No time is wasted
September 28, 2006
It was one of those good-for-nothing days. The weather forecasters called for rain, and they were wrong. It snowed.All the offseason events that might provide me a pardon for killing time that would otherwise be wasted were canceled. The trails were too wet to ride, and my knee joints have long been too dry to run on. Golf was out. I was nearly caught up with work, and even the dog wasn’t in the mood to smell wet from a walk.For the first time in an awfully long time, I had nothing to do. It made me anxious.I think my life has become overscheduled. From lack of practice, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to entertain myself. For as far back as I can remember, my days have been planned. I never have to think about what I’m supposed to be doing. I log on, and my day, my week and even my month pops up on a screen. (I refer to them as “my,” even though it is they that possess me.) It’s a modern-day crystal ball with a full-color flat screen. It’s frightening that I know where I’ll be next May 23!Worst of all, I can’t even relax unless I’ve tapped a slot for it into my PDA well ahead of time, with an alarm to remind me when to begin. Workouts, vacations and dinner with friends – they’re all there, in my Outlook.The ironic thing is that this rigidity with my time is not my nature. Rather, I’ve been nurtured by nature to abhor idle time as It does a vacuum.As an active young man in Aspen, nobody ever asked about my state of being. On Mondays and Tuesdays all anyone wanted to know was what excitement I had partaken in the previous weekend. From Wednesday on, all they cared about was what feat of daring and adventure was planned for the coming Saturday and Sunday. That’s pressure, a mad mountain exercise of keeping up with the Joneses on a world-class fitness plan. It was fear of being one-upped by everyone you knew.This phobia led to a stunted growth of my idle-time management. Far from shying away from commitment, as the legendary rumor is spread about eligible Aspen men, I accepted every single invitation that was ever presented to me, with the sincere and utmost intention of fulfilling … one of them.It was the dread of not living up to the Resort Man image. Here it was not enough to have a good weekend. It had to be the best, most epic, never-to-be-repeated adventure ever heard of, or your “local” status was jeopardized.To accomplish this, you had to collect weekend opportunities like cards in a poker hand. You picked up every one that was dealt and held the fan close to your vest. You would study them all week and then on Friday afternoon, when the ante was way up, you would play your best hand. Using this strategy, you were almost always assured a winner. But, you made a lot of dealers furious in the process.Perhaps my epiphany came one summer afternoon when I found myself with the dilemma of having three dates to a pop-rock concert. Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I firmly believed I could make the evening work, or even that I bought tickets to hear a Top 40 band. I arranged it so that I would meet all of my dates at the concert, in different sections of course. My plan was to alternate spending bits of time with each of them with my apology quiver full of reasons for excusing myself periodically throughout the show. I’d seen it work on television.In order to preserve a shred of dignity, I won’t go into details about how that night went, but suffice it to say that even today I cry every time a B-52s song comes on the radio.Since that painful time, I have evolved. My own paranoia makes it seem that I’m completely out of control about being under control with my time.However, I’ve learned that there is something between winging it through life and being so structured as to forget how to enjoy free time. Last Saturday was a refresher course in being carefree. As I said in the beginning, it was a good-for-nothing day. And, rising to my former reputation, I was good for nothing.It felt good.Roger Marolt is checking his calendar for a good time to turn over a new leaf. He checks his e-mail periodically at email@example.com.