“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum
For the second time in a week, the gas light comes on in my car. I’m busy, as usual, and so I push it a little farther, run just a few more errands. But I know that I do need to stop and refill before too long, or I will be left on the side of the road. I’ve been stranded before, and have learned my lesson.
Most of us know that when our cars try to tell us they need something, we had better respond or they won’t get us to our destinations.
We usually have some respect for red warning lights on the dashboard, and at least check out the problem. Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy to see our own signals.
Our bodies and minds don’t come with bright red warning lights, but they do give us signals when they’re running low.
Some of these signals are more obvious than others. When we’re hungry, we might be able to skip a meal occasionally, relying on snacks to get us by, but we all know that at some point, we need to eat real food.
We might be able to miss a few hours of sleep as well, and make it through the next day, but we can’t simply expect our bodies to keep performing without rest.
We may be able to survive in a grumpier and lesser performing fashion when we have less than optimal amounts of food and sleep, but we all know that we can’t skip those needs altogether.
But, what about the other needs that aren’t so obvious? Everyone has probably heard about the benefits of spending some time alone just to think and to gather their own thoughts.
If you work, go to school, have a roommate, spouse or children, this time probably isn’t easy to come by. It’s probably also more important than ever.
Lately, I’ve noticed just how important this need for solitude is to me. As a writer who works at home, as well as a homeschooling mother, I am blessed with lots of time with my family. What I’m lacking severely is time to myself.
Between errands, online college classes, a part-time job, volunteering, and meeting the needs of everyone else, I often end up neglecting my own need for a moment to myself to think, breathe, read, write, draw, paint, or do anything that helps me relax.
Ironically, I often find myself wasting ridiculous amounts of time stressing out about how little time I have.
Rather than using the snippets of time I do have to myself by relaxing—which is what I should be doing—I fester about how I never have enough of these moments or a long enough stretch of time, and blah, blah blah, the complaining ensues.
The very thing that I stress about is time—not having enough of it. But then, in a total self-defeating way, I blow the limited time I did have by stewing about how imperfect it is.
I know that a bit of solitude is a beautiful thing and it works wonders for me when I let it. When I neglect that need for time alone, I find myself feeling cranky and distracted, just as though I had skipped a meal.
I know I’m not the only one who forsakes solitude in an effort to keep up with the demands of life. Running on empty seems to be a modern epidemic. The solution is as simple as realizing that self time is just as real of a need as food or sleep, and honoring that need by allowing ourselves to relax in our brief moments of solitude.
Often we’ll have to consciously carve out those moments, and they may be brief, but the rewards will be worth it. A bit of beautiful solitude rejuvenates and gives the strength needed to go back out and tackle whatever the world has in store for us.
Where will you find a moment for yourself today—and what will do with it?
(This was a piece that I recently had published as guest blog post on the Tiny Buddha site. )