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Sleepwalking


I love to sleep. I’m really good at it, too. Ask Da Queen – the sound of my snoring is loud enough to drown out jet engines. It took her awhile, but she got used to it and now its just white noise. Its also one of the reasons I generally wait for her to fall asleep before going to bed myself.

 

The problem with sleep is that too often we are doing it while we are awake. Our minds are always on other things – things we have to do, things that were supposed to have gotten done, things that might happen. Always the future our minds are in – never the here and now. Good lord, I’m starting to sound like Yoda.

 

Still, for a little green puppet he sure had the right of it. We are so wrapped up in the sound and the fury of our lives that we forget to actually live them. We are constantly being pulled in different directions; by our jobs, our kids, our obligations. For the most part, we are always in a have-to mode instead of a want-to mode. That is, of course, what adults are supposed to do.

 

Even so, that doesn’t mean our focus has to be on our obligations 24-7. We don’t have to be so locked into those things that we can’t take a moment to notice our surroundings or even to change them. Most of us spend most of our days chained inside a little cubicle in front of a computer and talking on a phone. A lot of us take our breaks in another cubicle that has the advantage of a table and a few chairs, maybe even a vending machine and a microwave. We do this generally because it is far more convenient than walking outside and generally speaking, once outside either it’s far too hot (or too cold), its raining or more likely there’s nothing really to look at except for a parking lot or a busy street.

 

We need more than that. We need to appreciate the world around us and not just the soulless cubicle we spend most of our work week in. We need to remember that we don’t live to work – we work to live.

 

There is a bright, beautiful world outside those cubicles full of fascinating critters. How often do you take a moment to listen to the birds? Is their song just part of the background noise you take for granted? Stop a moment and listen – and if you can, watch them. Birds are fascinating creatures. I could watch them go about their business for hours. Somehow, they manage to survive without a mortgage, deadlines and cell phones. Who is getting more fulfilled out of their life – you or the birds?

 

Our time on this rock is brief, and it is our responsibility to make the best of it that we can. Our existence isn’t predicated on making some asshole that doesn’t deserve it richer than he already is. We’re here to enjoy this planet and the people on it. Yes, we require certain things in life and work is necessary to making those things happen. I’m not saying we should all quit our jobs and join a commune. That doesn’t mean, however, that our lives need to revolve around our jobs. Our jobs shouldn’t define us – they are just a part of who we are.

 

Learning to integrate our work into our lives is a tricky thing and it is more difficult with each passing year. Our employers demand more and more from us and are willing to pay less and less. We work eight hours or more and come home exhausted, having to then deal with the things that await us there – the kids, the house, and the bills. Sometimes we only have the strength to get on the internet, game console or television and numb out until it’s time to go to bed.

 

That isn’t much of a life. It certainly isn’t the one we’re meant to lead. We all need to take time out for ourselves – to relax, enjoy, experience. Certainly we can’t make every moment a great memory – there are only so many gigabytes in our human hard drives – but it can’t hurt to try. We deserve to be aware of our surroundings, to find some joy in the little things.

 

That really is the secret to life, if there is just one. We need to relegate things to the roles that they deserve. Trust me your employers don’t really care about the quality of your life. If they did, they’d pay you more and work you less. So render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Put in your eight hours and do your job as well as you can. When it’s time to quit, quit completely. Put all thoughts of work out of your head. Take a moment while you are on your way home to enjoy your surroundings. Notice the sunset. Watch the squirrels. Observe the behavior of the people around you. Take a few minutes just to take it all in.

 

Responsibilities are a requirement in life, but that doesn’t make them the be-all and end-all of our lives. Instead of spending your time driving your kids to soccer practice, why not take them to the park and kick the ball around with them? Instead of eating dinner with your wife in front of the television, why not pack a picnic basket, spread a blanket on a lawn somewhere nearby (your backyard if you have one) and enjoy dinner al fresco? Instead of spending hours hunched in front of your laptop wasting your time away on meaningless games and fending off spam, why not get on the phone and talk to a friend directly? Better still, go out and meet them face to face somewhere.

 

I highly recommend scheduling time off for you. Not just vacations, but daily time. For couples, insist on one night a week for date night. Hire a sitter, or work an arrangement with another couple to take their kids one night a week so that they can take your kids one night a week. You don’t have to make a production number out of it – dinner and a movie is just fine and dinner doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Schedule walks outside. Every day at 7pm, take a walk around the neighborhood. Go swimming somewhere if you have that available to you. Take pleasure in simple pleasures.

 

You don’t have to be wealthy to take time for yourself and enjoy life. You just have to have the gumption to do it. It should be an imperative – joy, after all, should be something we all aspire to. Pursue it with at least the same passion and intensity you put into everything else you pursue – career, family, responsibility. We have such limited time to make our lives count. Our job – our real job, not the one that pays the bills – is to make it count or something, to find meaning and joy in it. We should take advantage of every moment we can to do just that. After all, what’s the point otherwise?

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