When the clock strikes 1:00PM, nap time begins for my two little ones. I kiss their cheeks with loving words whispered into their tiny ears, shut their bedroom door, and EXHALE. Big time. It’s as if I am racing around holding my breath all day until this very moment. Their nap time becomes this little breather, this time when I have about 2 hours to myself.
Before you picture me watching TV marathons and popping chocolates in my mouth, this little “breather” is not usually a relaxing time for me at all. You see, I’m a doer. I have to constantly be “doing” something. On my best days, I write for this blog, I paint a landscape or a portrait, or do some home improvement project, often while multi-tasking a long overdue catch-up conversation with a good friend. These are the days that I feel like my little breather was well-spent because not only did I “do” something, but it was something I enjoyed. On my less happy, though productive days, I do the simple daily tasks required to maintain a household of five – the laundry, the dishes, the straightening up (not to be confused with cleaning, although that happens too), the bill-paying, the school & extra-curricular activity management for my 9 year old, and so on.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I find myself in need of a real “breather” – an actual time to just let go, not care about all the things on my TO DO list, and to really, truly breathe. Yesterday was one of those rainy days where I just couldn’t muster the strength or patience to do anything during their nap time. I sat in the family room in silence for a while just watching the rain. Years ago I would have thought that was weird. Why not turn on the TV, call a friend, listen to some music? No, just no. With 3 kids in the house, silence is golden and the breather I needed was one of quiet solitude. No questions to be answered, no crying to subdue, no screaming to control. Just the rain on the rooftop and me, clearing my head and breathing.
I had to sit there long enough to let the feeling of anxiety pass – that feeling that keeps my breathing fast and shallow, thinking I need to be doing this or that and not wasting precious time.
It makes me think about how our society prioritizes productivity above all else. The drive to be the best, to make the best, and then recreate it all even better next year. To work the long hours and then work them even longer next week so that we can do X, Y, and Z, on top of the usual A, B, and C. This culture, this need to excel, to one-up ourselves, is what makes our country great and terrible all at once. It is an entrepreneurial culture of invention and motivation, but one that often throws our sense of self and family off-balance.
So sometimes, each of us, and all of us as a whole, need to take the time to just slow down, breathe, and quietly reflect. Reflect on our lives, our blessings, our goals and dreams. And not reflect – let your mind go blank, live in the now, and appreciate the silence. With all the running around I usually do, I’m actually proud of the unproductive day I had yesterday- when instead of doing, I just didn’t. In a way, it was the most productive thing I could do for myself.