We Don’t Even Give Half-a-F*** Anymore

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, April 8, 2017

Many of my retired friends have expressed the same sentiment to me lately. It’s a variation of “I can’t believe how lazy I’ve become.” I feel that too. Although I don’t think I’d diagnose our conditions as laziness.

For some reason, we all just don’t give half-the-f*** that we used to give.


At first, I thought this malaise was brought about by the lack of discipline from not going to work every day. But I’ve also heard from friends nearing retirement about their struggles to care about their jobs. Before I quit work, I remember how little I cared for each new project. A rigid schedule didn’t make me care more.

This makes me wonder if our condition is age related. It’s as if vitality is slowly leaking from our souls. That would be quite disturbing if we still gave a full-f***. Does aging mean dwindling drive? How sucky that would be! Ironically not giving a full-f*** makes it easier to take.

I feel like Henry Bemis in that old Twilight Zone episode about a guy who gets all the time in the world to read but then breaks his glasses. Retirement meant I had all the time in the world to pursue by ambitions but my goddamn fuel for giving-a-f*** is running out! Instead of hoarding minutes to get something done, I hoard gives-a-f*** energy.

It scared me recently when I read people over 65 watch the most TV. There’s a fine line between loving TV, TV addiction, and TV mindlessness. And so many of my friends have become political news junkies. Could obsessive worry about Donald Trump be zapping our ability to give-a-f***?

I really want to find a cause that’s not aging. If I’ve got ten or twenty more years, I want to use them, not waste them daydreaming in my recliner.

Not only do we care less, but we’re moving slower. If you’re over 65, have you noticed that? Do people tell you that you’re slow? Did you see the interview with Ted Koppel and Sean Hannity? Wasn’t it so visible that Hannity was impatient with Koppel because was so slow? Is thinking half-as-fast related to only giving half-a-f***?

The weird thing about not giving half-the-f*** I used to give is it doesn’t hurt. It’s as if I hear the Sirens and don’t care about being seduced. I don’t know if this essay can help us rally.

Does noticing you care less make you care more?


37 thoughts on “We Don’t Even Give Half-a-F*** Anymore”

  1. I can sure relate to what you are saying here. It’s as if part of me is just saying — I’m done. Go on with life the rest of you. I have a desire to play the piano and am doing pretty well at sitting down at it every day, but after just a few minutes, well, I’m done. I used to practice hours and hours when I was a kid. Maybe I just realize now that it is futile, although it isn’t really. I know that practice does make me some better. Same with singing. I have not fallen into a TV trap. I still never watch over 2 shows a day, and sometimes not that. But instead, I am an Internet junkie — on the computer constantly. Reading is second. Maybe we have just not found our new passion. Or maybe we are just winding down — I don’t know.

    1. I thought about writing about feeling the futility of things, but I’m hoping that’s not related to the sense that we’re feeling lazier. But it could be. Does not doing stem from not caring because of thinking it doesn’t matter?

      Carol, I keep thinking we have all this time, the time I begged for during my 9-to-5 years, that I’m wasting. That worries me.

  2. Jim, I don’t find myself caring less since I’ve retired, I still care intensely about things–just not the same things. I think it is not we, the older generation, who doesn’t care but it is society who no longer cares about us. Therefore, I now care more about myself, my family and friends than about the bigger things going on in the world. My circle of care had become very small but no less intense. I still care a lot — just about fewer things.
    My focus since retirement has been to enjoy life as much as I can. I hope you are doing the same.

    1. I was talking to one of my “I’m feeling lazier” friends yesterday and we brought up the idea of outliers. That some people our age haven’t started running down or caring less. I guess you’re one Peggy. However, is your caring mental or physical? Mentally, I still feel ambitious. Where I’m slacking off is actually physically doing things. It’s so much easier to think about writing an essay than it is to sit at the computer and write one.

  3. I think it can be related to simply being tired from the very fact of aging and our energy levels drop. For me travel renews for awhile, but once I’m back home the not giving a F… returns. And I don’t have the energy even when traveling I use to. Our bodies just start to slow down. Simple things appeal more…surfing the internet, reading blogs, napping, being outside listening to nature sounds, eating out at a nice quiet cafe and whatever little things appeal..too many to name. I enjoy just sitting and thinking about things. I love to philosophie on ideas and the “big ” questions. My favorite is why is there anything at all and not just absolute nothingness.

    1. I’ll have to consider travel as a stimulant. I’m eating the healthiest diet in my life and exercise regularly just to acquire the energy levels I do have. I wonder if all that junk food that clogged my arteries gave me the energy I’m missing now? I could go back to my old fun food diet but I’d need a bunch more stents and several heart by-passes.

