Friday, June 27, 2008

Live shorter and still prosper

Recently released life expectancy figures for 2006 show a new record high in the United States; 78.1 years of age. While much of the rise in life expectancy during US history is attributed to advances in childhood medicine and better public sanitation, more recent upward trends point at the “miracles of modern medicine” giving people the tools needed to treat diseases associated with aging. On the surface this looks like great news; yea! We’re living longer. But life expectancy figures measure only age and do not take into account the physical condition of people on the upper ends of the age spectrum and the quality of life that they lead. There is a fine line between saving a life and artificially prolonging one. What are we sacrificing to tack on a few extra years at the end of our lives?

How do we define life? Is it simply a beating heart or is it the ability to think, enjoy, love, worship, or laugh? Some argue that life is so precious that all means should be taken to keep a person breathing. This mindset keeps people fighting for the physical lives of their family when the person and everything they cherished about their life is already gone. We lose focus of what makes a life, things like happiness and joy, and instead trudge through existence just breathing, not living. As one of our nation’s greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, once said; “And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.” The wisdom and power of those words from centuries past are timeless.

This shift towards unhappiness is characterized in movies and television as an unavoidable rite of passage to old age. Ever wonder why people often turn into bitter “curmudgeons?” Perhaps it is because they are told they cannot eat, drink, or do anything that actually made them enjoy life in the first place! Maybe they didn't grow up dreaming about living their last decades in a nursing home where the highlight of their day is penny bingo after their chopped liver lunch. I feel for the sick, the old and the dying who are told they can’t have something they really want because it is bad for their health or because the doctor said so. Battle old age all you want, it is always going to win. If someone makes it 80, 90, or 100 years old they should be rewarded with all the red meat, fried chicken, and booze they want. Watch your diet when you’re young and it actually matters, by 90 who the hell cares? If dying wishes include an ice cream sundae it is really not the time to be worrying about glucose readings; have your cake and eat it too, literally. I have a verbal pact (which I guess will be written here now) with my husband; if I cannot eat, talk, laugh or kiss him, my favorite things in the world to do, then please just pull the plug.

The United States leads the world in the amount of money spent on healthcare in a person’s final year of life. Doctors are in the business of saving lives, and this includes performing “medical heroics” that all too often extend a person’s calendar years with little consideration to the kind of life the person can lead afterwards. People with long-term, debilitating, incurable illnesses are given a battery of surgeries, medicines and procedures to keep them alive but are so rarely reminded that the choice to continue fighting is ultimately theirs and their families. Sometimes years pass where a person is alive but without any signs of life, and with medical advances this is going to happen more and more frequently.

When it comes to heroics, the only thing more courageous than choosing to battle a disease is the courage it takes to realize the disease won and concede the fight. After people decide to stop medical treatments and take a chance with whatever comes after this world, doctors, with their lifesaving possibilities behind them, often step aside and let the end of life experts take charge; nurses. Hospice and Palliative nurses deliver physical, psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual care to the terminally ill and their families. These Nurses prepare patients and their families for the final days through education, comfort, and compassion. I can think of no other career path that requires such opposing capabilities; the strength to watch people die and the compassion to help them and their families through the pain and loss. I consider myself incredibly blessed to work with nurses almost everyday, women and men who teach very valuable lessons on navigating the rivers of life (if you are willing to listen!). The work they do serves as a reminder of lessons learned from family and friends who made the most of their time on earth; live life to the fullest, enjoy every day, and to take better care of yourself when you’re young so the years added are actually healthy ones.

This is dedicated to my Father-in-law John, who realized he was losing his battle against kidney failure and said enough; living out his last days in the comfort and care of a hospice nurse team. Thank you to the nurses who took care of him, who have ever cared for me and my family, and who I am blessed to have as friends and co-workers; you are truly special people for choosing a profession that requires so much skill and compassion.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quote of the Week

Walking takes longer... than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.
- Edward Abbey, "Walking"
Bonus Quote
What really helps motivate me to walk are my dogs, who are my best pals. They keep you honest about walking because when it's time to go, you can't disappoint those little faces.
- Wendie Malick

