What’s the Ultimate Daily Pleasure? (Part 1)

| November 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Hint: No Corkscrew Required, and You Can Keep Your Clothes On

Friends will sometimes give me the stink eye when I mention I went to check out a new bakery in the middle of the workday, or made my own mozzarella, or started the day with a long walk along the creek with a friend.  There are some life hacks I’ve done that lets me do that (which I’ll get to) but the fact that it comes up so often is an indicator of something bigger to me.   The ultimate self-indulgence, these days, seems to be Time.

Remember free time?  When you’re not running from Thing 1 to Thing 2, when you have time to just sit, or do the things you love doing?  It’s an incredibly precious commodity to me.  When I’m insanely busy with work, my mind doesn’t say, “Gee, I wish I at the mall shopping for shoes.”  It wanders to having time to go sit by the lake with a hot cup of coffee and watch the little kids fish, or try to.  Time to wander the farmer’s market for as long as I want, and sample cheese and pickles and fruit.  Time to just sit on the floor and wrestle with our dogs, without feeling compelled to check my phone every five minutes to see how indispensible I am.

I’ll trade almost anything to have time to savor life.

But as everybody knows, free time is anything but free.  I don’t live among the leisure class (well, I live among them, but I’m not one of them).  I run a successful service business, have a house, husband, three dogs and a garden to care for, and volunteer with several local causes. I’m also not a productivity expert; I don’t do my nails while running on the treadmill or whatever those hyper-efficient people do.  So it takes a little bit of fancy footwork to carve out time to enjoy a chunk of pure life during the day, and I am on a personal crusade now to figure it out, and help everyone else figure it out too.

Where in the hell did our time go?

Way back in my great-grandmother’s day, free time was a joke.  She spent every waking hour feeding a half-dozen kids, taking in sewing to make ends meet, making pasta by hand, and scraping soapy clothes on a washboard.  Fast forward to the 60’s, and my mom had in her marital abode an army of miraculous time-saving devices like a spin dryer, forced-air heat, a toaster-oven, a blender.  It skips my mind what she did with her extra time, but I know she had it; my photographic memory captured the stacks of magazines, the inked circles on the TV Guide, the roses lovingly tended in our urban backyard.

Times have changed. The cost of living has driven most people I know in the current generation to live on a daily treadmill:  Wake (with great difficulty). Kids off to daycare.  Go to a job you’re not crazy about, but you’re okay at it and it pays the bills.  Lunch at your desk (or car). Work late, often with no extra pay for doing so. Home to responsibilities like caring for kids or spouses or even parents, homework, checking/answering work emails, then slumping onto the couch for several hours of “well deserved” time with your brain completely disengaged, watching Pawn Stars. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

If you give someone like that a block of pure, unadulterated free time and tell them, “Do whatever you want with it. Have fun. Everything’s taken care of in your absence. Take as much time as you want,” people seem to be divided among:

  1. Those who freeze up, unable to comprehend the concept of not needing to be somewhere right now. Come back hours later and they will still be hovering close to the iPhone, fiddling with a gadget, watching the clock.
  2. Those who fill that time with the same things stressing them out already: Work, chores, stressful interactions present or past. They need to send just this one more text, and then they’ll let loose. Just this email, and then I’m done. Really.
  3. Those who initially freeze up, but then bolt like the nature videos of tranquilized animals re-released into the wild. They may come scuttling back into Real Life hours later, with mustard stains on their shirt, muddy shoes, and a black eye.

We sleep less, work more hours, spend more time consuming a dozen new types of media, and compulsively stay connected to world 24/7 through a blinding array of devices. There is often no truly relaxing, free moment in the day except maybe the seven minutes right before sleep, when you might get to lose yourself in a page or two of a great book before falling asleep with it on your chest.

After burning up years of my life doing this, I got damned sick of it, sick enough of it to make some changes.

If this is at all familiar to you, I’d love to know about it — AND what you did to reclaim your time.

Tomorrow: How I begged, borrowed, built, and bought more time for Life, and how you can too.



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Category: Fun, Home, Mental Health

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