When does leisure become work?

‘Be inspired by everything.’

I found myself asking when the things we enjoy become chores yesterday when I saw the local farmers son who is around 9 years old out raking grass from the village green with his friend of a similar age. They were racing up and down the grass on their toy tractors, collecting the grass which had been mowed, and continued to do this for hours on end. Smiling whilst doing so – some would call them mad!

It made me stop and think – how lovely to gain pleasure from doing something that so many of us find monotonous, hard labour, a real pain during a busy schedule. Children see tasks differently though – maybe simply because they call it play, not work. Play is a wonderful thing. It allows for escape, for fun, for connection with others. It seems that children can be inspired by many things and show much more gratitude for day to day experiences than us adults without realising it.

Tasks such as raking the grass for many of us are seen as chores; feel painful, feel like a waste of time, feel like the last thing on earth we would rather be doing.

I stopped and reflected on the positives of being involved in this occupation for the boy: he was spending time with a peer, getting positive feedback from the locals on how lovely the village looked, spending time outdoors on a warm sunny evening, passing time without even realising it by doing something he seemed to find fun. It may be that this remains a meaningful occupation to him throughout life but it is more likely that there comes a point where he can think of something better to do with his time and feel that it is a real shame he has to spend his time doing such hard, repetitive labour.

Maybe it is our outlook when we become adults that turns a bit sour. I’m all for positive thinking but I’m pretty sure I’d spend the evening sulking if I had to spend my time doing that job. I’d see it as that – a job.

So I’m setting myself the challenge of feeling more inspired by the day to day. Feeling more thankful for opportunities to do the ‘dull stuff’.

One of my favourite books is F**K it Therapy: the profane way to profound happiness (2012) in which John Parkin describes ‘Bob the Buddha’ washing the dishes mindfully. Bob enjoys washing the dishes. He appreciates the smell of the bubbles, the warmth of the water on his skin, the sparkle on the plates when then become clean. He’s mindful. And he’s easily inspired.

Tonight when I wash the dishes I’ll practice this mindfulness. I’ll be in the moment. I’ll practice gratitude too. I’m not sure it will come as simply to me as it does to Bob but I’m willing to give it a try.

Here’s to not living for weekends and holidays, but for living in the moment, and finding pleasure in the small things in life.

Rebecca Wint

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