Because a house without a fake, life-sized alligator skull with gold teeth is simply not a home.
The fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor.
Today, as I read the dismal news of the world – in clear violation of my tech-free Tuesday policy, more on that later – I once again found myself with the urge to delete apps and/or throw my phone from the ferry and into the waters off of Salt Spring Island. Take that, Ebola!
On the other hand, there was a rather ironic news story of the “are you making this up?” variety, about a taxidermist who’d been attacked by a bear while hunting, and in the ensuing melee was shot by his own son-in-law, who was trying to dispatch the bear. The story is clearly not funny, and I wish everyone well, of course, but the image evoked a series of thoughts that ultimately led me to think of Gary Larson and The Far Side.
Perhaps I’ll skip the news and go straight to The Far Side from now on. Or maybe someone like Larson could actually present the news in a more palatable, cartoonish, and entertaining way. There’s always The Onion, I suppose.
Speaking of news, tech-free Tuesday has been moved to Sunday. Tuesday is a weekday, and there’s simply too much shit to be done on weekdays, even when you’re a post-work leisure centric.
Some jobs – very few, if we’re being honest – are still worth doing, especially when you can negotiate payment in kind.
The end of October will mark my one-year anniversary of non-working status. On balance, it’s been productive: we did some great hiking, escaped the hardest part of winter by roaming around Spain and Portugal, and – having completed The Sale Of All Things back in 2013 – we moved this summer to Victoria, British Columbia.
We’ve taken up residence in a small apartment with a great view of the harbour. The location is ideal: we walk or cycle almost everywhere, and we’re literally surrounded by micro-breweries and good coffee houses. My few complaints about the place can safely be described as minor.
When people ask what brought us to Victoria, we say “Victoria”. Of course, what they really mean is:
What do you do?
I’ve always found this to be an irritating question, because it presupposes that people are defined by their work. That being said, for my wife Sofia, the question is a slow-moving softball, easily batted out of the park:
I’m an accountant who does consulting, and I work from home most of the time. I participate in conference calls and work on scary-looking spreadsheets.
Then there’s me. I gave up my previous line of work (flying helicopters) in order to carve out a more stable, leisure-centric, productive life where I’m always the boss. I cannot therefore say “I’m a helicopter pilot currently between jobs”. I toyed with the idea of calling myself “retired”, but that would have been a little premature. Besides, after spending the better part of a year loafing around, there’s one thing I do know: I never want to be retired.
If I were being completely truthful, here’s how I’d answer:
I make coffee and breakfast for Sofia, shop for groceries, and do laundry. It’s the least I can do, really… I also prepare and consume a great deal of coffee myself, mainly pour-overs as of late. I read books, and I think about things. If I’m feeling ambitious, I head out to either Bows and Arrows or Hey Happy, two really excellent coffee places nearby. I also ride my bike a lot.
In addition, I’ll be helping out with a grape harvest at a winery this month. So I suppose what I do, albeit temporarily, is “itinerant farm labour”.
Making coffee, riding my bike, and itinerant farm labour is enjoyable stuff. But it doesn’t pay my side of the bills very well. So I’ve given myself until Christmas to decide what to do – what sort of productive activity I’d like to be in – and to develop a plan. I’m employing a formal planning process* to guide my efforts.
I do have a few ideas in mind. For now I’ll just say the winning proposal will have to satisfy two main criteria. First, it has to be something I’d enjoy doing even if I weren’t getting paid. In other words, it has to satisfy the definition of leisure. Second, it cannot bear any resemblance to traditional employment…those days are done.
In the meantime, I’ll answer questions about what I do by describing what I am:
I am a deliberate post-work leisure-centric.
* I’ll be writing a series of posts for New Escapologist that describe this process in some detail.
I’ve designated Wednesdays as walking days. First, because I like to walk; and second, because my Wednesdays are currently free of obligations, which will undoubtedly change at some point, so I need to make hay while I can.
The plan for Wednesdays is to forego other activities and walk, rain or shine. If it rains, it’ll be a gear test. If it’s cold, it’ll be a stoic exercise in voluntary discomfort. A minimum of 8 hours of actual walking seems reasonable, plus a stopover somewhere for a locally brewed pint. Today, I fell well short of the mark, walking only 5 hours, but I still managed to squeeze in that pint.
In addition to being patently healthy, walking like this allows me to deal with my own thoughts. Sometimes it’s productive, sometimes not. Today, I went on a mental romp about walking itself, one of those instances where you descend into an absurd inner conversation about hypotheticals…how fast was I walking? how long could I hold that pace? how long would it take me to walk 100 km? would it be possible to walk for 24 hours straight…and if so, how far would I go? how would heart rate and blood pressure drift over time, due to physical fatigue and lack of sleep? would it be better to start in the evening, or in the morning?
And so on.
In turn, this led to thoughts about health. Which diseases should I be concerned about? The kind that leave you drooling and in the care of others. Which diseases should I not be concerned about? The kind that would kill you quickly. And having determined that, which performance metrics / indicators are important to monitor?
By the end of my walk, I concluded that a) I need to visit my doctor to talk about health-related KPIs; b) I will probably invest in a blood pressure monitor; c) I need to review and update my end-of-life care instructions; and d) I should keep walking.
Time well spent.
My enjoyment of walking crystallized last winter, when I walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. It took 32 days, including 3 days to walk from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterra at the end. I spent a lot of those days in the company of others, including my wife Sofia for the last 250 km. But I also walked alone quite a bit, or at least alone with my thoughts, and those were the best times.
On balance it was the most enjoyable month I’ve ever spent, anywhere. Wednesdays will serve as a proxy until such time as I can go back to Spain and do it all over again.
This post was written on Monday, and pre-scheduled for publication today.
It was written in advance because I’ve decided to swear off all computer, cell phone, and internet usage on Tuesdays. So, while you’re reading this, I’ll be reading a (printed) book in a coffee shop somewhere.
It’s a small effort, more symbolic than anything, and in the grand scheme I know I’m pissing into the wind. Kind of like planting a single tree as a carbon offset, or sponsoring an imaginary child to alleviate poverty.
Perhaps, though, it’ll be the catalyst for reinstating a bit of discipline in what has become a fiasco in time usage. Time being the only currency of any value. That’s my hope, anyway.
Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. – Epicurus
Some time ago, I read How Much Is Enough? Money And The Good Life, by Robert and Edward Skidelsky. I’m now reading it again. The Skidelskys examine why we work so hard, and how we’ve lost the meaning of “the good life”. Part philosophy, part economics, How Much Is Enough? is worth your while.
So what is a good life? According to the authors, it’s a life comprised of seven basic goods:
- Harmony with nature
The descriptions for Personality and Leisure caught my attention:
Personality: “the ability to frame and execute a plan of life reflective of one’s tastes, temperament, and conception of the good.”
Leisure: “activity without extrinsic end…insofar as action proceeds not from necessity but from inclination, insofar as it is spontaneous, not servile and mechanical, toil is at an end and leisure has begun.”
As I said, worth a trip to the library.
Upon emerging from his cold, dark, analogue cave, he was blinded by the glare of advertising, and deafened by the incessant sound of bullshit. He retreated, momentarily, to stuff cotton balls into his ears, delete some apps, and disable this blog’s comment, like, and follow functions.
Anti-social-media. Stop by anytime for a read. Or don’t.