Hello again from the land of traffic, line-ups and retail!
It is, as you may have garnered from the title, four in the afternoon and I am still wearing my pajamas. If I were to ask for an adjective to describe someone wearing pajamas, unwashed and without any serious occupation at this point in the day you might, logically, choose "lazy". I prefer "relaxed". Society would like me to feel guilty right now but I refuse. Correction: North American society would like me to feel guilty…I still refuse.
Why are we so afraid to relax? Do we truly believe that the world will come crashing down around us if we take one day to do nothing?
I have a girlfriend, the lovely Miss Banana, who has this incredible bathroom with a giant bath tub and when I saw it for the first time (practically salivating, I might add) she told me that she never uses it. What??!!?? It’s not even that she doesn’t have enough time but when she does have the time she feels like she is wasting time by just lying there doing nothing. My disbelief could not be contained, "Wow, if I had a tub like this I’d use it every day!" (and I would, just ask the Prez), she shrugged; it simply is not an issue for her. She’s not alone. Most people I know cannot be still and do nothing, even if they’re sick or completely run down.
So where does this come from, this feeling that we are "wasting" time if we are not filling it with activity? Afterall, there are religions who postulate that the road to true enlightenment lies through hours, days, weeks, months and years of meditation. I’ve come up with a theory I like to call the "Finish Everything on Your Plate!" theory and it’s basically a leftover (pun slightly intended) from our not-so-distant ancestors.
How many of you had parents who scolded you if you did not finish everything on your plate at dinner? Were you threatened with spankings, made to sit at the table until you were done, or cut out of the dessert loop if you did not lick your plate clean? Luckily, this is a problem I never had, in fact I would often be eyeing up the morsels on other family member’s plates. "Are you going to finish that porkchop Mom? No? Great!" But for those of you who lacked my chow-down-ed-ness, I am willing to bet that to this day you feel guilty if you do not eat everything on your plate. Many of you have eaten way past the point of fullness on occassion, and at least a few of you have weight issues because of this empty plate guilt.
But you’re grown-up now right? Didn’t you vow, sitting at that deserted dinner table at ten o’clock, that when you were an adult you would eat only what you wanted, when you wanted? So why can’t you just push the plate away when you’re full and be happy with a wonderful meal? Why? Because you have been programmed, that’s why. Like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sound of the bell (and yours truly salivating over a soaker tub), the sight of food left on a plate triggers deep-rooted feelings of guilt.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving you the freedom to throw your hands in the air and say, "It’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it!". No. You have to re-program yourself. You have to push away that plate of food, rub your tummy, burp, smile, and say, "Wow that was fabulous! Now I’m going to have a slice of pie!!" and you have to keep doing this until your inner nag puts a sock in it.
Now back to the pajamas part…
There was a time that we needed to be productive simply to survive. If you weren’t ridiculously wealthy (which ninety percent of the world never is) then you had to make sure the cows got milked, the fields were ploughed, wood was cut for the winter, and whatever it is you have to do to make chickens happy got done. Neglecting your chores didn’t mean a spanking, it meant, possibly, starvation. Relaxation was a luxury most could not afford.
The Great Depression is permanently burned into the psyche of most of our parents and grandparents. No work = no money = no food = no fun. And with that black cloud hanging over everyone’s heads, society put its collective noses to the grindstone.
Even with the industrial age,with machines and their promise of a better future, we did not relax. With each new gadget, from the lightbulb to the cell phone, we’ve been sold on the idea that our life would get easier. But each new gadget costs money and so we have to work harder, and harder, and harder to afford these miraculous time-saving devices. Worse, the possesion of "stuff" has melded itself onto our self esteem. Woe the child who does not wear name brand clothes or have an X-Box. Woe.
I saw a commercial recently (yes, there is a television with cable under the stairs where we live) showing a young boy at the market with his mother. The boy turns and sees a new, flashy SUV pull up. A woman gets out and walks over to the vegetable stall where the boy and his mom are standing. The boy looks up at his mother, scrutinizing, lets go of her hand and grasps the hand of the fancy SUV woman. This is one of the most dangerous ads I have ever seen. The message is devastating: "If you don’t own the right stuff you will be abandoned even by those who love you most". Where are the protests? The boycotts? Nowhere. You won’t hear a peep about this ad because the idea that we must WORK WORK WORK to buy MORE MORE MORE has been force fed to us since we were children. It’s not enough to have a little, not enough to have a lot, no, you must have it all. You must finish everything on your plate!
For most of us, there are no more cows to be milked. Life can be simple, if we choose it to be so. Relaxation is possible now; the free time we’ve waited so long for is ours at last! We can take a day to do nothing. We can wear pajamas at four in the afternoon on a Sunday. Yes we can.
But mostly we don’t – wear pajamas or relax.
I slept-in today. Really slept-in. Eleven a.m. slept-in. I was up late the night before but that’s not important. I was tired, I slept-in, the world did not come to an end.
I didn’t get up right away. For awhile I sat in bed and replayed the fun I had at the trivia competition we went to with the Roney’s last night. The Prez and I filled in for a couple that had bailed at the last minute. Our team name was "Notsomensa", the Prez’s idea, which I thought was terribly clever.Then Emily came over and I had to pet her because she loves cuddling with me in the morning (one of three things she actually loves – the other two being food). Then I thought for a bit about the new Harry Potter movie I saw and how much I loved it. Of course I had to recall several of my favorite scenes. And that lead to various fantasies involving me and Gary Oldman as the character Sirius Black…mmm, rebel wizard with a tragic past, sexy. Next I contemplated what I was going to write about for this week’s Chronicles. I’ve wanted to write about sex for some time but can’t quite find the right segway. We still haven’t heard back about our job in Little Cayman and this took a few moments of my time to consider. After I had exhausted most of my pressing thoughts, I decided to get up and have something to eat. It was noon and the world was still functioning perfectly well.
At the Prez’s request, I made breakfast. Not my forte but that’s what you do when you love someone. My friend Deb Mac called. She asked what I was going to do today. "Nothing" I said proudly.I tidied up the breakkie mess and made my way back under the stairs to watch the glass teat for a bit. I also ate a chocolate covered cookie from the box that was part of our prize for 24th place in the trivia competition. Five minutes later I had another one. The world? Just peachy thanks.
Round about, oh, two o’clock I started thinking I should start writing. An hour later I had another cookie. At three-thirty my Chronicle topic finally came to me. And at four pm, with two more cookies under my belt, I sat down to write. So here I am. I’ve done pretty much nothing all day. I’m feeling incredibly relaxed. And…hold on…I’ll just have a peek out the window…yes, the world is still getting on very nicely!
I don’t need to have it all to be happy. Actually, if I didn’t take days like this out of my life, if I didn’t choose to waste twenty-four hours now and then, I wouldn’t be very happy at all. I can push my plate away when I feel full no matter how much is left to be consumed.
Push your plate away folks. Rub your tummy. Burp. Smile. Now go get that slice of pie!
Thanks for listening. Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!