“While you’ll feel compelled to charge forward it’s often a gentle step back that will reveal to you where you and what you truly seek.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru
I took myself on a date today. Isn’t it strange that I felt as though I was cheating on my husband? Seriously? Cheating by doing something for me? Yes, I felt that way. And it wasn’t even a date that was remotely naughty.
So, this morning my husband takes off to the Twin Cities. He’s attending a graduation ceremony for his 5-year-old twin grandchildren, then to lunch with a friend, and then taking care of other errands. I was sincerely happy for him. He was doing things that bring him connection and meaning. And, I might add, he never once asked if doing these things was okay with me. He just set them up and said he was going.
I started my day by doing a load of laundry, walking the dog, cleaning the cat litter box, and unloading the dishwasher. Hmmmm. Not exactly feeding the creative muse, unless looking at cat clumps is a Rorschach test of sorts.
Other tasks that needed attention loomed all around me and my sense of responsibility was getting loud and edgy. “GAIL! You need to be doing this, and this, and THIS. TODAY, lady…”
Yeah. I know. But what if I didn’t do this and this and this, I thought. What if I did something fun just for the sake of doing something fun?
A little tingle ping-ponged through my body.
Responsibility got crankier. “You know time wasted is time lost forever. Get on with your work and stop daydreaming.”
Me: “I think I’ll go to a movie.” (It’s okay to talk to myself when only the cats are here, right?)
Responsibility: “Your husband will not like it that you’re going without him. He likes movies too you know.”
Me: “I think I’ll get popcorn. All buttery and salty. It will be lunch.”
Responsibility: “Oh for heaven’s sake. Have a healthy salad and get back to work.”
Me, getting a little petulant: “Nope. I’m going to a movie. Get out of my head!”
I’d like to say I jabbed a piece of duct tape over Responsibility’s mouth, but that would be a lie. I heard “the voice” in my head the entire time I was watching the movie. The voice was there when I laughed out loud. The voice was there when the popcorn gave a satisfying crunch. It was there when I arrived home and the phone rang.
Husband: “I’m stopping at the grocery store before heading home. Need anything?”
Me: “Nope, but thanks for asking.”
Husband: “Hey, I was thinking. Do you want to see a movie when I get back?”
Me: “I just got back from seeing one, but I’d love to go again with you.”
Silence for about six seconds. Which is a really long time when Responsibility has been warning you all day.
Husband, in a deadpan voice: “See you when I get home.”
Oh oh. How was I feeling about my self-date?
According to an article in Psychology Today, we need to take more breaks in order to get more done. *
I know that sounds counter-intuitive because taking more breaks equates to using more precious time. As women, we feel overwhelmed with our lists as it is. However, tip #4 in the article states:
Breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. “Aha moments” came more often to those who took breaks, according to this research. Other research suggests also that taking regular breaks raises workers’ level of engagement, which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity.
And for me, it’s true. I need breaks to “walk through” a challenge, or a break to see life from another angle. Sometimes it’s simple daydreaming, which isn’t simple at all. It’s uplifting and boosts creativity.
At issue is that I feel guilty for taking breaks. I suspect it stems from childhood when any “loafing” was shamed, and the church reminded us Lutheran types that we earn our daily bread by the sweat of our brow. In other words, get back to work!
And yet, when I drove home from the movie I was smiling. My mood was light and I looked forward to seeing my husband and hearing about his day. And, no surprise, the tasks that needed attention were still right there, waiting. Shockingly the world didn’t crack in half because I hadn’t yet finished my daily “to do” list. Huh.
When my husband arrived home he seemed tired. Was he annoyed with me? It was hard to read him through my happy goggles.
“Hey,” I said. “You mentioned wanting to see a movie. Do you still wanna?”
He was quiet for a moment. “You were just at the theater. Do I have to buy you another ticket?”
He was teasing, so I knew we were good. “Yep.”
“I want popcorn, “ he said. “Buttered.”
“Believe me, I understand.” I slapped on a little lipstick, grabbed the car keys, and off we went. The to-do list could wait a little longer.
I took myself on a much-needed date today. And then, later, I went on a date with my lover.
It’s interesting how doing something for myself created the space to be that much more loving and attentive in other areas of my life. I felt energized instead of depleted.
When was the last time you took yourself on a date?