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our Daily Walk

Every diet, every gym, every workout infomercial comes with a “CYA” warning, alerting consumers to consult with a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise routine. If you actually consult with a doctor they will encourage a slow start to a new program, often promoting the adoption of a daily walk. When I began to work with doctors and coaches on finding a maintainable way to get to, and stay at, a healthy weight they quickly started dolling out praises on the power of a good walk. Since exercise is synonymous in my head with sweat and pain, walking is not an activity I approach with the same fervor of an aerobics class. I considered tackling this issue as a byproduct of my years as an exercise bulimic, a condition that causes people to over-exercise in an effort to burn every calorie they consume. However, upon analysis it became apparent that my attitude that walking is not really exercise was not a problem but actually quite healthy. By viewing walking as just an activity and not exercise, I was less likely to abuse it. Still, there are so many people who share my “walk is not exercise” mindset and forego this healthy activity in lieu of more strenuous workouts, but this attitude is easily fixed with the addition of a furry friend.

Each morning starts with the same routine, performed with such uniform precision that even a German engineer would be proud. After rolling from bed and visiting the bathroom, I reach for a pair of jeans and just the sound of the fabric hitting my toes wakes Luna and Solei, my two dogs, from their deep slumber. All it takes is the quiet noises of getting dressed to alert them of the start of a new day. Each morning this same pattern is repeated, shortly followed by the phrase “wanna go for a walk?” The dogs immediately jump and cry and run and bark in eager anticipation of a walk around the neighborhood. The only thing that gets the dogs more excited then going for a w-a-l-k is going "buh bye car." I try to think if there are any phrases that would evoke the same level of excitement as these two do for my pups and the only thing that comes close is “wanna go for Dairy Queen?” Sad to say even that doesn’t have me running, crying or barking nearly as much as the dogs.

The benefits of our daily walk go well beyond exercise. We have a little saying in our house, “A tired puppy is a good puppy,” and this mantra is supported by America’s favorite Dog Person, Cesar Milan (aka the Dog Whisperer). The daily walk started not for my own exercise needs, but when Luna was a puppy and the only way to knock the “Schnoodle 500” zoomie energy out of her was with a good, long walk. That was nearly 4 years ago and she, and her little sister, still requires a fair amount of exercise to ensure our furniture is not destroyed out of “when are Mom and Dad coming home from work?” boredom. For those having issues with a destructive dog, my two are living proof that a tired dog won’t chew your shoes.

Before getting a dog the only neighbors I knew were those immediately around us. Exploring your neighborhood on foot allows opportunities for striking up conversation, actually getting to know the people you share a zip code with. Having a dog amplifies the experience as they make acquaintance with the rear ends of other neighborhood dogs. This method of meeting people does come with a funny issue; no one actually knows me by my real name and instead refers to be as Luna and Solei’s Mom. That’s okay, because I am just as guilty of calling people Monte, Lady, Freya, Sam and Buddy’s parents. Because of the walk, and the dogs, people are friendly, wave and say hi, the kind of interaction with neighbors that many people lack these days.

Walking through my neighborhood also reminds me that as much as I hate Minnesota (my biggest search term hit on the site, I should include it in every post), I love my quaint area that somehow sits only miles from downtown. In a couple of mile loop we pass ponds, a golf course, and a creek. We share our path with deer that stop and stare at us on our walk, like we are some strange animal, unnatural in their habitat. In the fall the ground crunches from the leaves of hundreds of oak and elm trees. The lushness spring blooms makes it nearly impossible to see what awaits around the next corner. The scenery never gets old and I am in constant awe at the neighborhood that is more like a nature preserve.

People often ask me why I walk the dogs every morning when I have a large, fenced in back yard. My retort is the walk is just as much for me as it is for them. Just as the daily walk is not exercise in my head, it is also not a chore. Beginning each day with a walk is calming, therapeutic, and relaxing. Unless the rain is of biblical proportions or temperature bone crushing, the show goes on. I cannot make a job or life change that would prohibit this daily ritual; walking my neighborhood with two leashes in hand has become just as much a part of the day as brushing my teeth and enjoying a cup of coffee. My coworkers seem so frazzled every morning, starting their days with kiddie carpool mix-ups, daycare horror stories, long commutes, fights over breakfast, or early conference calls. Missing the walk throws me completely off my rails and has repercussions on my work and personal performance; it is a non-negotiable part of my day. I’m a better employee, a better neighbor, a better pet-parent, overall a better person because of this time to myself; getting a little exercise on top of all that is just icing on the cake.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't be a Butthead

