Are you ready?
There it is friends. It is not a novel notion. We hear it all the time-- that we live in an overscheduled society, that our children have lost the ability to creatively fill "free" time because they don't have any, that our running around and the stress it induces causes health problems, that we are actually less connected to one another because we spend too little time just being with one another...I think we all know these things, but it seems so hard to interrupt the frenzied cycle and simply have time to do what it takes to bring the craziness to a halt...to just be...to be o.k. with just being.
It seems that we rush from thing to thing, event to event and then, when we are in between things and events, even though we have yearned for the precious downtime we become unsure of what to do with it. We become restless and perhaps start to feel a little uncomfortable in our restlessness. I know, for myself, that slowing down often makes me feel lazy, self-indulgent or at the very least, like I'm missing out on something.
For the most part though, I will say of myself, that as busy as I can get I am also very deliberate about building rest time or downtime into my schedule. It feels like a necessary part of survival for me. I have been doing quite a bit of reading about the term HSP or Highly Sensitive Person. I'm not going to get into all of the details of that today (you can click on the link if you'd like to read more), but it has shed some light on some of the pieces of my life and personality that I have often wondered about.
For example, I take a nap EVERY day. For as long as I can remember I have been taking a nap EVERY day. Before children, I would take a short nap after work, before I made dinner. Now that I have children I nap every day when they nap, usually for about 45 minutes, and then I have a short period of time in which I read or blog or just rest until they get up. Sometimes I start dinner, but usually I use the time to do things I am passionate about, things that recharge my batteries, like writing, or praying or reading. I don't clean or do laundry or tackle my to-do list...I do those things with the girls when they are awake. I use their nap time to just be. It is probably one of the most important components of my life as a mother.
Highly sensitive or not, we all need time to just be. If you don't need a nap, you should feel free to garden, or journal, or sew...whatever relaxes and refreshes you. In our society people do tend to look at you a little oddly when you tell them that you nap everyday, but I've stopped caring what they think. They may try to make me feel lazy, like I should be more productive, or like I am in some way inferior because I nap to get through the day. It is a pretty anti-American culture thing to do after all. But, hey, everyone has their coping mechanisms and at least I'm not damaging my lungs or my liver or my checkbook while I nap to cope with life...right?!
Here's the deal friends...naps RE-CHARGE me. As I am reading about those who are highly sensitive I am learning that some people are simply biologically wired in a way to become more easily overstimulated by life at a faster pace. We live in an incredibly stimulating society-- t.v., marketing, advertising, books, grocery store lights and options, internet, facebook, twitter, i-tunes, i-phones, i-pads, Target, Wal-Mart, mega toystores...there are a bazillion ways to fill our days...and those of our children for that matter.
It is easy to become overwhelmed (highly sensitive or not!) or overstimulated by just being out in the world and running our errands. When we are mothers on top of it, the whirring circle of demands coming at us is tiring as well...My prescription for dealing with it all is my napping and the brief downtime that follows. I have joked with others that I am like a computer that only works if you shut me off for 45 minutes a day and then reboot me...all files settle into place, I can process what has happened and have energy to meet the demands inputted for the remainder of the day.
So, in conclusion, I want to encourage you all to give yourselves permission to rest, to nap, to find time each day to just BE. Pray, read your bible, go for a walk, read a magazine. Whatever recharges your batteries, and DON'T feel guilty about it. For one, because YOU need it. Two, because your children need you to have that time so you can care for them better when they are awake and moving around. Three, because we need to set examples to our children that it is ok to just be...to cultivate who they are at home in unscheduled spaces...to simply color, or paint or dance, whatever their little hearts motivate them to do. (That is one reason I was so happy to have pulled Ava out of preschool this year...She is highly sensitive like her momma and simply needed unorganized time to just follow her creativity and whims for another year before people start dictating how she needs to use her time all day.)
I'm going to leave you with a passage from a WONDERFUL book I'm reading. My friend Sara, who is on of the most kindred souls I know, sent it to me for Christmas because it spoke to her to eloquently so she knew it would certainly speak to me. The book is called Mitten Strings for God, Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison. While I would love to excerpt the entire first chapter here I will settle for the last few paragraphs...
We have all fallen victim at one time or another to the relentless cycle of our children's playdates and after-school lessons, to push for their academic and athletic accomplishments, and to their endless desires...The adage of our age seems to be "Get more out of life!"...
...But in our efforts to make each moment "count," we seem to have lost the knack of appreciating the ordinary. We provide our children with so much that the extraordinary isn't special anymore, and the subtle rhythms of daily life elude us altogether. We do too much and savor too little. We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children's days with activities, and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead...
...Over the years I have learned to quit speeding through life, but it is a lesson I must take up and learn again every day, for the world conspires to keep us all moving fast. I have found that it is much easier for me to stay busy than to make a commitment to empty time-- not surprising, perhaps, in a culture that seems to equate being busy with being alive. Yet if we don't attend to life's small rituals, if we can't find time to savor the "dailiness" then we really are impoverished. Our agendas starve our souls.
..My deeper hope is that each of my sons will be able to see the sacred in the ordinary; that they, too, will grow up knowing how to "love the dailiness." So, for their sakes as well as my own, I remind myself to slow down and enjoy the day's doings. The daily rhythms of life, the humble household rituals, the nourishment I provide-- these are my offerings to my children, given with love and gratefully received.
With those words in mind, figure out what it means to slow down for you and promise yourself you'll allow time to do those very things this week.