Where did it all go wrong? Back in the 1930s, eminent economist of the day, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, in the future, the working week would be drastically cut, maybe to as little as 15 hours a week, with people choosing to have more leisure time as their material needs were satisfied. What Keynes didn’t foresee was that some of us would develop an insatiable appetite for more, that we would strive to accumulate well beyond our finite material needs, that we would fail to recognise when enough was enough. Not that every person is on the working treadmill to simply hoard and amass more. Most people work because they have to get by, make ends meet; they’d love to be in a position to work fewer hours, but short of a lottery win it’s not going to happen. To be fair, though (despite some complaining now and then), most of us like to work. We enjoy the camaraderie of the workplace, we feel fulfilled by our chosen vocation, we delight in the sense of achievement that completing a job brings.
Subsequently, 90 years later, and for a mix of reasons, we’re a long way off the Keynesian ideal: we’re working for as long and hard as we ever did, if not longer and harder. The physical graft may not be as arduous it was, but the mental demands, multi-tasking and organising seems to have us running from pillar to post, leaving us breathless and frazzled. Technological progress has cut many corners, with every type of labour saving device available to us in the home, and shopping (for everything) has been reduced to the click of a button. Yet we are not floating around, zen-like, relaxed because life has become so much less taxing than that of our forefathers. Instead, in the western world, in the 21st Century, you would be hard pushed to find someone who isn’t beset with what we refer to as ‘first world problems’. Those incredibly taxing glitches that keep you awake at night causing undue stress, but, at the heels of the hunt, might just be symptomatic of us all having too much and moving too fast. We remind ourselves to keep a sense of perspective; that, compared to the plight of some, we live like kings and queens. Still, it’s ever so easy to feel burned out and frazzled by the constant barrage of what is to be done in a day, a week, a month.
Last weekend, in an attempt to deal with feeling mildly frazzled, I went (for the first time ever) to a floatarium. It was like a huge children’s paddling pool, about two foot deep (if even) encased by a high canopy. The warm water was loaded with salt, making it super buoyant. I was encouraged to rest my head on a little rubber halo, holding my head a little higher than the salty water naturally would. I lay back, closed my eyes and, sure enough, I became a cork bobbing in a vast ocean, a starfish sunning itself of the water’s surface, my limbs spread wide. The marketing material told me I would lose awareness of where my body ended and the water began: that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself laughing loudly from my belly (and then capsizing) at just how silly the whole thing was – the indulgent lengths to which I was going in order to chill out! Bobbing about like a piece of flotsam did feel good, there is no doubt, but I am more than a little dubious as to the ‘profound effects’ it claimed it would have on my central nervous system.
If you are feeling a bit frazzled as you approach the weekend, certainly give the floatarium a whirl if it tickles your fancy, but I suspect a walk outside might have a similar effect, and be lighter on your purse. The sun is set to shine this weekend, so get yourself busy doing nothing and let that frazzled feeling evaporate.
‘The Lazy Song’, Bruno Mars
“Today I don’t feel like doing anything
I just wanna lay in my bed
Don’t feel like picking up my phone
So leave a message at the tone
‘Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything
No I ain’t gonna comb my hair
‘Cause I ain’t goin’ anywhere”