      I love naps. And one of my friends who reported feeling lazier claims she likes to look out the window more. I’m doing that too.

      Actually, my sense of well-being is higher than any time in my life. I wouldn’t want my 25-year-old body back if I couldn’t have it with my 65-year-old brain. I wonder if well-being comes from caring less? Maybe caring too much causes unhappiness and stress.

  4. Hi James

    I still care passionately about things, or at least get really aggravated about how things are going. But then this idea that we are all angry most of the time does seem to be a problem for all ages not just old folk. One thing I have noticed is that friends who were busy with outside interests, hobbies, clubs, travel etc even while working just seemed to rap up a bit when they were retired and have no trouble staying busy. People who mainly worked then came home and collapsed in front of the TV or the Internet seemed to have more trouble filling their time or breaking that pattern. I have sleep apnea and insomnia, while I was working I had to soldier on, now I probably over compensate for the condition with naps and lassitude. I do think I will have to institute a more rigorous schedule as I do seem to fart away a lot of time.

    I have to ask is the pug whose photo you post yours, I am a big dog person.


    1. No guy, the pug isn’t mine. After my cat died a few years back I haven’t wanted any more pets. But I love looking at pictures of pugs. Whenever I write something that’s about me and hard to illustrate with a photo of the subject I find a photo of a pug to use that looks like how I feel. Pugs are very expressive. Since I’m not much to look at, I identify with pugs.

      Doesn’t the pug above fit the mood of the essay?

  5. Hi Jim:
    I am over 80 yrs. and relate to being physically tired. Mentally I am still going but?.
    I wonder if our hormones have lowered, I note women are commenting. I was going to blame lowered testosterone and still believe it is an issue. My doctors thing I ask because I am interested in Sex, however, this is not my reason. I believe our bodies are to low in hormones and we feel blah because of it? Possibly, your readers may have some inside?

    Also, being older I would like to communicate some of what I have learned over the years. Some of this desire turns me to the news and would like to tell some of our elected ‘leaders’ to shape up and serve the needs of the people. This only generates frustration in myself and I wonder what to do, so I read your blog. I enjoy it immensely.

    I am Graham Somers and do not wish to hide behind a false banner and not take responsibility for what I say.

  6. Graham, my doctor recently told me my testosterone levels were fine. So that shouldn’t be my problem. I’m like you, having leaders that aren’t serving the people is very frustrating. It causes a kind of despair that could be affecting my energy moods. A friend of mine says she’s paralyzed by the political news. It’s like a trainwreck you can’t stop watching. Sometimes I wonder if not watching the news would be healthier. But that feels like shirking a responsibility.

    I’m glad you enjoy what I write, and thanks for saying so. Blogging is my retirement hobby. I hope I’m improving despite getting older. Physically, I know I’m in decline, but mentally I feel I’m still improving. I hope I’m an old pug still learning new tricks.

  7. I still feel passionately about things, just not the same things I did forty, twenty, or even ten years ago. 😀 And different things when I lived in Australia that I do here in Canada. Certainly the passage of time occurs, but that isn’t necessarily ‘age’.

  8. Physical decline and frailty are a reality. That said, have you ever considered how many of the things you did or pursued over the years were in the service of creating a particular persona you had in your head — the image of the person you wished to become? As one uses up the years, the chances for significant personal change decrease accordingly. Less time left and fewer possibie paths to take, fewer open doors. And so, less motivation for striving, but perhaps more inclination to accept what is and hopefully find some pleasure in the present moment. In that sense, even bitter disappointment can yield a certain restfulness.

    Then there’s the well known sense that time is accelerating as one grows older. Whatever you try to do, odds are that it will all be over anyway in the seeming blink of an eye. Again, that can be both curse and comfort, depending on your circumstance. I think the only way to combat the phenomenon is to fill your time with incident rather than routine, but sadly another part of aging seems to be a greater longing for the comfort of routine and less tolerance for change. Not to mention decreases in both physical and financial resources for most of us. Life is mostly just one big pile of Catch-22, ain’t it?

  9. Haven’t we earned it? Not to give a f*ck? I am always being told “not to be so hard on myself” when I am disappointed in what I haven’t managed to do, and I’m still working, although I was meant to retire end of last year. I’ve been to time management training courses where they start telling you many minutes in a day, a week, etc? And it is finite. You’ll only have so much time. Over the years I’ve come to consider a weekend well seent if I had managed to get work done. People say “how was your weekend”, and my response is either: “I feel bad, I did nothing all weekend), or alternatively “I had agreat weekend – got lots of work done.”

