Excuse me if I rant, but I have been thinking a lot lately about how fast my life is moving–and how fast the lives of all my friends are moving–and about how little relaxation time there is in my life–or in theirs. And here is what I’ve concluded: Americans are crazy, and we are in love with work. We work and work and work, and we never slow down. Even when we relax, we’re working. Take a look at your local YMCA and just watch the testosterone-driven people frantically getting their hour-long daily work-outs completed–and see if you agree with me.
I really think that other countries have it way over on us. At least, they have rituals that write relaxation into the story of their daily lives. Germans take breaks and go to the local coffee shop and sit and eat a piece of cake with whipped cream (Schlag) on it. People in India take long breaks in the afternoon to sleep off the heat. English people have their tea breaks. What do we have? : the frantic rush to Starbucks to grab a fancy coffee drink that we don’t even have time to drink before we go to work and work, work, work all day, staying afterwards half the time to finish up some project that has kept us glued to our computer all day, needing coffee to stay awake.
And what about those other rituals that countries have for keeping things in balance on a bigger scale? Europeans go on vacation for long, leisurely weeks. (Americans take maybe their designated two weeks, at the most–and there have been studies that show that many people don’t even take their allotted vacation time.) Scandinavian countries have systemized, months-long maternity and paternity leaves. Our system usually forces us to get right back into work, as soon as possible.
What is wrong with us?
I often reflect how I wish Americans were more thoughtful and introspective about the direction their lives are taking–especially our politicians and leaders–but how can I expect that of anyone, when no one has time to sit and reflect on anything? There is the subway to catch, the lunch to pack, the kid to pick up from school, the dinner to fix, the soccer game to attend. And, on and on and on, like little robots on a giant treadmill that keeps showing us the same scenery, over and over.