Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.
[Or a parent during the holidays]
Nietzche – Human, All too Human [embellished by me]
Before I had children I never really felt needed. Not a bad thing. It was a loose and free time. Life, aside from the grind of work, was lived in pencilled appointments and meet-ups. Arbitrary happenings that I could float into and out of according to my whim.
Nobody would miss me if I wasn’t there. I was a replicable entity. Loved, unquestionably; my parents and my family are loving people but truthfully, they did not need me. Life was mine to be lived. I was free to do as I wished when I wished.
Yesterday, as I padded about our house gathering together P.E. kits and school bags, checking itineraries and ensuring uniforms were ready, I found myself, for a moment, lamenting all that freedom I once had. I think every parent does that, especially after a gruelling December with a tightly bridled schedule of festive activity. I was looking forward to today. The back-to-school day which would gift me a few sacred hours of me-time. Last night, as I tackled the mountain of ironing through sighs of sufferance I fantasised about how today would be a day of absolute inconsequential nothingness.
This morning, after the school run, after the dog walk, after clearing away the breakfast dishes, I took my first breath of the free air that I had longed so much for yesterday.
I was surprised to find the lightness of its airy nectar salted by wafts of forgotten melancholy.
I started to remember what it truly felt like to be as free as I once was. To have on tap the opportunity for hedonism whenever I wished for it. It was, I remembered, a simultaneously glorious and empty state to be in. Back then, for example, I recall I didn’t really bother with Christmas decorations, and nobody bothered that I didn’t. If I was meeting up with friends, we would go out somewhere. If we wanted to see a beautiful Christmas tree, we would trot into the city and take in the sights of festive furnishings done well. There was no reason to put in the effort at home. Home, back then, was a place of no more substance than where I slept.
I was untethered by homeliness. I was, you could argue, free of it.
As I curled up on the sofa in my kitchen, drawing my red comforter around me, sipping and savouring the warmth from the golden breakfast tea in my favourite sunshine yellow mug I started to think about freedom and of the quote by Nietzche headlined above. It is a quote I often think about when I am reflecting on freedom, which I perversely do quite a lot. Today, I googled it to look at it properly; the gift of time, I guess, allows you to do such things. I realised as I looked at the words on my screen that I had subconsciously supplemented the quote with two of my own words. Words that don’t actually appear anywhere in the quote or in the adjacent text. Those words I had added were: “At least.”
Whoever does not have [at least] two-thirds of his day for himself is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.
That addition, I think to myself, says something about my mindset. It tells me that I am engaged in a fight to carve out freedom for myself. I have a yardstick set that is telling me that unless I have “at least” two-thirds of my day to myself, I am a slave. Maybe, I think to myself, I have made myself a slave by giving myself a quantifiable objective with regard to freedom. Can you become a slave to freedom? It is undoubtedly an oxymoron, but to me today, there is a poetic truth running through it.
Nietzche is wrong, I vainly think to myself as I stroke my beautiful dog, who has curled in next to me on the sofa. Yes, I have a life frenetically full of obligation, no more so than over the holidays, but in all of that servitude, I remain free because, when all is said and done, I enjoy it and, moreover, I choose it. On reflection, there are only the briefest of moments, like yesterday and the weariness of the P.E. kit search and the threat of an ironing avalanche where I lose the joy of the obligation I have chosen. Most of the time, I conclude, far more than two-thirds of the time, in fact, I am free. I am just busy.
As if to enforce my conclusion, a quote by Gandhi circles into my consciousness as I get up and begin to empty the dishwasher and think about what I am going to make for dinner tonight.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Indeed. Would life hold any meaning if it weren’t for other people needing us?
Am I gaslighting myself?
In the wide world of everything, does it even matter?
To commemorate this bittersweet moment I decide to make for my lunch a wonderfully moreish combination of toasted panettone topped with salted avocado. The combination of sweet and salty seems fitting (plus I have a load of left-over panettone to use up as nobody likes it in our house except for me!)
1 large slice of fruity panettone cut thick and toasted.
1 large avocado, mashed and seasoned with a good scattering of sea salt (or any salt, to be honest). Please keep tasting here as you go. Getting the balance of sweetness and salt is artful. Personally, I like to use flakes of sea salt because then, as I eat it, the saltiness arrives in bursts. Each to their own though!
Spread the avocado mix onto the toast and enjoy the bittersweet flavours any way you please, but I do recommend accompanying it with a large mug of unsweetened English breakfast tea.
(Please let me know if you can taste the freedom.)
With Love CJ xxx
My new blog can be found at the following link:
I have no real clue as to what I am doing as yet, but I will get there!
I shall continue to post here to the feast community, too, and do as other people do so well - extend my reach across platforms...
About the Creator
Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions