Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Free-time Zone

What time zone do you live in? Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, or Pacific? Some accuse me of living in the O-Zone at times. That's okay, let them hurl their insults. Because where I am really dwelling at such times is in the FREE-TIME ZONE.

Yes, that's what I said--the free-time zone. The zone where schedules fly out the window and daydreaming zooms in. Time for creativity and imagination to flow. Time to kickback and do absolutely nothing. Summertime, one might think. But, alas, all too many are consumed by their daytimer, even in the summer.

"Oh, wait a minute," my friend says over the phone. "Let me grab my little black schedule book and see if I can squeeze in a lunch date. Umm, I have to take Jenny to gymnastics camp tomorrow. And oh, Johnny  has a play date at the neighbor's house on Friday. Maybe next week? Oh, wait a minute, we're going out of town...."

"Uh, Mary," I break in on my friend's frantic search through her day planner. "Just call me when you have a free moment to go out somewhere and chat."

I hang up the phone and wonder, What is it about the new millenium that requires play to be scheduled? Even today's kids have their lives scheduled to the hilt. Free time just to be, to dream, to create is scheduled away. And the sad part about it is that many parents think this busyness is healthy, productive, and the best way to nurture their children's growth and education. Well, God bless them. If this lifestyle is the legacy of the baby boomer generation, then I want no part of it. Perhaps that hint of rebellion in my spirit is one thing that led us to home school our kids. Flexibility. Freedom to discover. Time for the girls to think their own thoughts and form their own ideas, without someone constantly looking over their shoulders or telling them what to think. Guidance, yes. Books, yes. An occasional class or scheduled field trip, certainly. But in addition to all of that, especially in the younger years, large doses of FREE TIME. For that is what fosters great contributors to our society. Just look at Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein. Enough said.

When I was growing up in the carefree, laid-back mountains of Tennessee, my friends and I roamed freely from neighborhood to neighborhood. Up hills. Down hills. In the attic. Up trees. Down trees. Sometimes, we hid behind a large bush and set up housekeeping. Or played tea party in the kitchen, sipping "Kool-Aid tea" from tiny plastic cups and saucers. Later, we mixed water with food coloring or "special" berries we had collected from our mountain jaunts in our homemade laboratory in the tool shed. We could transform just as easily into cops and robbers on our speeding bikes or construct a "tent" with blankets between two chairs. In the evening, as the sun slid quietly behind the mountain, we caught fireflies and collected them in glass jars with holes in the lid. Late into the night, neighbors could hear us hollering and running after the little illusive creatures, until our parents called us in. Reluctantly, we trudged to the house with our jars, put them on our bedroom shelves, and watched them flicker on and off as we drifted to sleep.

The next day was just as eventful. Oh, nothing planned in particular. No car rides to the zoo or soccer practice. Just idly lying in the grass, making shapes out of the clouds overhead. Or rolling down the grassy hill, until the world spun all around us. Then at dusk, as the sun crept behind the mountain, we ran for our jars to see who could trap the most fireflies, while our folks talked in the front yard about important things, like world affairs and how they felt the President was doing running the country.

I'm so thankful my parents lived in the FREE-TIME ZONE. They left a treasured legacy to me. There have been those moments when I have cowered under the world's pressure to conform and move away from the free-time zone. But I simply shake myself and remember that even though I am grown now (though some would argue otherwise), I have not moved. I still live in the free-time zone. And though many things require a schedule, much in life does not. When I remember that, then I am free to stop and sniff a rose, sit on the deck and dream, or stay in bed late and pull the covers over my own little world. That is the stuff of greatness. Without it, folks suffocate, wither, and the world spits out one carbon copy after another.

So, my dear and probably overly busy friend, what time zone do you live in? If you feel captive to your time zone, why not break loose from your schedule today and travel to the FREE-TIME ZONE, even if only for an hour or two? You will come away refreshed and ready to tackle that day planner again, maybe with some new ideas to implement.

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