On Friday morning, as the snowstorm approached Washington, D.C., I proclaimed to a coworker that I was looking forward to a “quiet weekend.” I find myself saying that a lot. I had a “quiet weekend,” I’m looking forward to a “quiet weekend,” all I want is a “quiet weekend.” I’m not alone either. Lots of people declare their love for quiet weekends, with the attendant soft blankets thrown over their legs, hot chocolate in hand, warm lighting, and a good book. Not a care in the world.
Why do we all lie?
Why do I lie?
I’ve been trapped in my home for the last 34 hours. It hasn’t been quiet at all. I’ve shoveled snow off my terrace — twice. I’ve made chili. I’ve washed laundry. I’ve cleaned the kitchen multiple times. I’ve folded clothes. I’ve paid bills. I’ve checked work e-mail. I’ve taken the garbage out. I’ve cheered for my favorite sports team. I’ve talked on the phone with friends and family. I’ve written on this blog. Whatever the opposite of zen is, I’ve been.
I like the idea of the “quiet weekend,” but the execution gets me. I can’t sit still that long. I’ve got to get up, go out, be busy. I say I want to be by the fire, reading a book, and I’m fine with that for an hour. Maybe 90 minutes tops. Otherwise, the putzer in me comes out. The pantry must be organized. The storage closet rearranged. The garage storage bins scoured for donation material. Life would go on if I didn’t do any of those things, but my motor can’t downshift.
The scary truth may be that most of us couldn’t handle a “quiet weekend.” We’d go crazy without the chores, the errands, the must-dos, the beeps and boops of our electronic gadgets. Our baseline is not a cabin in the woods as we listen to the sounds of nature; our baseline is frenetic activity of (generally) questionable utility.
It’s not just weekends either. I’ve notice that, as I sail on into middle age, vacations pose larger challenges. You’re running a million miles an hour, and, then, once you arrive at your destination, you’re automatically expected to shift into relaxation mode without a care in the world, full of serenity, light, and love. I get whiplash from the change. It takes me a day or two just to feel like I’m slowing down a bit, much less totally decompressing.
Maybe “quiet weekends,” for most folks, are just another unicorn or Bigfoot — things that we talk about, things we like, things we want, things that sound cool, but things that never actually materialize. And the solution probably isn’t for everyone to slow down, hug a friend, and save the world. No, maybe the solution is to start saying what we mean. Stop lying and saying you want a “quiet weekend.” You don’t. You want a weekend that if full of easy to accomplish, mildly to moderately interesting activities that make little to no demands on your time, money, or personal energy.
Oh, and brunch. You want brunch too. That’s important.