I have been in the road for the past couple of days, so I haven’t kept up with my writing, my e-mails or my work. Yes, it was the weekend, but I am in general, a disciplined soul and when you work freelance, as I do, work has no hours, only results.
The Fine Art of Wasting Time
When I say on the road, I mean literally on the road. This was not a leisurely two hour drive with two days spent lying by the pool or visiting the antique shops that are part of my passion. No, Saturday I drove fifteen hours to pick up my son in Virginia and then another three to visit my parents. And Sunday, after a pleasant breakfast with my folks and my sister and her husband, we drove 12 hours up the east coast, getting in last night about 10:30.
I’ve done a lot of that over the years. I haven’t lived in the same state as my offices, or the staffs I have managed, since 1981. My free lance work has often resulted in travels all over the country. I do fly sometimes, but more often than not, If the travel is within ten hours, give or take a little, I’ll drive.
A lot of people would look at that as wasted time, but I haven’t found it to be so. The past two days, for instance……
Saturday, on the way down, I spent the first few hours just decompressing from a frantic two weeks of deadlines and dealing with an unexpected demon or two from my past.. How often do we get a serious chunk of down time in our lives? No, most of the time we careen from thing to thing like we live in some metaphysical pin ball machine. But, trapped in the confines of my ancient and beloved Isuzu Trooper, on a weekend when my clients are all recovering from the fourth of July, I was able to simply let the week slough off of me. I listened to music and let the notes sink into my soul in a way I rarely get to do, for hours on end.
And somewhere down the road, in the middle of Pennsylvania, I found myself refreshed. My mind started writing poetry in my head. I found the solution for a particularly thorny technical problem I have been wrestling with for a client. And a personal issue or two that have been elusive fell into perspective. The rest of the 12 hour drive to Virginia was productive and energizing. Then I picked up my son and made the three hour drive to my parent’s home.
My son lives with his mother in Roanoke Virginia. And I live in the small villages of Vermont. We talk several times a week, by phone or by skype , but there is something about face to face that unlocks the floodgates. Whenever I first get my kids in the car, whether it is my son for a trip to Vermont, or my daughter taking her back and forth to college, the first few hours are a talk fest and we both just unload all the things that didn’t manage to make the daily conversations. It’s like a torrent of talk, for hours. And it’s amazingly connective, spending that much time just talking and listening to each other. It’s not just the words, it’s the pouring out and the soaking in of the energy of each other.
The talk fest continued for much of Sunday’s drive from my parents back to West Pawlet. From time to time he would take a nap for a hour or two, and my mind would enter a state not unlike meditation. Then he would wake and we’d talk, and laugh and enjoy ourselves. By the time we were here, we were integrated again. He’s not a guest here any more. It’s just the family, he and I and my daughter, together.
Traveling is only one form of “wasted time” in my life that isn’t. My experience is that the down time make me more productive. People who have worked with or for me in the past have always commented at how much work I got done. Yet I often get that work done in less time than most. I am very efficient and effective. I just am. No tricks. No techniques. I just am
And the reason, I think, is that I take the down time. But I don’t just watch TV and turn into a vegetable. I use the down time. I let it renew me, energize me, I let ideas float around in my head and slowly come together. I let the time, meditation-like, make me better, more in the moment the rest of my time. It makes me more relaxed. More able to focus intensely on people and ideas. Less able to give our family and lovers the attention they deserve.
And I think a lot of that is because we’ve become a world of constant doing. We’ve lost the fine art of wasting time.
And that, my friends, is a damned shame.
Be well. Travel wisely,
PS – My son took the picture yesterday, as we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and entered southern New Jersey. About half way home.