Dear Inconsiderate Smoker,

I try not to be judgmental regarding your decision to poison yourself and all those who share airspace with you; hey it’s your life you’re gambling with. What infuriates me is when your nasty little habit infringes upon the world around me. With more and more places going smoke-free, I am now able to avoid the hacking, wheezing and nasty stench that goes along with your toxic second hand smoke; however there is one thing that keeps bothering me, why do you think it is okay to toss your cigarette butts out your car window or onto the sidewalk?

Not every smoker engages in littering the streets with their cigarette butts and to those smokers who keep their butts to themselves I offer a thank you. Those who use the world outside their car window as an ashtray are nothing but selfish, nasty, inconsiderate citizens of our planet. Do you think tossing a cigarette butt is any different than any other type of littering? Your cigarette butts are just as much litter as any fast food wrapper, soft drink cup, or snotty tissue you could toss out of your car. Even smokers’ rights groups advocate proper disposal of cigarette butts and encourage people to abide by litter laws; stop giving non-smokers more reasons to put further restrictions and taxes upon smokers. Perhaps you are just the type of person who thinks the world is your trash can and think nothing wrong of throwing stuff out in places not designated for your garbage. If there is any justice in this world you will be on the receiving end of a hefty fine and will be assigned trash collection duties in your afterlife.

What harm do your cigarette butts do? For starters, filters are not biodegradable and the trillion or so that are thrown into the environment every year cause a whole host of issues. The beauty of beaches, forests, lakes, mountains and streams are ruined by the eyesore of cigarette related trash. It is estimated that 80% of the world's litter is cigarette butt and package related.

These butts sicken and kill countless animals both on land and in the sea; choked or poisoned. Not only do these butts poison wildlife, they poison each of us as tar, nicotine, arsenic, acetone, mercury and lead enter our water supply. Cigarette butts build up and clog storm drains, causing floods and water damage.

Google “cigarette forest fire” and see the hundreds upon hundreds of articles on fires caused by cigarette litter. These fires cause massive forest damage, property damage and even death. Next time you toss a smoldering cigarette out your window think of the people it might burn to death, maybe then you’ll think twice about inflicting harm on the world.

If you do choose to continue littering with your cigarettes please consider using filterless cigarettes; they are completely biodegradable and as an added bonus to those of us you share the world with you’ll probably have fewer years to litter the earth. For the next person who tosses a butt out their car in front of me, your fiery ash hitting the hood of my vehicle, I will take one for the collective world team and run you off the side of the road and shove the smoldering butt down your throat. Consider yourself warned.

The Explosive Bombchelle

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quote of the Week

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
- Agnes Repplier
Bonus quote ...
We must be our own before we can be another's.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Settling Downer

Carl Weisman surveyed over fifteen-hundred single men looking for answers to the age old question heard from older, well-meaning relatives; why aren’t you married yet? Only 8% of the men surveyed said they had no intention of ever being married. What the survey revealed is not a gender of playboys, players, commitment-phobes, or losers but a generation or two who learned from the failed unions of parents, friends, and others that a bad marriage is worse then no marriage at all. When interviewed, Carl Weisman reported that the men surveyed were not unhappy with their single status or “walk around all day worried about being married,” but lived happy lives filled with friendships and careers that would be jeopardized by a failed marriage. Some people can argue these men are being too picky, selfish, narrow-minded or egotistical but honestly, don’t we all know a few women who can learn a thing or two from these results?

