Time on my Hands

Many people spend the bulk of their lives looking forward to a retirement that they may or may not be able to have. I’ve always assumed I’d have to work until I drop dead, but even I often imagine what it would be like to be the master of my own itinerary. All the time.

Here’s the thing, though (Yes, yes, there’s always a thing.): Spare time is usually not a very good thing to have. It gets you into trouble, or it causes boredom or depression, sloth, laziness, weight gain, or lethargy. It takes a highly disciplined individual (in other words, not someone like me) to fill up his or her spare time with positive pursuits.

I like to imagine myself in my dotage making cheese, sewing quilts, keeping bees, attending book clubs, volunteering and regularly exercising. But I know me. Right now when I have spare time I generally fill it with sleep and Youtube. What in my experience leads me to believe that if I had even more time I wouldn’t do even more of the same? The thought of years upon years of nothing but sleep and Youtube is a dreary concept.

While all these time-saving devices we now depend on seem like quite the luxury, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were the main source of our increasing societal angst. When people spent days on end chopping wood and doing the laundry by hand, they didn’t have as much time to think about their contentment or lack thereof. I think there’s something to be said for that.

Yes, it would be nice to have a bit more flexibility in my schedule. It would be even nicer not to have to answer to anyone. But give me routine any day, as opposed to the vast open spaces of nothing at all to do.


It’s much better to have a list than to be listless.

[Image credit: sodahead.com]


Loneliness or Something Else?

I had an epiphany on my way to work today. (Kids, try to avoid epiphanies when you’re behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.) Here it is: I don’t think I’m lonely after all. Here I’ve been, obsessing over my loneliness since I’ve moved to Seattle, and trying to figure out ways to make friends, when in fact loneliness is not my issue.

I haven’t had to think about this in decades because I’ve always had someone in my life, but the fact is I’m perfectly capable of entertaining myself. I’m not bored with my own company. In fact, I’m quite comfortable when I’m alone. It’s the only time I can truly be myself. I like being able to sleep when I want and do what I want and eat what I want. I enjoy the luxury of a total lack of need for compromise. So it’s not loneliness that I’m feeling.

I don’t think there’s a word for what I’m feeling. It’s part grieving for my late boyfriend, and I think that is effecting me in a whole multitude of ways. And it’s definitely part unsatisfied sex drive. (Why does nature bother putting these urges in people beyond child bearing age? Life would be so much easier without them!) But I’m not an animal. I require an emotional connection with someone before I can feel intimate, so this attempt at connection has been disguising itself as loneliness, I think. And then there’s a need for reassurance, as driven by self-doubt. It would be nice to have someone around to say, “You’re doing okay.” (I really need to work on not needing that so much.)

Once I figured out that I’m not lonely, I felt this massive weight lift off my shoulders. It’s not some social deficit on my part. I haven’t failed some test. I just need to shift my focus and re-prioritize and let the universe unfold as it should. I’m doing okay.


[Image credit: seethegood.net]

Trapped in Seat 19A

Whenever I have to fly somewhere, I always struggle with what is the proper amount of social interaction with the stranger who is jammed into the seat next to me. I don’t want to be rude and aloof and thus make the trip uncomfortable, but neither do I want to invite a running commentary that leaves me a captive victim for an interminable flight of hellish boredom.

Case in point, the woman who was sitting behind me on my most recent flight. She made the mistake of saying, “How are you doing?” to the woman next to her. For the next two hours, she was treated to a running commentary, occasionally peppered with her defeated uh huh’s and one brief shining respite when the flight attendants came through with the beverage cart and threw the single peanut into the aisle for all of us to fight over.

The rest of the time, all of us in earshot were subjected to the following:

  • Every job she had since she was 17 years old.
  • Every place she lived her entire life.
  • Full details of when, how, and why her mother died in 2005.
  • Every detail of her job as an architectural consultant.
  • Even more detail about her current project.
  • The fact that she decorates wedding cakes as a hobby.
  • A photograph of every single wedding cake she has ever decorated, with details about how the flavors and colors were chosen, and how each cake was constructed. Oh, and did I mention she had done the grooms cakes, too?
  • The entire plot of the current book she was reading.
  • Details of a political scandal in her town in which someone was murdered, everyone knew who did it, and yet no one would ever be brought to justice.
  • Her nephew’s rise to stardom in the soccer championships.

If I had been caught in a bear trap next to this woman, I’d have gladly chewed off my own arm just to get away. Since I was sitting a row ahead of her, fortunately I didn’t have to pretend to be interested. I could attempt to read my book and block out her babble. But that woman next to her was trapped. I felt very sorry for her. She was clearly suffering. Her uh-huh’s became more feeble as the flight droned on.

The thing is, boring people have no idea how boring they are. If they did, they’d stop. Obviously. But that makes me wonder if I bore people. There are a few telltale signs, of course.

