Satisfaction and Joy

Satisfaction and joy. On Easter Monday I took the day off. It had been a busy weekend of late night hospital visits and various pastoral emergencies. The various church services and large crowds were energizing for me, an extrovert, but the pastoral care did leave me a little tired. So I was happy to stay home with my family and get some rest. I watched an interview with former Daily Show host Jon Stewart on his decision to walk away from his popular late night show. The host, Charlie Rose, asked if Stewart missed his old show, missed the work, didn’t feel in the passion unleashed by the recent Presidential election he did not regret the timing of his decision. Stewart did not hesitate, “no”, he declared, he did not miss the show or regret the decision or the timing of the decision. He was firm.

Rose pressed Stewart, the show had consumed 16 years of Stewart’s life, he had found his voice in the show and he contributed in a large way to the public discourse of his country. How could this “perfectionist”, so committed to doing the show in a certain way feel so good about walking away from all of that? Jon Stewart took a breath and then said, “There is a difference between satisfaction and joy. I received deep satisfaction from doing the show, it is a great legacy, but it was not joy. My life now is filled with joy.” Stewart is a wealthy man, he does not need to work but he is not sitting on beach somewhere either. Rather Stewart works on specific project that are time sensitive, he is present in a real way to his young family and he oversees a large farm that is populated with animals who live with some form of disability. This life Stewart describes as joy.

Now the cynic in us all can respond to this story with a, “Oh sure, look at the rich liberal, lounging around, aiding good causes when it suits him, on his schedule, easy for him!” Except that convenient response masks our own reluctance to face the decision we will all one day face, what to do with our time when our work comes to an end. I see so many women and men (mostly men) who struggle with this, who either can’t leave work alone or sit in front of a TV lost in boredom, wondering where all their friends are, why no one is calling them.

And I know one day all of this will come to me. In 8 years to be exact. I was not conscious of this at all, never ever thought about retirement until I received a letter from the Pension department telling me my retirement date is June 1, 2025. Then within week I was sitting with my financial advisor and he asked me the question, “so what do you intend to do when you retire?” My wife wondered the same thing, she listened to my answer.

So I am making up for the lack of attentiveness to this important question by thinking a fair bit about it now. I do not want to be one of those men who wonder why the world has passed them by, why no one comes calling for their genius. I know what I can do and most importantly, I know what I can’t do. I intend to keep serving, but I want it to be more focused on joy and less on satisfaction.

I love what I do, I draw great satisfaction from all three of my jobs, from all of my work (except for meetings) and the way I get to be part of a larger conversation about life and its meaning. I am so blessed! While the work itself is not stressful, nor is the 77 hours of week I devote to that work stressful, what truly does wear me down is the pressure not to drop the ball and forget what needs to be done. I live in constant anxiety I will forget something. Two of the three jobs would not react well if they thought my mistake had to do with me being one place when they wanted me in another. I know that. So I put a lot of pressure on myself.

When I retire I will leave that pressure behind. I do not want to wake up worrying about letting people down. So in retirement my service will continue but it will not include juggling these commitments. I love all the jobs, all the service, all the commitments. What I do not love is the feeling that one employer is wary that my commitment to another employer is problematic.

All of us need to find that space, that difference, between satisfaction and joy and as we age focus more and more on the joy. That is what I intend to do.