Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Existential Angst, Depression, or Just Plain Boredom?

So here’s the problem:

I cannot make myself get back to productive work.

No matter what I try to do to get back on track, I just. cannot. do. it. Before the past seven months of surgical fun began, a normal day’s to-do list consisted of fifteen to twenty tasks. Now I’m lucky if I get through five. Day by day, I’m not getting any work done, and perhaps more alarmingly, I don’t want to get any work done.

If this is the New Normal, it’s going to freaking bankrupt me.

When I am supposedly working, I’m spending about half the available time cruising the Web: reading various news sites, reading up on the odd item some client or student addresses (how do you spell Genghis Khan’s real name, and why, and who was he anyway, and did he really bring civilization to Europe, and speaking of Europe, I wonder what the BBC has to say this afternoon?), playing computer games, blogging, reading e-mail, hanging out at the corgi site, and whatnot. Add up the actual  number of time-stamped hours spent on a client’s Wyrd file, and you get about half the number of hours I sat in front of the computer while pretending to work on the project.

Okay, I’ve always had that tendency. But it’s never stopped me from getting work done, one way or the other, sooner or later. But now I’m not getting much done. Because…

I don’t want to start.
I don’t want to stay focused (or can’t stay focused?)
I’m stuporous with boredom.

So I decided to devote some time today to trying to figure out what the heck is the matter with me. Hence, the following rumination…

The Problem: I can’t get back to productive work.


1) What I’m doing bores me stupid!

 Even though most of my paid contract work is pretty interesting, even the best of copy can get a little old on the second read and what we might call “boring” on the third read and exponentially more boring on the fourth read.

Reading student work is not only boring, it’s often annoying. Yea verily, even infuriating.

BUT: It pays the bills.

BUT1: The bills aren’t so huge that they can’t be paid from other funding sources.

2) Possibly I’m suffering some sort of existential angst.

Any health crisis brings one’s mortality to mind: Do I really want to spend what little time remains to me on work that puts me into a coma?


BUT: What else am I going to do?

Can’t afford to travel
Can’t work up much enthusiasm for any other pecuniary endeavor
The status quo is comfortable

3) Possibly the status quo is too comfortable?

4) Possibly I’m mildly depressed?

Are There Any Solutions?

1) Bored with work

a) Stop editing copy

This would cut boring tasks by about 20% to 50%

BUT: I use the money to keep computer hardware up-to-date and to support websites.

BUT2: Most of the websites would be redundant if the business were closed.

b) Stop teaching

This would cut boredom by about 50% to 80%.

BUT: Teaching makes it possible to live without drawing down much from retirement savings.

c) Get a job

This would make Social Security pure gravy and eliminate the need to spend savings. All required IRA withdrawals could be reinvested or gifted to M’hijito.

BUT: I dislike few things more than having to trudge to a workplace every day.

BUT3: I’m too old to get a decent job.

d) Take a break

Go on a vacation somewhere. Get out of here for two to three weeks.

BUT: Who’s going to care care of the dogs?

I can’t afford to travel.
I find flying aversive in the most intense way.
My car should not be driven into the sticks.

One could go camping. It’s easy enough to camp for a week or two at a time. Rent a truck and get some new camping gear. The dogs could then go with.

BUT: Who’s going to take care of the house, pool, and yard?

Simply sign off all work, including Scottsdale Business Association, for a couple of weeks.

BUT: I’ve already done that, perforce, thanks to the past five surgical procedures. The effect was to make me not want to come back to work!

Find ways to take mini-breaks.

Set aside days in which no work will be done.
Rent vehicles for day trips.

2) Existential angst

a) Find something else to do with life.

Quit teaching, quit editing, sell the house, and go someplace utterly different.

BUT: This seems way too risky and could lead to more, not less angst.

b) Find some other line of work.

Look for a paid job.

BUT: I don’t want to go back to work! UGH!

BUT4: Last time I tried to get hired, prospective employers made it abundantly clear they considered me too old. That was six years ago!

Try going back to freelance reporting. It’s fun and does allow one to meet a lot of people.

BUT: Talk about your second childhood!

BUT5: It pays no more than what I’m doing now.

BUT6: And it would put a helluva lot more wear and tear on the ancient vehicle.

Get a real estate license. This could be amusing and might even earn some money.

BUT: It’s costly and there’s no guarantee I’d earn anything. The amount of work put into marketing real estate could be devoted to selling books.

Quit working for others and do your own thing.

BUT: The chance of earning a living wage is exactly nil.

