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“So, what are you up to today?” My husband asks as he puts on his tie.

Oh no! Quick, think of something, like a Security Council Meeting, or saving the planet from an imminent meteor strike. Something important. How can I say I have some urgent laundry? Ask me about tomorrow. Tomorrow I actually have a meeting.

My sister devised a method whereby we can check whether we’ve wasted a day. The object is to get to 10 points. You can get one or several points depending on the chore. For example, doing the laundry - 2, going to the gym – could be a 3, depending on whether free weights were involved. Cooking a meal? Roast chicken or soufflé? Anyway those kinds of things.

We often argue out the intricacies of the system: i.e. is going to the gym really only worth 2 rather than 3 points? What if I need to take a bus to get to the gym? Does enjoying a gym class mean I need to deduct a point?

My sister has told several of her friends about her system and they are all fascinated. And that set me to wondering: Why do so many of us need to be perpetually in motion like one of those sets of balls on a businessman’s desk?

I thought we were of the generation “Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.” I remember when wasting time used to be a pleasure, lazing in bed, reading the papers or vegging out with the TV. Remember lunch? No, not that stale sandwich or slightly brown lettuce leaf at a desk. But lunch. Martini lunch. Shall we have another? There was a time when getting hammered at a boozy long lunch was considered great fun, not a mortal sin.

But now the ethos seems to be, “I can’t be important if I have a single moment to spare.” Everyone is running around moaning about how busy they are, stressed out, time-challenged. We’re all like the white rabbit in Alice In Wonderland, constantly checking the time on our phones, muttering that we’re late for a very important date.

Who ever brags about down-time? Unless of course it’s binge-watching the latest Netflix series. That just kind of counts as work. To admit that you have nothing to do is to admit…I don’t know…is it to admit failure?

I thought the reason for machines replacing us was we were going to get more leisure. But maybe we don’t want leisure. That’s why I, like many people, fill my days crammed tight with sending and receiving useless emails, checking out Facebook or Linked-in, working out more ways to make machines stress me out.

Stress. A stupid word. People in WW2 might be able to use the word stress when bombs were blasting them and their homes to smithereens. Sure, that might add a little tension to the day. Or perhaps when that herd of rhinos came pounding across the grasslands towards the cave where one’s brood was hiding. Okay, that could add a note of pressure. Having some emails to answer is hardly stress.

As I said I’ve given this a lot of thought. And I think it gets even worse as I get older. The whole thought of playing golf all day or going window-shopping, in short leisure, gives me hives.

Some people seem to take to idleness easily. They accept that plaque or watch and ease back into a comfy chair with a sigh. I’ve also noticed that rather than extending life by retiring, it oddly seems to shorten it. That is not a statistic BTW, just observational. Try Googling books on retirement. There are thousands of them. The Joy of Not Working, How to Retire Happy, Retire Happy, Wild and Free. But there are also a hell of a lot of books on how to make your money last.

Personally I prefer the book, Second-Act Careers. I suppose that is why I edited, published and wrote for the book, Turning Points, That’s probably why I’m writing this blog.

Maybe the truth here is I need to be busy constantly to reassure myself that I’m still a useful member of society. I think the fear of a long empty day stretching ahead with absolutely nothing to do is stronger than any inertia.

That’s one of the worst parts of getting older, this need to justify my existence. You would think that after years of working and cooking and…and what? Actually now I’m in a frenzy. Did I ever do enough to justify my existence?

But back to the point system.

So while I went to the gym today and now I’m sitting and writing this I know that I’ve only used up maybe 6 points. At a stretch 7. Which means I have at least 3 more points to go.

So what if I don’t make 10 points? Does the earth stop rotating? Do I get a terrible disease? Was I planning on inventing a new vaccine today?

But still it keeps niggling. I need at least 3 more points, and if I can’t rack them up quickly at least by making an uncomfortable phone call, maybe two, and cleaning the toilet whether it needs it or not or cooking a soufflé while listening to a podcast, I will have to knuckle down and sort out a new Middle East peace agreement before I can settle down to watch that new TV series everyone’s talking about.

TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing

a book by Shelley Katz

Out Now

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