I had a good weekend, both productive and entertaining. I got some gardening done, real gardening that involved digging holes and stuff! I got my hair did. We went to a concert with some friends. We spent a day going on blind dates with kittens and met our new babies, a boy and a girl striped tabbies. They should be ready to move in with us in about a month! We fit in not one but two trips to Costco. I bought a new Chromebook. My husband hung hooks for my planters! I got laundry done and mostly put away! I finally printed out labels for a bunch of stuff I needed to return and, get this, actually put the items into packages and affixed said labels!
I was feeling really righteous and one with the universe when I got a text from my friend from writers group. “Are you coming? There’s no one here.” In the midst of all my I Am Winning Life activity, I’d forgotten to go to writer’s group after I had assured my friend last week that I totally would be there. It feels lately as if there is no accomplishing anything for me that does not involve forgetting two or three other things I was also supposed to do. The hard drive is full. Anything new obliterates something else.
For some years now I’ve been pondering the impact of modern life on those of us trying to live it. Not in a Luddite way. I’m all in on electronic gadgets, Netflix and 24 hour Taco Bell drive through. But just, what impact does life like this have on us?
When you live in a 24 hour society, there’s rarely any external sign that hey, it’s time to stop. It’s time to sit down. If, at 7 pm on Sunday, you’ve been so busy that you weren’t able to fit in the grocery shopping, you’re in luck! The grocery store is still open! And if, at 7 pm on Sunday you decide that you’ve done more than enough this weekend and you’re not going to the store, well, that’s your choice, isn’t it? Your choice to not do what you’re “supposed” to do, the right and good thing that means you and your family will have a healthy meal tomorrow and not eat take out or frozen vegetables and cereal. (In separate bowls! I’m not an animal.)
When I was in graduate school I lived at the library. I was often there on weekdays until closing at 10 pm. On Friday the library closed at 6, and the weekend hours (I still remember) were 10 to 5 on Saturdays and 1 to 5 on Sundays. The shortened hours on the weekend were a blessing to me even if I didn’t know it. On Friday I had to stop at 6 and then might as well join my friends for a beer. On Saturdays and Sundays I could sleep in, get some errands done or get nothing done. I could have the satisfaction of knowing I was being productive. I was putting in study time, but when the library closed, I could be done with it for the time being.
In 24 hour world, we have to figure out how to set our own limits. I’m not always good at it. I often feel both completely lazy and way too busy all the same time. If I’m still, there’s something else I should be doing. If I’m busy, there’s still something else I should be doing.
I see people around me practicing limits in ways I admire. Jewish friends observe the Sabbath, turning off the outside world from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Muslim friends who are currently observing Ramadan set a gentle routine that respects the ebbs and flows of energy during fasting and also the early rising to eat before sun up.
Being raised Christian I know that historically most Christians observed Sunday as a quiet day of prayer, reflection and of course eating a family meal. But now, except for attending church on Sunday morning, most Christians I know don’t choose to turn off the world on Sunday. It has become another busy day to get things done.
It’s interesting that many religions have this built in command to have a day of rest. And it’s interesting how people seem to fight it. Truly, there are never enough hours in any day to do all of the things, but we resist the suggestion that we should stop trying to do all the things. We resist the idea of being still. Even when I am still, I resist the idea of being still. I listen to the voices that say I’m being lazy. I’m not doing enough.
My mother retired a few years ago. She has created a busy life for herself, circles of friends, movie dates and book groups. But sometimes she says to me “Oh, I’m so lazy. I did nothing today. I watched HGTV all day. I’m still in my pajamas. I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” And I say, I try to say, that sounds delicious. What a delightful way to spend the day. You’re not lazy. You’re nesting. You’re being still. You worked your whole life. You raised children. You grandparent even more children. You wrangled two husbands (not at the same time). You’re a friend and a mother and a nurturer and a love and why should you not spend a day watching House Hunters in your pajamas? Who does it hurt?
Recently my husband wasn’t feeling great and we spent the whole weekend binge watching a detective show. It was a really wonderful weekend. It felt delicious and naughty, like, tee hee, we’re getting away with something, giving in to the desire to be still. I think we should do it more. Even now, part of me resists the idea that somehow I should commit an entire day each week to stillness, but more and more, I’m also realizing the need for it.