Firsties, I am not a morning person. I haven’t been a morning person since I was six years old and had –had– to be up at the butt crack for the Saturday morning lineup of cartoons.
If I remember correctly, the Smurfs came on at 5 a.m. And I could not miss it.
It was probably around middle school that I came to realize the benefits of sleeping in late. Namely, there wasn’t much going on before noon, and most of it didn’t start until I got there anyway.
I was the kid in college who never scheduled a class before 9:00, and I stayed up until at least 1 a.m. every night. Four hours, and I was good to go.
Now I need a comfortable nine hours if I am to feel remotely worthful in the morning, and I try to be in bed by 9:45.
So if I seem a little grumpy today, it’s because I’ve been doing the morning workout thing all week and it usually starts to catch up with me right…about…now.
I go running in the morning out of sheer necessity and nothing more. Those 95° days were damn near killin’ me. Plus, the hubs is home in the evenings now and I am highly unmotivated to exercise when I get home and my best bud just wants to hang out with me.
While it’s not getting any easier to get up at 5:15, I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve actually stuck with it.
And really, I’m none the worse for wear except that sometimes I hit a wall around 3 p.m., in which I stare blankly at my computer screen and cannot find it in me to have a coherent thought. Oh, and I get hungry for lunch around 10 a.m.
My point? If I have one?
It occurred to me that it’s not the morning workout that’s getting to me. It’s that too much of my day is spent at my job.
If I could just get up, eat a decent breakfast, run, make coffee, read the paper, shower, and then go to work, and still be home before dark, I would be blissfully happy.
And it’s not that I dislike my job — I love it. I get to do interesting things, use my talents, be challenged, yada, yada, yada. I just have to do it so damned often.
All because I was born in a place that values work over leisure.
Did I mention we’re going to Europe in 10 days? So it’s been on the brain a lot lately.
Our friends in Germany want to know why we can’t stay longer. We explain that I just started a new job and I don’t have a lot of vacation time yet. But when two months off a year is the norm (and the minimum at that), it’s kind of a hard concept to grasp.
Last time we were in Europe was 2004. Other than, “what is wrong with your president,” the #1 question we were asked by Europeans was, “why do you Americans work so much?”
And the answer is, we don’t know. Somehow this whole idea of the American Dream got mixed up with the American 40 Hour (if you’re lucky) Week.
Read this, from RickSteves.com (who just happens to be my and my husband’s travel idol):
Europeans produce virtually the same per worker hour as Americans, even though their per capita income is about a third less. Why? They work fewer hours. Europeans prefer to work less, earn less, live more simply, and play more.
Let’s look at the numbers. Though the United States and Europe have comparable GDPs (both around $11 trillion), a few things need to be factored in to assess the overall quality of life. GDP figures count the entire economy — productive and non-productive. The United States spends half a trillion dollars ($500 billion) each year on its military (not counting the Iraq War), while Europe spends only $150 billion. The US spends more on legal services and health care. The United States consumes a third more energy. Europe has more doctors per thousand people (3.22 vs. 2.79), while the United States has higher infant mortality and shorter life span. When rated for healthcare fairness among developed nations, the United States was dead last. While the United States spends more per capita than any other nation on health care (over $5,000 per person), we’re one of only two developed nations (with South Africa) that don’t provide health insurance for their citizens. (We have more than 40 million citizens who can’t afford health insurance.) Compared to Europe, the United States has four times the murders per capita. With more than two million Americans in prison (a quarter of the world’s prison population), we have over seven times as many people in prison per capita than Europe .
America clings to the belief that more money and material wealth bring us happiness and the “good life.” But when all of these intangibles are factored into the big picture, you can see why Europeans believe that, while our economies may be roughly equal, their quality of life beats ours.
I’m not “bashing America,” okay? I don’t want to get into a big nasty debate on health care. I don’t want to talk about decriminalizing marijuana. I just think working less makes a whole lot of sense. And if everyone was a little more like me, we’d probably all be a lot happier.