Know what you want: Maybe women have more pressure to “settle down” and find themselves a good husband, or maybe for some it is the siren song of their biological clock, but far too many women put more time and thought into their next haircut than what they are looking for in a spouse. Defining what you want, and do not want, in a relationship probably sounds unromantic to women who grew up with Cinderella stories and thoughts of princes dancing in their heads, but if you don’t know what you want out of life how will you find it? After a particularly bad relationship in college, a girlfriend and I actually wrote a description of what type of person we were looking to date. Our failed relationships taught us a lot about what we were looking for, and what we weren’t. This silly little exercise helped me avoid some dead-end relationships and bad dates. Why waste time getting to know someone who doesn’t like dogs if your life is incomplete without animals, who wants a large family when you dislike children, or who eats only because our bodies require food when you are a budding gourmet? Knowing yourself, understanding what you are looking to get out of a relationship, and realizing where you are not willing to settle are important ways to gauge whether someone deserves the other half of your mattress for the rest of your life.

Understand you are valuable: Now perfection does not exist but there is such a thing as lowering the bar too far. If you are looking for Dane Cook and you look like a Great Dane, spousal expectations in the looks department might need recalibrating to a more attainable goal. When looking for a relationship it is important to be realistic but also understand “your worth.” Low self-esteem, desperation, desire to escape a situation, or rebounding from a past relationship are just a few of the many reasons women settle for less than they deserve. While we might not all be beautiful enough to snag George Clooney or smart enough to engage in conversation with a brain surgeon, every woman deserves to be in a relationship where she is happy, healthy, loved, respected, and treated well. Everyone is valuable enough to be with a person who keeps their fists, verbal bashing and mental abuse to themselves.

Comfy not necessarily cozy: Do you know people who cling onto a relationship like their favorite old ratty sweatshirt just because it is comfortable? When a relationship gets to a point where you are embarrassed to wear it outside chances are it should be trashed. The time to meet Mr./Ms. Right could pass right under your nose while you are spending time with Mr./Ms. Okay for Now. If your goal is to get married, stop wasting your time with someone who isn’t marriage material.

Compete to Win: From an early age men are encouraged to strive for the best and become winners in sports, academics and friendships. Thirty-six years after the passage of Title IX, which gave women equal access to participate in federally funded educational programs, including sports, a gap in female competitiveness still exists. Parents are often guilty of making boys more competitive and girls more diplomatic, a much more “lady-like” quality. Whether it is because of nature or nurture, women are often less competitive then their male counterparts. Does being less competitive mean women are more compromising within relationships? Compromise is a huge part of a relationship but no one should compromise so much that they lose their competitive edge and themselves in the process.

We’re not picky, we’re savvy consumers: Women receive advice from family, friends, books and other publications to stop being so picky or they’ll never get married. Yet when women are not picky they are labeled as being desperate or easy. This attitude might seem ludicrous and outdated, but I have seen friends berated by their mothers, aunts, sisters and cousins; including one friend whose parents were livid at her inability to “snag a husband” prior to her college graduation, blaming it on her being too “persnickety” with men.

A few writers and pundits are trying to convince women they are too picky in relationships. They should settle for less than true love or, god forbid, risk being alone and giving up marriage, children, a house with a white picket fence, and all the other things women are convinced they should want out of life. Ironically women are encouraged to be more selective with large consumer purchases like cars, but are berated when applying the same level of analysis and scrutiny to men. Those who encourage people to settle in relationships think that being married to the wrong person is better than being alone. Newsflash; there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. True loneliness is experienced not when in a room by oneself, but when sharing a life with a person who might as well be a stranger.

Getting married to avoid being alone does not cure loneliness. Marriage is hard work and marrying Mr. or Ms. “They’ll do” will only lead to regret, disappointment, hardship, and loneliness. Passion, romance and love help couples survive mundane details of marriage and the times when they really don’t like each other very much (and those times happen to even the happiest of couples). Given the alternative, isn’t it is better to be fussy before the wedding then disappointed afterwards? Maybe if women (and men) were pickier in the first place the divorce rate in the United States would not be hovering over 50%.
“In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?”
“Is it better to fake it than to be alone?”
- Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em: Men have looked at long term relationships and marriages more practically for generations if only for simple financial reasons; women’s gains in divorce settlements meant men had more to lose if a marriage went south. As women gain power and financial equality they hold better cards in the relationship game and consequently, have more at stake to lose in a divorce and more opportunities to fold their hand in hopes of better deal. Many women have the security and the means to keep playing the game, but just like Vegas; sometimes people fold and give up the winning hand in relationships. A good player knows when a hand is for keeps.

