Monday, August 11, 2014

Taste takes time

(Originally posted at OC Tastemakers on April 17, 2013.)

The Tastemaker has had Alexandra Stoddard in mind recently. I have read almost all of her books so far (and am eager to read her latest, The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters). I read Living Beautifully Together this week, and this paragraph spoke to me:
Think of your nurturing time as recess. Teachers have a snack. Soldiers marching get ten-minute breaks every hour so they can march farther. Union workers have coffee breaks. Ministers take time out to meditate, and go on retreats for renewal. You and I need a few regular breaks, too. Take them. Disappear and have a nap or a massage or a walk alone. Learn to feel comfortable with yourself when you escape. Alone, you find your center and feel better not only about yourself but everything else. You need time to think things through and listen to your own voice, because everyone else has something else in mind for you. You can’t react to others’ idea of who and what you are; you have to be authentically you.

Ms. Stoddard is a steadfast proponent of leisure time. Whether it take the form of a two-week vacation in Europe or a quiet half-hour to yourself in bed, taking time for being – not doing – is essential for the good life.
Before starting her own interior design firm, Ms. Stoddard worked for Eleanor McMillen Brown, one of the premier interior designers of the mid-twentieth century. One of Mrs. Brown’s non-negotiable rules was that business shut down at 5:30 in the afternoon. No exceptions. Ms. Stoddard herself once got locked in the office building for working overtime and needed to call the locksmith to get out.

I don’t think that Ms. Stoddard would have been able to grant her special wisdom to her readers – teaching us about taste and beauty and kindness and yes, leisure – if she had been trapped in the office for 80 (or more) hours a week.
What kind of job does not allow you to make significant progress in no more than eight hours a day, 40 per week?

I do love writing and designing, but I cannot do it for cruelly long periods of time. I would burn out. I would lose the care and concern for craft that I need to do my best.
Being tasteful means having not only the means to explore the beauty of the world, but the time as well. An afternoon tea in the garden, complete with dainty sandwiches (and, perhaps, petits-fours from Surfas) can do more for your creativity than a canned “motivational” meeting under fluorescent lights, fueled with fast food.

“Nothing excellent can be done without leisure.” – AndrĂ© Gide

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