    My take on retirement is that as long as you are not bored, or despairing because days stretch ahead of you empty, you should chill. I there is something you like doing – enjoy doing – do it. I sympathise with you, because I also suffer from what isessentially a Calvinist legacy – that you have to have something to show at the end of the day. I am a voracious reader – there are weekends when I snuggle under a duvet and read and read the days away. Mostly fiction, because living in South Africa at the moment “(wo)/mankind cannot bare very much reality” to quote DH Lawrence (or is he Laurence?)

    What I am most afraid of at the moment is that once I really do retire I won’t have the courage to say no to people when they ask me to take on this project, serve on that committee; because I always start out thinking of course I must do this or that because I’ll do it well, and not long after begin to think – “what possessed me to agree to do this!”

    So, here is the corniest bit of advice I’ve been given and now pass it on to you: be kind to yourself. It’s okay just to chill!

  10. I know just what you mean when you talk about giving a f*** I think it’s my favourite saying now and should be my apitaph , so says my wife?

  11. I know the feeling, but I think it means that we are looking forward to retirement and doing other things. At least that’s true for me. I’ll be retiring in 2-3 years, and I’ve already started new hobbies, and am looking forward to going back to my first love, which is playing music.

    1. Richard, I hope you get back into music. I wish I had some kind of musical ability. I love to listen, but lack the gene for making it. I can’t remember lyrics or melody.

  12. I’m only 58 and I’m still working (teaching English privately in Querétaro, Mexico) and already I feel a loss of energy that puzzles me since I’m in quite good health and have never had any bad habits. I adore taking a daily siesta, but of course here in Mexico that makes me fit right in! I wouldn’t say that I care any less about my passions, though, despite needing more rest and slowing down a bit generally. My two absorbing pasatiempos (hobbies) are (1) my intellectual and cultural interests, which I feed read by intensive reading and a healthy dose of film and quality TV watching, music listening, and Internet activity, and (2) my companion animals, who number seven: a Scoodle (Scottish Terrier / Miniature Poodle mix), three cats, a ferret, a rabbit, and a hamster. (I hope to add a hedgehog, a cockatiel, and a skunk.)

    I love living here in Querétaro, a city of about a million that is safe, clean, beautiful, historic, culturally vibrant, prosperous, cosmopolitan, and business-friendly (with tons of international investment). The weather here in the mountains (Querétaro is higher than Denver) is sunny and gorgeous 365 days a year, hardly ever going above 85 F in the middle of a summer day or below 45 F in the middle of a winter night. I live in the Centro Historico, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Living away from the Trump madness is good for me, although I can’t help following the daily show.

    1. I have a friend that wants to move to Mexico – to Guanajuato city. I would like to live somewhere where Trump madness wasn’t so in-my-face. Your blog doesn’t seem to be about life in Mexico? I’d like to read more about that.

      1. I’ve had a few blogs over at Blogger, but none are active just now. The one here at WordPress is more of a small business website.

        Anyway, Guanajuato is quite nice, too, and many American and Canadian retirees live in the smaller town of San Miguel de Allende. Like Querétaro, these are both in the central part of the country.

        I am a strong promoter of living, studying, working, and retiring abroad. There are a lot of great possibilities of destination to choose from.

        1. I told my friend about you. She says she’s been to Querétaro and would consider moving there. She’s lived in Mexico before and studies Spanish here and there. I’ve forgotten all the Spanish I learned in college decades ago. After seeing videos of Guanajuato I would like to live there for picturesque reasons, but I’d worry about not knowing the language. I bought my friend A Better Life for Half the Price by Tim Leffel. Leading the expat life sounds very appealing.

      2. Your Spanish, albeit rusty, is probably much better than mine, and I’ve lived here for six years! I’ve never been good at learning spoken languages, but that hasn’t prevented me from living and working abroad and enjoying it.

        1. Patrick, does that make you feel isolated? Or are there enough English speaking people to deal with all the everyday things? I was trying to imagine going to a dentist I couldn’t talk to, or having a policeman ask me questions. I tend to be chicken about doing new things, so I see you living abroad as having a kind of bravery I lack.

      3. I don’t consider myself brave! Sure, understanding the language imperfectly can be a little isolating, but I don’t mind that. When I need to communicate, I can always find a way to make myself understood. And in a city like Querétaro, there are many service providers of all types who speak excellent English.

      4. I hadn’t seen that video – interesting! If anything, the retirement trend has picked up steam because of the dollar / peso exchange rate making the economics attractive. Security issues in states such as Querétaro and Guanajuato are minimal.

        But I would say that Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende are a bit too North Americanized for me. Querétaro is more “auténtico”!

  13. Jim;
    I see you have an International audience, which is what the “World” needs. Greater conversations between people, who have lived, seen the consequences of unconsidered actions. We have not aged without learning, at least some of us?

