When my plate of obligation was empty, my mind filled with things I need to purchase as to not feel empty.
A thought series by Jason Duncan | 5 minute read
Yesterday, the rarest of all days landed directly in my lap. A day in which upon arriving home from work my wife and kids would be gone. A whole six hours to myself! I can’t remember the last time I had this much free time, no obligations, no commitments, no place to be, no one to take care of, the house was clean (relatively), the lawn was mowed, the dog was fed, there was nobody to put down for bed. It was just me. As a father of three boys, this just doesn’t happen!
As it turns out, I am just as dry as pre-Piece-of-Resistance Emmet from the Lego movie. My minimalism has produced kind of a blank slate out of me. I had six hours to myself and I could not figure out what to do! My minimalism goal is to “empty of me of me so I can love God and others as myself,” had I really emptied out all of me to the point where there was no me left?
Check out our over-spiritual episode on minimalism!
I was so ready to do nothing that I brought a change of clothes to work with me in case something might happen. A spontaneous adventure? A trip to the movies? Turn my guitar up to 11? Knock a book of my reading list? Nope. I did none of these, instead, I went shopping…?
First to Target, this was kind of necessity, I work out on my lunch break and forgot to pack underwear, I couldn’t very well adventure out commando.
Second, dinner on the run, I ate a quesadilla in a parking lot, you know, because I had a big adventure awaiting.
Third, off to the State park, which I spent all of 10 minutes at because it was too crowded, and God forbid I actually step out of my comfort zone and interact with another human-being outside of necessity.
Fourth, car wash, it needed it. All the free time in the world, but yet this the day to get the car washed.
Fifth, hello Goodwill! All of my minimalist training goes out the window when I drive by a thrift store. My favorite thing in the world is finding vintage T-shirts. I had several in hand before being a good minimalist and choosing one with a pink tag (half off). I mean, please, who can pass up a killer Branson Missouri shirt with a gold eagle on it from the 90’s? It’s worth both a dollar and a cashier eyebrow raise.
Sixth, Media Replay, to pick up that copy of Twister I’ve been jonesing to watch. I’m a sucker for terrible 90’s natural disaster movies. I held the dvd in hand, starred Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in the eye, and with a single tear in my eye whispered, “minimalism says no” and placed it back on the shelf.
Seventh, Meijer! Because who doesn’t want to compare healthy breakfast granola bars on their day off from pretty much all responsibility? At one point I actually said out loud “What am I doing?”
I returned home feeling dirty inside because I had killed a whole afternoon accomplishing absolutely nothing. I spent the rest of the night putting together a fantasy hockey team on NHL17 because my internet decided to crap out and I couldn’t watch Netflix.
…If only I had purchased Twister I could have relived that moment Jo and Bill survived an F5 in the middle of field by securing a belt to some pipes in the ground… fly Dorothy, fly!
All this to say, consumerism is a plague that runs deep. It has penetrated my skin, flowed through my blood, and lives in my heart. I’ve already taken enough of your time without sharing the hundreds of purchasing ideas that flowed through my brain in the silence of a free day. Build a fire pit, shop online for some new guitar pedals, books… you name it! It may be another five years before I have an entire afternoon obligation free again. I pray to God I end up doing something more useful than comparing the nutritional values and price points of granola bars and lusting after 1996’s Helen Hunt. Lord have mercy!
This is more than a problem, because I know I am not the only one who has had a day like this. I’m beginning to question if I even know how to enjoy free time? I wish I had a tip or suggestion to leave you with, but I don’t, just an awareness. When my plate of obligation was empty, my mind ran wild of things I need to purchase as to not feel empty in that moment. I don’t know about you, but that’s a scary thought to sit with.
In all of this, I wish I could say that I forgot about the 2nd part of my minimalism goal, “…So I can love God and others myself,” but I didn’t, I wanted a day for me, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I had no idea how much of my free thought is choked out by consumerism. Minimalism has helped me recognize that, I hope I can make something out of that recognition. If nothing else, I hope my failed personal day benefits you!
Thanks for reading! Here are some links to some prior thoughts.
<bio> Jason is not a pastor </bio>
We’d love to read your comments! If you really like this thought, there is no greater reward than having you share it with your friends!
If you’d like to hear more thoughts than we can write down, subscribe to our Podcast!