Mother Nature has a bit of a cruel streak when it comes to New England weather. Last week she dumped 14 inches of snow on us and today she come back with another 3-5. My wife checks weather on her phone and says with regret, “Well, I guess this isn’t actually going to keep me out of work tomorrow after all.”
When push comes to shove, we really look to get out of work, school or any other of our scheduled responsibilities. There are days when not having to drive my daughter to her 7pm Friday soccer practice — that’s right 7 pm on a Friday — is a glorious gift. Don’t even get me started on my level of enthusiasm when my own classes are canceled.
If we want to stay home so much, then are we spending the precious light of our days all wrong? Or, have we simply been conditioned to complain about needing to work in order to survive?
I wonder if, millions of years ago, some Paleolithic man jumped for joy when he looked out his cave at the raging blizzard. I wonder if he scrambled excitedly for his iPhone to see if there was a text canceling that morning’s drum circle and wooly mammoth hunt? Or, fast forward to the 17th century when some Wamponoag Indian sighs when the monthly meeting in the longhouse got cancelled because the plows haven’t come around yet. Oh, what a relief.
I love my job. It’s “easy” — in other words I am good at it — and it offers a sense of fulfillment. But still, given the option, I would prefer someone to pay me to sit around in sweats and binge on Netflix and The Walking Dead all day long finally catching up to Season 5. C’mon, priorities people.
Or instead of having to read and correct sometimes dreadful academic papers, maybe I could sit at the kitchen table troll Twitter, Huff Post, the NYTimes, and spew words into the blogosphere without ever having to change out of my pajamas. Or better yet, finally finish the new Don DeLillo novel that keeps getting pushed aside.
I guess it all amounts to our view of “work” and our view of work in relationship to what we call “our time”.
What if it’s not about avoiding the work at all?
Maybe it’s not work we love to wriggle out of, but the increasing and demanding constraints on our time — the sheer over scheduling of things? On one level, I wonder if our true selves reject the notion of perpetual to-do-lists, jammed calendar boxes scribbled with colored inks, or shoehorning our daily lives into hourly increments.
Time, time, time see what’s become of me…
I hear the Simon and Garfunkel song “Hazy Shade of Winter” in my head — and think that most of our anxiety is bred from our weird-assed relationship with time. The voice of the song laments how he fears the possibility of not getting out all of the lyrics his mind contains — he fears the “winter” of his life while he lives in the blossoming “springtime”.
Maybe that’s our paradoxical hangup — our schedules occupy us with meaning and purpose, but leave us feeling a bit controlled, constrained by someone other than our own selves. While this may be perception, it explains the overwhelming satisfaction at seeing our work or school scroll by on the television news having finally made the cancellation list.
The joy of the snow day, the unexpected cancellation, or cancellation for the purpose of a sanity day, emerges not from any desire not to work but in the relief of seizing control of time and making it your own.
In the end time is the one thing we can never hold back, so I suppose any instance where gaining a little “extra” is certainly cause for celebration.
The Bangles’ decent remake of the Simon and Garfunkel song — again a decent song, but totally cheesy 80’s video…