I've been so busy recently that my routine has devolved into coming home, dropping my backpack, grabbing a snack and then watching some Netflix before falling into bed. Though I often think about doing something more productive, such as reading a book, when it comes down to it, I never do. It seems like all I can muster the energy for is turning on The Tonight Show or an episode of Parks and Rec.
Because of this, questions about leisure versus vegging out have been on my mind. I've always struggled with feeling guilty about watching TV instead of reading or doing some other leisure activity. Why is it just so hard to play the piano instead of watching TV? Both activities are, technically, leisure. But there's a part of my brain that has to be engaged to play the piano, whereas with TV I can be totally, one hundred percent relaxed.
I've begun to ask what the purpose of leisure is. And what I've decided is that leisure is one step below work and one step above vegging out. Leisure time is when I do something that will enhance my mind or my life, but is still something that is enjoyable. I play piano because it's good for me to learn, but also because I enjoy it. I read to become more well read, but I choose books that interest me. Ideally, leisure activities build a bridge between being completely at rest and doing something productive.
The problem is that I so seldom actually do any leisure activities. And from my interactions with friends and family, I think my experience is pretty common. There are always things we mean to do, but they end up getting crowded out either by work or by vegging out, which so often feels necessary. I've felt guilty about choosing TV over books for so long now that it's just a natural part of my routine. Plan to read, get home, collapse instead on the couch. Repeat the next day.
What has occurred to me recently is that there is a reason for this, beyond me simply being lazy. Though being lazy is definitely a factor, I think an important part of doing leisure activities is having enough time. When I get home at the end of a long day, I really don't have the brain power to read. I rightly feel the need to reward my tired body and brain with rest. My problem, therefore, is not in allowing my body to rest, but in doing too much during the day. To truly build a balanced schedule, I need to work less and arrive home with enough energy to pursue a leisure activity.
This is obviously easier said than done, and in this stage of life I have to accept that it's not going to happen. Being a full time student in addition to working part time means I will continue to arrive home exhausted. But it's worth thinking about, as I enter a new season of life. In our fast paced and, frankly, workaholic culture, we have to choose to work less. But just as building a day of rest into my schedule has been a huge blessing in my life, building time to pursue leisure activities will also, I'm sure, be a really good thing for my body and my soul.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Eugene H. Peterson
The Devil in the White City
Peter A. Pitzele