Discover more from The Mettā View
I need more summer! ☀️
Desire is a compass we ignore at our peril. I’m learning to follow the yearning for joy and carve out days worth living.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.
A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.” - Annie Dillard
Rest is a superpower.
I often forget it, but scientists know this. My cats certainly know. Italians, as a people, definitely know it too. I was reminded of that while I was on holiday last month in Tuscany and Piedmont. I wish I could bottle some of their ‘dolce far niente’ - imagine taking home that feeling!
While I revelled in the sweetness of doing nothing, occasionally, I felt a stir. I find that movement opens up perspective. Travel does that for me, as does walking, swimming and moving my body in general. So I let myself do plenty of the above during my time away. Giving in to leisurely activities, the kind when you stop counting time or even experience a feeling of flow, turns out to also be a superpower.
However, despite feeling recharged, something started to bother me when I got home.
The same thing happens every year. I get excited at the thought of summer: woo hoo! Holidays upcoming! But I always think I have more time - as if the season would last six months! Instead of going out and enjoying myself as the summertime progresses, I double down on work, leaving leisure for later when I am on holiday.
By mid-August, I return home and freak out.
I need more summer!
I want more late evenings out, more swimming, paddle boarding, more reading in the sun. More gelato. More lovely fresh food and dinners with friends. More, more, more.
Some people are the same about winter, I hear.
WE ONLY HAVE SO MANY…
This got me contemplating summers and priorities. While walking the dog, I sought the shade of majestic pine trees in my local park. How many summers have they seen, I wondered?
We only have so many summers, I reflected, humbled.
But considering there are a finite number of summers ahead of me, I asked myself: am I making the most of my favourite season?
If I were to grade myself over the last couple of years, I’d give myself a warning: Can do better!
This is a timely issue, too: I need to enjoy what’s good about summer when it’s handed to me.
As Henry Wismayer reflects in his essay in The New York Times: ‘Climate change might not flood your house. But it may very well erode the things that give you joy.’
DO WHAT FEELS GOOD
My yearning for more was intense. So, I listened to it and strategised.
‘Do things because they feel good’, suggested author Katherin May, to ‘feel alive again. [...]
People tend to think that seeking pleasure for pleasure’s sake is somehow naïve [...] In other words, we are more likely to assign worth to things that are considered practical and efficient.’
Even writing this post felt indulgent. Talking about wanting more, about summer, about leisurely pursuits, etc. Perhaps because I have my fingers in many pies and generally enjoy my work, I notice it less. My busy week looks different than an office clerk’s. It spills into evenings and weekends. And because I’m pretty driven, indeed, I’m guilty of assigning a high value to being productive, practical and efficient.
Occasionally I forget to include my favourite non-work-related activities in my life. At least, thank goodness, the dog drags me out of the office several times a day!
This yearning for more turned out to be like the bat signal, pointing to an area of my life that’s in distress.
I chose to answer the call, flying to my own rescue.
Why leave the good only for the holidays?
Can’t we make room for what feels joyous, for leisure, for awe in our daily lives? (I’m saying we, I am perhaps wrongly making the assumption you’re making the same mistakes I am).
But this is worth pondering upon.
After all, we only have so many summers.
I was determined to turn things around, so I scanned my calendar and played Tetris-style with the green, blue and red blocks on my screen, shuffling my priorities until I made it happen. I blocked time to go for a swim; my first this year. Crazy me. The lake is only a 20-minute downhill stroll from my doorstep. The truth is: I don’t need to be on holiday to enjoy the best of summertime. If I make an effort, that is.
For example, the the other night, I went to bed at 1 am, on a weekday. For once, it wasn’t revenge bedtime procrastination. It was that yearning for leisurely pursuits, again. At my supposed bedtime, I rebelled. ‘I’m not going to bed. I want to still be on holiday,’ I said aloud, and giggling, I threw myself back on the sofa.
I don’t have a toddler. Apparently, I’m still a toddler myself.
The next day, I was slow. Slow-er.
As I dragged myself to the office, I noticed that this unrushed pace felt pleasant.
