Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lazy

Moving right along ...

“Yes, I wanted you to see how the comfort of all depends on each doing her share faithfully. While Hannah and I did your work, you got on pretty well, though I don’t think you were very happy or amiable. So I thought, as a little lesson, I would show you what happens when everyone thinks only of herself. Don’t you feel that it is pleasanter to help one another, to have daily duties which make leisure sweet when it comes, and to bear and forbear, that home may be comfortable and lovely to us all?”

“We do, Mother we do!” cried the girls.

Marmee is a firm proponent of the benefits of hard work, one of which is that it sweetens our hours of leisure. I can see her point: I am so inundated with marking right now that my leisure has become like a tray of caramel apples. Poisoned caramel apples.

It’s not exactly the case that I spend every waking hour hard at work. It’s more like I spend every waking hour contemplating getting started on the thirty essays that came in last Friday. While I lounged on the couch last night watching Heroes and Journeyman, I made endlessly postponed plans to get up at the next commercial. While reading blogs at lunchtime today I spent half an hour promising myself that I would get down to work after reading just one more post.

A stack of unmarked essays poisons every leisure moment and yet it makes the prospect of leisure irresistibly compelling. I find myself fantasizing about making homemade applesauce or spending a whole afternoon rereading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Suddenly, I am entranced at the prospect of cookie-baking and clothes-shopping, activities I normally pursue as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves.

Back when I was a student, I would survive exam times by balancing present incentives with future rewards. While I was studying, I depended upon M&M’s paired with chips and salsa to get me through the night and promised myself a nice stack of Harlequin romances to read when I was done. During my comprehensive exams for the Ph.D. I kept a list of plans: dates to go out for coffee with friends, movies I planned to see, beach excursions and costume parties. “Let’s plan something for after my last exam,” I’d say. “From then on, my time is my own.”

My time, of course, will never be my own again. Time is something I steal in greedy snatches from my family, sneaking it in small chunks while the children nap or borrowing it on account when hubby takes over for the day.

Despite her preachy tone, Marmee is right about the drawbacks of uninterrupted leisure. I’m usually happier when I’m a bit too busy than I am when I’m not quite busy enough. The great swathes of free time that I’m hankering for right now do not have a proven track record for making me happy. But right now that can’t entirely suppress the longing I feel to pop in a DVD of Grey’s Anatomy (season 2) and watch it for eight hours, breaking only long enough to order pizza.

39 comments:

Kailasmom said...

Marmee, is that what you call your mother? I'm so a fan of Little Women and call my mother marmee, my daughter will call her marmee too. Very cool on relaxing and it's ok sometimes to be lazy.

Eva said...

Oh do I hear you. As i write this I'm staring at the pile of papers I put off all day long, to be discussed in less than 10 hours. And at lunch with a friend we were discussing today, how did we ever think we were busy before we had children? Back then all but about 3 hours a day were essentially ours, even if we had responsibilities. What the heck did I do with all of that free time? If only I could have banked some of it for my life as a parent.

Shannon said...

May I just say, Amen? After many legitimate and illegitimate interruptions, I finally quit working about 20 minutes ago as I could no longer focus on what I was reading. I think I got in about 3 hours or so of steady uninterrupted work. I've been contemplating and "trying" to work since 8:30 this morning - it's now 12:30 the next morning. And, I just forgot my google user name (my email) and password. I'm going to bed now so my children can dance on my head at 6 a.m. and I can do it all again tomorrow - or today, as the case may be.

painted maypole said...

we've just given up on Journeyman here... i long for it to be as good as my favorite time travelling book (about the wife, of course!) and it is just not. I couldn't bring myself to watch it when the commercial showed him disappearing while out with his son. What moron goes out alone with his son when he is known to disappear suddenly? sigh.

anyhow... i have similar experiences with too much freetime... longing for it and then finding it is never quite as satisfying as I dreamed. Largely because I squander it.

jen said...

free time is my crack.

cinnamon gurl said...

I know exactly what you mean... especially the fact that being a little busier than is really comfortable somehow feels good. Except right now... I've been burning the candles at both ends for too long and now I'm sick. And still have to keep going... ugh. I have plans for Thursday though, if I'm still feeling rotten: Swee'pea in daycare and me sleeping and watching hgtv and whatever else I want with a blanket.

Beck said...

I know that I'm happiest when I'm busy - days full of nothing sound fun and relaxing, but as TWO pregnancies worth of bedrest has amply taught me, unfettered leisure is DULL.

Christina said...

I understand. I think I'm happier when I have more to do, and it seems like if I do have free time, I always find something new to take on, making me busier.

But in the evenings, I turn into a lazy sloth, stuck in front of my computer and the TV, unable to pull away to get anything done. My leisure time, while filled with ideas of knitting and sewing and reading, ends up being a lot of nothing due to lack of motivation.

bubandpie said...

