why can't I lead the life I want to lead?

I am 57. My wife died in 2014. i have a good job, no debts. All I want to do is go to work, come home, make a good meal, watch a little TV or a movie, and read.

What do I do? I come home and sit at the computer and chain smoke. And with each cigarette I tell myself this is the last one, and then I will read the books that are waiting for me in the little library room in my studio apartment. And most nights, I do read, but only for a half hour to an hour. And I don’t take the time to make a really good meal, I just make the simplest thing I can.

I am very lucky. I have no kids to worry about, other than a 37 year old stepson who I only have limited contact; my parents are alive and in good health, my job is secure. I have nothing to worry about.

But as my dad once said about my mom, “If she had nothing to worry about, she would worry about that.”
Why can’t I fucking chill and live the relaxed life I want to live?

Well what’s the problem exactly, cigarettess? Loneliness since the wife died? Is it just one problem or a couple? You strike me as not really knowing what’s bothering you.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say loneliness. Maybe you feel connected to other people when you’re online. There’s a certain comfort in knowing you have books waiting for you that could nudge you toward staying online: “I still have books to read,” as opposed to, “I read all the books. Now what?” When you’re offline, it’s quiet, you don’t feel connected, and loneliness comes crashing in.

You need to make your bucket list while you can still accomplish the items on it. Don’t wait til you’re 70… Get a passport. Or at least a road map.

When I finally quit smoking, after years of wanting to quit but not quite knowing how, the thing that blew my mind the most was that I’d never thought about it the right way. All (and by that I mean “all”) it took was making a conscious choice to not do it ever again, and to constantly make that choice again every single time I was tempted to do it again, until I stopped wanting to smoke, and being a non smoker became my new normal.

So what’s it going to take to make you start choosing to live the life you want, and to keep making that choice every time you’re tempted to stray from it, until living that way becomes your new normal?

And is there any reason you can’t implement that from today, this evening, right now? Are there triggers that stop you following through on what you want to do? Can you eliminate them? Is there a change you can make to your routine that will stop you following it through into the bad habit you want to break?

You don’t need special equipment for this, or a perfect time to do it, you just need to be in the right frame of mind. Really look inward and be honest with yourself if you need to be focusing on improving your mental health - see your doctor if necessary.

Get busy living or… Well, you know the rest.

Could you still be grieving for your wife?
You can find out about the various stages of grief here.

Perhaps your wife was really good at the social side and you’ve lost some connections to friends?

Depending where you live, there will be clubs and interest groups that you could join.
Maybe look for a book club?
Any local charity would be pleased to have a volunteer.

You could set yourself a small target of cooking different meals … and visiting your parents.

Good luck!

It is a lifelong task made up of one moment at a time.

Here are things that work for me:

  1. set a goal you absolutely know you can reach (walk around the block, cook a hot meal, go to a social activity you know you’ll enjoy, whatever it is).
  2. after that goal is accomplished, set another one you know you can reach.
  3. don’t think of “the life I want”, so much as “one new thing I would like to try out” or “one slight change in my habits”.

Habits can be very resistant to change no matter how unhealthy they are or unhappy they make you. One way to be successful at changing them is to make one tiny change at a time and get that one well-embedded before tackling another alteration. It’s not like turning a car around and driving in another direction, it’s more like a 20 mule team, every mule of which knows the route and is sleepwalking there and not listening to you. Takes strategy, continual effort – and some failing and regrouping and trying something else. Good luck!

As someone who sits at the computer all the time himself. . .it distracts you from, well, everything. Keeps you from thinking about what is wrong, and keeps you from dwelling on unhappy thoughts, destructive thoughts. Sit with yourself, quietly. Do that until you figure out what’s bothering you (likely, I suspect, loneliness), then sit and think about why you’re not fixing that. Next, get past that. This last part is probably the sticking point.

Usually, figuring out the problem is worlds easier than fixing it. Procrastination. Insecurity. Depression. Barriers we put up. Fear of failure. Starting on the loneliness problems (assuming that is an issue) is getting out among ppl. Call friends. Do volunteer work. Church, then church activities. Easier to say than to do, because of other things that hold us back. If you force yourself, though, you may get some momentum.

Nothing happens sitting at home alone. When you’re out, at least there are possibilities, and it’s more sociable than staring at the screen, watching kitten videos or trying to fix something that is wrong on the internet.

This sounds like depression to me. But I wouldn’t advise going the route of doctors and antidepressants. Rather try to get out and get involved in some club or activity.
Here’s an excellent short article about procrastination, with advice from 6 experts:

Confront your fears … and four other ways to stop procrastinating
Figure out the underlying cause

*…the main reasons for procrastinating are fear, perfectionism and not knowing where to start, or feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated. …
Start with one small step

*… Ask yourself, ‘What is the next action I would take on this task, if I was going to do it?’ And make it really tiny. …
Picture your future self

*… It can help to clarify or visualise what “done” looks like, she says: “What is the finish line you are aiming at?” …
Break the cycle

*… by making ourselves aware of our habit loops, says Brewer, we give ourselves the opportunity to break them. … The reward can be reframed as the feeling of accomplishment, instead of the relief (tempered by guilt and building anxiety) of a momentary distraction. …
Stop trying to fight the monkey

… willpower is a depleting resource, it’s not sustainable … Tell yourself: “I’m not really going to work on this right now, I’m just going to open the file and make some notes.” …

why can’t I lead the life I want to lead?

Because you are human.

“There are a million things in this universe you can have and there are a million things you can’t have. It’s no fun facing that, but that’s the way things are.”~~James Tiberius Kirk

If you can’t get motivated to quit cigs, at least switch to vape (get a good mod, not that cheap stuff from the gas stations). You’ll have more energy, feel better and your house won’t stink.

Speaking of which, OP are you keeping the house clean? A filthy house/car is IMO an important sign of depression.

Even if it takes all your efforts, I guarantee that getting the house clean will get your mind off your problems and keeping it clean will put you in a better place.

As an ex-smoker I have a little advice.

Stop smoking inside your home. It makes everything, including your clothes and yourself stink. If you have to make the decision to stand outside, you won’t smoke as much. Being outside is kinda nice btw. You can watch the birds and butterflies, listen to the neighborhood, and just do nothing but plan dinner. OR, you could bring one of your books outside with you to read while you smoke. If the weather is nice, nothing says you have to go right inside after finishing a cig, you could stay out and finish the chapter if you want.

Seriously, once you make smoking inconvenient for yourself, you will smoke less and it will be easier to quit when you are ready.

Just try some new hobby or activity that seems stupid. Worst case, you tried a stupid thing. Best case, you find something cool and maybe meet some cool people.

Of course, this would happen to be the one particular time that it’s a bad idea to bolt out the door and get in physical contact with a bunch of people.