“I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” —Henry David Thoreau
As I write this I am juggling the need to reply to emails, write an article, get my training in, plan my next sessions, make sure kids haven’t slipped quietly into the lounge to watch Netflix, text clients, make dinner, hang the washing up, clean the bathroom (it’s been too long neglected) and, and…it’s the same for all of us. The daily juggle might look different during the lockdown but I am daily spinning more plates than Chuckles the clown could have managed.
Finding space for myself during confinement is something I am very conscious about. For the mothership (referring to both men and women here) to remain stable, moving forward and indeed afloat I need moments each day for myself. This is not a selfish thing. I am not asking to disown the family for a day. I just am aware that time with my own thoughts and without demands, is going to keep me happy, positive, and peaceful.
“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” — Albert Einstein
Some literature calls this ‘solitude’. I don’t want to use that word as it seems like something you will have to carve time out for, it sounds like another ‘to do’ in order to reach Nirvana. So, instead I like to think of it as ‘space’. It’s something I have found I need both in the physical and mental sense.
If you are like me with X number of kids (number irrelevant) and a better half in the house all day, space literally isn’t something you get much of. Every part of our society is structured to discourage quiet alone time. Advertisers, apps, TV, friends and family — they all want our attention. This environment has made all of us deeply uncomfortable with being alone in silence. Our neural pathways have been strengthened by years of external stimulation to crave more of it. It’s time to take back a little bit of control for our metal wellbeing.
How do I find moments of space:
I have found a place and a time of day that is mine. It’s diarised, as important as the next meeting or meal. I shut the door and don’t answer any calls for attention from the other side of it. My phone has no place in these moments. Nor do podcasts or anything that is calling for my attention. It’s ‘switch off’ time for my brain and all other gadgets. I have chosen to set my alarm a little earlier 4 times a week to do yoga and meditate before breakfast. But this might not suit you.
So where else have I found moments of space in my day:
• A walk in the garden before everyone is up enjoying a cup of tea • I take 5 mins out midmorning to stop and I head to my restful place. A room with lots of natural light and I sit, generally with a cup for tea or coffee in hand, and just be. Time to let my mind wander. • I have a bath or shower. I don’t rush it. I try to not take a ‘to do’ list in there with me, you know what I mean, wash hair, shave…. ! If you need to get that all done, I then find time at the end to stand and feel the water wash over me. • Finish working day with a walk, run or cycle. It doesn’t need to be long.
I obviously can’t do all of these every day. But currently I do make sure I have two times in the day when I structure in ‘my’ time.
In truth these moments of ‘space’ are there in everyone’s day. Already available to us without the need to change very much at all. We aren’t asking for big changes to family life or working patterns. We are simply being aware and making the most of the opportunities we have. Living consciously some might say. It does also require us to put ourselves higher up the list than we might otherwise. I believe this is the nugget of gold that is going to make these lockdown days so much more bearable.