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59. Vacation and Free Time

It seems obviously necessary and important, but we seem to have some kind of disability in asserting our needs and rights for adequate vacation and free time.  We work hard.  We try to do right by our people and society.  But it takes time off to be a balanced, whole, healthy and spiritual human being.

 

On average, U.S. people try to spend about 8 hours a day sleeping and 8 hours a day working.  Many work longer.  That leaves maybe 8 hours a day for everything else.  Many of us spend at least 2 driving.  We typically spend another 2 eating, which is good if we use it on good food and water and connecting with each other.  That leaves 4 hours a day for cultivating our values, hobbies, character, health, fitness, social lives, shared government, children, family, romantic lives, integrity, spirits, meditation practices, art and music, continuing education, and for entertainment, play and fun together.  Most of us spend most of that watching TV, buying and consuming things, and frittering away time on electronic devices.  Screen time consumes an average of 11 hours per day for a U.S. person, which hardly seems possible.[1]

Most U.S. people get a measly, pitiful and embarrassing 2 weeks of vacation out of 52 weeks in a year.[2]  It takes about 2 weeks for most of us just to let go of stress and tension and to shuck other baggage accumulated in the other 50 weeks and become present and available for other things.  Then, we go straight back to work, without doing any of those things.  Even more unfortunately, many of us find that we have consumed much of that vacation during the rest of the year, on time out for sick children, running errands we don’t have time for otherwise, maintaining our homes, and taking a badly needed day off now and then for emergency restoration. 

Many U.S. people don’t even take the vacation we earn, and, inexplicably, many of us are proud of that.  In 2016, 54% of U.S. employees had unused time off, surrendering 662 million vacation days; a third of workers were not granted paid sick leave; a quarter didn’t have any personal time off at all; and 66% said they continued to work while on holiday.[3]  In 2018, 55% of U.S. employees didn’t use all of their vacation days, forfeiting 768 million earned vacation days, over 2 million years of vacation time.[4]  Seriously, this is badly messed up.  It is doing us harm.

Vacation and free time are as important to health and well-being as sleep.  Many of us are vacation and free-time deprived, and we suffer from it, as we suffer from sleep deprivation.  It makes us tired, harms performance, makes us feel bad, harms our immune systems and makes us vulnerable to illness, impairs our patience and understanding, deprives our children and families, makes it difficult to develop and maintain our personal relationships, saps our energy, makes us irritable, steals us away from presence, cheats us of experience and wisdom, and dampens our creativity, caring, wisdom, love and spirit. 

Do we do this out of ignorance, stupidity, fear, anxiety, powerlessness?  Every year, we create new labor-saving devices and systems that are supposed to make us more efficient and save time.  What happens to that time we are saving if we never use it?  Scratchy science films in the 1960s asserted:  at our rates of innovation and development of labor-saving technologies, by dawn of the new millennium, the year 2000, our greatest problem as a society would be how to appropriately manage all our leisure.  Yet, here we are, almost two decades after that.  Where is all of our “saved” vacation and leisure time?  Huh?  What happened?  How did we get cheated?

If we are going to make things better, we need time to do that.  We are zombie riding our lives, culture and social systems around and around the toilet bowl in a dizzying slow flush of decay, degeneration, exhaustion, exploitation, short-sightedness, anxiety, struggle, suffering, greed and despair.  If we want to avoid disappearing in the hole, we have to stop and make time to change.  We have to become healthy and whole, restore ourselves, think and experience for ourselves, examine our values and priorities, develop character, integrity and wisdom, and be, do and behave differently, ASAP.

 

Vacation and free time are essential.  We have to claim time for other things, no matter the costs.

 

[1] “Time Flies:  U.S. Adults Now Spend Nearly Half a Day Interacting with Media, Nielsen, July 31, 2018, https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/time-flies-us-adults-now-spend-nearly-half-a-day-interacting-with-media.print.html

[2] “Here’s how many paid vacation days the typical American worker gets”, Abigail Hess, CNBC, July 6, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/05/heres-how-many-paid-vacation-days-the-typical-american-worker-gets-.html

[3] “Trump's 17-day holiday causes a stir”, BBC News, August 4, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40829060

[4] “A record 768 million US vacation days went to waste last year, a study says”, Allen Kim, CNN, August 19, 2019, https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/unused-vacation-days-trnd/index.html

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