This is the third post in a series of four where I’m sharing my favorite highlights of the book, Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam. We’ve already discussed how to become more mindful of time here and how to create beautiful moments worth remembering here. Now we can figure out how to appreciate these beautiful moments.
Rush, Rush, Rush
I am chronically late. I don’t want to be late, I don’t want people to have to wait on me. I read somewhere that one should look at the drive time to get to an event and then double it and plan to get in the car at that time. I attempt to do this and then somehow I end up realizing I was going to start the dishwasher and Roomba before I get in the car–that’ll only take 10 minutes–and now my youngest can’t find one of his shoes–a quick 3 minute run upstairs yields the shoe–now I’ve just realized my daughter’s hair still hasn’t been fixed–5 more minutes in the bathroom. And now we are in the car, just running 5 minutes behind the original drive time, which wouldn’t be all that bad by my usual standards, except that there is construction on the road and we end up waiting 10 minutes at a road closure. All of this is a daily occurrence for me. I arrive at most destinations with my hands tightly gripping the wheel, my neck and jaw tense, barking at everyone to get out quickly, apologizing profusely to the others involved for our tardiness. Vanderkam recounts a story of one of the subjects of this chapter, but she could have told almost the exact one about me. The subject in this chapter realized the error of her ways and began to build extra time into her life. She says “Late is not taking into account the thing you know they’re going to do”–referring to the things her children will do such as running to the bathroom at the last minute as they load the car and in the process forget a crucial piece of sports equipment for the event they must attend. Such is life with children. This permanent setting of rush, rush, rushing around is a recipe for running through the day and getting to the end of the day, the week, and the year and wondering where the time went, and what the heck did I do? All while experiencing unnecessary stress.
The subject in this section settled on the idea of building time to linger into her life. She no longer wanted to be late, running last minute and ragged at every turn. Instead she made a conscious choice to take her time. And to enjoy every minute–or, at least, the enjoyable ones. I love this idea of lingering. First, I love the sound of the word but more importantly the idea it invokes. The idea that when we find something enjoyable, we can just keep doing it. That we can build a life where we don’t have to run from one thing to the next as fast as we can. We can choose, at least occasionally, to simply revel in a moment, and to take as long as needed. I am constantly caught up in the thinking, what should I be doing next? What’s next on my list? What else to I need to accomplish today? But Vanderkam points out that the answer to these questions may simply be ‘to linger’ and that’s a worthwhile answer.
On a recent holiday where my family was all home on a Monday, I realized at the end of the day that I had a sneaking sense of dismay at what we had not accomplished during the day. I literally had nothing on the agenda–so it wasn’t as though I had failed to complete a task. We had done the laundry, and the basic daily chores, but otherwise had laid around watching a movie, napping, and just being together. So why was I disappointed at the end of the day? I’m still pondering this, why do I need a to-do list that I can check off to feel accomplished? But I have a suspicion that simply writing in “Linger” on the list might be a great exercise on a day like that day. I can remind myself to slow down and revel in a day where we had no other duties or work.
Vanderkam points out that lingering isn’t just about learning not to be late, but about learning how to appreciate the present and thus ‘stretching your experience of time’.
My favorite way to do this is with a gratitude practice. We can work to savor moments of pleasure, both so that we can appreciate the present and so that we can remember them later and appreciate them again. I discussed my bullet journal habit in this previous post, but my gratitude practice has been an important way for me to pay attention to the best parts of my day and dwell on them (instead of the least savory parts).
The Daily Vacation
My favorite part of this section is Vanderkam’s suggestion of what she calls a ‘daily vacation’. We can’t always linger over our morning cup of coffee, especially if we have to get the kids to the bus stop by 7:25 and then get to a meeting at 8:30. But we can build in time in the day when it is appropriate to linger. Maybe we watch a sunset, go for a run at lunch, or even take a few minutes for some deep breathing. Whatever you need, take just a minute at the end of the event to appreciate it. Take a moment at the end of the day to write it down. And take a minute once a week to think back to all 7 vacations from the previous week. This approach increases mindfulness and helps us really savor our time instead of letting pleasurable moments slip through our fingers to be forgotten in the slog of our everyday lives.
Stop right now and think of your future self this evening. What 3 things are you going to write on your gratitude list? Have they already happened today? Or do you still need to come up with some items that you truly appreciate to write down? Can you stop right now to do a meditation? Or do you need to plan in a few minutes of something wonderful this afternoon?