Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.
– Lousia May Alcott
A few years ago my family and I moved to another state. This move altered our schedules and commitments drastically.
For my husband, his schedule changed from one career to another, with new responsibilities. For my two boys, their schedule changed from a familiar school to a new school with new friends.
For me, my schedule was, for the first time, empty, except for when my boys arrived home from school. What a relief to have no commitments. A chance to begin anew.
In reality, I had no idea, before moving, how busy I truly had been and how stressful that over-busyness had become.
Instead of jumping in and filling the calendar maniacally with tons of things to do, I took some time to consider what kind of commitments I needed to fill my day with. I found, just as Alcott says in her quote, that I needed to have a balance between the “useful” and the “pleasant.”
This, of course, was a foreign concept to me. My idea of time and what could fit in to the moments of the day were distorted, to the point of me truly believing a forty minute activity could fit in a ten minute period. This skewed belief created much havoc and stress in my life, along with lack of sleep and an inability to follow through in the way I wanted to.
Once I arrived in our new town and found I had a clean slate of time to work with, my schedule became an avenue of self-reflection and study. If I was so bent on fitting in tasks that I couldn’t realistically fit in, what was I getting out of it? Was I trying to impress someone? Was fear involved in my decision making?
I also needed to look at each task on its own. What was their overall importance to me or my family? Was I taking care of my own needs or was I constantly compromising my needs for my families’? What were my needs? What were my wants?
Today, because I took the time to consider my motivations and fears, I have a better sense of what works in my schedule and what doesn’t. I sleep way better, have way less stress, and feel more confident in saying no when needed.
And because of all that I’m actually more available to my family and friends, which seems funny when I think of it, because the concepts of taking care of myself and being available to others seem incongruous if practiced at the same time.
I have found that true availability is not viable without honoring myself. The trick is not to use “honoring myself” as a way to self-adulate, because when that happens there is nothing to offer anyone, and that is such a lonely place to live.
There is a caveat to this balancing of time though. There are circumstances in life which require more of me than what is healthy for me to give, and yet it is in my best interest to suit up and show up.
Like when my husband and I were struggling financially during the recession. I worked two jobs (twelve to fourteen hours a day) to make ends meet. Did I feel balanced while doing that? No, but I took a walk in between the two jobs to help me transition from one to the next. Plus, I knew, at some point, things would change, and they eventually did.
Another example would be when my youngest child was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after being born. I stayed with him, night and day. Was this balanced for me? No, but I needed to be the mother I wanted to be, not only for him but for myself. To help, I asked friends and family to visit, which helped me to connect with the outside world and feel comfort and support. Gratefully, he got well and we left.
I believe I have a better understanding of the “worth of time” today, and for that I am extremely grateful. My life has taken on a different shape that allows breath and movement, creative space, and most of all, love.
Originally posted August 17, 2015 on old blog. Reposted now with edits.