Kailasmom - Nope, I mean the real Marmee (the Little Women version). I'd have provided attribution for the quote, but I can't figure out how to get it to indent properly.

bubandpie said...

PM - That was the first episode of Journeyman I'd seen - it was a case of being unable to get up from the couch after Heroes. To be fair, the father was separated from his wife in the crowd only for a few minutes. It's an interesting device, the way time-travel is paralleled with workaholism as a reason for letting down the son.

Suz said...

I've learned that I do tend to be happier when I'm busy. Having dates and deadlines gives me the structure that I need. I did fine preparing for my PhD exams, for instance, but the dissertation, which took me years and years of work without no clear deadline, was pretty awful.

Kathryn said...

"Time is something I steal in greedy snatches from my family, sneaking it in small chunks while the children nap or borrowing it on account when hubby takes over for the day. "

That is exactly how I feel. Yet I know the day will come when the boys are all grown up, that I will long for the days I was busy with dressing babies, feeding toddlers, helping with homework, etc.

Kyla said...

I need to learn to apply this lesson to my life. I am often found using my free time in advance and then scrambling around like crazy to get my actual tasks done. Procrastination at its finest, I suppose.

KAL said...

I find that I completely squander my free hours these days, even while I plan grand projects. In the end, I am just lazy and would rather blog on the couch watching mindless tv - but then feel bad that I didn't tackle whatever big project I had planned. Or work. Oh right, work. Better get back to it.

We're loving Heroes, btw, but gave up on Journeyman.

Redneck Mommy said...

I've had more time on my hands than I know what to do with these past two years...I'd much rather be busy and bitching about the lack of free time than sitting about, being crushed by all the empty minutes of the day mocking me.

Mad Hatter said...

That's it. I will never have free time again. That's the problem right there. That is why I have been a colossal f-up with my life these past couple of years. I can no longer distinguish between free time/family time/ work time that I do nothing well--not even relax. You--once again, as always--hit the nail smack on the head.

Becky said...

Ugh, I definitely know what you mean about "poisoned" free time... If I were as diligent about using my "work" time to do my work, then I would likely feel less guilty during my free time that I *ought* to be working, but sadly, I am never as disciplined as I wish I could be...

I particularly despise that feeling when it creeps into my time with my kid. Why can't I just play with him and ignore the dozen or so tasks that I feel compelled to worry about?

Jenifer said...

Secretly I think I am happiest when I am busy and that is good because that is generally always the case.

That said, I often think what would happen if I broke my arm and everyone had to take care of ME for a while or what would happen if I got locked in Chapters overnight.

My time for me usually comes late at night, I putter, read, organize, putter some more. Next thing you know it is 1am, but I don't regret those nights because they are usually just for me. Even when I get a "day off" and Hubby takes over I am usually doing stuff for the house, errands and the sort.

I sometimes try to think back to before we had the girls - what did we do with our time? How could I have possibly thought I was busy then?

I am big on reward so I can relate to your studying system. Nowadays though that doesn't work quite the same, at least for me.

bubandpie said...

Mad, Kal - I've been trying to brew up a post for awhile now about the way we confuse time and energy. In order to be productive, we need to have both at once - and it seems to be the case that all too often I have one or the other. I can feel guilty about spending two hours slumped in front of the TV instead of using that time productively - but when I do that, usually it means that I didn't have the energy to do anything else.

The flip side of that coin is that certain things - like blogging - consume time but actually pay off in boosted energy. It's easy to think of time as a limited resource that we're constantly squandering, while the concept of energy is more fluid. Instead of worrying about how we're spending our time, maybe we need to measure our lives in terms of where energy is going out and where it's coming in.

AnneK said...

I SO GET your post, bubandpie. I used to do the same thing when studying for exams. To get myself motivated, I would make a list of things I want to do after my exams. Like paint my toenails, shopping with friends, checking out 5 books from the library etc. And I am happiest when I am busy too. Although I do long for free time then. I have come to believe that (for me) fantasizing about free time is sometimes better than the free time itself.

Florinda said...

What you're talking about sounds very familiar to me. I don't like having nothing to do, but I don't like having so much to do that if feels overwhelming, either - and the latter is how my job's been for months now. I find myself procrastinating far too much - which is why I can't write any more in this comment. :-) Great post.

bren j. said...

mmmmmmmmm...pizza....

kittenpie said...

I like days of uininterrupted time because then I can get stuff DONE! Ha. Leisure? Well, I'm not so good at it either. Yesterday, for my day off, I did loads of laundry, filled cabinets in Pumpkinpie's new room to be, moved tools back down to the basement, swept the house, mailed letters, put new shelf paper on a nasty cabinet shelf, dug out her sheets for her new bed, sorted clothes for upcomign sizes, and oh yeah, took the old wooden door to our bedroom off its painted-over hinges so it could be installed in her room downstairs. then went and picked up the little girl again and home for dinner.

