Are you the kind of person who craves that alone time, or are you the kind who has to have the chaos around you to thrive?
Today’s lesson (see the bottom of this post for the book we’re following and the links to previous posts) is about solitude, and why we need it. I suspect this week the lesson is preaching to the choir, because creative people know this. The real task, in my opinion, is getting the rest of the world to recognize it and leave us a lone a little while.
In a lesson in the book (Manage Your Day-To-Day) much deeper into the book, another author talks about setting aside blocks of time and treating them as important as work. This time may be for actual creative tasks, or simply creative thinking, but we need to honor that time as absolutely necessary.
Here’s where I think guilt become insidious and creates little train wrecks in our day-to-day–we feel selfish taking that time, even when we know we need it to create something we’re getting paid for. For centuries, women weren’t thought to be creative because, duh, when the hell would they have had time to be creative? They were responsible for all the housekeeping and child-rearing and being an asset to their husband’s career that it wasn’t until the last century or so that they emerged en masse as creatives in their own right. But, even as that shift happened, the responsibilities didn’t shift to the middle to be shared–at least, not as a standard across the board. Too many times we hear of a woman working a full-time career who still has to oversee the majority of the kids’ needs, and the household needs, without the guy grasping why that isn’t a fair division of labor. I think this is changing (and it’s definitely shared in my household, because I’m stubborn enough to not put up with that crap, so I picked a guy who got it from the start), but for many people, a fair division of labor is a fantasy. And yet, even for those of us who have a relatively fair division, we feel guilt about taking time away from family, away from tasks that feel urgent, because if we don’t do them, who will? We let that guilt eat at us and we put what feels like “acceptable” tasks ahead of what we may need. It’s that “acceptable” designation that becomes the culprit, because what is acceptable after all? Acceptable to whom? Our partners? Our parents? Our children? Neighbors? Co-workers? Peers?
Are we shoving a bunch of tasks into our day in order to prove that we’re worthy, that we’re efficient enough with our time that we then “deserve” time out, time to think, to be, to have solitude? And if so, how do we stop this to see that we’re worthy, period. Not “if” we do X, Y, or Z, and then AA…. not “if” we volunteer for everything or finish every project other people deem important.
This is an unusual lesson for me to talk about because I don’t operate out of guilt. My own mother will tell you that I flat refuse to let people guilt me into doing something, and I had a friend once who tried, hard, to guilt me into volunteering for a project and I had to point out to her that her tactics were having the opposite effect: if you try to guilt me, I’m going to be pretty damned stubborn and go do what I want. It just doesn’t work, because my inner stubborn streak will think (and sometimes, I have been known to say), “fuck off if you want to run my life. You have one, go run yours.”
I recognize I’m not the norm, here, and I can’t be sure where I got this from. It was not from my family (parents or otherwise). And if I hadn’t already operated like this, I think I would have leaned more heavily this direction anyway after watching my brother suffer for so long, and then losing him a year-and-a-half ago. Because life is just too damned short. It is especially too damned short to be doing things we don’t want to do, things that are for others–in the sense that we care what others think of us and so are doing X, Y, or Z. [Edited to add–I’m happy to do things for others, but it’s from a desire to help, or an understanding of a need that I can fulfill, but not out of peer pressure, or a sense of guilt that I “should” do it because if I don’t, someone will think less of me.]
There are obligations I have day-to-day because I made commitments–to my husband, to my children–but they don’t supersede who I am and what I need to be sane and happy. When it’s all said and done and I’m lying on my deathbed, I’m not going to wonder if only, because I’m grabbing for the things I want. I may not succeed–no one is guaranteed success–but I’m going to give myself the room to try.
And that means solitude when I need it. Down time. Time to read, or time to think, or time to just ~be~ without expectations.
How about you? How are you doing as far as carving out time for solitude? Does guilt get to you? And if so, what is one step you can take this week to shed that guilt and do something for yourself?
We’re looking at how to organize our lives and create healthy routines; to do that, we’re using this book as our guide — a collection of short (very short) essays: MANAGE YOUR DAY-TO-DAY: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creativity.
This is Part 6.
Here’s Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.
(The comments are the best part of this series, so don’t skip those–you’ll be missing out.)