I am daydreaming about daydreaming. This is for me delightful, as I don’t have time to daydream anymore. I am a mother, a worker, a friend, a daughter, and a sister. People rely on me for, to narrow it down to the essentials, love and work. There is no time to sit back and allow my mind to float aimlessly from here to there.
In this I am not unusual. I am merely modern. I live surrounded by bells and beepers and buzzers. If I just sit back and stare at the wall—and this is a good thing to do, for you’ll see a crack that reminds you of a stream that reminds you of a river that reminds you of a steamer that reminds you of a picture you saw when you were five—the reverie is soon interrupted by the rattle and hum, by the beeps and bings and buzzes. The fax, the computer, the call from the car pool …
Sometimes I blame technology, which was supposed to make communication easier, and has, but has also made it more prevalent. I used to have a fantasy:
I would leave my life and go to Africa, on safari, to the deepest heart of the jungle, where no one could find me. I lost this fantasy when I heard of a woman who’d been beeped while in a Jeep surrounded by lions. They can find you anywhere.
Sometimes I blame feminism, which was supposed to make us workers in the world, and did. Workers respond to bells and buzzers; that is their job. But remember all those novels from the sixties about those wasted suburban lives, those poor women with nothing to do, no profession, just going to the country club and drinking too much and falling into tawdry and meaningless affairs? I used to think: Those poor women. Now I think: Those were the days!
Those women got to daydream. Then, of course, they passed out, but still: They got to think about nothing. Which means they got to think about everything.
All this sturdy purposefulness we now have has affected even our children. They are so busy, so scheduled. When I was a kid, a summer day consisted of two possibilities: going out and coming in. Afternoons were spent lying on the floor of my bedroom and staring at particles of dust as they swirled silently in shafts of sunlight. My mind would playas a child’s plays, going from dust to dance. And when your mind plays, there is always a benefit because your mind is smarter than you are and does more surprising things, such as seeing the connection between the leaves on a tree and the spokes on a bike: turning, turning . . .
I once read that when director/producer Steven Spielberg was a child, he liked to sit on his bed and stare. He had little toys and dolls, and as he stared at them, they would talk to each other and do surprising things. Years later his imagination had grown so strong, it came to fill the minds of generations of children.
But now we don’t let kids waste time. For many reasons—ambition, the knowledge that the world is more competitive, a desire to keep them off the mean streets. We schedule our children within an inch of their lives. Now after school they have violin lessons, Chinese class, hours of homework …
A while back I noticed my son held his book bag like a briefcase. He was only eight and yet he had a demanding life. One day I overheard him on the phone arranging a play date. “Monday’s no good for me, how’s Thursday?” So I asked him how he’d feel about doing less. And he said that sounded just fine.
Now there is religion class on Tuesday and otherwise: nothing. When he comes home from school, he just . . . comes home. He throws his book bag on the chair and himself on the couch. Sometimes he reads. Sometimes he stares. Sometimes he plays with his 2,346 action figures. I have peeked in and seen him watch the sunlight swirling. And I think this is good.
Years from now it may make it harder for him to get into a good college, for he will not be fluent in Chinese computer hockey skills. But perhaps his mind will be more creative, less exhausted, more playful; and he will have had a childhood. This seems to me a worthwhile chance to take.
Now I am working on me. I complained to friends recently that I have no time to think about nothing, and one suggested learning meditation. She goes to a clean and spare apartment of a yoga instructor who teaches her to empty her mind.
Do I want to pay someone to help me do what I used to do easily and for free? Sure I do. Like a purposeful nineties person, I think: If I schedule daydreaming and pay for it, maybe I will do it. I will sit in a lotus position and stare at the wall and notice a crack that turns into a stream that turns into a river that turns into—bzzz, bzzz, beep—sorry, can’t finish that thought, got some e-mail, gotta go.