3) Change the status quo

a) In a small and subtle way: Devote specific amounts of time per day and per week to the boring work. Do not devote any more time than allocated to these tasks.

b) Make day trips once or twice a week or a couple of times a month. Rent vehicles and bring the dogs.

c) Change the effin’ attitude!!

4) Address the possibility of depression

a) Limit boring work to specific, scheduled periods. Do not work outside these periods.

b) Get more exercise.

Back on the mountain!
Specific, scheduled period, maybe more than once a day, for exercise; e.g.,

dog walk
human hike
yoga/physical therapy exercises

c)  Train the puppy properly

Take Ruby to obedience training

d) Take art classes

Check at Shemer, Desert Botanical Garden
Or just start drawing again

e) Break loose time in which to do only my own thing

Set computer to run offline; use offline time to write my own books.
Or do my own writing on paper, of all things, and then type second drafts online

So if I were to organize time so as to accomplish the following, what would that look like? The following:

1 day trip per month
2 days/week to do my own thing
1 new endeavor, such as returning to art
4 hours of paying work per day, five days a week, for paid work, limited to that.

4 hours x 5 = 20 hours
20 hours x $60/hour = $1200/week, max
4 x $1200 = $4800/month, max

20 hours x $45/hour = $900/week, max
4 x $900 = $3600/month, max

Okay, I can live with either of those scenarios.

When do these famous work hours get done? Eight to noon or one to five, obviously. This leaves the evenings to grade student papers in front of Netflix, which dulls the pain. It leaves four hours a day for exercise, dogs, shopping, and housecare. And it leaves two full days per week in which to do nothing or to go on day trips.

On Thursdays I’m in Scottsdale, getting out of a meeting around 9 a.m. An upscale Costco is located on the way home from that venue, as are two Trader Joe’s, an AJ’s, a Walgreen’s, a fancy Fry’s, and a less than perfect Whole Foods. If I diddled away an hour until Costco opened, I could go there once a month and hit the grocery stores on the other Thursdays, thereby minimizing the car trips and allowing me to shop in much nicer stores than the ones in my part of town — for the same price.

{Sigh} It’s hard to believe that just “getting organized,” which is what all this comes down to, would dispel whatever the present cloud is — whether it’s boredom, angst, or nascent clinical depression. On the other hand, some steady exercise certainly wouldn’t do any harm. And starting something new, such as a new art course, doggy obedience training, or just exploring more by bicycle would at least create a distraction.


Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.


  1. Hmmm….it’s an epidemic….I should be gathering my end of year stuff and tallying for the accountant to file taxes…Can’t bring myself to do it. Should organize my workshop and garage, they are a mess…not motivated. Like you I’m thinking maybe “winter blues” / depression for the lack of motivation and passion. Or maybe I’ve just become lazy….
    As for your situation…whatever you do DON’T get your RE license…that is a crazy, thankless, expensive endeavor. Think your toying with depression now? That business can be depressing…. A business that is ruled by the “95/5 rule”…that is 95% of the business is done by 5% of the agents. I liked the idea of the book on your “medical adventure” on a therapeutic level as well as a possible money maker. You can write and folks are looking for answers when they are diagnosed. You are the answer to this need.
    My thought is you have lost your “mojo” when you were on the medical adventure. Can only imagine the thoughts of mortality and self doubt that went thru your head. And now that that is behind you…”now what”…it’s really up to you. One could actually look at this as a “second chance” at life…a gift…a new chapter in your life. Perhaps doing something out of the ordinary…playing the banjo….taking an art class….catching up with an old friend… will re-ignite the fire….

    • RE looks like an unholy amount of work. I do know some people who have done pretty well at it, but at least one of them works herself silly: it’s like she’s on call 24/7.

      In Arizona, though, you can’t work for a Realtor as an underling unless you also have a license. So if I did spring for a license, it would allow me to hire on as a gofer or to write copy for the person’s ads, or the like. Then he or she would have to go out and earn the money to pay me. 🙂 That sounds a lot better than selling houses myself.

      Barely beginning to shovel the tax crap together. Only just this minute finished reconciling two months’ worth of personal bank account statements. Haven’t even looked at the corporate account — the accountant can do that, I guess.

      She handed me a wad of forms to fill out. Can’t deal with looking at that stuff. As I recall, last year I just handed it back to her and said YOU figure it out! {sigh} Poor woman…no wonder she looks a little harried these days.

