I had a lot of free time this week. That’s not such a good thing. It seems that the more free time I have the less I do. I’m sure that’s probably someone or the other’s law — but I was so lazy this week I didn’t even do the research to find out whose it was! There were lots of things I could have done. Yes, indeedy. I could have washed the five years of grime off of that stuff on the kitchen shelf. I did contemplate it briefly; even came up with a “plan” of how to get everything down and back up again. But I didn’t budge. Or I could have vacuumed weeks and weeks worth of cat hair off the sofa but I thought — Why bother? Maria comes on Friday. Or, I even could have started this blog but I had scheduled that for Thursday — not Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, for heaven’s sake. I wish I could feel as guiltless about doing nothing as the cats who spend hours and hours doing no more than changing position on the back of the sofa (and leaving mountains of cat hair in their wake). They take free time as their god-given right — which I guess it is.
Three days. That’s a lot of time to fritter away doing nothing really productive AT ALL — especially when, even with my good genes, there are a limited number of these days, weeks, months, years that I have left to squander! Well, in my defense, I did have a two-and-a-half-hour dentist appointment on Monday (not fun), my lovely Japanese student on Tuesday morning (one hour) and the ever surprising, wonderful Aaron to tutor on Wednesday (two hours). But really — five-and-a-half-hours is a smidgen of the total time I spent frittering.
I don’t think I’m programmed to have guiltless free time, I really don’t. Especially because, according to my rules, I’m not doing anything terribly taxing right now that merits a “day off”. Who am I to have all this free time doing nothing in particular? Nobody, that’s who. In my world, “free” days — i.e., doing nothing days — had to be earned. They were rewards — temporary releases from unpleasant, but necessary, circumstances — like having to deal with a particularly nasty nun at St. Francis de Sales High School, or working for arrogant lawyers in Washington, D.C. When I had a free day from either of those, I could do “nothing” and feel perfectly justified in doing so. So my appreciation and pleasure in time off became anchored to the idea that I had to earn it somehow. Could this guilty thinking be somehow rooted in my Catholic upbringing — a lingering curse from that same nun who I tried to escape?
My inability to fill all those free hours with worthwhile, creative, fascinating projects is certainly not caused by any depression resulting from a sudden change from full-time employment to sometime-employment. I’ve been precariously employed (a phrase that really says it like it is) for all the 18 years I’ve lived in Canada. This kind of on-again-off-again employment hasn’t helped my bank account but it has allowed me to re-create myself from time to time and that’s been fun. And you would have thought it would have prepared me for these slow weeks — but evidently it hasn’t.
I think I need to take a lesson from the cats and from this group of retirees who hang out at the diner in the front of Home Depot (believe me, there really is one there). The first time I saw them — the retirees, not the cats — I felt so sad. They made me think of those lines from the John Prine song, Hello In There — Someday I’ll go and call up Rudy, We worked together at the factory. But what could I say if asks “What’s new?” “Nothing, what’s with you? Nothing much to do.” But I think I was wrong. I think those guys got it right. They didn’t seem to have one iota of guilt about spending hours and hours hanging around a hamburger stand and not doing anything productive with their free time except to just be there — like the cats. So, maybe the next time I have some free time on my hands, I’ll go out there and join them and, who knows, maybe I won’t even feel guilty at all about not doing nuthin’ all day. After all, that’s how free time should be — Free.