I don't like having nothing to do. And that's a ridiculous phrase anyway, isn't it? Nothing to do? I've talked here before about one of my mother's mottoes: "Only boring people are bored." So I don't mean I'm bored. I can always find something to do; the issue is whether it's worth doing.
I never watch daytime TV. I'm just throwing that out there at the outset. Notice I said that in the present tense. In our old house, the kitchen opened onto the TV room, and while I cleaned the kitchen or cooked or baked or whatever else I might need to do around the stove, sink, and oven in the course of the day, I would often put on the TV for "company." I hated the arrangement. In our current house, the kitchen is separated from the TV room by a living room, and that's how I like it.
My point (I try to always get there eventually) is that I had the TV on for a few minutes yesterday and "Let's Make a Deal" was on. The studio audience was clothed in ridiculous costumes and wigs, all hoping for the chance to win a vacation or a shopping spree if Wayne Brady would just notice them. I got the same "ick" feeling I get when I see people waiting two hours in line for a 3-minute roller coaster ride. The "ick" feeling is this: Really? That's what we have time for today? Our lives are so easy and our need for a thrill so intense that we have to seek it out in a sweaty line with 200 other people in need of the same thrill? We're so desensitized to what used to pass for joy that we have to come up with new means of feeling that way?
I'm reading At Home by Bill Bryson. It's a short history of the house--how various rooms came to be--and it's fascinating. It's also a reminder of how little "real" work we need to do these days. Preparing a meal, doing the laundry, staying warm, staying cool, getting from point A to point B--these are all things we hardly think about anymore. Or at least those of us fortunate enough to live above the poverty line, which, face it, is most of us in the U.S.--don't have to think about them. So what do we think about instead? And how much do those things really matter?
I read a book a number of months back called Monique and the Mango Rains. The author, a member of the Peace Corps at the time, writes in the beginning about how women in Malawi don't have a favorite dress or a favorite food. They have a dress to wear--one--and they have food to eat . . . whatever might be available to them and not a cupboard full of choices. And, really, they're happier than we Americans are in many ways because (and this is me talking now) they don't have to manufacture happiness.
I love my warm house and clothes and food when it's snowing outside and the windchill is below zero and my "work" for the evening is loading the dishwasher and giving my kids a bath. That's a good life. I don't want to give away all but one dress or live on tomato soup. I just want to make sure that whatever I'm doing in place of struggling is worthwhile. And I want to be grateful. And I want to be happy and to teach my kids that happiness is available all around them--not just on game shows and roller coaster rides.