The economy has many of us scared and tense, whether or not we still have the job and homes we had a year or two ago. Thor and I are lucky that our jobs and house situation are yet unchanged, but of course we’ve lost a big portion of what we’d put away for retirement, and we need to catch it back up. We need to enjoy ourselves in ways that don’t involve financial cost. Here are some of my favorites.
- Take a 24 hour vacation at a friend’s house. Granted, this requires a good, kind friend with a house you enjoy, but this idea yielded me one of the loveliest 24 hours I’ve spent in recent years. The situation was that I’d been working hard for too long both at work and in my own home, and had reached that point where I was desperate to stop feeling responsible, and have some space and time to myself. I loved my friend Karen’s house (she majored in art and it really shows) and she spends many nights at her boyfriend John’s house, in any event. I scraped up the courage to ask, she immediately said yes, and the Friday evening/Saturday day I spent alone at her house with my journal and a good book felt blessed and enchanted — I was free of responsibilities for those 24 hours. And it didn’t cost either me or Karen a dime. Obviously it’s easiest for a single friend who has a boyfriend or girlfriend to grant this kind of request, but couples or families going out of town for a weekend could easily say yes, too.
- Go hiking or nature-watching at Powell Butte, Forest Park or the Columbia Gorge. You’ll probably have different nature locations (I live in Portland Oregon) but the human experience is the same: the natural world refreshes us and lifts us up out of our grinding concerns. Nature is the best example I know for the saying “The best things in life are free.”
- Go shopping at the local library. The beautiful thing about shopping for things you will simply borrow and later return is that you cannot make mistakes that cost you money. So the pressure is off, and you can afford to get books or read magazines that are fun, even wildly impractical, on behalf of what Julia Cameron calls Secret Selves. Example: Bon Bon is her secret self who is festive and girly, and reads silly novels her professional self would be appalled at. (But her professional self isn’t choosing the books today!) Do you have a buried interest in fly fishing, or salsa dancing, or Egyptian archeology? Who are you secretly envious of, and why? Which things did you enjoy when you were young, and then abandon when adult responsibilities took over your life? The books and magazines at your public
library are a free ticket to indulge the secret, creative parts of yourself that need to be taken out for a spin.
- Take a break from one’s own kitchen. I did this just yesterday, for the first time, and found happy relief from being over-chored. I realized that my husband and housemate make much more elaborate Sunday dinners than I need or would choose to make, and I don’t enjoy cleaning up from them (in our house, whoever doesn’t cook does the clean-up — until now). So, I nicely stated yesterday morning that I was taking a break, and wouldn’t be doing anything in the kitchen all day. They accepted that — and the complicated, multi-ingredient vegetable hash they made for dinner last night was theirs from start to finish. Next time I make dinner I’ll adopt the same rules — and clean up as I go so that I’ll still have some time to myself after dinner has come and gone.