The Power Of Forgetting

One of the things I’ve been interested in as I test out retirement is how quickly I would forget about work.  Even when I’ve been on an extended vacation in the past, I would still find there was a little voice in my head thinking about work.  If I were to wake up in the middle of the night, I would invariably find myself drawn to thinking about a work deadline or something I needed to remember, even if it was inconsequential. I wondered what would happen once there wasn’t a job to center my thoughts on.

In the first week, I found myself waking up at 2 or 3AM, usually because I would try to roll over and a cat would be in my way. My normal process would be to think “Okay… why am I awake?  What is it that I need to think through?”  And the answer was… nothing.  I was awake because I was awake.  I might still stay awake for up to an hour, but my thoughts were occupied with things like song lyrics or other ideas. I wasn’t obsessed or tense about anything.  I was just…. awake.  And the shift to this mode of thinking happened very quickly – within the first 2-3 days.

Do I find myself worrying about things? Absolutely? I’m constantly running financial models through my head and doing the math on how and when we could either run out of money or not have to worry about it ever again. I think through the list of various household tasks I have to work through. I think about the networking and other contacts I need to strengthen and maintain. I debate whether anyone would ever want to hire me again, and if they did,  would it be something I would want to do.  But the one thing I’m not worried about? My job and the stressors it brought me.

So now when I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m just awake. I think about things I want to think about. I’m in control; at least more so than before. And it’s calming. I can feel the relaxation settling in.

And, for the record, I’m sleeping through the night more and more often as time goes by.

On a musical side note, I’d forgotten how utterly strange this video is. Also, the version of the song here is different than the one on Peter Gabriel 3: Melt, with the vocals much higher in the mix and a lot of extra vocal bits. If you don’t already own this album, you should definitely check it out. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

2 comments on “The Power Of Forgetting

  1. For me this lasted for quite awhile, and when it stopped being about actual work, it kind of took the form of an inner terror/Protestant Scold about how I had abandoned my professional career path and I was throwing away my future…something (even now it’s something I can’t quite fully construct, which is your clue that it wasn’t real).

  2. I used to wake up and stress about how I had to get up at 645 and I needed to go back to sleep. This would wind me up even more; even after I didn’t have to get up. I finally had to tell my self you do not have to get up, go back to sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night is not a bother anymore.

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