Was that the very feeling I was attempting to hold on to? The slowing down that we experience generally on holiday, whether in the depth of summer or winter: away from productivity and doing, instead leaning towards stillness and being.
Some think (and I agree) that desire is a compass. I wasn’t being petulant, I was reckoning with a hidden need. With desire as my compass, I’m steering myself in a new (better, more fruitful) direction.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
According to author and professor Zena Hitz in her Plough article ‘What Is Time For?:
‘The leisure that is necessary for human beings is not just a break from real life, a place where we rest and restore ourselves in order to go back to work.
What we are after is a state that looks like the culmination of a life.’
There is something essential at play here. For me and for you. The desire for lightness, for leisure, for time spent doing what we love points us towards a vitally important feeling that connects us to who we are and what we are here to experience. Of course, work, emails, laundry, visiting the in-laws and doing your tax return are necessary. But let’s not glorify it all, not if it’s at the disservice of time spent in enjoyment, the precious kind, when time feels suspended.
This quote from Zen master Suzuki Roshi comes to mind:
‘The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.’
If we remember ‘the most important thing’ (it will look different for each of us), we can explore whatever power we have over our circumstances to place that important thing right where it belongs in our lives.
As long as we remember, we can choose to nourish that which matters to us most. Zena Hitz posits in her essay that:
‘Leisure turns out to be an interior discipline.It is not enough to simply choose a central life activity that is intrinsically leisurely. One must recognize the good of leisure and seek it out. Moreover, leisure might require sacrifice.’
Given that I’m a solopreneur and I make my own schedule, it’s probably easier for me than most to follow the yearning and make room for what’s important to me. It comes at a cost, but it’s a price I am willing to pay.
Do you want more leisurely moments for yourself?
Look for the possible trade-ins, give it a go - carve out the time in your day to make room for what matters to you.
It could be as simple as leaving work early to watch the sunset with a friend, taking a stroll through the park, or whatever else floats your human lifeboat. Let’s make room for those moments of inner connection that feel like the culmination of life.
I still want more summer. 🏖️
Like many, I’m back at work, but I’m here to report that a game of shuffling my schedule made room for moments and memories I now cherish.
Finding time for leisure is indeed my new superpower. Perhaps it can become yours too.
THE WAY FORWARD
In honour of my longing for lazy summer days, I am currently embracing:
Making my own pasta. There’s nothing like ‘fatto a casa’ (home-made). This is the best tutorial EVER, if you want to give it a try yourself.
Making my own gelato (the latest is a chocolate sorbet, heavenly). This recipe is great.
I also put on the schedule:
Playing piano (otherwise, I forget).
Reading (one of my top leisurely pursuits). Currently, I’m buzzing with the Infinite Game, The Daily Drucker, Imaginable, finishing Anne Lamott’s Dusk, Night, Dawn and Complicit, by Winnie M Li, thanks to Rare Birds Books in Edinburgh (a gift of a three months book subscription, yeay!).
And I blocked time to go for another swim before the weather turns.
To top it off, I’m planning fun times with friends (including a visit to London and Paris).
The above may be far from your own favourite leisurely pursuits but consider listen to the longing. Follow where the heart leans towards. Both carry a message about what lights us up.
They hint at the life we want to live.
Until next week.
How am I spending my time?
What do I truly want more of?
How can I bring some of what I want more of into my life (daily, weekly, monthly)? (Tip: make a list, from the smallest to the biggest ways you can wrap this into your schedule).
What is the feeling I am seeking? (More than one is okay!)
What is the most important thing?
How can you remember the most important thing?
PS. I tested these questions on myself and the feeling I’m seeking is a mix of lightness and connection. That’s the most important thing right now.
How to remember it? I’m thinking Post-its.
An exploration of idleness.
What is Time For. (thanks to)
Stop overvaluing overwork (I’m trying).
Do you need help identifying what’s most important to you? Reach out if you would like hands-on support.
From the archive
If, like me, you are struggling to find your groove back to work, here’s a post about building small victories to build up momentum.
Thanks for reading The Mettā View! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.