Memorial Day was just a couple weeks ago and before we know it the long Fouth of July weekend will be here. What do you do on your extra days off during the summer?
Did you spend Memorial Day picnicking with family or friends? Taking that first swim of the season? Or enjoying the latest box-office hit?
Or did you instead feel compelled to use the long holiday weekend for less pleasurable pursuits, such as painting the house, cleaning the yard or, worst of all, catching up on work that you carted home from the office? If you did any of these, or were plagued by guilt the whole weekend because you did nothing constructive - you are not alone.
I learned a long time ago that the best vacations are the little mini trips, the long holiday weekends and an occasional extended weekend where I will enjoy a Thursday or Friday off.
Many Americans seem to feel they must always be doing something productive, but I have noticed that in rural areas, such as Carbon county, people do enjoy their free time more and have for the most part learned how to relax.
I know from personal experience that when I carry over the attitude of always having to be doing something, and never really enjoying my leisure activities, it becomes more stressful at work.
I claim my former obsession with productivity came from my mother, who for the most part had no choice but to work around the clock trying just to keep the family fed and the farm running. But I think it really is the Puritan work ethic, which says we're only virtuous when we're working. Another factor may well be that there is just too much to do during our free time to have any time left for rest and relaxation.
Many people's lives today are so committed to careers, family responsibilities and social activities that we are not leaving any time for more relaxing pursuits. The older I get the more necessary I find it is to relax my brain and body and give it a chance to recuperate.
Here are some of the suggestions I have learned over the years on how to make my leisure time more fun.
I keep work and play separate except when I am out in my Jeep and see a great photo opportunity that I can share with you through the pages of the Sun Advocate. Sometimes it cannot be helped if I am covering an event or activity and still work hard at keeping the majority of my weekend free to enjoy my time away from work.
Don't turn play into work. Too many of us transform hobbies and sports into tasks to be worked at rather than activities to be enjoyed. I have learned not to turn everything I do into a goal-oriented endeavor. I especially have had to remind myself of this as I have created my new garden. I enjoy the challenge and the hard work but I need to know when it's time to hang up the shovel and turn off the water. The key for me is to stay in the present, yet play like a child. I can do this with some sports but others, like golf, make it really hard to just relax and realize that being a poor shot is okay. I doubt if I will ever learn how to enjoy golfing, but I have come to enjoy other sports just fine.
Expand your horizons. I believe that spontaneity is a key ingredient of play. If your leisure has become too routine or if you want to try a new hobby or activity but still haven't done anything about it, look ahead, pick a day and make it a free-choice day. I especially enjoy living here with so many options at my finger tips. After a hectic week at work I find myself just wanting to throw my tent and sleeping bag in my jeep and head out to the desert with a good book and my hiking boots.
Do what you really enjoy doing, not what you think you should do. As I look around I see a lot people putting more emphasis on showing up at the "in" event or doing the "in" thing, instead of enjoying it. I use to cram in so may activities that I didn't give myself enough time to enjoy any of them. Now as I get busy planning my free time I try and slow down long enough to ask myself if this activity or event is really outstanding and something I want to invest my time in.
Don't rule out an activity or interest because you think you can't excel. Most of us dislike being a novice at anything. I think it make us feel insecure, like a child again. I remember struggling with this a few years ago after I broke my leg skiing. I love skiing and it was a sport I didn't want to give up. But the reality of it was that I couldn't keep up with my teenage sons. I had to make the decision if I should choose to continue skiing. If I did that I knew I would have to change trails and slow down. I found, in the end, that I could have just as much fun skiing the novice trails as the expert slopes.
Don't put off until tomorrow the fun you can have today. Too often, we promise ourselves to travel, to learn a new skill or just to take it easy when we have more time. But if we put off enjoying our free time too long, we may never find that right moment to savor it. Once a month I try to make a list of half a dozen things that I want to do in the coming month. One of these always includes a mini-vacation and another includes something that will create a wonderful memory for me.
And finally, try not to let guilt about play or idleness sour your enjoyment of free time. I remind myself that I am not in my mother's situation and I do not need to farm 18 hours a day to keep the family fed, so I should take time to relax and work hard at enjoying a good book, a quiet cup of coffee as the sun rises or an easy walk through the river parkway in Helper, just to enjoy the water and trees and quietness.
Adults work and kids play. The difference is that kids have recess and so should we all.