    I remember a time in history, 100 years ago, when my father, advanced across a field in France, as a member of the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, i.e. Army, to retake Vimy Ridge from German control. As a young man of 19 years, why was it necessary for him to do this? Have we learned from history? Why have we, collectively, not learned to settle differences by reasoned discussion? Obviously, we, collectively, have not matured into the reality that we live on one Globe?

    We need to look after the Land, Water and people! Or, be part of the next great extinction.

    I worry for my grand kids.


    1. Graham, I don’t know why it’s not obvious to all that we need to protect our shared environment. Anyone who has ever maintained an aquarium will know how easily it is to let the balance of life become unbalanced. The results are ugly. Putting more CO2 in the air changes the balance of things. What can’t everyone see our environment is finite and humans are polluting the mix of chemicals that we all live in.

  14. I’d love to be more active but between the arthritis and the blood pressure medication I’m slowed down at the age of 69 – and been retired for 6 years. At first it was a jolt because I truly loved my job as a kindergarten teacher and all my energies went into that. Now there’s not that –

    There are a few things I’d like to do more of but physically it’s hard. The thing is I know if I got up and started doing one thing a day (instead of just reading and blogging and doing emails) I’d get more energy going.

    I did start cooking again – this is dangerous because who will eat all my food? – I bring some over to my mom, but …

    And look at me! I haven’t even done my taxes yet – I’m learning to procrastinate.

    1. The seduction of doing exactly what we feel like doing is very dangerous. I’m also learning the value of setting 1-3 small goals each day. Just enough to stay ahead of the kipple.

  15. I’ve only been retired for three months so I still have the momentum from my Work Life. I don’t feel the pressure of deadlines any more (other than doing my taxes with TURBOTAX). I’m getting a lot more books read (I’m averaging a book a day).. I’m catching up on classic movies that I didn’t have time to watch when I was working. We have a number of trips scheduled: BOUCHERCON in Toronto and the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. But, I think all retired folks realize they’re on the Clock.

    1. George, I wish I could read a book a day. I could when I was young. And I could now if I gave up so many of my other past-times. I’ve always wanted to go to Bouchercon. I envy you that.

  16. I’ve been to a dozen BOUCHERCONs. Great convention! Great writers, great fans, and lots of free books! Many of your blog posts refer to Time Management and making choices. Few things are more fun and satisfying to me than reading a Good Book. My mother had Alzheimer’s so I’m going to try to read as many books as I can just in case that’s my future fate.

    1. Long ago I attended SF conventions for a few years and then stopped. I keep thinking I’d like to start back again. I’m shy about travel though. I thought I might like Readercon because it’s quiet and focuses on reading rather than all the related media science fiction.

      A good book has gotten me through a lot of bad times.

  17. Hi James!
    Although I am pretty physically exhausted, I still care about things especially the ones that matter the most in my life. But – I still agree that caring less makes me want to care more. Moreover, I realized that I still care for a few things but not as strongly as I did way back decades ago.

    I could see and consider myself as carefree person now and that makes my mind very healthy. Well perspective is everything. Thank you!

  18. Jim, as you know, I get these posts in my email, so I rarely reply. Still, I meant to reply to this one a month ago. But don’t get your hopes up. It’s not much. 🙂

    I just thought I’d point out a science fiction novel, “The Demon Breed” (1968, also published as “The Tuvela”) by James H. Schmitz. It’s set on a planet where one scientist has been researching drugs in an attempt to find a cure for old age.

    That’s not a big part of the story, but he mentions one problem with such research, that the elderly scientists who’ve done previous longevity research seem to lose interest. They stop doing even those things which seem to be promising, and for no apparent reason. They just stop caring very much. And he struggles with the same thing.

    Given your post, I thought that was kind of appropriate. I suspect that this isn’t a new observation. 🙂

    At my age, I don’t particularly want to live forever. Of course, I know that I won’t live forever, whether I like it or not. I know that more than half of my life is already gone. If I had some reason to think that I would live forever, I might care more about it. After all, it would be emotionally crippling to care a great deal about something which simply isn’t going to happen.

    (That’s why people who’ve spent decades in prison for a crime they didn’t commit often say that it was a good thing, in some way. After all, it’s already happened. Decades of their life has been spent in prison, and there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it. So it’s emotionally – mentally – healthier to imagine that something good came out of that.)

    Oh, well, I’m getting off the subject now, huh? Do you see why I don’t often comment? Heh, heh. I never know when to stop!

    1. That’s an interesting take – if you knew you’d live longer you’d care more. Maybe that’s why I’m caring less because I know time is running out. Of course, you’d think if you felt you had only a little time left you’d care a whole lot.

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