Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lazy Bones

"Laziness is a human trait. Unfortunately, it inhibits wakeful energy and undermines our confidence and strength. The first kind of laziness, comfort orientation, is based on our tendency to avoid inconvenience. We want to take a rest, to give ourselves a break. But soothing ourselves, lulling ourselves, becomes a habit and we become jaded and lazy. This particular brand of laziness can make us aggressive. We become outraged at inconvenience. Comfort orientation dulls our appreciation of smells and sights and sounds. It also makes us dissatisfied. Somehow we always know in our hearts that pure pleasure is not the route to lasting happiness."--Pema Chodron, from The Places That Scare You

Ever make a list of five things or less that you want to change in your life? Ever put it on the refrigerator, above the Belle Epoque magnets, and the clipped recipes, and that mini "Mile 0" sign you got from Key West that everyone gets in Key West? Did you make an effort to make small changes in your daily routine so you could reach those goals? Did week two come and did you "lose" the list, or slide it to the bottom of the refrigerator where it could easily be knocked off by the cat?

Change is hard, in particular when you're lazy like me. There, I've said it. It's not that I'm always lazy, or that I like being lazy (or even that I dislike it!) It's just a general truth about me. My laziness usually takes the form that Pema describes. I hate being inconvenienced and I like to take breaks. I like lots of time to daydream, read, or sleep. I prefer taking a cab to any other mode of paid transportation, which is a sore point between my husband and I. When I'm out past 9PM, I rationalize to myself that all the drunk and stumbling college kids will be on the train, falling down and throwing up around me. So I hail a cab, sit back, and enjoy being spirited away to my apartment. It's like this little royal treat I give myself sometimes.

Or when I cook. As I've mentioned in other posts, I love to cook, but I'm not so good at the cleaning up part. Somehow I manage to scatter bits of ingredients into a colorful mosaic on my kitchen counter. The dishes in the sink are piled so high that you would think I was preparing a meal for ten, not two. But do I clean up while I go along or afterwards? No. I put away any food that might rot or get swiped by the cat, and then I wander off. When I lived in Queens, I could never get away with this behavior because of the roaches. But in Brookline, the only thing that happens is I wake up in the morning and have to push aside a bunch of dirty pots to get to my coffee grinder. Or my husband does the dishes while I'm still in bed contemplating getting up.

When Mike and I were in Sweden a couple of weeks ago, visiting my relatives on my mother's side, I was amazed by how "together" they all were. Their houses were tastefully decorated (of course, they're Swedish, they know from design!) and not too cluttered. They all had ample living space and seemed very serene, even though most of my cousins have small children running around. House after house that I toured left me aching with envy, while at the same time in awe of my relatives. Not only were they neat and well-organized, but they were also hard-working (one set of cousins built this beautiful green-efficient house in the country.) But not SO hard-working that they seemed stressed. I can only speculate that they know how to manage their time better than I do.

Another blogger spoke about time, and how to use it. He talks about an epiphany he had--inspired by a quote from Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn--that all time is actually "me" time, and that only he could determine what he wanted to spend his time on and what he would ignore. Saying that I don't have enough "time" to clean up, or to start a new project, or call a friend, or submit an essay to a magazine is nonsense. Of course I do. My husband likes this quote that I'm going to paraphrase here--everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. If I give up just 1/2 hour of laying around, I can keep the kitchen counter clear. If I cut one hour of TV watching, I can vacuum the apartment and dust off all the bookshelves. If I get up a little earlier in the morning, I could work on an essay to submit to a magazine or do a load of laundry.

There's also of course the Benjamin Franklin quote "A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave." As much as I cling to a life of leisure, I might do well posting "that" on the fridge.


sallymandy said...

Oh, boy. We are cut out of the same cloth, Jennifer! Thanks for this thoughtful post. I have read that passage by Pema but for some reason (coincidence? I don't think so), it didn't really hit me until seeing it today in your post.

I did look up that artist you mentioned the other day on my blog, and found his paintings of elderly people quite moving. Thank you for the suggestion.


Nathan said...

I definitely recognize my own "lazinesses" bouncing around in my life. I've noticed lately that some of it seems to be because I don't know what to do with myself - that I'm confused about something in my life and, instead of just staying with that or moving on with the day, I find a way to escape. I also think laziness can be tied to fear. Like opting out of trying something new, or doing things the same old way because a different way is scary.