Marriage is a journey, not a destination: Women have it drilled into their head by books, magazines, friends, television, culture and religion that marriage must be checked off their to-do list “or else.” Feminists often tout that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” but try telling that to a woman in her thirties infected by baby rabies and dreaming of a wedding and family. Suddenly even strong, successful women find themselves sacrificing their expectations in a partner and marry someone less than ideal to complete the task of getting married. Women then become focused on planning the perfect wedding to the imperfect spouse and forget the wedding is one day and then it is on to the marriage. Men rarely focus on becoming a groom for a day and are more likely to remain focused on what the wedding really is, the first day of the rest of their lives with a person.

Women often hold their boyfriends on higher pedestals than husbands and allow men to “slide” into poor relationship habits after the wedding. Women are equally guilty at some of these changes, putting little effort into the marriage after all the hard work put into the wedding. It is not okay to lower our standards after becoming a “done deal.” Even worse are women who think men will change when they say “I do.” If a man is a jerk before you get married he will be a jerk after the wedding day.

Don’t Worry, Get Happy: It is a vicious cycle for many women who are unhappily single, start dating someone to only find they still aren’t happy and either get dumped because of their unhappiness or do the dumping. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don’t go looking for happiness in marriage if you are not happy with yourself; no marriage in the world will fix that. One of the most fascinating findings of Carl Weisman’s survey of single men is that for the most part they were happy with their lives and did not need marriage to complete them. Women who adopt this same attitude and see themselves as whole without a spouse, who define their happiness through who they are (and not who they are connected with), know what they want out of life, and know what they are worth would rather be alone then settle for anything less than they deserve.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quote of the Week

Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.
- Lillian Dickson

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Celebrate the Road Taken

You’ll regret it someday. This sentence is one everyone hears at least a few times in their lives, often muttered by friends or family after life changing decisions like getting a tattoo, dropping out of school, or joining the circus. The childfree hear “you’ll regret it someday” from friends, family and perfect strangers who believe the decision to remain childfree will lead to a bleak future of sadness and regret. Rarely do people point out to a parent-to-be their possibility of future regret yet the decision to have children is filled with more struggle and sacrifice then remaining childfree.

For many parents the thought of regretting their children is a completely foreign concept, but some parents express quiet frustration of their irreversible decision. Parental dissatisfaction must be quietly expressed; it is less acceptable for a parent to show anything but infatuation with their children than it is to be childfree. Anonymously, parents acknowledge their trials and tribulations on True Mom Confessions and True Dad Confessions. People post about their loss of freedom, lack of time to themselves, decline of sex, and deterioration of their marriages. Parents express breeder’s remorse on being unable to complete more education, travel the world, learn a foreign language, or enjoy an evening out. These sites serve as excellent reminders that regret is not reserved for the childfree.

Regret comes from decisions you can’t take back: that tattoo of an ex’s name, a one night stand, the nose job, or mutually exclusive decisions (e.g. I couldn’t backpack Europe after college and afford an apartment with friends in DC, go to Georgetown and Mary Washington for my undergrad, continue my career in consulting and have dinner every night with my husband). Bypassing a European backpacking adventure after college was a tough decision, but lead to a career path that brought financial security, the opportunity to travel extensively, the dream of living in the DC area, and the chance meet my husband. Attending a large university might have brought a broader business network and potentially greater riches, but my decision to attend a small, liberal arts college offered me a wealth of experiences and opportunities that no large school could ever provide. Every choice requires a sacrifice; if you get hung up on what you missed out while pursing something else, life will be filled with nothing but regret.
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
- Alexander Graham Bell
Life is filled with tough choices, we all give up something in pursuit of something else and the choice to have or not to have children is just another in a long list of life decisions. Admitting to the potential of regretting the choice to forgo motherhood is blasphemous in the childfree community and could open up a can of worms with my hopeful family, but let me make this clear; potential for regret is no reason to bring a child onto this planet. Sure I could regret not having kids, but chances are I would regret giving up everything a good parent sacrifices when children come into the picture. When presented with a fork in the road we can take one road and obsess where the other road went or make a directional decision and keep moving forward, never looking behind. Either we regret the road we didn’t choose or celebrate the path we did; we cannot “have it all” due to a lack of time, resources, and competing priorities. Rather than dwell on what life doesn’t have shouldn’t we each focus on everything it does have? While I will never have children, I have plenty of time to pursue hobbies, advance my career, travel the world, enjoy a full night of sleep, and retire early. Who could regret all that?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Leaving Long Island

