A couple of Saturdays ago, I was sitting in my car, sick with the flu, with a half-hour window in between a mandatory class and a mandatory rehearsal, thinking about all the things I needed to do, just trying to breathe — literally, since my chest was tight from coughing and being sick — and to grab a few moments of rest so that I could go on to the next thing. And I had one of those flu-delirium revelations, which was: Why am I living like this?
I remember that in my 20s, there was a lot of buzz about our so-called “slacker” generation. It completely bewildered me, because no one I knew had even a moment of slacker-ness. Whether artists or entrepreneurs or professionals, everyone I knew was incredibly driven in pursuit of some goal or, usually, multiple goals. Those of us in journalism were writing and editing articles about our supposedly slacker peers, but we were completely missing out on the joys of slackerdom.
So, during my flu, I resolved to do some serious catching up. My dear friend Sunita kindly delivered a Margaret Cho DVD along with “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.”
I felt that this behavior earned me immediate slacker points — until I realized that the whole idea of earning points is probably not in the spirit of slackerdom. Yes, it’s definitely still a learning curve for me! Wait — slackers don’t have learning curves, do they? Hmmm…
Now that I’m feeling better, I’m trying not to revert to my habitual overachieving model-minority behavior. It’s hard, though. Yesterday, for example, I woke up spontaneously at 4:30 a.m., had cereal, wrote in my journal, checked email, and started editing the index for my book (which came in at 80 pages, and needs to be reviewed/shortened!). I spent a few hours working on that, then got sleepy and crashed again, then woke up and:
– cleaned the bathroom, kitchen, and living room
– made two conference calls for work
– tried to figure out how to convert my media/publicity list from Excel to Word
– planned out work for the rest of this week
The problem is not so much that I did this stuff, which was kind of cool. It was Monday, after all, and a certain amount of drive and direction and optimism about all I can achieve is to be expected — but still, this was nowhere close to slacker behavior. I should have been hung over from the weekend and bemoaning the unreasonable brightness of the sun, or something, right?
But, after all, being neither independently wealthy nor in possession of a live-in houseboi/personal assistant, these were all things I needed to do. The problem wasn’t the activity so much as the little nagging voice telling me I should be getting more done. Actually that voice is not so little, and I’m getting kind of tired of it. I realize that when I’m feeling sort of miserable and oppressed and overburdened, I need to wake up and fight back. I need to get in touch with my slacker side.
I have a fantastic lounging couch that helps with this. But I’ve noticed lately that, when I’m sitting on my couch, I am often plagued by the subtle and persistent feeling that I should do something else, like get up and meditate. Now, what is the point of getting up from sitting still to go to another corner of the house and sit still? That’s just ridiculous.
I think this way of thinking is a mental tic developed over seven years of book-writing, when I constantly had the feeling that, no matter what else I was doing, I should be writing.
So, since I can’t change my basic personality at this point, at least not overnight, my new strategy is to utilize my Type A skills in pursuit of the slacker life. So far, here is my four-point plan to slack off more:
1. Recruit friends to do slacker-type stuff with me. (I’m thinking I could come over and watch TV… that would count, right?)
2. When I get anxious and overwhelmed by my To Do list, re-label it a To Don’t list.
3. Just sit on the couch and don’t do anything. I mean nothing.
4. If all else fails, go to the beach.
Today, I woke up reminded of strategy #4 by my dreams, which were very beautiful and involved a lot of wild swimming. It was a beautiful sunny day. I got out of bed after noon, made my morning protein shake, and sat on the couch. I felt this was an excellent beginning for a slacker-ish day. So I went down the hill to the bakery, ate a grilled-fennel focaccia, had an affogato across the street at the gelato place, and drove to the beach. I boogie boarded and swam in the ocean for a couple of hours, then laid on the beach for a while. Now I’m off to dinner with a friend.
Yes, I did sneak in some activist emails, continued to set up my new computer, planned some marketing activities, and accomplished a few other little productive tasks. But — miracle of miracles — I did them with joy, not because the little voice was nagging me.
So actually, the slacking was productive! Hmm: perhaps I’ve discovered a new paradoxical principle of the universe. In any case, I feel SO much better!! Perhaps there’s hope for me yet…
What do you think? Are you a slacker, or in touch with your slacker side? If so, please share your slacking tips!