Dear School Year,
I am onto you. I spent a lot of time reading self-help books this summer. In fact, I read 32 books this summer. 11 of those books were about ways to find inner-peace, organization, and yes, even fun, in the midst of crazy, hectic, and otherwise stressful lives. This year, you will not claim “me”. I’ve got strategies.
My first strategy involves mindfulness. “Mindfulness is about direct experience of what’s happening in and around you. It’s not about changing the nature of that experience. Rather it’s about increasing the skill with which you live that experience.” (affiliate links in this post) (Deborah Schoeberlein, “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness”) I am going to be “in the moment” and “present” more often. Before work, I may do a three minute centering prayer. At work, I will work towards inhaling slowly when a student clears my desk or bites me. I will think. I will process.
I will take time to think about my surroundings, all of my senses, and process the information. “Without time to reflect, to live fully present in the moment and face what is transcendent about our lives, Hunnicutt says, we are doomed to live in purposeless and banal busyness.” (Bridgid Schulte, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time“) I, for one, do not want to be doomed to banal anything.
Brigid Schulte summarizes her mindful strategy as, “Be silent every day. Even if that means taking five breaths. Being mindful for less than a half hour a day will, literally, expand your brain. ” (Schulte) I will say mindful prayers such as:
May I feel joy.
May I heal from pain.
May I find peace.
May I gain greater wisdom and skill.
(These four lines then repeated for loved ones and then acquaintances.)
My next strategy to use this school year is to really spend time with others. For years, I’ve lamented that I have so few close friendships near me. As my husband is coming out of a deep depression, he too has stated that real friendships are an important goal for him. So, my goal is to deepen relationships with other families and other women. I know from past efforts that this can lead to heart break (the party that two people attend) that I take very personally. But because I am an introvert, it will take a focused effort to make these get together happen.
Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time. Make time. To be together. To connect. To talk.
(Lysa Terkeurst, “The Best Yes“)
People rarely invite us over. So, I’m going to go outside of my comfort zone and try. Last week I just invited my son’s entire soccer team AND their families over for an ice cream social.Hopefully relationships are building for me!
“In the purest sense, leisure is not being slothful, idle or frivolous. It is, in the words of leisure researcher Ben Hunnicutt, simply being open to the wonder and marvel of the present.” (Schulte). I LOVE that definition. Previously in the book, Schulte stated that, “Somewhere towards the end of the twentieth century, Burnett and other researchers contend, busyness became not just a way of life, but glamorous. Now they say, it is a sign of social status.” And I see that happening on my Facebook feed every weekend. Post after post of all the amazing and fun activities that everyone else is doing. I look at my own life and am convinced that I must be doing something wrong. My family and I have lots of days and evenings free. When I offered ten dates during the month for a friend to have book club with me, she said she could do two of those times. Two. Is something wrong with me that I have available time?
“Research is finding that play is what enables humans to create, improve, imagine, innovate, learn, solve problems, be smart, open, curious, reliant, and happy.” (Schulte). Ms. Schulte wasn’t just talking about children. She effectively argues that we all need to play. ESPECIALLY women. “Leisure time for women, studies have found, often just means more work. Women are typically the ones who plan, organize, pack, execute, delegate and clean up after outings, holidays, vacations, and family events.” (Schulte). You know what I did after I read this quote? I looked up nearby painting classes and messaged some friends to pick a date when we could go. Although we don’t yet have a date, I am hopeful that we will play soon.
Women, and mothers in particular, are constantly consumed with everyone’s schedules and to-do lists: work, kids, house, events, school. Even when we are doing something “fun” (coffee date?), our minds keep wandering back to our list. Schulte argues that this is why the leisure hours (and according to Schulte we have 30+ hours of leisure per week) don’t feel at all fun or restful.
So dear School Year, I will have my leisure. And I will not think about my “to-do” list while I am reading, exercising, or playing.
School Year, you are extremely skilled at increasing my stress and busyness. You are superb and making me feel like both an inadequate worker, mother, and woman. But not this year. No. I’ve covered my bases and read up on ways to work with you and not against you. And I will, I am determined, have a fantastic year.