Time Well Wasted

In Praise of Wasting Time

A few years ago, I got enthusiastic about this topic after a friend shared a book she was reading: In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman, an MIT professor who is both a physicist and a novelist. I thought this might be worth exploring since I was creating topics for my Wellspring Webinars, and indeed it was.

Recently, I was reminded of the notion of “wasting time.” On a recent occasion, I was with a group where this topic came up, and the person speaking was bemoaning the fact that lately, she was wasting time playing a few games on NYT and felt guilty about not being productive.

I offered to disclose my cure for this.

I told her I play three New York Times Games daily and don’t consider it a waste of time. Rather, I have listed them as one of my daily purposes, anchored to my first cup of coffee. They are part of my daily ritual, which includes grinding the beans and making a steaming cup of coffee for my enjoyment. This is when I have breakfast and fully enjoy playing Wordle, Connections and the Mini Crossword.

Worldly Standards

By worldly standards, this could be considered wasting time. Still, for me, it is fun and delightful, and it reinforces the connection with family members as we post to our tiny chat group and offer encouraging words and humour for the day.

There are so many wonderful ways not to be productive that boost our spirits and improve our well-being. I am thinking now of my long lingering strolls in the peony garden, dropping off to sleep in a hammock slung between two trees by the side of the lake, or sitting on a bench listening to bird songs. Those of us conditioned to work all the time need to retrain ourselves not just to plant and weed the garden but to sit and stare at all that beauty and luxuriate in the fruits of our labour.

Still, the push/pull of productivity is there even through illness, distress and losses of all kinds. “Rise up and be a stoic. Don’t be a wimp. I should be doing more.”

I am not talking about putting your life on hold. Rather, I am talking about taking time throughout the day to let go of what you think you should be doing. Instead, it is ok to put your feet up because you are weary, not cook today, doze off, smell the roses, and doodle. Maybe pick up a musical instrument. Anything you love to do that boosts your spirits and brings some sweet moments of joy.

Here is a poem along this line of thinking by a beloved American Poet that encouraged such moments:

 

Any Morning

William Stafford

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge, you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day, you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

A chance:

Illness and sometimes aging give us a chance to experience our life differently.  We can, if we choose, re-examine all the things we took for granted and possibly decide to try new things or do old things differently.  New ways of eating, moving our body, how we connect with others, work, hobbies, and every aspect of our life are suddenly under a microscope. We get forced downtime, which can be hard to deal with at first, yet wise people in the world, from the oldest traditions to our contemporaries in science, business, medicine and the arts, all speak of the need for quiet and reflective time.

It is important to build quiet moodling time directly into our calendars. I am getting better at this, but it is still a challenge. Not because I don’t want to and not because of a lack of knowledge of its importance, but more from “if there is time left over,” I will…and there never seems to be time left over.

Not surprisingly, my favourite yoga teacher (even though I don’t do Yoga) and my meditation teacher emphasize the gentle art of yoga and meditation. Both of them recently reminded their participants not to be aggressive or push too hard but to be gentle and allow their emotional state to relax so they can benefit from the practice rather than pushing for results. And never ever to be chasing and comparing ourselves to others, but just working gently with what we have and who we are.

Back to Alan Lightman, our MIT physicist.

He reminds us that focusing on the urgency of making every moment count has affected all of our lives, including crammed schedules, speed of appointments, jobs, getting and spending. (I will add ill health to that list) His experience and research demonstrate that we all need activities for fun and amusement. “Time to let the mind rest and daydream…mental downtime is having the space and freedom to wander about the vast hallways of memory and contemplate who we are. Downtime is when we can ponder our past and imagine our future. Downtime, also known as restfulness, is when we can repair ourselves.”

He ultimately discovered, like many great inventors, scientists and sages,  “the need for unscheduled time, the need for an inner life, the need for space without time.” Wasting time engaged in self-reflection, daydreaming, doodling, playfulness and gazing at the ocean are all variations of moodling, and it is not useless. “It may be the most important occupation of our minds,” according to Lightman.

Notes

1:) We are all different. I have no idea what is best for you. When I make quiet time for myself,  create spaces in my busyness, and entertain playfulness, I do better, feel better, and ultimately get more satisfaction and contentment in daily life.

2:) This morning, I described a scenario to my friend, and we agreed that “time well wasted,” was a good blog post reminder. She, by the way, is one of the most highly productive people I know, and she knows how to enjoy beauty and a hammock and moodling on the lake. (in her boat of course)

3:) I love the abundance of peonies these past two weeks. All I want to do is Admire! Admire! Admire!

4:) Summer heat waves started today in Ottawa –  feels like 37 Celsius, 98.6 Fahrenheit

5:) I had the great joy of spending an hour online with Emma Rooney. She is teaching a free six-week nature program for older adults for an award-winning, not-for-profit community support agency – Etobicoke Services for Seniors, on Wednesdays from 1:30 – 2:30 EDT  If anyone is interested, please get in touch with me, and I will give you the contact.

6:) Thank you for stopping by. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need an encouraging word.  Best wishes, Trudy

18 replies
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Me too Margaret. It is a poem that I have only know for a few years. Take care and thank you for the note. Trudy

      Reply
  1. Fran
    Fran says:

    Thank you for this great post. Such a good reminder.
    Also really appreciated our conversation a few days ago. Fran 🌸

    Reply
  2. Lisa Persons
    Lisa Persons says:

    Thank you! This is validating! I like watching the breeze dance through my perennial garden. It catches my breath.

    Reply
  3. Gottfried
    Gottfried says:

    Phew, once more, just in time for me! I needed that permission to “ when is not doing, doing “
    Many thanks Trudy-such an excellent post!!

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Thanks Gottfried. It is kind of you to write a note. It is hard for us North Americans to stop and smell the roses.Kindly, Trudy

      Reply
  4. Jean
    Jean says:

    Great reminder to chase ‘our lady of perpetual guilt ,’ off our shoulders once in awhile. I always say my gift for enduring cancer is its okay to play.enjoy summer,we are still waiting.

    Reply
  5. Sandi Anderson
    Sandi Anderson says:

    Dear Trudy
    Thank you for reminding me of my goal to become a professional moodler. You always have the best content and pictures. 💕

    Reply
    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Hi Janice: Those last lines always make me smile. I find this poem highly instructive in such a gentle way.Warmly, Trudy

      Reply

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