Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Take Back Your Time

Recently, I was visiting Olivia's site and found the following link: Take Back Your Time. Even though the site addresses only vacations, it can actually be taken a few steps further.

In US culture, it is a measure of pride to be constantly busy, harried and overworked. That means you are a good produce-and-consume citizen, a good contributor to the Program. It means you are of good character, a "hard worker".

I once mentioned here - and got a nastygram for it - that Hitler was a hard worker. What does that say? It says nothing about character or kindness, nothing about the quality of friendship, nothing about being a good parent or a good partner. It says nothing about being a good world citizen - unless you consider the only worthy activity in the world to be produce-and-consume and building a personal empire.

I lucked out in this life. I am not burdened with a sense of urgency about producing, consuming or getting things done. If I don't get it done today, I'll get it done tomorrow. If not tomorrow, the next day.

The point is that I'll do it. And somehow it always works out okay.

I will always choose lunch with a friend, a good book or engaging in something that brings me joy before I will allow my life to become drudgery.

Turning time into money turns all of us into commodities. It turns us into what Charles Eisenstein calls "survival machines". Each survival machine competes with other survival machines to maximize his or her own benefit. Relationships become economic in terms of loss and gain - what's in it for me - and other people become "you" or "it", something separate from ourselves, something to be conquered or used. We become either boulders rolling down a hill to be avoided or objects to be manipulated.

By slowing down, we are free to savor the things that really matter. Relationships, enjoyment of each other and our environment. As CE says, "We no longer try to resist and control reality, but align ourselves to the indwelling purpose that can only be discovered through relationship. We seek to know people, and not to use them."



Amy Y said...

Chani, thank you. I needed this reminder today!
I have a go, go, go personality and try to get the crappy stuff done so I can move on to the fun stuff ~ the truly important stuff.
In fact, I just wrote a blog post about a beautiful day I enjoyed with my family, that was slightly overshadowed by guilt that I'd not done anything more productive than cooking a meal for my family. No laundry, no dishes, no house cleaning.
I feel much better about our non~ productive day, now. Thank you :)

Defiantmuse said...

I was having a conversation with my father just the other day about this very subject. I have never felt the need to "be productive" much to the chagrin of many of my family members. My father, on the other hand, used to be a suit in L.A.....he ran himself into the ground, always busy busy busy, making money and working crazy hours. Since he and his partner have moved up here to Humboldt? My dad chose to accept a laid-back job with flexible hours. He concentrates on his breath. He has slowed down and savors the beauty in the simplicity. He never hurries and remains present. I have never seen him so happy.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have always been considered an "underachiever" because I haven't used my abilities to their fullest in the eyes of many. I have felt a lot of guilt over this but am trying to come to terms with the fact that it's ok to be who I am, not a world-beater but someone who seeks to be centered in my own life, and to help others when and where I can.

I have no doubt that if the carrot of wealth and worldly success were alluring enough, I would have been more productive in my life. But gathering fall leaves or seashells gives me greater pleasure than a shopping trip to Bloomingdale's.

Jen said...

This is one of the things I'm working towards now. Great post.

LittlePea said...

Ha! I have absolutely zero guilt about not being a "unit of production." The only treasure I dig for are shark teeth. I never could understand people who haven't learned how to sit still and enjoy sweet nothingness.

I do know a couple overachiever- workaholics who seem truly happy. I think it depends on a person choosing a career they really love and finding a way to balance the rest of your life. I could never live like that though.

molly said...

I was thinking "yes!, Yes! Yes!" while I read through this post.My in-laws came here after WW two having lost everything but the shirts on their backs. So they've always been focussed on work work work almost to the exclusion of any relaxation. They have always viewed me with suspicion because I value friends and nature and relationships..........Thank you for demonstrating that others have beliefs like mine and that they are perfectly valid!

Girlplustwo said...

well, i think the work thing is just an illusion to feed the production and consumption wheel.

we are more powerful when we can get off the ride - no matter if it's for an hour, a day, or forever.

Olivia said...

Great post, Chani! Even though I AM burdened with irrational guilt about this, I look forward to continuing to move more and more toward what I know is true, away from the myth of business and productivity.

I SO admire people who choose jobs where they can be present. For years I toiled as a systems analyst and envied people with "simple jobs", jobs where they could think and feel and be, jobs they loved. I tried over and over again to get into other things and the lure of a stable salary and good benefits always drew me back.
I am grateful to myself to be beyond doing things I hate for money. I feel no guilt whatsoever for this.

