What is wasting time anyway, and why do I like it so much?

Jazz on Patio for Blog

Well, I had a whole bunch of stuff I needed to get done this weekend. The problem was, it was sunny.

And I found myself completely immersed in watching Jazz, my 6 month-old tabby, chasing butterflies and bugs on the patio.  “Let’s play!”  is Jazz’ perpetual life motto.   He’s spring-loaded with kitten energy, gets into everything, is quick as lightning, chases anything that moves, jumps straight up 4 feet off the ground.  In short, Jazz is a non-stop source of make-you-laugh-out-loud kitten entertainment.  As I write this, he is stalking a bee.

The amount of pleasure you can get watching this little guy is beyond ridiculous. I couldn’t stop.   He had me laughing and on the edge of my seat.  Watching him was way more enjoyable than anything I had planned. And then I started to feel like I was wasting time.  Uh oh.  I had it drummed into me from an early age that wasting time was very bad.

So I did what I often do when I want to understand something.   I went to the dictionary, specifically Webster’s New World College Dictionary, second edition, my favorite. And I looked up the word “waste “.

This was promising to be a fun afternoon diversion because there were 23 definitions.  I really wanted to understand this word, so I read all of them.

It was rather eye-opening. Waste comes from the Latin word vastus meaning “empty”. The main concept of waste is to use up or spend without real gain.  I had never thought about the “without real gain” part.  Somehow I always thought of wasting time as simply not doing what I was supposed to be doing. But, now that I think about it, much of my life, especially my early life, when I was told I was wasting time, it was always about my not doing somebody else’s idea of what I was supposed to be doing.  Frequently it wasn’t about my idea of what I was supposed to be doing at all.

Frankly, in school they don’t let you have too many of your own ideas about what you’re supposed to be doing.  They tell you you’re too young to know.  They structure every minute for you without consulting you too much.

Which, by the way, is one reason why people who have a lot of their own ideas drop out of school. They get tired of doing what someone else thinks they’re supposed to be doing and start doing what they think they’re supposed to be doing, which makes them not fit in anymore. Frequently, they don’t care about fitting in and go on to become successes.

So, studying the definition of “waste” in the dictionary, I realized that, whether or not I’m wasting time has to do with whether or not I’m gaining anything, whether or not I’m getting anything out of it.  I realized that only I can decide that.

I realized that much of what I thought was wasting time actually wasn’t.  Because I was gaining so much happiness and pleasure out of doing it.  It was far from empty.  I realized that, for me, the true definition of wasting time is doing what someone else thinks I’m supposed to be doing.

It was with a great sense of relief I went back to playing with the conquistador Jazzy Tabby, listening to music and enjoying the sunshine on my patio. It truly was a day spent doing the opposite of wasting time.

I hope this helps you get great pleasure from your own “watching a kitten chase bugs on a sunny patio” moments.  May you have many of them.




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