I am exercising moral license today. Or, in plain English: treating myself to a day playing hooky.
It’s a beautiful warm late September day in New England, which means that in about a week, the bottom will drop out and the high temperature will barely reach the high 50’s. But that’s a song for another time. Today, I ditched my responsibilities and jumped into my convertible for a day trip to the beach, top down.
I’m sitting in Coffee Obsession in Falmouth, one of my designated happy places, drinking an iced coffee tapping away happily at my keyboard while the locals filter through slowly. Often in long meetings or traffic jams when I let myself drift away, this is where I go. Sometimes it’s nice to actually go for real to the place you go in your mind. My next stop is Surf Drive beach, where I have nothing but headphones, a book (Positively Fifth Street), a beach chair, and a towel. Maybe I’ll get a Diet Coke too. That’s pretty much all I need.
Being here is sort of the height of irresponsibility. It’s Thursday, not Saturday. I don’t have any less to juggle than I did yesterday, and this is going to make tomorrow and next week more painful for sure. I’m still a Sandwich Generation father and son.
On occasion though, I give myself more leeway than I otherwise would for that, a gentle version of what social psychologists call moral license. In theory, it describes a subconscious phenomenon where increased security in one’s self-image tends to make people worry less about the consequences of subsequent behavior. It’s one reason that people who work out tend to drink more. In this case though, it is conscious. I know what the consequences are going to be, and I choose them anyway. They are a fair price to pay for a relaxed cup of coffee, a couple more hours in the sun, a drive or 2 with the top down under a beautiful blue sky. To live. Part of the sandwich generation experience is realizing as your kids grow, and parent ages, that life is short.
I’ve been told more than a few times, at different points in my life, to give myself a break. When I overachieved in high school. When I would make a bad financial decision. When I would beat myself up over work. When I felt stumped by something that was genuinely hard but tortured myself anyway. If you know me, you know that this is a tendency of mine and it is not my best quality. Far from it. In a strange way, being a some-time caregiver for my father has made me better at recognizing it, and occasion, combating it.
I suppose part of me has always wanted to treat myself better. It is strange to realize that my Sandwich Generation membership might be unlocking my ability to do it.