  • If you are doing all the talking, odds are the other person does not want to participate.
  • If you come away from the conversation having learned nothing new yourself, it was clearly not a two way street in terms of communication.
  • If you are pelting a total stranger with intimate details, you might want to dial it back.
  • If people you know see you coming and cross the street to avoid you, that might be a red flag.

If you really feel like telling the world every intimate detail about yourself, here’s a concept: start a blog. Then you can say whatever you want, and all your friends and family can pretend to read it without ever really reading it. Win/win.

boredom clock

[Image credit: icareifyoulisten.com]

It’s a Sign

A sign that your neighbor has gone completely ‘round the bend: You overhear him saying, “Look what I just got out of the garbage!”

A sign that your government is taking itself waaaaaay too seriously: It spends taxpayer money to have National Security Agents hang out in virtual worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft in the hopes that they might stumble upon an Al Qaeda cell sitting around amongst the virtual poppies, plotting an overthrow of the virtual free world as we know it.

A sign that you’re bored: You go to Youtube and type “kittens” in the search field.

A sign that you’re seriously sleep deprived: You’re typing your blog, and it’s a deep and profound subject for a change, and you nod off, and when you wake back up, you discover that the last half of the sentence you just typed says, “for the whales hailing a cab.”

A sign that you’re coming down with something: You’re sitting at work and you sneeze so hard you accidentally slam your forehead into the wall.

A sign that your friend has a different concept of personal hygiene: He walks out of the bathroom and you say, “Did you wash your hands? I didn’t hear the sink.” And he says, “I wash my hands in other ways.”

A sign that you might need a vacation: You find yourself experiencing road rage in the grocery store.

A sign that your arms have fallen asleep: You are awakened by the sound of the phone ringing. You lift your head off your arms and try to answer it, only to find that neither arm is functioning. You have to knock the phone off the cradle and onto the floor, kneel down beside it and answer it with your nose.

A sign that your boyfriend is rather odd, but in a good way: A friend complains of nightcrawlers in her basement and he says, “Get a robin.”

A sign that you’ve become just a tad jaded: You are standing in an art gallery in a virtual world and a naked avatar approaches you. He starts dancing around and shouting, “It’s art! It’s art!” and you reply, “Well, it’s not very GOOD art. Your penis doesn’t match the skin tone of the rest of your body.” He says, “You’re mean,” and disappears.

A sign that you’re starved for affection: Your dog rests his head on your knee and you get all misty.

A sign that your local firemen are the victims of a crank caller: A fire engine comes roaring up to the bridge where you work and the men shout, “Where’s the jumper?” You reply, “Uh, there is no jumper. This bridge is only 9 feet above the water.” They look at you sheepishly and drive away.


[Image credit: meantobehappy.com]

My Crunchy Granola Epiphany

Last night at about 4 a.m., alone at work and struggling to stay awake, I had an epiphany, and now I’m looking at the world in an entirely different way. Before I present you with my concept, let me say that I’m quite sure this theory didn’t originate with me. There are plenty of crunchy granola new-agey types out there who no doubt have come to the same or similar conclusions. And how’s this for a revelation: my philosophy doesn’t even have to be true for it to have a positive impact on me. Awesome.

I’m calling it Net Theory, and it’s deceptively simple: Everything is connected. All of us are one. From what little I understand about Quantum Theory, I’m fairly certain that it supports this notion. On a sub-atomic level, we’re all a part of one big, uh….thing. We’re bathing in a sea of light waves. There is really no place where I end and you begin.

And once you accept this idea, the way you perceive the universe changes. For example, I’m not as irritated by obnoxious people. I’m just grateful that they are performing this role instead of me. I’m not jealous of people who are more successful than I am, because their success is a reflection of the healthy part of this great net. Politics seem even sillier if that’s possible. It’s just one side of us disagreeing with the other side of us, and whoever comes out on top, well, it’s still us. Prejudice seems absurd, as does war, violence, cruelty, selfishness, pollution, road rage, even petty grudges, because it’s all negative energy directed at the great net of which we are all a part. In other words, it’s self-destructive. I suspect that moving forward, I won’t be as bothered by boredom, because I’ll know that somewhere something interesting is happening. I won’t resent work, because it’s part of what needs to be done.

Charity will seem like a way to be good to myself, as will sex and learning. Religion makes much more sense, because it seems like someone must be keeping this massive organism, for lack of a better word, on track.

Eating, I was musing on the way in to work tonight, is kind of problematic. Am I eating myself? Yuck! But then, why not? It is the gift I give to myself to maintain life. That’s actually beautiful, if you ask me. It’s kind of like the last supper writ large. It sure makes me want to avoid junk food, though.

And the more I get into this concept, the less I am afraid of dying, because now more than ever I can believe that I’ll still be a part of this great interconnectedness that is all of us and everything. I can’t imagine anything more comforting than that.