Remember the story of Goldilocks, the little girl who, somehow lost in a forest, happens upon the home of three fastidious bears and makes herself at home? However, she can’t seem to get comfortable at first, finding that, after trial and error, only one of these bears has her best interests at heart, or at least makes for the most comfort. The soup is too hot, too cold, and then finally just right. The chairs are too hard, too soft, and then just right. Even the beds fit the pattern, a moral to us that we can go through many challenges in life before realizes what it’s all about, what’s going to fit us best.
Goldilocks tried to fit the bears into a paradigm she had set for herself, but only one of them fit into that ideal, the one that fit right into the average,the one that strove for moderation. I read somewhere once that there was nothing wrong with most things, except that as human beings we tend to over-indulge whenever possible. I thought about that one for a long time and tried to come up with a challenge to it so as to prove the statement false. There’s a list somewhere around here.
- Spending time with friends
- Listening to music
- Being with family
This list was incredibly difficult to make, and almost as soon as it was done I realized that even these pursuits were best done in moderation for a host of different reasons, not the least of which was that life requires much more from us as individuals, that responsibilities preclude us from doing these five things to excess. Oh, if that weren’t so!
I think back to the most free time I ever had, as a kid on school vacations, what I guess people would call staycations now, because most times we didn’t go anywhere. My mother usually still had to work, so sometimes she would bring us in with her, and we would go entire days coming up with things to do in her office. Now, my mom worked in this huge old building at Temple University, and there was a hallway that absolutely no one used anymore. It was a veritable smorgasbord of places to play hide-and-seek, of old machines to dust off and use, and of imaginations running wild.
We would go there and enjoy ourselves for the first hour or two, and it helped when some other workers’ children were there as well to slot into those inventive moments, but after that it started to get boring. It’s interesting, but we think if we have an endless amount of time and space that we will enjoy it, that we will never get bored. That’s not true, and one of the reasons why moderation is best in all things, even when it comes to free time.
Sometimes I will go into the kitchen while my wife is cooking something, and put my arms around her waist. But I’ve learned to do that for a moment and then leave her to her own devices again because too much time there, in that position, and she can’t move around to keep doing what she was doing, she can’t make progress. And I know it’s not because she doesn’t want to be around me, but there’s a time and place for everything.
Life is tricky because it involves a complicated balancing act, one that requires more agility from us the older, the more mature, we get, when responsibilities mount and free time is a real premium. What we do to fill those thinner free spaces in our lives becomes extremely important, making moderation all the more necessary in what we do and in how we do it. It means we have to make whatever we do in those moments count more. We have to truly enjoy those moments because there are less of them.
I think back to those weeks and summers off as a kid, the knowledge that each and every “next day” was going to be wide open, that I could do whatever I wanted, and I think of how I wasted so much time doing absolutely nothing. Don’t waste your time. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years, because your time is precious. My time is precious, and moderating what I’m going to do with it makes complete sense.
But don’t let that stop you from being spontaneous on occasion. Just do it in moderation. And stay out of forests.