Out of the Office: Forget not the little joys in life

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter recently about how difficult it is, and how deliberate one must be, about spending time with friends or even simply setting aside time for yourself to have fun or do enjoyable activities outside of the daily work/life grind.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t give my own typical routine a bit of a side-eye after reading one particular comment on the matter that resonated a little too much with me.

When we’re young, doing fun things or hanging out with friends is easy — or at least, easier. Childhood is almost always engineered around activities that will keep said child occupied, and between school and parents who make the plans, there’s plenty of opportunity to break routine and, dare I say, even partake in a smidgen of spontaneity.

That virtually disappears with adulthood, I and apparently a significant number of other people have found. It’s even more difficult, perhaps, in the current clime where one is nearly required to dedicate themselves wholly to the grindstone or even work multiple jobs just to be able to afford regular living expenses like housing or food.

I’ll leave aside that particular soapbox for the purposes of this column.

The point, right now, is that adulting is hard and trying to escape for at least a moment from the routine of adulting is even harder. Even if we have the time, who has the energy? And who wants to coordinate schedules with your friends who are also struggling to find either the time or the energy to carve out a little “free” time for themselves?

That’s where we must be deliberate — not just in making time, but finding ways to deliberately enjoy the small things and breathe in those small moments in between everything else. Pablo Neruda knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “You start dying slowly/ If you do not listen to the sounds of life,/ If you do not appreciate yourself … You start dying slowly/ If you become a slave of your habits,/ Walking everyday on the same paths…/ If you do not change your routine.”

We must be deliberate. Though sometimes, when schedules are involved, we also just have to grab onto luck when we chance across it.

I’d been trying to coordinate with a friend for I don’t even remember how many weeks, at this point, to visit her place and relieve her of some raspberry plants with which she has been overabundantly blessed. The stars finally aligned last Tuesday, when we both had a bit of time after work before the demands of dinner and the regular evening routine, and the weather was delightfully sunny and just about warm.

She led me down to the wild berry patch, which was nestled beneath a grove of trees blooming with elderflower, and I took a moment to close my eyes and just breathe in the green air. The place was delightfully woodsy, and even tucked away in the middle of a residential area, it was hard to remember that the city center was perhaps a minute’s drive away.

She wasn’t kidding when she’d told me, when we first started talking about the transfer of raspberry plants, just how many of them she had. I somehow still managed to underestimate the number — which turned out to be virtually uncountable.

She lent me a shovel and I dug out four plants from the soft, rich soil, transferring them and their roots and some dirt into buckets I’d brought along for that purpose. I did not take any plants from the actual dedicated berry patch, but rather from the rest of the yard where they’d sprung up, unruly and unrestrained.

We chatted while I worked — the nature of the yard, and having only one shovel between us, lent to not having enough space or means for two to work at the same time. I didn’t mind. The ground was easy, and there was a satisfaction in choosing and harvesting the plants myself. Also, I was able to foist my coat on her when it got too hot, which she graciously accepted and held for me.

Overall, the task and the talking took about two hours and then we were done. Our respective evening routines were calling to us by that point, impatient at being put off any longer. But I went back to it with a lighter feeling and a happy sense of accomplishment, both from the presence of four new raspberry plants in the back of my car and from being able to spend some time in the presence of my friend.

It really is the small things that make up living. Future plans remain nebulous yet, but I’ll carry that good day with me for a long while.