No matter how rushed the day, remember to take out some time for yourself
“What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare”, wrote the poet William Henry Davies in his Songs of Joy and Others, published in 1911. But the sentiment still holds true more than a century later. It really is a ‘poor life’, as Davies wrote, if we have ‘no time to stand and stare’.
But in our modern anxiety about making the most of our time, of making each moment count, we seem to have lost the ability to do that. We race through the day, trying to cram in as much as we can into it: family, work, kids, workout and what-not. We spend the evenings networking so that we stay ahead of the competition. We catch up on news and gossip late into the night. And then we get up the next day and go through the whole sorry cycle again.
Where is the time to ‘stand and stare’ in that kind of tight schedule let alone ‘turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, see how they dance’. We are all too busy dancing around trying to get our work assignments finished, the chores completed, the kids’ homework done, and making sure that dinner’s on the table. God, if we stopped spinning all those plates madly, our entire world would come crashing down our ears!
But wait, pause for just a minute and think: would it really? Or are you just creating needless pressure for yourself by trying to be all things to all people all the time? Would it really hurt to take some time out for yourself? Or are you doing more damage than you realize by ignoring your own needs?
If you feel tired and rundown all the time, you will not be doing be an optimal job on any of the many tasks you have assigned yourself. If you feel put-upon by the demands that the people in your life place upon you, then it won’t be long before you start resenting them. Result: nobody will be happy; neither you nor those around you.
So, in everyone’s interests, just take a time-out. And while you’re at it, take some time out for yourself. Set aside a portion of day – it could be even a measly half hour – when you do something just for yourself. Something that gives you pleasure, something that makes you happy, something that makes you forget all about the demands that life places on you.
It’s tough, I know, to make this kind of change when you have conditioned yourself to believe that the earth would stop turning on its axis if you stepped away from the plate. And after years of considering everybody but yourself, you probably are at a loss as to what you can do with your me-time.
So, just to get you started, here are just a few suggestions. Maybe they will set you free to think up some of your own.
• Take an evening off to go off and chill with your friends (no spouses allowed). Bitch about your co-workers, bosses, husbands/wives, kids, in-laws, whatever you need to get off your chest. Have a drink or two. Ditch the diet and go for the deep-fried stuff. Act as if you’re back in college, out for a good time with your mates. You’ll feel like that by the end of the evening, anyway.
• Have a date night with your spouse, where neither of you is allowed to discuss a) the kids b) the mortgage c) your jobs d) old resentments. Use this time to reconnect with one another, to remember why you fell in love with each other in the first place.
• If you are lucky enough to get driven around, don’t use the commute to catch up on emails or make work calls. Use that time to listen to some of your favourite tracks on your ipod or read a book. Or simply stare out of the window, take in the world, and revel in the rare felicity of being alone with your thoughts.
• A friend of mine swears by this: get up 20 minutes before everyone else in the house, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, read the papers or just stare out of the balcony as a new day dawns. This will give you the equilibrium you need to take the rest of the day in your stride.
• Do one thing everyday that gives you pleasure. It could be anything: getting a manicure; reading to your children; walking in the rain; eating a cupcake; phoning an old friend; soaking in the bath last thing before going to bed; watching an old episode of Frasier; sneaking in a late-night snack once the kids are safely tucked away in bed.
In other words, take time out for yourself. Or, to quote one of the best poets of our age, the songwriter Paul Simon, “Slow down, you’re moving too fast, You’ve got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobble stones, Looking for fun and feeling groovy.”
Say this much for poets; whether it is Davies or Simon, they get it right every time.