Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Few Thoughts On Spending A Day Doing Nothing

As I mentioned in my last post I enjoyed this past Sunday very, very much. The next couple of days were very low for me. Uncomfortably so. I don't communicate when I feel like that. Who wants to hear whines or read, what would, in the real world, be a tear stained note?!Once I climbed back out of the abyss I began to think about my day of blissful pleasure and I began to try and figure out what made it special - or different. How did I get to that place that allowed me to enjoy a day of 'nothing special'?

I had a few moments of discomfort at the beginning of that day - all of the things that I "should" be doing were staring me in the face. I kept thinking that I needed to produce something creative or, at the very least,clean something un-creatively! I finally decided that perhaps what I was supposed to do, however, was nothing - to appreciate the simple joy of accepting the gift of a day with only myself to please and nothing that 'had' to be done beyond that. It was difficult to go along with at first! I have given it more thought as this week has progressed & I have decided that perhaps one of the reasons that days seemed to last longer when I was younger is that I accepted no stress back then over the "have to do's", "should do's". My expectation for a day off was, simply, to have fun. To relax & enjoy whatever was - or was not- happening. Are we then, responsible, at least to some degree, for much of stress over what we think we don't have time to do? Can we achieve more relaxation by turning off the "should" meter now and again? Learning to move beyond the temporary discomfort that allowing ourselves to do that may bring?

Certainly as we get older we do have more responsibilities - of so many different descriptions. Money always stresses us more, for some reason, when we get older. Some how living within our means was also easier to do when we were younger and had no real notion of the things we should "want' or 'need '. Living life - at that time - was just being learned & expectations were fewer I guess. I do remember that I was VERY happy with my quality of life, albeit that I lived a very low paying job paycheck to paycheck existence then.

I recall a program that I watched recently - the subject of which was being satisfied with the quality of life. The residents of a Nordic country were being interviewed (I seem to remember Finland - but that might be wrong too). One comment has really stuck in my mind and that was that they (or this person speaking for the greater "they") was happy because they had fewer expectations of life. They were satisfied with their quality of life because they had no real, stress producing, concerns. Their basic needs were taken care of by the state - health care, subsidized housing etc. Their country has a large middle class, thin lowest class & smaller high class than we have here in the States. There was none of the "keeping-up-with the-Jones" that seems so prevalent here. The word that caught me was "expectations". It really does seem that we can get hung up on those - expectations that is - we 'expect' to be able to buy something even if we have to charge it in order to have it - and then getting the bill (because we charged it)brings more stress because we can't pay it off the way we know we should.... and on it goes. We expect that our job should pay us well enough to be able to afford the rent or mortgage that we must spend, but so few jobs seem to really afford that luxury that anymore. We expect to be able to make the lives for our children better than ours has been - and we can no longer afford to make that a reality either.

My brief encounter with the pleasures of a "mid twenties kind of relaxed day" has really gotten me thinking about pleasure & stress. What do you think is the key? What really comes first a desire or an expectation? Are they just the same thing - dufferent word?

My friend, Lauren, wrote to tell me that she knew I was depressed because I hadn't posted since Sunday - she knows me better than I know myself at times - and I was depressed. Now I am just thoughtful about the pursuit of happiness - isn't that what we all really want the most?


ANNA said...

I would say you have my sympathy but I appreciate that is not quite what you want to hear. I fully understand the kind of low days you mention. When I was fully employed I used every minute of the day non working day for something, art, reading etc but having been without any form of work for the last three weeks (not even a temp job) I have done nothing on many of the days - feeling very much like you. Just know there are many people out here in blog land who understand where you are, are in the same place and are with you 100% of the way.

Joyce said...

I really liked the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. He thinks that the inability to wait for something until we can actually afford it is is emotionally unintelligent. It's a very interesting book whether you agree with him or not. I found it quite useful to understand students when I was teaching.

Judy Sall said...

Marie, I really relate to what you have written in this post, and the previous one. I have such difficulty not "doing" every minute! And I remember those days when I was younger, just being...
But I gave up the "keeping up with the Jones's" thinking a long time ago. And I have done a lot over the past several years to reduce my stress level, finding life to be much more enjoyable when I keep it simple!
I just retired - again - last month, and I love to stay home and putter, do my art, enjoy the view... that's the best reward I can think of for all the years I spent working, saving, putting off what I really wanted to be doing in order to make a living.
Life is short... let's enjoy it!


Sandy said...

I know the depressed feeling but when DH was so ill, I decided that I needed to rethink what I wanted to do and have tried to remove as many things as possible that were causing negative feeling. Not easy and doesn't always work, but it is a continual goal.

jenclair said...

I read about the study of the happiest places, too, and have thought about it frequently. Funny how things just coincide.

What is happy? Some people have a kind of exhileration in mind when they think of happiness, something "fun" or exciting. For me, it is that deep contentment, that freedom from stress, and that sense of gratitude that you describe in the previous post.

Right now, I'm avoiding the news because everything seems geared to put your nerves on edge, and I'm practicing meditation to keep that feeling of peace.

Many of things you mention have been on my mind lately, although I've not been depressed (which is often a part of my autumn emotional swing). I've just been thinking about the pressures on society in general and the struggles we all have individually.

So...coincidentally, a book that I ordered--How We Choose to Be Happy--arrived yesterday. It covers the initial study of happy people and what they have in common and the way some major institutions such as the Mayo Clinic have used their methods and advanced studies. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

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