I look forward to someday being able to just be or to relax without guilt, too.

Peace and rest,



Anonymous said...

My goal in my working life is to be a slid, decent therapist. And to maintain balance so that my work does not become my life.

Angeline said...

This is truly a great post!

flutter said...

I suppose that is the difference between working to work and working because what you do is your joy.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

I was just having this same conversation with my mother the other night. We were discussing the differences between me and my brother. He is on that high powered, high salaried, 70 hour a week, wheel of fortune. I, on the other hand have a middle of the road, 40 hours a week, pays the bills kind of job. But I defend my choice because it affords me just enough money to do the things I love, and plenty of time to do them in. I like to think Im the happier person for it. I know I am less stressed. But I respect his choice for his life. I just hope he doesn't come to regret it one day.

Excellent post, as usual!

blooming desertpea said...

I'm not one bit competitive but in the life I'm in right now I do indeed feel as if I were a "machine", doing everything that is expected of me. Whenever I can, and this is one of the first days since I don't even remember when, I try to take it slow and enjoy the minutes and the seconds.

Woman in a Window said...

A lessen I have to learn over and over again. Luckily I remember to teach myself this every so often and luckily, I am also willing to learn.

QT said...

Thanks for this reminder. Sometimes it is nice to face a day with an empty slate.

crazymumma said...

It is so against my nature to slow down. And I need it, my children need it from me so very badly.

I am glad you are feeling better, from the shingles. I have heard it is a dreadful illnesss.

Nicole said...

Yeah, I definitely have a problem with this one. Have you read Eat, Pray, Love yet? In it she talks about how Americans thought it was very selfish of her to spend four months in Italy just for fun, whereas the Italians thought it was the most natural thing in the world. Since I've read that, I've been trying to adjust my perspective on this constant need I have to be busy. I'm TRYING!!

S said...

What CM said. My children need me to slow down. I need to slow down. It's essential.

Thanks for the reminder.

Maria said...

Thanks Chani,

I need that to be my mantra in life, "Feel free to Savor the things that really Matter" ~ letting go of everything else!

Thanks again,

thailandchani said...

Amy, I'm glad you are seeing it now.. and took the message in. There's nothing wrong with having a day like the one you had. Most parts of the world have plenty of times like that :)


Defiant, I had a lot of the same static from my family of origin. You know.. the Los Angeles thing. Everyone in LA should be rich and beautiful. I am neither.. and couldn't care less.

I have no urgency about being "productive" either.


Susan, the term "underachiever" has always annoyed me, even in and of itself. The implication is that only those who contribute to the economy are valuable. I see much value in those who choose differently.


JenA2, I'm glad you are working toward it. (The wording of that sounds funny :) Really though, I'm all for enjoying living. It doesn't have to be an endurance contest.


MsPea, of course I share your way of seeing it. Being a productive unit, as you say, is about the last thing I notice about people.

If someone is happily working away at something because it is a passion, that makes sense... as long as they don't impose that on others.


Molly, they are not only valid.. they are correct, imo. That is what we are here for. We are not "survival machines".


Jen, being a wage slave is just that: slavery. Getting off for an hour or a day is a beginning. I'd like to see a major cultural shift though. It would improve everything from people's health to the world's well-being.


thailandchani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thailandchani said...

Olivia, I honestly believe you will move toward what you know to be true. I was also a sysadmin before I got off the grid so I know how pervasive that programming can be. Why I came without it - or immune to it - I don't know.

I hope you never feel guilt for simply being who you are and living by your own beliefs. The culture is wrong. Plain and simple.


Citizen, good! I'm glad you are committed to balance. It would be interesting to read a post some time from you about how you counsel your clients. :)Not in terms of modality.. but whether you would support someone going off the grid and adopting another way of living.


New Mom, thank you. :)


Flutter, essentially.. yes. That's definitely part of it.


Chanda, my brother is and my father was really caught up in that way of life. It was the whole 90210 mentality.. power over others, financial wealth and such. I would agree that it was fine for them - had they not imposed that expectation on others. Of course I don't strictly mean my brother and father.. but all who engage and support that lifestyle, holding that it is the only life worth living. It has a cost. My brother is horribly overweight and unfulfilled and my father killed himself. I'd say that's a fairly high cost for living up to the culture's expectations.


Blooming, keep going with that. :) There is no reason why you should not be free to enjoy every day of your life. Produce-and-consume is a filthy lie.


