I was having a conversation the other day with my friend, Leslie. She was talking about becoming totally engrossed in a book she was reading. All she wanted to do was curl up and read it all day. It was on hedge-fund dealers. I wondered, silently of course, why anyone would not be able to put down such a book. I hear those words and immediately scream “Crooks! Slime bags!” Leslie, on the other hand, was intrigued by the subject matter and wanted to delve deeper into it with a fascination that only a former financial advisor could show. The point was, and is, why couldn’t she just take a whole day off and read the book — start to finish? Eh?
After all, she and I are of a certain age where we don’t have the responsibilities and time-commitments of a full time job, or even a part time one for that matter. Our time, except for multiple volunteer commitments, is basically our own. I just heard a cat grunt from the back of the couch to remind me that my absolute main responsibility in life is (1) to insure that food appears at the designated time and is of a superior quality, (2) that the litter box is kept clean and sweet smelling, and, (3) that there are multiple pettings and admiration of the furry beasts throughout the day.
But, really, why do we feel guilty or even, useless, if we take some of our time during the day and just read a book. I remember when I lived in Spain for those ten years in my 30s, I would spend hours and hours reading. Someone from the states would send regular packages of books and magazines. It was always an eclectic collection of books. From the moldy-basement smell of them, I knew he had picked them up at his local second-hand book store. But, I didn’t care. There wasn’t a lot of English reading material around my little village, so I read everything he sent from seed catalogues, to mysteries, to biographies of people I had never even heard of. I just wanted the words. The point is, I didn’t feel guilty back then when I spent a whole day reading. I was bored sometimes and wished I had a job but it didn’t keep me from reading. So why now?
I’m wondering whether the work ethic gets so deeply engrained in our psyches that we never, ever loose that “Thou shall not waste time during the day” commandment. I should have lost that ethic a long time ago since I haven’t been gainfully employed — meaning getting paid — for a very long time. But, I do still have the feeling that if I’m not doing something serious and beneficial to the masses then I am wasting time. I don’t know why I still feel this way, but I do. I could be sitting at the computer in the middle of the day when a shadow creeps over me and says, “Get to work!” I try to convince that little voice in my head that I really am working but it doesn’t listen.
Anyway, I was thinking about all this today when I was walking up to the pool for my aquafit class. I hadn’t gone on Monday so told myself that I had to go today. It was my job to do this. I had no choice in the matter. I must be responsible and get myself up there and wet! But then, on the way, I met a neighbour’s son who had just returned from a six- week holiday in Spain. We started chatting about Spain and my time there and where he had gone and his nice tan and the attack in Barcelona where he had been the week before and his trip to a beach close to Benidoleig and the heat. It was just pleasant and made me feel very nostalgic for my own long holidays in Spain in years past. He invited me in to the house to meet his Spanish wife but I said I couldn’t. I had to get to class when all I really wanted to do was go in the house and drink tea and talk some more about Spain.
I kept walking towards the pool and the closer I got the more I didn’t really want to go there today. I didn’t want to put on a swim suit and splash around for an hour. I didn’t want to hear locker room gossip. I didn’t want to have to do anything on this beautiful afternoon. So, when I got there, I walked right on by. There were faint choruses in my head of, “What are you doing? Get in there! This is stupid. You’re all the way up here now!” But I ignored them all. I said to myself — out loud — “You are on holiday today!” and that made me feel very happy. On the way home, I took myself out to lunch and spent a couple of hours drinking chai and reading my book. It wasn’t Spain but it was a holiday.