I am currently in the midst of booking to travel to the UK later this year, the first time I will have been back in eleven years to the place I lived for so long. Friends and family, ever hospitable, offer (even insist) on us staying with them. Fine for a night or two, but when we are there for longer it’s a bit of a different story.
As ever, our children are our best teachers. I’ve watched what happens when they are with others, they become socially magnetized, unable to break away and take much needed time for themselves. Inevitable bickering starts and then all out tantrums become necessary for the body to find its equilibrium. This is what we parents commonly refer to as our kids going feral.
We comment on how tired they are, but tiredness doesn’t always equate to a need for sleep. Our body has a rhythm, it likes to be engaged then rested, and so on. Engaged means your attention is outwardly focused, requiring lots of energy, it can be anything from a meeting, to constantly attending to the needs of others.
But we all need regular inward reflection time (as in many times in each day) to keep our wellbeing in balance.
I recall hearing a kindergarten teacher talking about young children and the need to minimize play dates and anything extra after kinde. She talked about the young child needing time to process everything from the dynamics of play that day, to the taste of the tomatoes at lunch. All of it new information, new experiences, all of it needing processed.
When we continually fill our time with giving our attention to others, or to a device such as a TV, a whole lot of experiences get suppressed. Instead of regarding our experiences as new, they go in the pile in our subconscious, attaching themselves to previous like experiences, compounding the effects of the emotions attached to them.
Sadly too many of the emotions are some shade of grey, negative emotions about our lack of worth in one guise or another. It’s kind of become our default and it’s created a whole mountain of unnecessary stress. Our body’s kicking into flight or fight responses when there is no real imminent danger to our life, more of a chronic danger to our wellbeing on an ongoing basis.
I was thinking about how we got into this state. Recent conversations with my mum about her own childhood, which was hot on the heels of world war two, reminded me of the prevailing concerns at that time. Life and death were a reality for many who had lost loved ones or faced that kind of danger. For those left, life had been stripped back to its basics.
It’s been somewhat refreshing to read Enid Blyton books to the kids, many of which were of course written amid the era of two world wars. The simple joys in life are extolled well by the Famous Five, Secret Seven and others, when lemonade and ice creams were rare treats to be enjoyed.
These days, we are ‘doing’ and ‘having’ far more than we are just ‘being’. Taking space for ourselves means taking time to allow for the inward processing necessary to our wellbeing. That doesn’t mean you need to consciously take apart and examine everything that occurs in your life, it means you need to let yourself process things by focusing on activities that require just enough attention for you to stay awake without getting too focused and drawn into something that requires too much attention and energy.
In other words, your body is a system that needs to defrag itself on a regular basis while you do something that allows your engine to keep ticking over.
It might be regular walks you take, it might be chopping carrots in the kitchen, it might be listening or dancing to music, or reading a good book that you can get lost in (not the nightly newspaper that sets off a spiral of a whole other set of worries). Regular time for meditation and contemplation are really healthy things to do; though you really don’t need more than 15 minutes of meditation a day.
The point is to give yourself enough space to start becoming aware of what you are thinking and feeling, rather than just running on default. This then allows for you to more consciously ditch the things that aren’t serving you, and start doing more of the things that are.
I know what I’m like, if I stay with someone, especially loved ones I haven’t seen in a while, I’ll be wanting to soak up as much of it all as I can while I’m there. But if I don’t make the effort to detach and defrag, all those new experiences of people and places won’t get processed in a way that allows me to truly enjoy it.
It’s like being presented with a good wine and just slugging it down like a glass of water on a hot day. You have to take the time to taste life and appreciate it, that can’t happen when you are too busy giving your attention to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, and trying to do more than one thing at a time.
So do yourself a favour and take your own space, and allow others theirs, so that you can see things through fresh eyes and live your best life.
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