Thursday, 19 May 2011
For a while since I have been menopausal I’ve had a fantasy. In my fantasy I have no children, no husband, no cats, no responsibilities. In my fantasy the only person I have to look after is me. I do as I please and mostly that involves doing not very much! I write and walk and drink tea mostly. I spend time with other women. I cook. I read. I knit. That’s my fantasy. One which is light-years away from my reality. Right now my reality involves managing two children, two cats, a relationship, a home, a business, a therapy practice, writing a new book, finishing my psychotherapy training and somehow fitting in a social life, family time and, oh yes, me-time. Sometimes that ‘me-time’ thing just becomes one more item to add to the long and every growing to-do list. Time for myself; a yoga class, a walk with the walking group at The Lab (very nice health club I joined in aid of me-time), a massage, a couple of days away with a friend, a hot bath… me-time just becomes another thing to do and I don’t feel any less hassled, any less busy, it just doesn’t do the trick somehow. Sometimes it seems like the more me-time I build in the more all the other stuff to do piles up around me.
So then I start to tell myself what would really hit the spot is to meditate. To sit, zen-like (a bit like the photo) and block my life and all its demands out for a while. Only hitch is I just hate that kind of meditating. Just doesn't do it for me. And I’d still have to ring fence the time and put it on the list to make sure I did it. I’d have to find a class or a group or a teacher. I’m not sure I’d know where to start on my own, I’ve tried podcasts and CDs but I don’t get on with them.
So I keep on doing, I keep up my busy, capable, efficient (most of the time), organised (ish), full life. In order to get through it I tighten, I frown, I get rigid, my shoulders up against my ears most of the time! I speed up, I drive myself, keep going, keep going. “It’s fine, I can do this, I’m fine”. And then, occasionally, I collapse. I can’t do this anymore!! I don’t tell anyone, I don’t ask for help. I collapse quietly, privately. I have a few days when it all seems to go to pot. When I feel heavy and lethargic and just don’t want to do any of it. When I wonder if I’ll ever have the energy I need, whether I’ll get through it all. That has been my default.
And over the last few of months I’ve been experimenting with something different. Thanks to my father being so ill really, (thanks-to? there’s the Pollyanna in me). Having that one added thing to do - going to Milan weekend after weekend to spend time with him while I could, while we still had time, meant that me-time was right off the radar. And what I discovered was that actually, while me-time is important (I missed the walking, hot baths and time with my friends) those are not the things that really create space for me. Those are not the things that I’m longing for, that my fantasy is built upon. When I really had so little time to spare what I discovered was the magic (again!) of tuning in. I began to realise that me-time, real me-time is a moment, a few seconds when I STOP. When I do nothing at all except take a deep breath and tune in. Me-time, the kind that nourishes me and seems to expand time are the moments in the day when I become aware that I’m rushing and I choose to slow down. Me-time is when I tune-in and notice that all my muscles are tense and I take a moment to soften them all. Me-time is when I notice how my trusty old gremlin is banging on and on and I take a minute to silence it and wrap my arms around myself. Me time is when I sit, just for a moment and look out of the window into my wild, unkempt, rugged and beautifully green garden with a cup of tea. Me time is when I sit and knit another dishcloth without thinking about anything much.
It’s not that all those other things; the baths, walks, massages, yoga… are not helpful or good. They are part of how I take care of myself and they will stay firmly on the agenda. And, feeding myself, nourishing myself, tasting a little bit of my fantasy is about coming back to myself, tuning-in, a moment, a pause, STOPPING. And the more I do that, the more energy I have to be that competent busy woman who has so much to do. And I am making plans to make the fantasy a reality… in some years… when my children are older... And whatever my life is like, the more I tune in for just a minute, the stronger and more spacious I feel. Tuning-in, it’s such a small thing, so simple, it’s a little bit of magic!