As the contents of my wallet shrinks, I find that my weekend hours have expanded. Though intellectually I know the same 48 hours exist no matter how much I've bankrolled, emotionally I feel I've turned up a heretofore unknown inverse relationship between prosperity and free time.
In years past, I dreamed of leisurely weekends filled with family time, maybe just taking in a ball game or show. But we sandwiched musicals and Mets games between trips to the dry cleaners, pet supply store, health food store, sporting goods store, book store, department store, supermarket, and those stores that sell the gadgets and gizmos for kitchens and baths you didn't know existed until you got there. Saturdays and Sundays flew by as every retail establishment became just another spot where sales clerks made countless twenty dollar bills vanish without so much as a rabbit-filled magician's hat or a distractingly lovely assistant to entertain us.
The buy goods-spend money square dance followed the same steps each weekend, starting with do-si-dough from the ATM and a lot of sashaying and circling into and out of every possible mall, emporium, market, and showroom. Our money and our energy would run out sometime during the weekend, and as the purchased merchandise barely carried us through the week, we'd strap on our dancing shoes and begin the promenade again the following Saturday.
Look up the word "errand" and you'll find "task", "duty", "chore" and "job", words that covey no excitement or anticipation, just the kind of drudgery that linked me to a chain of must-do's each weekend. After years of lamenting like Leo Bloom that there was "no way out", my buy goods-spend money square dance stopped cold. Business took a nosedive; the income I enjoyed in the past ceased, and my dancing shoes were stuffed in the back of the closet. Remarkably, my wallet ended each Sunday with just about the same amount of money it started with on Saturday!
In the quiet of my presently unhurried weekends, I ponder where all my errands went. Based on retail sales, I sadly note that few have cut in to take my place at the dance. But as I take stock of how much time and money I wasted on frequently fruitless pursuits of consumer fulfillment, I am amazed that I believed I needed so many things. How did I convince myself that each and every thing on my endless list was vitally necessary to get my family and me through the week? Admittedly, I sometimes still think being without resources is a bad dream, so I cannot yet proclaim I've achieved cosmic contentment after ceasing my careless consumerism. Nevertheless, as I thoroughly enjoy waking up Saturday mornings without the usual twin afflictions of a bad mood and a knot in my stomach, I'm realizing the shedding of the dreaded errands is the end of my nightmare, not the beginning.