21.3.19

MY COMPLICATED
RELATIONSHIP WITH
LEISURE



Leisure/relaxation/free time 

My concept of leisure and relaxation has — at some point — attached itself to feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and selfishness. We're living in a time of doing, not being. Of getting things done but not necessarily enjoying the process. From wishing for the weekend only to spend the weekend working on our personal to-do lists; fixing up our living spaces, taking care of personal admin, and Marie Kondo-ing our t-shirt drawers. I could go on. 


While these guilty feelings towards leisure can be partially blamed on societal influence, I believe we can re-define this concept for ourselves in a way that aligns with our lives. I myself have had a complicated relationship with leisure. Years ago, I was the chronically busy over-achiever. This led me to an inevitable burnt out and I became anxiety-ridden and eventually struggled to even leave the house. I became dependent on relaxation for survival. This was a much needed wake up call and led me to discover many relaxation techniques. I started to value leisure as a productive activity. I then overly-embraced and, to be honest, ~preached~ wellness and relaxation techniques. 


I eventually learned that while my well-intentioned advice works for me, it may not be for everyone. This led to a phase of focusing too much on what I perceived were "wellness activities" and forgetting about the fun things I loved doing that weren't directly impacting my "wellbeing". It was almost like I couldn't enjoy activities that weren't aimed at my wellness. Sometimes staying up late to have a few drinks with friends is what I need. Sometimes spending three hours in a thrift store is what I need. I've learned that leisure doesn't always look like yoga, meditation, and staying inside all the time. 


This leads me to the present. I now feel like I've reached a happy medium where I know what relaxation means for me personally and that it isn't a waste of time — nor is it something I have to be doing at all times to stay well. 


Since moving to London, I've been making time for weekends away and booking my travels around things I have always wanted to do. I did all the right things for my recent weekend away in Bath, UK. King size bed — check! Spa booked — check! No other plans/time to just 'be' — check! 


While this weekend away gave me much needed time and space from the city and the spa was truly rejuvenating, I couldn't help but feel a thread of guilt woven into my weekend. Guilt around treating myself, feeling not worthy, guilty for taking time off work, and and guilty for investing time and money into something that could've gone towards something more productive like paying off debt. 


Before these guilt trips had the chance to full absorb my weekend, a book — of all things — changed my mindset.

If you know me, you'll know I'm not a big reader. Since moving to London and spending a significant time on public transport, I've started reading to pass the time. While in Bath, I stumbled into a bookstore in search of new reading material for the train back.  A series of small neatly packed books caught my eye.  One in particular, On the shortness of life; Life is long if know how to use it by Seneca caught my eye. I've been curious lately about slowing time and experiencing the truth of what it means to be alive. Written in 49 AD, I am surprised by how relevant this book is. Seneca is leisure's biggest cheerleader. 


For as soon as their preoccupations fail them, they are restless with nothing to do, not knowing how to dispose or their leisure of make the time pass. And so they are anxious for something else to do, and all the intervening time is wearisome: really, it is just as when a gladiatorial show has been announced, or they are looking forward to the appointed time of some other exhibition or amusement — they want to leap over the days in between. (Seneca)

PHOTOGRAPHY // IZZY MANUEL

I think everyone can relate to the feeling of wishing it was the weekend or counting down the days until the next vacation. Seneca views time — specifically, our personal time — as something of enormous value. We give our time so freely to work, other people, chores and activities that we don't enjoy. He applauds the enjoyment of being with ourselves and doing things purely for our pleasure: 

You are winning affection in a job which it is hard to avoid ill-will; but believe me it is better to understand the balance-sheet of ones own life than of the corn trade. (Seneca) 


This is not to say that we should all just quit our jobs and live a life of leisure — this simply isn't possible for the majority of people. Being someone who derives a lot of purpose and meaning from my job, I wouldn't do this anyway. I do think we could slow time by valuing our personal time more, by making time to enjoy leisure, and time to embrace and respect the art of living. Starting this book on the train ride back helped dissolve some of the guilty feelings and allowed me to take a step back to reflect on my previously complicated relationship with leisure. It feels good to reflect and pat my self on the back for how far I've come. 

As I've shared in my last post, I've been trying to slow things down. I've already been taking the time to walk a little slower and more mindfully, to not set time limits on activities, and to prioritize my wellbeing above everything else, however that looks for me. I think one of my greatest fears is that life will slip by me and I won't remember what happened because I was moving too fast. I want my life to be lived in the slow moments and the spaces in between

No comments:

Leave a comment.