You wake up early, you’re completely refreshed. You stretch, get up, and get dressed. You walk down to your local café, passing by a newspaper stand on the way where you pick up a few of your preferred editions. You get to the café, grab a little table by the window for yourself and order a cappuccino with a chocolate croissant. As you pick through your order, you alternate your reading with casual observations of the people around you. Perhaps in a couple hours, your girlfriend meets you and you chat about nothing for an hour or two before returning to your apartment to make a simple tomato salad with fresh bread for lunch.
I don’t know about any of you guys, but that sounds like an amazing morning to me.
There’s a great scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love (don’t ask me about the book), when Julia Roberts’ character is hanging out with her new friends in Italy and they are talking about how Italians have mastered a concept they call “the sweetness of doing nothing”. They explain that this concept is a worldview about how to enjoy oneself. Americans are shit at this, they say, because we have this need to always feel as though we are being productive. We can only take a break when we’ve supposedly earned it, and even then we still feel as though we should be doing something. In my example above, many people would feel that was a wasted morning. And if you did view it as relaxing, I doubt you’d pursue it because relaxing in the U.S. means vegging out in front of the TV for a few hours.
Because I’ve spent enough time in Mediterranean Europe thanks to my heritage, I believe that entire area of the world has one-upped America (and perhaps Canada now that I live here), in enjoying the simple pleasures of life. I’ve met Americans who claim to want the kind of morning I described above, but for most of them, this is just a fantasy. Sure, one could get up, go to the café, and read all morning, but unless they change their mindset, it would just be going through the motions. They would tell themselves, well I planned to go to the café today and read until 12. And they would do it, but there would be an element of dissatisfaction. They would be fulfilling yet another obligation that they’ve set for themselves, and what’s worse is that they might even feel as though there was something more productive they could be doing with their time spent at the café.
This is why Americans love multi-use products and activities. Killing two birds with one stone is a compliment. This is why we have supermarkets and malls whereas Greeks or Italians have to go to the fresh market, the bakery, and the butcher to get their groceries. This is why the economies of the two areas have inverse happiness ratings as compared to our economics. Over here we are obsessed with getting more done in a day. It’s a source of pride for some people to tell everyone else how busy they are and how many things they’re going to do that day.
I’ve had it. It’s so much unnecessary pressure to always be doing something. Furthermore, when you’re obsessed with always doing something, too often you end up burnt out. I want a happy medium. Perhaps, I will always err on the side of being busy since I am an American, but I want to become at peace with the idea of doing nothing. I’m only really great at doing this when I’m on vacation, but it’s because I’ve given myself over to a relaxed mindset, and I need to figure out how to incorporate this feeling into the everyday. Maybe it’s as simple as people watching out my window while I have my coffee, or going for a little walk, there’s got to be an easier way to live life than to be obsessed with productivity every hour of every day