      Weirdly the thoughts of mortality were undisturbing. First, I was assured that a) I did NOT have cancer and b) I was NOT going to die from it and c) even if they should happen to find some real cancer in there, I was STILL not going to die from it. But I did, certainly, recognize that I could have died from the effects of the anaesthesia or some other screw-up. And you know…it didn’t really seem to matter. I’ve lived my life, and though I’m not in any hurry to go, neither am I frightened by the prospect of the natural course of events.

      Finding the TIME to write the proposed book is proving to be a major problem.

      Still have the law professor’s latest copy to read. Another 120 student papers will be on the server by tomorrow evening. Found an email I’d marked for future reference from the CEO, in which he’d asked for a change that I probably didn’t make and so I’ve got to track that down and if I screwed it up let him know and send him the correction. Plus of course…the tax junk, the endless infinite tax junk.

  2. I remember a few years ago my mom was having very similar problems – when I would talk to her, she’d say “I need a kick in the pants, I have no interest or desire in getting my work done” – and she was a bookkeeper/tax preparer, so her clients were coming and the work was piling up!

    Eventually she got back into the swing of things.

    I am *not* an artist in any way – but I’ve been going to these “art and wine” events – a variety of companies are running them – and you can generally get a groupon or promo code – so they cost about $25 for an evening where you show up at a restaurant or bar, and paint!

    You pick the artwork that interests you, and get to create it. I’ve done it a few times now and have been *really* impressed at what I’ve brought home 😀

    • What a hoot!

      Interesting…none of the events are centrally located. If you live in North Central, you get to drive halfway to Timbuktu to attend one of these events. But it could be worth it — looks like fun!

      Their website doesn’t tell you much. Do you have to bring your own paints, canvas, & easel?

      • Nope – you just show up! They usually hold the event in a restaurant or bar – so you have the option of buying wine/food – but it’s not required.

        They set up the easels, canvas, brushes and paint and give you an apron. Once everyone is there, the artist/leader goes through step by step how to paint the picture. It’s fun to walk around and see how different every painting turns out!

        There are other companies –
        It’s the new cool thing and they are popping up all over.

        From what I can see, they all do groupons or if you go on facebook and find their page, their will be coupon codes.

  3. I’ve had the same problem. Got self employment work I could and should be dealing with but ….. have talked myself out of it. I think I have just reached a stage in my life when I want to be frugal, resourceful but still busy and engaged. I’m not going to find what I want in life by remaining in my big house out here in the Mojave so I am selling and not looking back. Boredom could be your problem. You’ve also been through a major surgery and are probably questioning life choices. Try to sit down and really ask yourself: what do you think would make you truly happy. Downsizing and travel, perhaps? We only get one go-round. I’m going with the travel and hoping for the best. Life has been devoid of a little risk for a little too long around here.

    • That sounds grand!

      I’ve always thought it would be great fun to get an RV, throw the dogs and a few pairs of bluejeans in it, and drive away NEVER TO RETURN!

      LOL! Reality keeps intervening, though. SDXB and I had a small RV, so unfortunately I know how much it costs to run one of the things and how much maintenance they take. Nice daydream, though.

      The guy who bought that RV from SDXB loved it. He actually lived in it for large parts of the year — discovered he could get the Parks Service to give him free space and maybe even a little spending money in exchange for signing on as a “camp manager” at sites where virtually no one every showed. Nice gig. He would take temp jobs and live in his employers’ parking lots. And he would go down to Mexico for a few months every year to hang out with the chiquitas. If you’re willing to stay on paved roads at all times, it could be a promising way to have some adventures.

  4. MAN …sounds like some sound advice from Quest and Spiffi. The art thing sounds pretty cool and for $25…what’s not to like? I also like Quest’s take on life and their house. I have thought about this myself…Our house is far from large or elegant, but they are building new McMansions going for $750K+ right up the street from me. I was lucky/smart enough years ago to buy my home and two separately deeded building lots on either side of me. Those lots are probably worth about $150-200K each and roof over our head probably is worth $350-400K. I have bounced off DW the possibility of having “one more adventure”. That is to sell the home and lots where we are at and buy (steal) something further out that needs work Bank the difference with TIAA-CREF mutual fund. Put that place together and in 5 years would eligible to sell this place and take the $500K exclusion once more or just stay put. Then buy a condo where someone else shovels my snow. DW thinks I’m crazy…..and I tend to agree….Can’t bring myself to straighten my garage BUT would be willing to undertake a major renovation…just years from Social Security eligibility….How crazy is that??? Funny… maybe that’s what your story is….you seek adventure…

    • Wait, what? You have two buildable lots with a third containing an older structure? Why don’t you buy or rent someplace to stay for a year or so, tear down the existing structure, develop the three lots with three new houses, and THEN take the money and run?