My experiences growing up on Long Island and the resulting outcome are not unique to me or the southeastern appendage of New York State; from major cities to small rural towns there will always be people who want to stay in their hometown and people who run like hell. Falling into the latter category, I could not get out Carle Place or off of Long Island fast enough. Unlike many people with long lists of reasons to count down the days until their High School graduation, I actually had trouble articulating the motivation behind the desire to flee. Life was pretty good; tight group of friends, close relationship with family, good grades, skip to the beach, short train ride to Manhattan, and somewhat decent levels of popularity. Leaving everyone to go away to college was hard; deciding never to move back was even harder. After nearly 15 years since my departure from the Empire State I still miss my friends and family yet never regret leaving Long Island.

Being the big fish in a little pond does have some advantages; comfort, security, and admiration to name just a few. The thing with fish is they only grow as big as the tank they are in; humans are no different. For some people High School is the best it will get, the glory days, and it is all down hill from there. We all know people whose best moments in life involved scoring the winning points in the closing seconds of a game, receiving a standing ovation in the high school musical or being published in the school newspaper. Twenty years after the fact they still relive those glory days, unable to let go of the past and make something bigger out of their future. While this fate does not happen to everyone, I feared that if I didn’t get away it would happen to me; my personal growth dependent on getting out of my small, comfortable pond. No matter where I grew up I would have wanted to leave, explore new environments and discover things beyond the familiar. Familiarity breeds contempt.

My fear of life peaking in High School was so intense that it was a focus of many conversations with my guidance counselor whose honestly was something I still appreciate. His words of wisdom, that life does go downhill for many people after high school and it was my choice whether it would happen to me or not, still resonate in my head in times of uncertainty and doubt. Progressing through more school, through my career, and through life I am often reminded of this lesson and remember it is my choice whether my best days are behind me or still yet to come.

I am envious of those who thrive in the comfort of a stable, familiar environment. Some people need roots, some need wings. I needed to get out of the pond, try a different pond, jump into a lake, swim upstream, deep dive in an ocean, or stomp in a puddle to experience the world, otherwise I would drown. Even moving to a smaller pond forces adaptation to new surroundings, evolution of new personality traits and defense mechanisms to survive and thrive a new situation. Changing and growing, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, brings challenges to my career and relationships. Just when I get comfortable I start asking “what’s next;” struggling to strike a balance between stability and freedom, wanderlust always pushing me to look beyond the horizon, to avoid the suffocation of growing into my surroundings.

Ironically when I return to my hometown today I am no longer the big fish who everyone knows, but more like a fish out of water, unable to fit into my surroundings. Carle Place, Long Island and New York have all changed some in 15 years. Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life,” is all too apparent; people look and act more like the women of Real Housewives of New York City, the boys from Growing Up Gotti, or the Dina Lohan than the Seavers in Growing Pains. What really makes me a stranger in a strange land in has little to do with the place I called home for over 13 years and everything to do with changes in me, the changes from seeing new places, meeting people from all over the world, and discovering new facets to my own personality. The old saying “you can’t go home again” used to confuse me but with each visit to place of my childhood memories the meaning became all too clear; home has nothing to do with physical location but everything to do with state of mind.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Quote of the Week

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
- Mark Twain

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Bumday

A pot of coffee brews in the kitchen, the sweet smell of onions and peppers waft through the air as breakfast potatoes sizzle to a golden brown. Allison Young of NPR’s “Classical Music” presents a condensed biography on the composer Handel and before long the room is filled with a relaxing concerto. Lazy Sunday mornings are one of my simplest but greatest pleasures in life. As a naturally early riser, Sunday mornings provide a rare time of peace and serenity in our over-populated and stressful world; this time as one of my most treasured assets.

