than being at the office 24/7. I say don’t feel guilty even though it’s easier to say than do. 🙂

    • Debbish
      February 5, 2017

      Yes I know… it’s interesting that I say I want to only work part-time and am no longer career focussed, but seem to feel so guilty about my lack of productivity / lack of ambition.

  • Ed @ The Tunnel
    February 5, 2017

    No reading during the day??? I’d break that rule every morning by breakfast time!

    • Debbish
      February 6, 2017

      Oh, an early morning reader? I don’t seem to be an early-morning anything at the moment and am back to my old ways of not wanting to get up each day!

  • MarthaE
    February 8, 2017

    Hello Deb! Sorry I haven’t visited recently – but I have thought about you. 🙂 I saw the rule “No Reading During the Day” and was alarmed! LOL. I always have a book with me and read any spare minutes I can. When I am in the office the Kindle or mp3 goes with me to the ‘retiring room” so I get a few minutes in at least.
    I am of retirement age now but not planning on retiring any time soon. I keep thinking I might take an extra day to be home with hubby but his health hasn’t been up to letting us do much together. If he sits and watches TV I end up on the computer anyway. I’m not much into TV except for a quick look at news and a few fav seires like NCIS, Blacklist or Bull.

    Have you thought about doing online work for a small publisher? Editing, converting, social media? You might like that work and it doesn’t have to be full time.

    The Lovin’ LIfe Linky group sounds very nice. Wish I had more time to work up chatty posts. Maybe some day. Meanwhile – if the rules are yours then you get to be as arbitrary as you want. And that could mean changing them to suit your life changes. 🙂
    Hope your week is a good one and I do hope you get some cooler and wet weather.

    • Debbish
      February 9, 2017

      I think I’d love to do some work that I was more passionate about Martha, but not sure it’s an option at this stage. If I had my time over I’d probably try to pursue something in publishing / editing but I wasn’t even really aware of those kinds of career options when I was young.

      And I’m excited that I’m starting to be more flexible with my time and my rules! xx

  • @kanga_rue
    February 27, 2017

    Great self reflection Deb xoxo

    • Debbish
      February 27, 2017

      Thanks… you know me… tend to overthink that stuff.

I'd love to hear your thoughts