When my friend Dana and I get to spend time together, there’s one topic in particular that comes up again and again : How do we organize our time? Do we have enough personal space? Sometimes it feels like everything we try to squeeze into our tight schedule of chores and accommodating has to be “worth it”, that even choosing what movie to watch after the kids fall asleep might turn into a big deal “What if it’s bad and I wasted time where I could have caught up on sleep…!”
I think I’ve only recently been cognizant of this because I have been in survival mode for so many years now. I realized that I sometimes feel paralyzed by having so little “free” time where I am not beholden to some schedule or deadline or direct parental responsibility. When I do have an hour to kill in a strange city or in my own home, I am sometimes at a loss for what to do with it. I always manage to fill the time, but I often feel some stress around choosing the right thing to do since the stakes feel so high. What do I read? What exercise do I do? Do I clean? Do I devote my time to myself or doing something for my family? I manage through it, but I just recently realized that this dialog was happening in my head that is totally new since becoming a parent.
The other day you were telling me something I thought sounded so familiar:
“ I went down to the beach and I was watching people putting up their beach chairs, reading their books, others were just staring at the waves, relaxing and I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I myself had listened to the waves”
I find this so sad in a way, because I too used to find so much pleasure and new energy in being able to have those sometimes brief moments where I got reconnected with the beauty in my surroundings. The older I get, the more serious my life gets, as the chores, responsibilities and seriousness of life just seem to pile up and throw me into these hamster wheel situations, I have to struggle to get to these moments. Nowadays they have to be planned carefully, as of before they were part of my life regularly.
I feel that in the lack of these pretty simple moments the quality of life gets lowered. Do you see what I mean? How do you feel about this? What did you experience after realizing that you were not one of these people who could just effortlessly sit down and listen to the waves break? I think it’s a great metaphor in the way we sometimes feel trapped by life and survival on s trivial level.
At the beach I felt both sad and inspired. i was reminded to try and take that time, to step back and forget the laundry or the email or the next thing that I need to plan. I am good at being efficient and responsible, but not good at letting go in the moment. I can have fun, but it’s usually planned and scheduled and involves my child. I’m like a hippie trapped in the body of a corporate executive and a super responsible mother, so the tug of war is there…
I used to feel that mindfulness was such a unnecessary kind of invention I never had a problem with finding those moments, the stillness or sudden peace. Nowadays though I have to remind myself, to not get sucked in completely and perform without even stopping to breathe at times.
I read about mindfulness and the importance of sometimes doing nothing, but I feel that everyday life for the most part does not reward this. It’s a reward for our inner selves, but for the productivity demands of a home and a family and a career, this is not valued, and so therefore is often not something I choose to engage in because I constantly have to prioritize my time.
We’ve also been discussing many times how some women don’t seem to have our issues, being thorn between, wanting to be there for the kids, needing to provide, having a personal life, daily chores, money issues ect , but then you told me that one of these women who seemingly had that balance at your work still lost her job because she had to make different choices because she was a mother. So maybe it’s not true that some women are different, they just hide it better or appear different, think differently..
This is a question I continue to have. Just like men, I think there are so many different women and just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you are innately super caregiving and nurturing and driven to be responsible or even have the same responsibilities. I know women who’s husbands do all of the things that I do in my marriage, like the finances and big picture responsibilities. I also know women who for some reason or another just don’t seem that concerned about it all. Are they faking it well? or are they just wired to ask fewer questions and contemplate life less and just forge ahead? Maybe less neurotic than I am. Perhaps. I think when you have a philosophical bent to your thinking, the struggle is harder.
What would be quality of life for you or what would give life high quality in your perspective?
Quality of life for me if I am thinking of what I don’t have now, is more free time to myself. Time to myself not at a computer or in my car, but in the world, in nature, and with loved ones outside of the day to day grind. A chance to engage in a more spiritual practice, like a deeper yoga practice or meditation, because the high I feel when I do get a chance to engage in that is amazing. Time for more travel and more nature hikes would also be on my list.
What can all these things teach us you think?
We really are good at responsibility and taking care of business – we should be equally as good at carving out time for ourselves, pulling out that beach chair and listening to the waves. It has to be on the list of things to do….
Conversation; Tonje Kristiansen & Dana Dodge
All photos by Tonje Kristiansen
Photo of Dana/ private
Photographs taken in Norway and Los Angeles by Tonje