The other day some ladies and I were talking about those new adult coloring books. Several of us in the conversation admitted to owning one and how surprisingly fun they were. Then a comment was made that actually spurred a flurry of introspection on my part. She said, “Oh, I could never sit and color! I’d be too busy thinking of how I could be up doing something more productive!” The comment was her honest opinion and may be the opinion of many others, but it struck an uncomfortable chord with me. An old and familiar dogged emotion began nipping at my heart- guilt and shame. But why?
So, the next few days, I over-analyzed my reaction to her words because that’s pretty much the way I roll- I’m an avid over-thinker (which is probably why I write). I came to the realization that I have struggled my whole life with feeling guilty when I am in recreational mode and only feeling valuable when I’m being productive. This struggle is complicated and aggravating because I’m an artist- I’m truly in my element when I’m singing, playing piano, drawing, painting, taking pictures, doodling, creating, etc. Some of what I like to do with my free time doesn’t “produce” anything profitable.
Google the definition of productive and here is what you get:
- producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.“the most productive employees”
- relating to or engaged in the production of goods, crops, or other commodities.“the country’s productive capacity”
- achieving or producing a significant amount or result.“a long and productive career”
Google the word “productive” and you’ll get tons of articles and advice on how to “cram, crush, and shove more productivity into less time.” Keep reading and you’ll soon realize that we live in a world that places the highest value on how “productive” you are and how much work you do in the shortest amount of time.
So, is an activity only valuable if it produces something or brings monetary profit?Is it a waste of precious, fleeting time to do something for the pure joy it brings?
There are so many things I enjoy doing but some produce nothing but the shear pleasure of doing them – such as painting, drawing, singing, or just goofing off with my kids. Yet, I also like sewing, crocheting, and photography. I suppose one could argue that the latter activities are more valuable since they produce something of value. Crocheting will bring warm items such as scarves, blankets and hats. Sewing creates clothing and useful things for housekeeping. Photography creates a permanent record of a moment in time proving to be useful for record keeping or instruction.
But…what of the recreational activities? We all have them hopefully. Do we fully engage in them without the nagging guilt of “I could be doing something more useful?” I’m sure there are those blessed with the ability to be immersed in some much needed down time without flogging themselves mentally. I wish I were one of them. But…I struggle with that nagging voice-over in my head…”you are too behind and busy to be doing this…what about the laundry, wouldn’t it make more sense to use your energy to reorganize that messy drawer, etc etc, blah, blah, blah.”
I make “to do” lists every week. I nag myself silently if they aren’t crossed off. I pick up that ole bag of guilty regret and drag it into my day. Ugh! This is truly one of the things about myself I absolutely strive to change. Every. Day. Its my “thorn in the side.”
Now before anyone gets the notion that I’m ditching the idea of a lifestyle that contributes to those around them, please hear me out.This is not at all what I’m getting at. This whole wordy purpose of this blog post is to argue the value of recreation. I truly believe that we should live meaningful, purposeful, Godly lives filled with doing good things for others and, yes, for ourselves as well. But, there is great value in recreation. Its actually a God-given gift, in fact.
Rest, recreation, and doing something just for the pure joy it brings is not a sin. The world will not stop spinning on its axis if you sit for a while and color in your adult coloring book or drink coffee and watch the sunset. No one will fire you from the human race if you decide to doodle mindlessly while listening to your favorite band on iTunes. You are not a disappointment to our monetary-reward-driven society if you keep an art journal filled with paint splattered pretties that only you will ever see. And its perfectly alright if your idea of a “good time” is watching your favorite sports team and napping during half-time.
We should never measure our value as human beings by what we “put out” in terms of productivity. It really is alright to enjoy our lives….even “waste time” as some may define it.
Look at this definition of the word “recreation:”
n.1. Refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates; play.2. An activity that provides such refreshment.American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
n1. refreshment of health or spirits by relaxation and enjoyment2. an activity or pastime that promotes this
3. (Education)a. an interval of free time between school lessonsb. (as modifier): recreation period.Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
(ˌrɛk riˈeɪ ʃən)
n.1. refreshment, as by means of agreeable exercise.2. a means of enjoyable relaxation.[1350–1400; Middle Englishrecreacioun (< Middle Frenchrecreation) < Late Latinrecreātiōamusement, Latin:restoration <recreāre(seerecreate)]rec`re•a′tion•al adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.