When I think of the term “leisure,” visions of the ubiquitous leisure suit fill my mind. Although that gaudy, horrendous fashion misstatement of the seventies had little to do with anything leisurely, the vision still haunts me to this day. Fortunately and after years of intensive therapy, I have overcome this manifested phobia of polyester apparel. Today I have a personal definition of leisure that is characterized as much by its breadth as it is by its depth. Individual perspective is the key. Anything can be identified as leisure so long as the individual accepts it as such.
Leisure is the motivation to keep moving forward, never standing still. It’s enjoying what I have and wanting what I’ve got. It is an attitude… an appreciation of everything life brings and bringing to life all that I have. If I can wake up in the morning happy to be alive, grateful for the sun, the rain, or the wind and look forward to what the day has in store, no matter what that might be, then it’s already a good day. Everything I do, from the mundane to the unique is a gift. Impossible? I used to think so, but no more. It’s not about what I feel, it’s that I feel.
I have discovered, through years of research, that I am a very complex being. I have always believed that I was smart enough and had the physical ability to do almost anything I wanted to. I also know that there have been a great number of honest intentions to do much… to be somebody. I can present numerous examples of brilliant and lofty goals as well as preliminary steps towards a desired end. Yet, with all this talent, motivation, ability and intention, I rarely ever got past the starting line.
Sometimes the reason was innocent enough - circumstances beyond my control and such. Other times I might have been tripped up by details I did not factor in. Still other attempts at personal fulfillment might have fallen victim to “something better came along,” and the chase would be abandoned. The common denominator was that a pattern of starts and failure was beginning to emerge. Ultimately, my expectations were always defined by the end result and never the journey. I only wanted the prize, never caring to experience the gratification of earning it.
It would be misleading to proclaim that my life was an utter train wreck all the time. There were some sustained however tenuous periods of accidental prosperity. There were times when the fastest means to an end was to do the traditional, logical and prescribed work involved to get there. Believe this, if there was a short cut, I would have taken it. In these moments of incidental virtue, life seemed to move along without too much disruption. I actually reaped the benefits of achievement via my own efforts. Unfortunately, I never made the connection.
Whenever the opportunity for rapid ascension presented itself, I was off and running. The rewards of performing the footwork fell by the wayside, as the prize was once again all that counted. It would only be a matter of time before that tenuous prosperity came crashing down. Sure, there were times when the light-bulb went off; times when I figured out that I just worked harder at getting there than it would have been to do the work in the first place. Since I was gifted with this wonderfully analytical mind, however, I ascertained that the problem was always isolated to this one incident; it was situational; next time it would be different.
For years and years I danced this dance. The details would change, but the story never did. Although my journey took me to the very edge of death, it didn’t have to. I didn’t have to learn the hard way, there were lessons to be learned along the way and if I didn’t already know it all - I might have learned them. Fortunately, neither my arrogance nor my ignorance or the combination thereof killed me. I finally hit my threshold for pain. It was time to drop back and punt.
The paradigm shifted for me. The model of my life underwent a drastic yet exceedingly simple change. Instead of racing to the end, I am living in the moment. The ramifications of such a shift in perspective are complex and far-reaching, touching every bit of my life. But the change was really as simple as a change in focus. I have removed the telephoto lens and opted for an ultra-wide angle lens to view my life. What is in the distant future is hard to see… only the general direction is clear today, however, what is right here, right now and all around me is crystal clear. This is where my attention belongs.
And there’s never a dull moment. With the focus on what is immediately around me, there is always something to do. I am busy but not overwhelmed. I am making a difference a little bit at a time… one day at a time. I can devote my undivided attention to anything because living in the moment allows me to concentrate on only that which is immediately at hand. I have found that my long-term, “telephoto” life needs only a minor nudge here and there - it does not need to be micro-managed. The time freed up by letting go of the distant has allowed me to tend to the present. The irony produced is nothing short of profound. Staying in the present gives the future a chance to arrive.
My life plans today are first and foremost to tackle the tasks of today. These very words constitute the last of my “to do” list for today. Tomorrow, my basic routine is set and the freedom and flexibility to alter those plans are part of the plan as well. Looking ahead, a semester is coming to a close and with it, a defined schedule for portions of certain days will end as well. The summer is beginning to take shape and freelance writing combined with some photography will keep me busy and help pay the bills. These are not the same plans that were on calendar as recently as one month ago, but that was a month ago, things changed.
Although my general direction seems to be set for the coming months, it certainly isn’t set in stone. Opportunity will come knocking and the unexpected can be counted on. When these and other undulations on the sea of life come my way, I can accept, adapt and go with the flow, or I can sink. The choice is and always has been mine. The point is that as long as I can stay in the now and focus the brunt of my attention on what is immediately at hand, I have the best shot of dealing with it - good, bad or otherwise. It affords me the time to have a strategy… to formulate the acceptance and the attitude I need to take anything that comes my way.
If I can stay with today, greet life’s moments with an attitude and perspective that leaves me grateful, then it is entirely possible to live a life of leisure… and a life of leisure is a life of luxury.