'Just Living is not Enough', said the Butterfly, 'One must have Sunshine, Freedom and a Little Flower'
Life is a busy place. For there is a lot to be done. And to be thinking about. Really, it never stops.
The ‘busies’ of our lives are likely to include; work (where the average person spends 100,000 hours of their life), exercise, eternal chores, not to mention maintaining relations with family and friends and all that implies. Birthday cards, phone calls, visits, Christmas (which in itself is an intensive timetable that haunts our schedule from around mid-October through to New Year) and – for many a senior relative – the gradual surrendering of ones cheque book, a fee by fee offloading onto less deserving Juniors. And that’s all before we have done any of the things we might actually want to do, away from our responsibilities, like watch X Factor. For 6 hours. Every weekend.
Sometimes the busiest thing about life is just that we can’t easily get off the lifemill and find some peace. There is the constant pressure to just keep going. A pressure from The Fear.
I refer of course to the recurring fear that emerges when you have been on a little holiday and have effectively ‘got off’ of life for a week – it’s the same fear that engulfs us on a Sunday, AKA The Dread. For most people, The Dread is definitely irrational - no-one is really scared of anything in particular, it’s a vague kind of fear and that makes it worse because you cannot counteract the terror with a logical reason as to why the said fear isn’t going to materialise. Because frankly we don’t know what the hell we’re scared of every Sunday at 4pm like clockwork.
I’d like to think we the people generally enjoy our life’s work, yet still I’ve had the Sunday Dread nearly every week since I was about 7 ½ , and back then all I had to worry about was remembering my Powerangers pencil case. For this reason I can only conclude that The Dread comes from a far deeper source than us being work-shy, beyond the potent need to stay home for Jeremy Kyle, it also stems from a feeling that we don’t know how on earth we are managing to do life everyday (and some of you are doing it really rather well, pats on backs!) We think we’re fooling everyone and we’re sure to be found out pretty soon. We think (I think) if we stop doing a life for a second (like, even to just pee on the hard-shoulder) we won’t be able to get back in the drivers seat in the successful manner we were cruising along before because we actually have NO IDEA HOW TO BE A PROPER PERSON AND ARE LIKELY TO CRASH. We’d be happier in the passenger seat, looking out the window of a padded white room, saying things like ‘Granny needs a humbug’ over and over again with crazed eyes and a twitch. Yes, that would be lovely.
Luckily, life has so far proved itself to be like riding a bike and we mainly are able to get back in that saddle with ease. In fact, usually by 11am on a Monday we can often be found high as kite (on the life we were so scared of just 17 hours before) yelling ‘I can only bloody still do! Look at me! I’m working! I’m holding down a job and earning a wage and no-one suspects that actually I am just 4 years old wearing my Mum’s lipstick!’
So why then, do I (and probably some of you) still find it so hard to just stop what I’m doing and have a personal recess every once in a while?
Knowing when to STOP
I am undoubtedly a ‘busy’ person, in that my head is SO busy, full of the things I need to be doing. All. The.Time. I'm a list making extraordinaire and the first to admit my OCD characteristics when it comes to routine and making sure I am contributing a healthy amount to all areas of my life (so as not to miss a bit and end up – heaven forbid – flawed). People with busy minds like me are scared to for one second take our eyes of the proverbial ball and miss an appointment, skip the gym, be late for work, leave the dishes for a night or go a few weeks without checking in with everyone we’ve ever known – because as I’ve pointed out, we’re scared that if we do, we might just lose a grip on the reigns of our life altogether.
As result, I find it easy to do things. All day long. It’s the not doing I find tricky (unless I am asleep, and even then I feel like that is forced on me. I don’t like night-times and never have, I deign unto sleep only because I know it will make me a brighter version of myself the following morning. MORNING! YAY!) When I am in total OTT hectic mode, I get so wound up trying to keep on top of everything I ‘need’ to do, I don’t realise that actually the only thing I need to be doing is sitting down watching Dexter eating a plate of Enchiladas.
As I get older (I am now officially in the 3rd tick box in from the left on most forms, wah!) and life gets busier and that abstract time in the future when ‘things calm down a bit’ fails to materialise (it doesn’t exists btw), I find it increasingly important to leave myself the memo to take time out for the here and now. No planning and no activities, just me and my Maltesers. Because what is life without the odd moment of nothing? As scary it is to let go of ‘things’, it’s scarier to be so constant that you never stop to appreciate and enjoy stuff.
Putting you First (it's OKAY sometimes, honest!)
I can usually diagnose myself when I'm getting too chaotic, symptoms include going to bed shattered yet sleeping for all of 3 hours 12 NIGHTS IN A ROW, manically planning minute details like what time to paint my nails and worrying because I have one less carrot than I needed for my soup and just WHEN am I going to buy that extra carrot? Hmmmm?!?
After a recent few weeks of much busy-ness in my head, a new job, knackering weekends, sleepless nights, exertion, worries and excitement, I was in urgent need of a giant dose of down time, a prescription to discontinue for a bit. Like those essential beauty products that just randomly withdraw from retail after 12 years of loyalty to them – yeah, I’d get fed up if I was them too, same shelf different day, So I got myself, my conscience and even my inner crazy lady (she’s usually way more stubborn than that) to sign said prescription for 2 days of undiluted ME TIME and as a result this weekend was all about replenishing my soul. Let’s face it, our souls often come last in our vast list of priorities (which seems unfair as our minds and bodies usually get a damn good seat), but if you’re a fan of Plato you’d know your soul is the best bit, it’s jumping up and down at the back going ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ and we’re fools to ignore it.
Yes I evidently still did ‘stuff’ this weekend, like write this very post (and hopefully later I’ll shower), but in essence I felt no pressure to do ‘things’. I baked and actually ate the goods, instead of instantly giving them away. I watched TV without a sofa-exiting deadline (unheard of). I went to bed without setting an alarm on Friday night AND Saturday night *pauses to accept applause*. Instead of making a list of all I wanted to achieve this weekend, I left myself a blank page and I’ll feel no guilt if by the time the 4pm Sunday Dreads kick in, all I have to show for myself is square eyes and chocolate smeared across my face.
My soul is pretty happy about it. Smug soul alert. I'm not scared that I might not be able to do life again tomorrow, as I am pretty sure I will. I’m reasonably confident I’ll still get up and go to work (hopefully get dressed in between) and do chores and resume routine. I’m even hoping I might do it all that little bit better for having checked out of ‘things’ for a few days. I reckon come Monday morning I’ll be bright eyed and bushy haired and ready to rock myself at her very best.
Here is my ‘me’ weekend in pictures, if you’d like to see how astonishingly fat and lazy my soul is.