Erin, I am very glad you are willing to learn. Someone of your talent has so much to offer - so much wisdom. I'd hate to see you lost to the Program. :)


QT, yes. I can imagine it is! :)


Anne, shingles suck. :) I hope no one anywhere ever gets it!

As for slowing down, yes.. it's essential. Essential. For you and your kids - not to mention your husband, friends and larger community. We want to know you. :)


Nicole, yes.. I did read EPL. It didn't surprise me when Elizabeth was chastised by Americans and not by others. I was in Thailand long enough to know the whole world does not live the way people do in the US. Enjoying life, enjoying friends, experiencing life in a whole different way, a much freer way, seemed natural to me at the outset. I just don't understand why it is done so different in the US. (Yes, I understand the origin and the historical reasons - but don't understand why it continues.)

I have many thoughts about the "staying busy" thing and the reason behind it. If you're interested in exploring that, send me an email.. or perhaps I can write a post one day about it. There IS a reason. It's programmed into the whole p-and-c work ethic. Just think historically. :)


Sarah, yes.. essential. Absolutely!


M, you got it! :)


painted maypole said...

You are so right. We need to start caring more about how we spend our relaxing time, and less about how much "work" we do. and we need to stop praising people for their crazy work schedules. my husband preached on this very thing a few weeks ago.

as I am currently working full time on top of everything else, I am realizing how much I miss having all that down time I have during the year.

Sienna said...

Yes, savoring the moment.

I think Australians are getting to the stage where working hours are increasing, quality of life is measured in snatches, materialism and keeping up with the Jones's is the millstone around many families necks...

We (Oz) have taken over the mantel of the most obese nation (per capita thingo or however it's calculated)....

I think of the hearts and smiles and spirituality of the Thai people ....our western civilisation, for some it's the mad race toward a heart attack?

Rat's on a treadmill??

You know what my kids talk most fondly of, the times we just went off exploring nature, interacting with the animals, catching yabbies, swimming in natural water holes..and campfires.

Life is just so damn precious.


Julie Pippert said...

I believe a change of pace and place can be essential to regaining and retaining perspective.

That said...I don't think work or working hard is indicative of askew priorities. My husband gets off-track and out of balance too easily, the end of the day, he loves what he does (which is why it gets so absorbing). He creates healthy, sustainable places for children to learn---that's awesome. Same goes for me. I love writing, love editing.

Sometimes it means being busy or harried or overworked, but I don't think that's just the produce and consume wheel. That's only looking at it one way, from one direction.

When it gets out of balance, we see the red flags and we make a change. It can be frustrating, and the continual work towards balance can be challenging. But we manage. We find ways.

I know this is all a privilege and many, many work for simple survival.

So I appreciate.

Still, the work I do and how I work does speak about how I am and hopefully it shows someone passionate and caring. if not, there is plenty else in my life to look at to find that.

I just don't think it's only that cold and black and white.

Being able to own your time to the extent that you can choose a book or fun instead of drudgery is an enormous privilege. It comes from some choices and from some luck, true.

thailandchani said...

PM, wish I could have heard your husband preach on that. Really. It's a message whose time has come.


Pam, I'm sorry it seems to be infecting Australia now, too. The whole thing is so insidious.. and it truly is a cultural phenomenon. It's not religious or historically justified. It's just choice of culture.

Perhaps Australians need to wake up to the negative influences coming from elsewhere? What do you think?


Julie, I see your point but mine is really that the work ethic gone crazy as a cultural imperative is what's causing the trouble. I certainly wouldn't besmirch any individual who makes that choice. When it becomes a cultural expectation, it's a problem. People are harmed by it. Children, adults, animals, the environment - everything it touches - but the worst thing is the way people begin to commoditize others. It ruins relationships as they become as economic as the work itself.

It's the underlying ethic that bothers me.


hele said...

"I will always choose lunch with a friend, a good book or engaging in something that brings me joy before I will allow my life to become drudgery."

Most definitely. I could not agree more. Amen.

Angela said...

YAY!!! The picture looks like it could have been taken near my home and brings back so many happy memories. Thanks for the encouragement and excellent thoughts. Hope you are well!

we_be_toys said...

Amen sister-friend! Life is too short to not stop and smell the flowers or fresh baked bread! I often feel like an anomaly for not living life at breakneck speed, but when I look at my kids playing contentedly in a creek for hours, discovering the joys of simple things, I know its right choice to make.
Good post!