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.

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