What’s the value of a day? Every day that we go to work, we’re paid whatever our employer thinks our time is worth. If you’re self-employed perhaps you can name your price, within reason. But what is a day really worth to you? If you could have more money or more time, which would you choose? I guess the answer to that depends on the stage of life that you’re at. I choose time. Oh boy, do I choose time.
Recently I bumped into a former colleague I’d worked with years ago. He looked fit and relaxed and happy. He’s retired now, so I asked him how he spends his time. He said he does volunteer work, spends time with friends, goes to lectures run by the University of the Third Age and is learning the harmonica. (The cat, he said, leaves the room when he plays.) I once discussed with a psychologist what the important ingredients are for a good life and we came up with three: connection, purpose/meaning and discovery. My former colleague, I would say, has hit the jackpot. And he’s got time.
When my former colleague asked me what I’d been doing, I gave him a potted history of my working life since he last saw me. “And what do you do to relax?” he asked. I was stumped. I’d had a super-busy month and my head was a whirlpool. For the longest moment I just couldn’t remember.
That conversation has stayed with me because it so clearly showed how we can let our downtime be filled with work-like behaviour. We can find ourselves being efficient/effective/productive (insert any other workplace buzzwords here) when we’re not being paid, when we’re not even at work. It showed me that I’d forgotten to switch off. Even when I’d been doing relaxing things like yoga and gardening and sewing I’d been doing them in a hurry, as if they had a deadline. I’d been doing them as if they were work projects, as if my fun, relaxing activities, done in my own time, were going to be judged.
Obviously, that has to change. Today was my first non-work day in my new incarnation as a part-time worker, and oh.my.goodness it was the best, shiniest, most delicious, beautiful day I’ve had for a long time. It was a much-anticipated day. It shone in the distance like a sparkling jewel. I was talking about it with a friend a couple of weeks ago and he said, “Don’t squander it!” I thought a lot about what squandering it might look like. To some people, a free day means filling every moment, being busy, using up every drop of time. To me it means the absolute opposite. The best days, I think, are the slow ones, the days where you have things you’d like to do but it really doesn’t matter if you do something else instead.
So what did I do on this jewel of a day? I had tea and toast in bed. Luxury! I pruned some branches from the silver birches while listening to crimson rosellas ting like bells in the gum tree next door. I pulled up weeds while eastern rosellas made their soapy, squeaky sounds in the birches above me. I noticed an unknown triffid about to flower in the front garden and I said hello to a neighbour.
I went to a friend’s house for a cuppa and a good chat and made a huge fuss of her lovely dog. I listened to a podcast about a guy and his brother preparing to drive from London to Ulaanbataar in a Nissan Micra. That’s a story I’m going to enjoy following! I took yet more photos of the bunch of poppies I’ve been obsessed by this week. I found an important piece of paper that I lost a few weeks ago. And I made a huge bucket of tea and sat in the back garden watching the late afternoon light dancing on the spring leaves. If someone had paid me a million dollars, it still wouldn’t have matched the value of this day. I wish you days like this.