Down Time in the City That Never Sleeps

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By Lorraine Duffy Merkl

“I have a leisurologist,” said the young woman into her cell, while breezing by me on Madison and 60th Street at lunch hour.

She was in her late twenties, with bouncy brown hair and simple, yet trendy, clothes. Her demeanor was so upbeat, all I could think was Whatever a leisurologist is, hers must be doing a great job.

I began immediately to question myself. Is this some new, cool thing that everyone has or knows about but me? Then I decided Ms. Leisure must be from somewhere else; her discipline sounded a little too La-La Land for NYC. Or maybe in our competitive, stressful city, it’s just what’s needed.

Usually, the Internet—specifically Google—is a wealth of information. Not so, this time. Perhaps “leisurology” is still one of those burgeoning tends.

From what little I could gather, it appears that “leisurologist” is a title bestowed on someone who has more than a passing fancy with (as my son calls it) chillaxin’.

On www.leisurevolution.org, I found “The 9 Tenets of Leisurology”:

9) Making a life is more important than making a living. If your landlord doesn’t charge rent.

8) Work is not a four-letter word, but rut might be. Right now, a job rut is better than no job at all.

7) Refreshing cold drinks are not optional. OK, they’ve got me.

6) Wear comfortable shoes. Ditto.

5) Howl at the moon from time to time. We’re getting a little silly now.

4) Balance the doing with the un-doing. I’m at a loss. What?

3) Path and goal are equals. Again, huh? Perhaps they mean, “Enjoy the journey.”

2) Never rush. Yes, let’s all try this one in Midtown at rush hour.

1) Relax. Isn’t that what we’re all already doing on the Great Lawn?

I was still unclear as to whether the leisurologist is one who uses free time better than the rest of us, or if the designation is meant to describe one who counsels others.

Then I found a blog (there’s always one of those, isn’t there?). The author of www.theleisurologist.blogspot.com characterizes himself as teacher, student and lover of leisure, who stands in awe and absolute amazement at its power.

Well, OK. I could try to decipher his thinking, but don’t know if I could do it justice, so here, direct from the supporter of spare time: “When we do take time out for leisure, there are often ulterior motives. We play tennis in order to stay fit/lose weight; go dancing so that we can meet other single people; do crossword puzzles to keep our minds sharp.”

This is bad, why? For me, New Yorker equals multitasker. The idea that something I do for pleasure, such as walking to get the air, has added health benefits is a plus.

The Leisurologist’s answer: “It’s possible to enjoy ourselves immensely at the same time as reaping the other benefits; and yet it’s also possible to neglect the enjoyment factor in pursuit of the other pay-offs. And when that happens, even our free time activities can begin to feel like work.”

Fair enough. Sometimes in Manhattan we get so busy that we even have to schedule fun, and anything on a to-do list does have a chore-quality.

I, however, still hold that leisurology is not destined to become a New York phenomenon. Isn’t the whole reason to live here because of the notorious hustle and bustle, as well as the work hard/play hard mentality? We’re the go, go, go city that never sleeps, remember? We don’t do leisure. That’s what the Hamptons are for. 

Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, from The Vineyard Press, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

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