I love Boxing Day. I love that lazy down time between Christmas and New Year. The mad rush is all over. Now, nothing much can happen. Lots of businesses and shops and institutions are shut. People are on holidays. There’s time to relax… If I could relax, that is.
I was woken this morning from my food coma by our son, who’s visiting us for a couple days over Christmas. I’d left my phone in the living room and the alarm (set for 7 am every day except Sunday) was ringing. I thanked him and thought for a few seconds about staying asleep. Yes? No? No. So many things to do…
And then, over my cup of tea, I read Saturday’s Age and an article by Christos Tsolkias, ‘A Matter of Time’. He related an incident. He’d met a friend; they’d stolen some time from their busyness to have a coffee. They talked about their plans for the coming weekend. Hers involved driving children here and there for sport and music lessons. He planned on staying in bed and reading.
‘”Ah,” she said. ‘the life of leisure. I guess that’s what it’s like not having kids.”‘
And Tsolkias followed with a meditation on leisure and guilt and childlessness. (Read it!)
Which made me meditate, as well.
Those early childhood years were at times frantic – and I say that as a complete amateur, with only one kid. It was only then that I really got into habits of discipline and organization and selflessly cracking on with jobs and tasks when I was exhausted. Those years coincided with being a carer for my elderly parents. I was indeed BUSY. Now my parents have gone, my son has left home – but I still, when faced with empty hours, feel a kind of panic. What needs to be done? What’s the best use of this limited time? I can’t bear to waste it!
As a younger person I had very little guilt about taking time to myself. Reading, lying dreaming in a hammock, sitting outside in a banana lounge (remember them?) listening to the birds and insects. My rather harsh judgement now is that I was a total slacker. And that I’m so-o-o much more virtuous these days.
That may or may not be so, but the pity of it is that now I find it really hard to relax. It’s hard to enjoy leisure when your mental to-do list comes with a snarling, snarking commentary. The spiderwebs have been there since Autumn. You haven’t actually cleaned the windows all year. You bought that curtain material two years ago and it’s still sitting in the linen press. And so on.
But I also know that it’s in those despised hours of indolence the ideas for my writing arrive and begin to grow. A bit of useless dreaming is not so useless after all. That’s why I find a spot of train travel so useful when I’m in the middle of a book. Marooned on V-Line, there’s little that I can do. Carting the laptop all day hurts my back. I often don’t read very much when I am writing. An hour and half from our station to Southern Cross, sitting looking out of the window is a beautiful thing.
Among my more virtuous 2017 resolutions (more t’ai chi, more gardening) is more staying in bed and reading. More hammock time.
That is, when I find time to get a new one. The old hammock disintegrated and perished years ago, due to lack of use.