Don’t lose your leisure | Sunday Observer

Don’t lose your leisure

It’s one of those rare, nice Saturdays when you wake up with no plans and no responsibilities. You can do anything you wish. So, what do you do? Visit a long-lost friend, or sprawl on the sofa and listen to your favourite music? No. you make up a list of “all those little jobs I’ve been planning to do” - and spend your free day polishing silverware, painting the garage doors and organizing the bedroom closet.

Your job has been deadly dull all week, and you come home on Friday feeling pent up. You think, “I’d like to do something special tonight.” But what happens? You spend the whole evening in front of the TV set.

You retired last year. You have a vision to visit Europe to see your colleagues. But, you’ve been spending a lot of time pottering around the house. You also wanted to fine tune your music talent after retirement but somehow you never got around to do any of those.

If any of these pictures fit you, don’t be surprised. It has become a common thing in modern life. Most people have difficulty enjoying their leisure. Faced with a free hour, a free day, or even a free year, they hasten about looking for “work” - any kind, no matter how monotonous - just to fill the empty time. And the situation is getting more troublesome as our leisure hours multiply.

Self image

A crucial factor is, what psychologists call our “self-image” - the picture we have of ourselves, and our estimate of how well it measures up to an “ideal” adult. In our culture, we see the ideal citizen as the man who not only works hard but helps with the Dayaka Sabha, PTA and son’s Boy Scouts, and somehow also manages to keep his garden neat; or as the woman whose children are always well-behaved, whose house is always immaculate, whose grooming is always picture-perfect.

We feel we must always be doing something constructive with our time. We see a child swinging on a gate and we say, “Go find something to do.” We fail to realize that he is already doing something - he’s swinging on a gate. Inevitably, when he grows up, instead of swinging on gates when he feels like it, he’ll go out and ‘find something to do’.

Hidden wishes

Yet, inside each one of us there is a child trying to get out. This child doesn’t want to be responsible, and he hates the monotony of routine housework or odd jobs. But, if we let that child out to romp too often, our “self-image” slips.

A newly-married 30-year old subordinate once told me, “What I love to have is a 3D Model train simulator. But, I guess I’ll just have to wait until my son is about 3 years old before I get it.” He was extremely embarrassed that he, a grown man, should want to play with trains. He finally did get his trains, but even then, he sunk them into his store room so that the neighbours wouldn’t know about his secret.

Then, we also have “the oughts and the shoulds.” Recently, I was reading a poem written by Ogden Nash, the American poet. He wrote that most people suffer from ‘hardening of the oughteries.’ Quite true. Many of us live within the imperative mood, with ‘oughts’ all around us. We feel that we should do this, should do that, should be perfect. But, in our hearts, we hate those shoulds.

Even while we’re doing what we think we should - cleaning the house or painting the wall or whatever - we resist inside. This is perhaps the major conflict that makes us feel bored.

Obviously, we must be responsible most of the time - there are people who depend on us, and we must respect some of the “shoulds.” But, the trouble is, they become habitual, and we find ourselves carrying them over into our free time. And so, instead of spending that beautiful Saturday morning meeting our friends, we clean out the bedroom closet and reorganize the kitchen drawers.

So, how do we change?

Face your boredom. A certain amount of boredom is inevitable in life, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. A routine job, the repetitive tasks of housekeeping - these things must be got through.

But, are you bored during your free time? Do you usually find something that’s fun or interesting to do? During the evenings or on weekends, do you simply fill the time with activities that don’t mean much to you? If it’s the latter, admit it - and resolve to do something about the situation.

Daydream

Let yourself daydream. Children daydream most of the time - of being a handsome prince, of becoming a football star, of being able to fly through the air as if by magic.We adults have the idea that day- dreaming is something that real grownups shouldn’t indulge in.

Nonsense! Daydreams can tell us a lot about our inner selves. Do you daydream about a European tour? Perhaps, you can’t afford it, but surely, there is some travelling closer to home that you can do. Do you daydream about making a hit on stage drama? That may not be possible, but why not consider joining a theatre group, beginning with minor roles? Listen to what your daydreams are saying - they can tell you what you really want to do. Respect the child inside you. Is there any reason why a grandfather shouldn’t want to play football with the neighbourhood kids? I have seen it happen and the kids love him.

Is there any reason why a dignified executive shouldn’t want to roll on the grass or why a housewife shouldn’t want to romp with the cats on the living-room floor? Of course, not.

Get rid of that stifling picture of adults as always responsible, hardworking and unemotional. In your leisure time, let the child in you out. 

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