At 6:30 in the morning the outside the world is calm and still. A few finches and a cardinal the only sign of life, and most of my neighbors are still sound asleep; even the church goers still hours away from their ritual services. Luna and Solei, my energetic Schnoodles, seem to enjoy our quiet morning together as they nap nearby, rising only to look out the window when the sound of a woodland creature or the wind interrupts their slumber. Most mornings the dogs are hyper and anxious, ready to explore the outside world. On Sundays their animal instincts somehow know if they allow me to write and enjoy a cup of coffee in silence their morning walk through the neighborhood will be especially long.

As a type-A personality normally focused on an ever growing to-do list, the sheer pleasure I get from quiet Sundays might be surprise those who view me as being wound up tighter than a top. In the past I too would view such a weekly ritual as lazy; a waste of precious time. I am not a lazy person, I am a person who just enjoys, craves and requires some quiet moments. Somehow through the years I have come to embrace the importance of quiet me-time; perhaps a sign that with age does come a shred of wisdom. Time really is our most precious commodity and we are each granted the same 1440 minutes every day; how we use those 1440 minutes are what makes us each different.

Those with young children might find the concept of lazy Sunday mornings foreign. My enjoyment of me time is one of the major reasons I have chosen a childfree life. Just the thought of beautiful silence being disrupted by the need of other human can trigger feelings of anxiety. My whole day ahead of me is full of endless possibilities of my choosing. With the decision to have children comes the ultimate sacrifice of time, and it perplexes me how many choose to devote all their time to others, no longer able to enjoy time for relaxation or reflection on their thoughts and feelings.

Many people use Sunday morning minutes on less noble things then families. Some utilize the time to prepare for the upcoming work week, checking emails and voicemails, even sending emails to key people as if proving their level of commitment through a non-work day communication. They don’t have to give those minutes to their jobs but they still do; either not understanding or caring how precious that time is for themselves or the people they love. How we spend our time is forever etched in history and we cannot go back and take back all the minutes we gave to someone else.

“You don’t have kids so what do you do when you are not working?” There is a perception that the time of the childfree can be endlessly devoted to career, like tending to children is the only valid reason not to be working. There are plenty of noble callings and hobbies beyond work and children that people do in their spare time; volunteer work, music, art, and gardening just to name a few. The real challenge is accepting that it is okay if time is just spent being and living without an end goal or purpose and overcome any guilt associated with doing nothing. Somewhere along the line lazy became a new deadly sin and it recently hit me that this shift is reflected in the ultimate gauge of human behavior; commercials. Commercials no longer show people sitting on porches, under a tree, or in their yard doing nothing. Even Country Time Lemonade changed their advertising strategy, the gentle rock of a porch swing replaced by exercise in the lake. If the lazy lemonade of summer cannot relax how can the rest of us?

Because we live in a society that rewards people for handing their lives over to their careers or children, the love of quiet me-time has some negative consequences. Colleagues slowly move ahead a rung or two on the corporate ladder because they are willing to sacrifice their time and give it to “the man.” They too are awake now in the wee hours of Sunday, sending emails, constructing PowerPoint documents, and preparing for early Monday meetings. They, and unfortunately many executives, see this as the ultimate dedication to the company and their careers, and in years past I would agree with those thoughts. Each Monday morning I read a slew of emails sent the previous day, wondering what was so important that it could not wait 24 hours. Spending Sunday working from home is not dedicated, it is sad and pathetic; sad people feel like they have to spend all their time working and pathetic that they have nothing more important to do then work. Corner office be damned, there are some things in life not worth sacrificing for so called success.

Ironically, those of us who have lives outside of work and learn to find a balance are more efficient and effective then those whose time scale tips completely towards their careers. Quiet time allows us to relax and recharge, to expand and broaden our minds, to spend time making ourselves happier and healthier which makes us better people inside and outside the office. Personal time actually extends our longevity. All work and no play might be a good short-term solution to move up the corporate ladder, but when a stress induced heart attack cuts a life short that actually nets out to less time given to work. We might all get the same 1440 minutes in every day, but we’re not all given the same lifetime allotment of those minutes. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and we each need to find something to keep us in the race. The smell the Sunday coffee, classical music, a good book, warm puppies, and hours spent with myself are now necessities making it to and living well past retirement. The only thing better than a lazy Sunday morning is a lazy, sunny, warm Sunday morning and today there is a hammock with my name on it.