I’ve been sick this week, and whenever I get sick I question my motives for being self-employed. I remember what it was like to be able to call in sick and not worry about it. Sure, there were responsibilities, and there were often stresses associated with taking a sick day (especially under deadlines!). Ultimately, though, my paycheck would come and the organization would survive if I didn’t show up for a few days.
Even though I didn’t feel well, I did whatever I could over the past few days. Monday I worked, Tuesday I polished a pet portrait, yesterday I cleaned the house. Then, in a fit of exhaustion sat on the couch for the rest of the day–arguably where I should have been the whole time.
As I sat there watching Arrested Development for probably the fifteenth time, I got to thinking about the ladies and gentlemen of Victorian England, whom I know quite well through Jane Austen’s delightful novels. Each morning they choose what to do that day–be it wandering through expansive gardens, playing the piano, a bridge game, or taking a few days and traveling to Bath for a holiday. I thought it was unfair that they should have so few worries, and I said so this morning at breakfast with Will.
Will pointed out that that kind of leisure time has its downsides. Without work to preoccupy this leisure class, they invented problems out of sheer boredom. I remember well that the problem of when (and who) a lady will marry was quite an ordeal in Jane Austen’s account.
The choice, then, is whether to suffer daily from boredom, or suffer daily from the stresses and challenges associated with a working life. The choice, that is, in a theoretical sense; as I was not born to wealthy family in the era of Victorian England, I am left to only daydream about how it might feel to be so thoroughly without responsibility.
Preoccupied as I am with my cold and daydreams of Victorian England, I have spent the day humming the song “That Lucky Old Sun”, which wonderfully captures the essence of this envy for leisure. I am hardly the first, and I won’t be the last, to spend an afternoon coveting the lifestyle of those whose days and nights are idle.