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The Art of Frittering

I am an expert at time frittering so I thought I would write a little “How To” essay on the art of frittering. This at least might be helpful to someone and therefore negate that my day was actually frittered at all. Well, so be it since I seem hardwired to want to be helpful and useful and to contribute meaningful things for the betterment of whirled peas and climate change. Also the rights and political position of women, sex slavery and gun control to name a few things I am concerned about and really want to help with.

In fact there are so many important and dire things facing humankind at this particular time in history, and there is endless information about it all, that often if feels like all I know how to do is sign the petitions which show up like clockwork in my inbox. And by the way, did you know that these activist groups (including the NRA) have analyzed when you are most likely to respond to them and when you are too overwhelmed or involved in online scrabble or pornography that you won’t give them the time of day.

I have also made endless vows to start my day in a holy manner, meditating or walking barefoot on the earth and saying all my many gratitudes out loud. And sometimes I do this. After my coffee. And sometimes after I check my email and delete the email from Gap where I didn’t even mean to order those Yoga pants. It just kind of happened.

But anyhow, I digress, but not really, as frittering is actually a close cousin of digression and therefore intimately connected to the subject of this essay. So, back to frittering, defined by Oxford Dictionary as "to waste time, money or energy on trifling matters." The etymology of frittering is likely from “whittling” and refers to the little pieces or shards that fall away as one whittles. There is also the potato fritter, the corn fritter, etc.—but that is different and a digression not worth mentioning. And of course I looked these things up online rather than keeping my attention on writing, which is another fundamental principle of the art of frittering. It’s kind of like canoeing and going down all the tributaries to see if by any chance you’ll end up anywhere you thought you wanted to go.

Some people have very organized brains. My husband, for instance, sees things inside his in perfect outline form and when he sits down to write he turns out 27 pages in one sitting and it’s all perfectly rationally sequential and is, of course, brilliant and useful to his legions of students who are all committed to doing important and desperately-needed world-changing things. Of course, he went to Harvard and took LSD every weekend for several years. I had just met him and can attest that almost every Tuesday, when he had come down from tripping and gotten a little sleep, he would skim read 20 books and write a 40 page paper in 48 hours. Somewhere in there, he found time to play a piano in a rock band.

I have, you may have guessed, had several moments over the last 40 years where I was hatefully jealous at his super-duper organized brain and said some disparaging things about him being a "mutant" and "so lost inside his own head that he stepped over the laundry basket five times without even noticing I’d left it there for him to trip over." There was also the time I hauled him into a geneticist’s office to see if I could have some of his brain cells transplanted onto mine so I too could think in outlines and stay on track and also I was hoping I might do less frittering.

Frittering now referring to both fragments left over when trying to actually make something and the fine art of doing things you don’t actually care about.

There are three main categories of frittering and two main sub-categories. This will be my attempt at an outline so I can finish this feeling satisfied and useful.

Key Points about the Art of Frittering

1. FF stands for Frustrated Frittering wherein at some point in the frittering process you actually notice that you have gotten off track and that none of what you had intended to do has happened and you had really wanted to or needed to do it. Usually this is accompanied by feelings of remorse, depression and outright self-loathing. Often followed by some alcohol or channel surfing. This is actually not sustainable long term and involves fracking. So, for $9.99, you can fix this about yourself by reading my previous essay, “How to Love Yourself no Matter What an Unproductive Dilettante You Actually Are.”

2. SF stands for Satisfied Frittering, which is not actually frittering because your goal has been to veg-out and be mindless and undirected for actual fun and pleasure. This kind of frittering has no guilt attached to it and does not require the prefix of “Well I was on vacation so…”

Buddhists actually have a name for a variant of this spiritual practice, called aimless wandering. Moses also did this practice.

3. ASF stands for Advanced Satisfied Frittering which actually transcends satisfaction or dissatisfaction because there is no longer any “I’ that is doing or not doing anything and there is no attachment to anything happening or not happening. Sometimes I think I understand this as there really doesn’t seem to be any me here and I have no memory of having walked up the stairs or what I went up there to get.

ASF is about living without a goal in mind, in the present moment. It is about not striving to be somewhere you aren’t yet, and not about mentally regurgitating where you have been. It’s about being present, now in the moment, which is definitely possible when frittering, but not guaranteed. So frittering can actually be a very high state full of radiant emptiness and no-mind which, as I understand it is somewhat different than being mindless. But we’ll address this nuance in the 2nd installment of this series that will be published as an ebook if I ever get around to it.

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