Yesterday I took a huge leap and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. It took some planning and a lot of internal pep talking, but, I. Did. It.
Are you ready for it? It’s a biggie: I did nothing—N-O-T-H-I-N-G—all day. From the time I got home from delivering the Tornado to preschool until I had to ready myself for the invasion of the hungry boys—9:30 a.m. until 2:15 p.m.—I did no chores, correspondence, cleaning, shuffling of important papers, planning, prepping or even primping. Okay, I can’t lie, I did send a couple texts and respond to a few e-mails. But, I did it with my booty planted on the couch while watching DVRd Project Runway and Tonight Show episodes. I read a book for pleasure, not one that assured me I wasn’t royally screwing up my kids or telling me it’s okay to be me. All right, technically I held a book. I tried to read it, but couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to get past the first page.
Now this may sound crazy easy. And for some it is. Heck, I grew up with my father embedded in a lazy boy for a huge chunk of every weekend watching football, basketball, or whateverball. My husband has a knack for finding the WORST movie playing on TV at any time and becoming engrossed in its every predictable plot twist for what seems like eternity. The kids and their iPads—enough said. Unless I’m so sick that I can’t keep my eyes open, I’m moving. I spend my days scurrying from one task to the next. I feel lost if I can’t come up with a chore. During the week, the TV doesn’t come on until the kids are unwinding with a show after school or right before bed; so, the thought of sitting in front of the boob tube or even curling up with a book, makes my skin crawl and my insides confused.
“There’s “stuff” to be done! You can’t just lie there, you sloth! Get up, go through the piles in the craft room. Sort the kids’ toys. Purge your closet. Organize the last 8 years of pictures of your not-so-little babies and make scrapbooks like you planned,” my mind screams.
But yesterday, I hushed the cacophony of the voices. Actually, I think it is only one voice in there, but it is a LOUD one. I still wriggled in my skin and to-dos would spring into my brain like the bubbles in old-time Pop-up Videos on VH1. (Do they still run that show? Is there still a VH1?) I burst each and every one, triumphantly snuggling a little deeper into the couch. I needed this. I needed to just be, without anyone to answer to, anywhere to rush, or a list to complete. I wasn’t even trying to be mindful, be in the moment, meditate, or settle into the quiet. Nope, I was straight-up mindless as I watched Jimmy Fallon “Nae Nae” and designers get catty on the runway.
And what, you ask, prompted the great veg out of 2015? I realized that I have become a time hoarder. I am so used to doling out every waking second to my family that I don’t want to give up my time alone, without kids—not even for things that I enjoy. I signed up for a paddleboard fitness class. I love being outside, paddleboarding, and that I feel results from the workout. Inevitably though, on the morning of the class, I look for a reason NOT to go because it drains 2 hours of my alone time. I always go, and afterwards am grateful. But why the resistance?
Even planning lunch with friends or receiving phone calls from people I adore and miss makes me grimace because I know they will devour my precious minutes. Yes, I’m like Gollem from Lord of the Rings, clenching crazily to every second as I stare wild-eyed at the clock and my to-do list.
Hellooooo? I’m missing the point of the kid-free time and life in general, right? To be able to let go a little, to enjoy something—anything—without the pressure of paying a babysitter, turning it into an all-about-the-kids moment, or being interrupted a million times? I’ve been granted a pass to accomplish some tasks, yes, but also to reestablish myself in the world of adult activities and socializing beyond play dates and kids’ sports. The way I see it, I can either embrace the freedom that comes with my little trio being in school every day by prioritizing family, friends, and activities that bring me joy, or continue to be a slave to my never-ending to-do list and the ticking clock.
Yesterday was my first endeavor at the former, at diminishing the power that time has over me. I needed to remind myself that I can’t shelve the time that I’m keeping to myself. It’s not going to sit quietly on the bookcase until I’m in a jam and need it. It’s a use it or lose it deal. To do nothing while the minutes melted away and not worry about anything was—once I fully committed to it—oddly rejuvenating. It was me telling time to back off because I’m the one in control, even if my choice is to do absolutely nothing.
That being said, springing back into action to greet the boys, get homework rolling, and fill their snack troughs was equally invigorating. My day on the couch hasn’t converted me into a full-time couch potato, although I will definitely be back for more regular mindless breaks. Nor did it completely cure me of my askew attitude toward time. I’ve already scribbled plans for the day ahead, and I’ll be on the go doing my very important to-dos; but hopefully I can take another leap and remember that ultimately time is only as meaningful as I make it. Instead of seeing the minutes and hours spent with friends, in classes, or relaxing as being stolen and lost, I can recognize that those are the moments when I’m energizing my spirit, learning about myself, and making memories. I haven’t framed a to-do list—ever.