But I simultaneously believe in wasting time. I actually don’t like that language very much – I prefer to call it “doing stuff that feels good.”
We are a culture obsessed with getting, going, goal-setting, achieving. This can be a great thing, until it’s not.
It’s not great when we have no idea how to relax, how to notice beautiful things, how to sit in the joy of our day.
And my biggest concern is that we teach our kids how to go go go – how many times a day does a kid hear, “Let’s go, we’re late!”
Late for what? Where are we going all the time? I know, I know, we need to get to school on time. I can’t say I’m perfect in this department, but I understand the importance.
But everything else – the parties, events, social activities, games, tutors – we seem to be late for everything, filling up every moment of our children’s day with so much doing.
When do the kids get to create a game with only a ball or a sock? To lay on their back and look up at the sky? To listen to music someplace other than the car?
We can’t expect them to understand the value of “doing stuff that feels good” unless we really respect its importance. We demonstrate value by the choices we make every day.
Right now I really like staring at the trees. Trees are so beautiful, especially in the fall when the colors are so bright.
I also love petting my rabbit. He is such a sweet little soul being his rabbit self, just hanging around, waiting to be pet and chewing on stuff.
I love to find songs on Spotify that remind me of when I was little. I love to sit in my favorite place in my bedroom and look through a book I’ve already read.
And then once I’ve wasted some time, I feel ready, sometimes even motivated, to work. I’m able to calmly talk to my kids, I’m able to carpool without feeling like I’m on a mission to just be done.
Because really there is no done until we are truly done. Our days are ours to create, and when we have a false perception about what is most important (work-goals-productivity) we fill them with constant striving instead of what feels good.
In Michael Singer’s book The Untethered Soul, one of my favorite quotes is the story about the angel of death coming to visit and then asking for more time:
Let’s say you’re living life without the thought of death, and the Angel of Death comes to you and says, “Come, it’s time to go.” You say, “But no. You’re supposed to give me a warning so I can decide what I want to do with my last week. I’m supposed to get one more week.” Do you know what Death will say to you? He’ll say, “My God! I gave you fifty-two weeks this past year alone. And look at all the other weeks I’ve given you. Why would you need one more? What did you do with all those?” If asked that, what are you going to say? How will you answer? “I wasn’t paying attention . . . I didn’t think it mattered.” That’s a pretty amazing thing to say about your life.
I remember reading this the first time and crying – crying because I have learned and relearned this so many times in my life.
When my dad was in the ICU. When I was laying on a table after a follow-up mammography waiting to hear results. When people I know and loved have died. When I was sitting on an airplane in way-too-bumpy turbulence. When I was told by a doctor in my 20’s that I might have MS. After a miscarriage. After a 2nd miscarriage.
The list could go on and on, all the times I’ve woken up to my life. And while it often feels like “doing things that feel good” is like moving against the tide, I have decided to value looking at the trees. I make a choice to not go to a party. I go to sleep instead of work on my computer.
Of course I could fill up every minute of my day with busyness, that would be absolutely no problem, I have plenty of things that “need” to get done.
But I would still never be “done”.
And that understanding alone reminds me to not work toward an impossible goal, but to instead do enough each day, be present for the people I love, and lay down and rest without buying into the incessant mental chatter that I am “behind”, “lazy” or “undeserving”.
Yesterday I spent an hour in my kitchen making up dance moves with my kids. It made no sense, it was stupid, but it was good.
Because I love to sing, dance, and play – I want to incorporate some nonsense into my day.
So consider incorporating some of your own nonsense, or call it by a name that’s more appealing to you. And then answer the question that poet Mary Oliver posed:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Or use the language that Author Geneen Roth offers:
“How will I spend the breaths I have left?”
And then breathe, and play, and dance, and sing, and say no to something you don’t want to do, and stare, and have something sweet, and look at trees, and wake up to your life once again, just like you have so many times before.
Cathy Cassani Adams, LCSW, CPC, is the author of The Self-Aware Parent, the host of Zen Parenting Radio, a columnist for Chicago Parent Magazine, and a blogger for Chicago Now. She’s a self-awareness teacher and yoga instructor in her community, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University. Find Cathy on Facebook (The Self-Aware Parent or Zen Parenting Radio) and on Twitter (@selfawareparent or @zenparenting) and on her website www.cathycadams.com.