Entering a new year offers a ceremonial opportunity to initiate change and establish new habits. Visions of goals and new routines fill our minds and planners and many of us will enthusiastically pursue our resolutions, at least for a time. In our pursuit to make our lives more healthy and balanced, while simultaneously less stressed, let’s not forget to protect time to simply be. No agenda, no to-do list, no cell phone, no distractions – just, time to be, even if just for a few minutes.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not good at just being; I often find it difficult, not to mention downright boring. Doing has always been easier for me. So much so that a “human doing” rather than a “human being” would be more appropriate to how I live my life. It’s kind of ironic, you’d think that as an introvert I’d be better at being. But the truth is, it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m an introverted doer. Being a doer is not inherently bad; there’s a lot of to-dos on my daily agenda, as I’m sure there are on yours, and I like seeing progress of items checked off the list. However, it seems there’s never enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done, and there’s plenty of opportunities that are missed due to lack of energy. This is the problem, we’re all so busy and caught up in all the doing that the very idea of just being is almost ridiculous.
Parenting includes a lot of what I would classify as “being” moments. When they are newborns, nursing, snuggling, rocking them to sleep. Once they’re a little older, playing and occasionally obliging the constant request to just “watch me, watch me, mama!” In the first few months as a new parent, one of the biggest challenges for me was not adjusting to the lack of sleep, although this certainly was not easy. Nor was it the crying (the baby’s or mine…both happened frequently). The change that I often found most difficult was the act of simply being. There were moments when I was thrilled for the opportunity to cuddle my baby and just watch him sleep peacefully. But these quiet moments were often punctuated by a sense of panic. What can I accomplish while I sit? What needs to be done next? Am I doing enough? Am I enough? I like projects, goals, things to research, plan, anticipate. Just being can be excruciating for me.
Partially the struggle of focusing on doing is caused by the belief that I should be doing something. Every waking minute of life. I feel obligated to contribute in a positive way, or at least actively appear busy. This is partially due to an internal pressure that I place on myself. However, it is also partially a societal pressure that we all experience. When was the last time you observed someone just being? It almost feels strange to witness someone simply enjoying life happening around them without, at the least, the distraction of a cell phone. We’re all perpetually busy. Why? Is it because we’re afraid to be alone with just the company of our own thoughts? Maybe we hate the idea of being bored? Is the availability and sheer amount of distractions so overwhelming that it’s all but impossible to experience even a few uninterrupted moments? Are we caught up in sharing about how busy and involved we are, as if we feel an innate pressure to one-up everyone with the fact that we do the most? Or are we afraid of having negative attributes (laziness, lack of motivation) associated with us if we’re caught not doing anything? Are we too committed to expectations, responsibilities, and to-dos that simply being seems so passive and unproductive, which feels antithetical to all the oughts and shoulds in our lives? I know all of these have been relevant to me at various points in my life. These questions got me thinking, recently, that maybe this constant pressure for doing is partly to blame for some of our unproductiveness, restlessness, and dissatisfaction. In all our busyness and doing, maybe we’ve forgotten how to take a moment and simply be. No agenda or to-do in mind, other than to observe, reflect, or simply enjoy life.
This idea, for me, feels radically simple: in order to better do and accomplish my responsibilities and tasks, I need to also protect time to simply be. (This is different from my protected quiet time, discussed in my Finding Quiet Time post.) As I reflect on the habits I want to add or change this new year, I’m also trying to catch myself when I start obsessing over my to-do list or adding too much to my daily goals. I want to better incorporate mindfulness throughout my day, to establish a habit of awareness to simply enjoy a moment before tackling my next to-do. I’m also intentionally incorporating small pieces of time every day to simply be – to be with my kids, my husband, myself, with no agenda, checklist, cell phone, or specific goal in mind that needs to be accomplished. I think it will take a lifetime of practice, but I hope to someday be better at fulfilling this part of my role as a human being.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo taken on a winter morning*