Christine said...

"I’m usually happier when I’m a bit too busy than I am when I’m not quite busy enough"

for the most part this describes me as well. but a morose and sullen friend once said that this feeling only meant that at the core of our lives we are so unhappy we couldn't bear to hear own thoughts when our minds are free of busy work.

bleh. it think it just means that i am a fidgety person with a fidgety brain. i even multitask my leisure time--i can eat ice cream pop corn AND watch LOST all at the same time!

nomotherearth said...

Whenever I have free time during the day, I feel guilty unless I get as many tasks done as I possibly can before I rest. So..my "truly free" time ends up being after everyone has gone to bed. Unfortunately, I'm so tired that it's not always fun.

Damn that guilt!

Luisa Perkins said...

I'd like to do the same with the second season of 24...we can dream, right?

Mary G said...

Note to Kathryn. You said: "I know the day will come when the boys are all grown up, that I will long for the days I was busy with dressing babies, feeding toddlers, helping with homework, etc".

I don't long for those days. And when I have to do it as a grandmother, a few days are long enough.

All you young mothers will have time again. When I was working full time while juggling teenagers and very sick parents, I despaired. But it happened.

And here I am, able to plan my day. And what have I done? (Hollow laughter in sound track here.) I have committed myself to community activities where I find myself tending baby projects, spooning, dressing, and, what was the last one? ah, helping with activities.

And procrastinating by blogging and reading wonderful blogs like this one which is so addictive I cannot stay away even though I should be doing a writeup and poster for fundraising. Go figure.

I always thought it was somewhat sneaky of Mrs March to just drop out without an explanation.

Lotus Siva Carroll said...

I've always been the type to count down the days until the next thing I am really looking forward to... then get depressed by cataloguing all the poopy things I have to do between now and then. ;-)

Chaotic Joy said...

"The great swathes of free time that I’m hankering for right now do not have a proven track record for making me happy"

I am the same. I am happier when busy, but still find myself longing to be lazy. I can never seem to find the right balance.

We are on season 3 with Greys.

bgirl said...

heros, journeyman, and damages...my guilty pleasures from my list(s) of "need-to-do's" god knows what i'll get done once LOST comes back.

Mimi said...

Oh man. Another post right to my heart, Bubandpie. Are you actually looking at the ungraded stack of 30 midterms over here to my right? Neatly piled but nevertheless completely neglected?

Midterms. On the one hand, it's a class you odn't have to prep. On the other hand, it's hous and hours of graaaaadddddiiiiiiiiing. At least I don't put comments on midterms.

Swistle said...

Whoooh, that excerpt brought me RIGHT BACK! When I read that book, the name "Hannah" was a plump and matronly name!

Catherine said...

Yes, a bit too busy...but not more than a bit. Isn't Marmee always right?

Julie Pippert said...

Sigh, strumming my pain with your fingers. This is it, exactly.

Greedy little snatches of time.

Julie
Using My Words

Lori said...

I loved this!

Although, I go back and forth between feeling like my days as a mom are spent in non-stop busyness, and then feeling as though I actually have quite a lot of down-time. Like you say though, the down-time is always at the expense of some other chore I should be doing. I guess that's what poisons the down-time...

slouching mom said...

The great swathes of free time that I’m hankering for right now do not have a proven track record for making me happy.

YES. My feeling exactly.

Julie Pippert said...

Thank you GOD for Mary G.

I am told time and again someday I will miss all of this. Well, so far, I have about six years of parenting to look back at, which, I grant, is not much but while I enjoy remembering it, and can get a wee bit sentimental about it under the right hormonal conditions? I do not MISS it.

I find each age and stage enjoyable and challenging and as we hit the next one I am glad for it and happy the past one is behind us.

I am too afraid to say this in public lest they call the men in white coats for me.

I have said it and other moms gaze at me as if I am in some sort of depression or denial or plum craziness or GASP unnatural state.

Again, thank you GOD for Mary G.

Julie
Using My Words

Occidental Girl said...

Okay, yes, I have been guilty of watching an episode or two of Gilmore Girls when I am supposed to be cleaning. But I remember that time sitting on my butt by myself on the couch watching - without interruption! the heavens open and glory alleluia resounds - as pretty darn sweet....

Susanne said...

I'm totally with you on this one. But I'm slowly teaching myself the lesson that leisure is more fun after I have been doing my chores. (And of course I will be cleaning the house. I'll just read one more blo post - 'kay?) I especially loved:

"My time, of course, will never be my own again. Time is something I steal in greedy snatches from my family, sneaking it in small chunks while the children nap or borrowing it on account when hubby takes over for the day."