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The Art of a Wasted Day

Ahhh — the To-To list. That attempt we make to keep all those balls we are juggling airborne. Baby Boomer women are especially attached to our to-do lists.

A mantra of Be Brave. Lose the Beige is…

Running from meeting to meeting, checking off the to-do list — that isn’t really living.

Discovering the playful side of life. Spreading joy. Being colorful … clever … creative. Now that’s living!

I met a kindred spirit in an article I read recently. Patricia Hampl wrote The Art of a Wasted Day. She says,

“The to-do list that runs most lives through middle-age turns out, in this latter stage of existence, to have only one task: to waste life in order to find it.

(Someone other than Hampl made up this pearl of wisdom. Perhaps Jesus, Buddha, or Bob Dylan, she jokes. Somebody deep “who knew what’s what.”)

Hampl goes on to say,

“But now the boomers are approaching the other side. Not death necessarily (though the time has begun when no one will say we were cut down too early). We’re reaching the other side of striving.

And “striving” is the operative word here. Whether it is our careers, our children, or the pursuit of happiness, Baby Boomers strive and drive. “Try yoga or meditation” she would be urged as a remedy for elevated blood pressure and insomnia from all the striving.

“But meditating is just one more thing.

Yoga? Just another task to include on the to-do list. “

Instead Hampl recommends,

“How about just giving up? What about wasting time? Giving up or perhaps giving over.

To what? Perhaps what an earlier age called “the life of the mind,” the phrase that describes the sovereign self at ease, the sheer value of looking out the window, letting the world float along.”

I don’t even know if I’m capable of executing on this advice. I’m the ultimate multi-tasker. Give up? Waste the day? I’ve always said, maybe even with more than a little of righteous indignation, that “wasting a day” is the ultimate sin. I’m a productivity-a-holic, as I suspect many of you are as well.

       My dog Has no Trouble Wasting the Day

But I imagine the kind of waste Hampl is suggesting is not the binge watching Netflex kind of day. This kind of “wasted” day is one in which your soul sneaks up to whisper in your ear — kind of like God talking to you, maybe even inspiring you.

Rumor has it Walt Whitman, a self-professed lounger, spent many an aimless hour.

“I loaf and invite my soul,” he wrote. “I lean and loaf at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.”

contemplating a blade of grass

So, if there truly is an art to wasting a day, what would your art look like? Here are a couple of thoughts (all of which involves wandering):

  • Spending time outside. Not necessarily on a vigorous hike/bike ride (save that for another time). Introduce a leisurely quality to being outside. Wandering through a garden, taking in the fragrance of spring flowers, feeling the breeze brushing your skin and hair. As Whitman said, “contemplating a blade of grass.”
  • Flood your senses with beauty. Listening to or playing a favorite piece of music; inhaling freshly baked goods at a bakery; wandering aimlessly through an art gallery/museum or gift shop. Eat slowly, savoring the taste and texture of a favorite food item.
  • Sit with a favorite friend or loved one doing nothing special. Just being, allowing your conversation to wander where it wants to go.

A beautiful city garden near my home featured an exhibit of large LEGO sculptures. Actually taking my own advice, I wandered in wonderment at the amazingly colorful, intricate sculptures. There were twelve of them, everything from a giant hummingbird to a peacock and bird-bath, all constructed out of LEGOS. I’m proud to say I did not get to every single one as I was taking the time to focus on the ones I did see. I could literally feel the weight of my schedule release its grip and items from my ever present to-do list begin to evaporate.

I want to hear from you. How would you spend your wasted day?


Liz Kitchens is a writer and blogger.  Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, reaches out to Lady Boomers, women of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz also blogs for Growing Bolder and Vibrant Nation, two sites devoted to aging issues. Liz conducts workshops on the health benefits of creativity and is an ambassador for the Creative Caregiving Initiative sponsored by the NCCA, The National Center for Creative Aging. Liz founded the Jeremiah Project, an after school and summer creative arts program designed to foster self esteem and encourage creative thinking among at risk middle school aged students.

Check out Liz’s blog, Be Brave. Lose The Beige, and follow her on Facebook.

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