      Heh…now THAT would be an adventure. 😉

  5. Now let’s calm down….Though our place is humble….it does have in door plumbing…LOL. The place is fairly well put together and is stone and brick so it has weathered well. I have learned over time that the REAL money to be made/saved is in tax efficiency. As the property was bought all at once it would be most beneficial if I sold this in one swoop. So as I understand it we would take the gross amount…..subtract the original price we paid…..which would result in our net….then subtract the $500K exclusion …. and then if need be do “a like kind exchange” for the new place. This would/may result in the desired result of $500K in the bank…a new place to live and no capital gains. But the accountant would ultimately figure this out. The lots have additional value in that they are already a part of the sub-division and already have city water for a future home in the road and would require no review. So to build you would need a “perc test” and a grading permit along with a site plan …. easy peasy. We could sell the lots separately but then we’d have neighbors close by…not a fan. So it would probably be best to “cut bait” and go “fishing” some where else….BUT DW is reluctant to partake in this “hair-brained scheme”. I can’t say as I blame her …. I’m too lazy to clean the garage but I’m willing to take on this “tax code calculus”….sheeez…

  6. Wow. Just Wow. This mirrors my own difficulties with distraction and the overwhelming nature of undone work.

    You might want to familiarize yourself with Jerry Pournelle. He’s a writer, technology reviewer, and very long-time blogger who admits he spends far more time distracted on the Internet than he is comfortable with.

    To combat that, he maintains a “Monk’s Cell”. It’s a tiny room in his house, with no Internet connectivity, where he locks himself in to write, at a certain pace, on a regular basis. The fact that you CAN’T waste time on the Web brings back good old habits learned in the Mesozoic era – focus, structured thinking, and proper analysis.

    Speaking of which…. I should follow my own advice. M’outta here.

    • Yah, I think that’s a potential solution. Either use a pad of paper, or simply disconnect the computer from the Internet. Pads of paper have a certain sensual appeal that the computer lacks, especially when used with a fountain pen…

  7. Hi Funny,

    I think we, as a society, do not value/understand recovery as well as we could. The energy you expended into research of your situation was possibly more enervating than you realize and takes longer to recover from than the actual surgery and dealing with your doctors. And while I think your mortality was not a big concern for you, that doesn’t mean once things have calmed that you may want to review what you are doing with what you want to be doing or not doing [if you can make sense of what I am trying to say in this run on sentence – please no red ink!].
    Maybe you need to board the dogs and take yourself off to different place and veg out for a few days to a couple of weeks and just relax and do nothing? The house doesn’t really need much, a neighbor or son could keep an eye on the house, the pool could be handled by son or new/old pool guy.
    I think all the suggestions made by others here are excellent.
    Good luck, and let us know what you plan so we can wish you more luck and not worry 🙂

    • Those are all good ideas. Actually, there are a number of B&Bs in AZ and New Mexico that will let you bring your dog. Would have to rent a vehicle, though: no way am I driving the clunk into the desert.

  8. Hi Funny,
    I have seen my mother be affected by repeated surgeries, and what you are experiencing is similar. I believe the recovery from the physical trauma and anesthesia is longer than most people believe.
    I would recommend that you make a priority of getting outside and doing your walking exercise. That is both healing, therapeutic and gives you a great time to do the examination of your life priorities that you seem to be going through.
    I too am going through some life transitions and I am trying to focus on the possibilities and what would be the life I want in the near future.

  9. Or maybe you’re just plumb tired of working and want to play? That’s where I am right now: I’ve been running hard for decades and now that I’m in a committed relationship I want to spend time with him, hang out with family and friends, read a lot and generally goof off.
    Really starting to understand the allure of retirement — except that I only just turned 57 and can’t afford to quit work right now. Currently I am taking time off from the constant-freelance grind to work on a personal project that may or may not make money for me. Sure hope it does, since my income for last month and this has been about one-third what I need just to make my own salary for the LLC.
    I would probably live just as long and die just as happy if I never again had to chase down factoids and interviews for a personal finance piece. But I have to make a living — don’t wanna take Social until I’m 70 if possible — so at some point I either have to go back to freelancing or come up with a new way of making a living.
    And I’m with everyone else: Don’t underestimate the recovery time needed after ANY surgery, let alone one that involved cutting off pieces of your body. Pushing yourself too hard might be counterproductive.
    Hope to see you next week in Phoenix. You can combine any Home Depot errands with the trip to Wendy’s. 🙂