Have you ever felt like life is spinning around you and you are not sure where you fit or how you fit or even IF you fit, but you can’t slow down enough to even contemplate the question?
Well I have … on more than one occasion. At first, I didn’t even notice the spinning. It was so much a part of my life I didn’t even recognize the vortex I was being pulled in to. But some life events made me pause just long enough to notice, gave me cause to slow down just enough to see, or at least to experience, the fast pace I was caught up in. It stirred something deep within me, prompting me to press pause and catch up with myself.
And so here, more than a decade after those initial rumblings, I find myself sitting at the beginning of an experiment. An experiment that has me doing more than pressing pause …
I have hit the reset button.
I wrote this at the cusp of my sabbatical as I gathered anything that “dinged” or told time and secured them away in a box for three months. At the time I remember feeling giddy with excitement, but also nervously curious as to how it would unfold. What would the time be like? What would I find out about myself?
Such a foreign concept … slow. Because who knows what might happen, what might catch up with you if you slow down too much. (Day 7)
The idea of slowing down enough to catch up with myself was something I had been yearning towards for a long time. This yearning is what initially spurred the setting aside of one day a week that was free of any shoulds or musts or to-do lists. A day free to simply BE – to sleep, to read, to cook, even to organize my cupboards, as long as it was coming from a place of desire and play, not pressure or expectation. It was a day set aside to make room for whatever needed space and permission; a weekly reset of sorts that allowed me room and permission to catch up with myself before entering back in to the demands and expectations of the week ahead.
I chose Sunday as this day. While it took a while to establish this new routine (it isn’t easy holding space for this when the world around you doesn’t), it became something that I counted on. It helped give me some balance in my spinning life. But even then, I reached a point where I had more catching up to do than I had Sundays to do it in. I knew something needed to shift, but I had no clue what that looked like.
I needed to reset.
My season of slow gave me a chance to reset by establishing a RHYTHM that was more in tune with what my body, my heart, my mind, and my soul needed.
For this to happen, I needed to slow down enough to notice what was needed. Without technology to distract me, I found myself looking to nature as a guide and teacher. Nature was subtle, yet confident that all would unfold as it needed to. I began to notice more. The natural rhythm of the day, for example: from the sound of the birds and the flurry of activity in the morning, to the quiet lull of the early afternoon, to the magic of dusk and the setting of the sun. My own activity began to mirror that rhythm, as I found the times where I had more energy to give, the times where I needed to rest, and when it was time to simply appreciate the beauty around me.
And for the first time, I embraced the season of winter, instead of fighting it. Winter became my friend — I started to notice the way it held space for something different. While I walked the trail nearby and observed the trees that seemed devoid of life, nature whispered to me that this was all part of the process. This apparent lack of growth, this time of rest, was not a waste of time but a necessary (crucial, even) part of the rhythm of life. The fruit that comes in one season is not produced in isolation. Rather it is because of rest that growth happens at all. Somehow, I saw this in a whole new light, as I entered the winter season with eyes wide open, ready to notice and follow the cues.
I allowed Winter to teach me and I grew to love and respect her in a whole new way. Now that I find myself in Spring, amongst all the greenery and blossoms, I feel more aware of how we got here. I am more appreciative of the stillness and silence that was part of the birthing process.
Nature doesn’t have shortcuts. Her pace is just as it needs to be.
My season of slow also gave me a chance to reset by providing the opportunity to experience TIME (and TIMELESSNESS) in a way I never had before.
I had toyed with pockets of timelessness in the past: sitting at the lake for hours on end without a watch or phone, just sitting until something stirred me back home (usually the call of food or the bathroom); falling deep into a book on the patio swing on a sunny afternoon; or meandering at the Saturday market from vendor to vendor without worrying about what I needed to do next. But this —ninety DAYS (not minutes!), was a new kind of timelessness, and I both feared it and revelled in it!
Could I actually just sit and watch birds for hours on end without feeling guilty? It turns out I could, and I did! And now I can even tell you some of their names and who gets along better with who.
Could I wake up in the morning without an alarm clock, or would I just sleep the ninety days away? I really did wonder this. It turns out I could wake up, and I didn’t sleep the entire time! It just took about a week to recalibrate, including a few days of sleeping until noon, before the internal rhythm kicked in and now I merely have to set an intention for what time I want to start the day and it works like clockwork (pun intended!).
Could I resist the urge to be productive? To be honest, I wrestled with this one. The urge kept popping up, but like a whack-a-mole game, I kept bopping it on the head when it surfaced, and eventually I even began to take pleasure in not “doing” anything at all. I did read a whole lot of books, but this came from a playful place in me. I was ready to explore themes (like slowing down, emotion, play and nature connection), and I was receptive to hearing others’ stories, as though I was a child in a candy store, excited to take it all in! But unlike the candy that the eager child would consume, I found the books to be a much better diet. Most of it – though not all of it! – was easily digestible.
And finally, my season of slow gave me a chance to reset by giving myself PERMISSION:
- to do or not do (for according to Yoda, there is no try);
- to do everything … or nothing at all;
- to question everything;
- to be creative … or not;
- to not do things the same … or to be as repetitive as I wanted to be;
- to breathe more slowly and more intentionally;
- to light candles and let them burn long enough to reach the edges;
- to be curious;
- to be uncomfortable.
It sounds simple. It wasn’t. I knew allowing myself this kind of space was going to be a challenge for me, so the very first thing I did on Day 1 was create a collage with the word “PERMISSION” on it, with a beautiful orange snail and the phrase “move freely” in the corner. It sat out where I could see it. Everyday.
I needed the reminder often, because it was easy to fall back into the idea that doing MORE was better. Or that there was a “right” way, or something better or more productive I should be doing instead. I still need this reminder, which is why the collage is still there where I can see it. It brings me back into a place of freedom and permission — at least pockets of it.
So what now?
As I sit on the other side of my three month experiment, I find myself yearning to go back. I fantasize about putting it all back in the box — the phone, the computer, the day-timer (the clocks are actually still in the box, as I’ve grown fond of the snail images that were put in their place). But this is a different season.
What I can do is stay in touch with the rhythm that emerged … to move with that rhythm, and to work with it rather than against it. And to notice when a pocket of timelessness is needed, and build it in to my daily, weekly, or seasonal routine.
What I can do is give myself permission for all that is stirred up in me and to find places for those stirrings to come out and play. So along with pockets of slow, I will need more pockets of play. For me, this will mean setting aside time for music, for walks, for sitting by the lake with the frogs and the otters, for writing, for reading stories, and for telling stories of my own. For in these pockets, extraordinary things can happen. I have seen the magic first hand. And the good news is, you don’t need 90 days of Sundays to discover it for yourself.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on “pockets of play” in next month’s editorial. If you want to hear more about Tamara’s sabbatical experience (including some of the books she devoured), she will be hosting a free online session to share stories and respond to curiosities: Friday, June 18th from 10 am to 11:30 am Pacific. Click here to sign up.