This week in Sunday Life I break the Catch-22 bind
Back when I used to work stupidly long hours in a normal office job I would spy people on my way to meetings sitting at cafes – on a Tuesday, at 11am – and I’d think, “How do they have the time? What have they got right that I haven’t?”.
Your sun-basking, Sudoku-doodling café lingerer might be the neighbour who gets to a 5pm yoga class each week, or the friend who can spontaneously take a long weekend when the weather turns nice.
“How do they have time?” you cry out, half in envy, half in contempt. How come they got their life so sorted?
Recently I was invited on a meditation retreat. The idea of withdrawing from life – from email, laptops and planning dinner each night – for five days is something I fantasise about. I have an image: people who go on meditation retreats have interiors magazine-ready homes and organised spice racks and cherubic blonde children and wear leather-soled shoes. You see (my logic goes), they have their life sorted.
So they’re able to.
Personally, I don’t know that my life will ever be sorted. And I’ll never have blonde kids. So this week I took the plunge, left my iphone at home, and signed up to the retreat. Regardless.
Goodness. You’d think I was heading off to Siberia. Or whatever other outpost where Vodafone doesn’t have coverage. Of course, it coincided with my busiest period all year. Sitting in the hall with a dozen others, I fretted as my brain slowed to a blunt, foggy stop. It rained outside. I clung with white knuckles. But eventually I had to give in to the atrophy.
On day three the following occurred to me. Have you read Catch-22? I haven’t. I think it was a real early “70s thing when people had time for holidays and dense reads. But I know the gist. A bomber pilot wants to quit his job due to the inherent dangers. But he’s denied because the fact he understands the danger means he’s sane, and only mad pilots can be relieved. So he has to keep flying, even though it’s insane to do so.