Mark vs Cancer

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Free Time

What is free time? For most of the past seven years, it has been a concept completely foreign to me. Every minute not spent as a slave to medical school or residency seemed to be consumed with every other responsibility I had been forced to set aside: husband, father, church member, neighbor, citizen. Even vacation was not really "free time," as I oxymoronically felt obligated to maximally recreate and forcibly relax for an allotted time, until the realities of life encroached upon me again. And in every nook and cranny of every conceivably "free" moment, there was always the pressure of impending or deferred commitments, unaffectionately referred to as the loathsome "longitudinal curriculum."

I have not suddenly, entirely burst out of that oppressive cavern. But now, I have found myself with hours, even days, WITH NOTHING TO DO. Days where nothing is due or overdue or soon-to-be overdue. Hours where the kids are in bed, the house is clean, and I find myself wondering, "Well, what should I do now?"

My answer so far has been varied. I've read books and poetry. I played way too much Weboggle. I've gotten mesmerized by the computer mystery game, Riven. I've posted lame entries on my blog. I've watched football games, played flag football, exercised. I've gotten captivated, frustrated, and re-captivated by "Lost." I've done yardwork, gone hiking, played with my kids, planned with Elizabeth.

Fun stuff, all. A lot of it, however, is a complete waste of time. Now, I don't believe that wasting time is always a bad thing; a certain amount of brain-disengaging activity can be relaxing, and even healthy. (Re: Weboggle). But as these free minutes and hours and days and weeks and months pile up, what will be the sum result of all of my "free time?"

Deep inside me, I have long had some big-time goals: writing a Steinbeckian novel, becoming a rugged mountain explorer, making a difference in politics, investing wisely and expertly, serving whole-heartedly in the church.

Is this what free time is, the moments given to us to expand, give voice to and flesh out our deepest desires? I would guess that only a small percentage of history's great one's arrived there through sheer innate genius, like Mozart. The rest arrived there through the diligent application of above-avergage gifts, like Lincoln or Edison.

I've begun reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, a truly remarkable American. He was blessed with ordinary gifts but extraordinary courage, resolve and ambition. He pushed himself, forced himself, towards greatness in politics and life.

Do we all have the seed of greatness within us? If so, do we nourish it, water it, cultivate it in our free time?

Or do we sit back and play yet another game of Weboggle? (Thanks, Ty and Dana. Hey, I got all the way up to #3 one night! That's greatness, isn't it?)


Danalin said...

That's greatness in my book! I am proud to be your sister-in-law. I think that I will forever be known as the sister-in-law of Mark Foster - the man who once made it to #3 on Weboggle. Seriously, I think that is a great accomplishment, Mark. Good work!

Now how about sending me some recipes in your free time?! Some of Mark's specialties...

Matthew said...

You worked hard for a long time. You've earned the right to be lazy once in a while, as the drive and fire that once burned within you dims and you spiral slowly and inevitably towards old age, senility and death.

Of course I'm joking. You're just getting started. If you feel like playing Weboggle, why not?

I have so little free time myself. You describe the feeling so well. I console myself by remembering that this school and career building won't last forever, and one day I'll again have time to "waste" an evening playing guitar.

Dad said...

Speaking as one who is, if not in the twilight of my career and life, at least am in the late afternoon. I too find myself engaged in way to many wasteful activities and it frosts me when I really think about it.

As you get older, and the really, really busy time of your life is mostly over; raising kids, making a living, being active in thh church, etc. tends to wind down, you start to evaluate what imprint you have made. Have you made a difference in any substantive way to your family, to your friends, your church, your community, yeh even your nation? I fall far short in many areas and it is hard to turn the habits that may be likened to a ship of "wasted time" around sometimes.

I struggle with the answer. I have a stack of good books I want to read, I have my genealogy that I would love to dive into, I have my calling that needs much attention, I have wife and our relationship that I want to nuture and develop even further at this time in our lives, I have a teenage daughter I want to help develop into what she can become, I want to grow closer to all my children, their wives and kids, we have a mission(s)we want to serve, and the list goes on and on.

You would think as you get older you would have more ambition to do these things, more time, more resources etc. While that may be true in theory, I find it not so true for me personally. It is something I have to work on and habits of "wasting time" are hard to break.

My advice to you is, while you deserve a break and totally mindless activities are therapuetic many times, it can become a habit. Do those things that relax you and for which you enjoy, but I encourage you to also work on doing the things that will make a difference in your life and the lives of your family. Make them a habit will make a difference later in your life. I didn't do that and it is hard for me to turn it around now.

Your're a good man, Mark. Keep up the work. You are blessed in ways you won't totally appreciate for many years maybe...but you are lucky. Use your luck wisely.


Angie said...

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Free time is one of my most addicting luxuries, probably because I have a lot of things I like to do on my own, without someone telling me I need to be somewhere or to do something. But I find that if I have nothing but free time, I start to feel like a big lazy blob...

Anyway, I'm sure you'll find your balance of how much free time is good for you. In the meantime, enjoy deserve it!