Winding Down

Yesterday was the first day of school here in Michigan, and the evidence of that was everywhere, including the weather.  Mother Nature cooperated nicely, giving us a little foretaste of fall with some cooler air and hefty breezes that sent dry leaves and twigs scuttering about.

There was definitely something in the air yesterday – an ill wind was blowing, it seemed, for it was one of those days where everything that could go wrong, did.  Nothing catastrophic or life altering, thank goodness, but a day chock full of minor annoyances which multiplied into a killer of a headache.

It was an unfortunate day for that to happen, because it was a day I had decided to embark on a new philosophy of living.   I’ve been feeling a very real need to throttle back, to slow down the hectic pace of my life and relax.  It’s an odd time to do that – just at the moment when  fall activities are gearing up, I’m talking about winding down. But I think it’s more of an attitude adjustment than anything else.   I tend to plunge headstrong into everything, full speed ahead, bull in a china shop sort of plunging.   Just lately something has come over me, a very strong feeling like I’ve never felt before, urging me to breath deeply, slow down, look at things though a calmer and quieter lens.

I don’t always have an easy time with stillness.  There’s a restlessness in me this past decade or so that I don’t recall having in my younger years.  True, my life has been busier in many ways during the recent past,  what with working, and caring for people, and musical activities, and dogs, and traveling…but even when I have the opportunity to rest and be still, I found it hard.

My friend M. was talking about her daily routine the other day.  “Usually about 3:00 I go upstairs and lie on the bed to read for a while,” she said.  “Sometimes I take a nap, but usually I read for an hour or so before it’s time to get dinner.”

For some reason my eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled with longing when she said that.  To lie on the bed in the middle of the afternoon and “read for an hour or so.” Imagine the luxury of that!  Then I remembered that I used to do that very thing nearly every day.  When my son was small, I’d often go into the bedroom and lie on the bed while he napped, reading happily until he awoke when I’d pile him into his stroller and take off for our daily jaunt to the park.

Something in me needs that now, and I’m not sure what it is, but it’s a clear and strong feeling that I need to marshal my resources and live differently, to pay more attention to myself and what I need, to slow down my movements and my activities and the pace of my everyday existence.

Yesterday things were happening lickety split and  problems were cropping up all over the place. But when I came home from work I made a conscious effort to go into my little room, curl up in the chair, and read for about 20 minutes.  Just quiet reading, as they say in school.

It felt really good.

I’ve realized that my on-line activities have played a large part in the frantic nature of my lifestyle over the past few years.  And while I’m not intending to stop writing here or at Bookstack ( in fact, I’m hoping to write more, because writing is one of the things that helps me make sense of life in general), I need to be more mindful of the time I spend on  line and make it productive.   With Twitter and Facebook, the tendency is to communicate so often and in such bursts of thought, it’s like our mind needs to be in hyper mode, vigilantly thinking in 140 character phrases, posting and reposting, engaging in the conversation.

It’s too much, I think.

I seem to recall writing about this before, about being spread too thin in terms of my commitments and activities, and  I really have pared down my actual physical responsibilities.  This time the need is different – it’s a slowing of the spirit that’s required, a need to use  time in a more restful and mindful way.

Like lying on the bed and reading for an hour or so.

How about you?  Are you winding down or gearing up in your life right now?

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17 thoughts on “Winding Down

  1. Oh, the luxury of an hour to ourselves! But we so need it. When your son was a wee one, I bet that his nap time (and your rest time) relaxed you enough from your morning and gave you the extra energy that is much needed until the bedtime hour. I know that I didn’t rest much when my girl napped, but when I did – I often felt more prepared to tackle the rest of the day.
    So why do we not give ourselves this little luxury, this rest our body craves now that we have all the time in the world? All this activity depletes us – and I think a little rest, a little reading, or a little lounge on the couch is a gift we should give ourselves more often.
    I don’t give it to myself enough! But I am going to try 🙂

    • You’re still in the midst of raising a family, and the rare relaxing moments are hard to find. I love reading about the way you’ve been cherishing your time with your daughter – you’ll be so glad you did that someday.

  2. Boy can I relate. Sometimes it seems my life is spinning so fast I just want to jump off.
    But reading, reading is my salvation. Nothing nuourishes me like getting lost in a book or even an interesting article in a magazine. Yet, I always say “I’ll read when I get all my work or other obligations done.” No, read when you need it, then the other work and obligations won’t seem so burdonsome.
    When I retire (I seem to say this alot.) I’m going to take a nap and read every day.
    That’s a promise I’m making to myself.

  3. I completely agree. Particularly in regards to the hyperactive mode all the social networking tends to put you in. That stuff is so temporal, when something appears in your Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed that interests you, you feel like you need to drop everything and deal with it right then before more stuff replaces it.

    That was why I got rid of the auto-updating Twitter sidebar on my desktop — which admittedly wasn’t a huge leap, but it’s a start.

    • I think the social media thing puts people in hyper mode. I need to wean myself from that, but I also admit that it’s addicting.

      BTW, I bet you don’t take naps anymore, do you??

  4. I really love your post. It speaks very loud on my mind and I am sure for a lot of people too.
    I think all you can do is just balancing your life and just enjoy.

  5. For me, it’s definitely the internet. I feel anxious when I haven’t checked my email in hours. And what makes me sad about this post is that my children are small, and I’m right here with them, and I still feel, sometimes, like I’m missing it. During my baby’s nap, by the time I wind down, he’s about to wake up. It has a lot to do with my scattered state of being. I write a lot about being “present” and that’s because I’m constantly having to remind myself to do it!

    • “Scattered state of being” hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly how I feel, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever felt before. It does take a conscious effort to be present and be in one piece!

  6. Becca, I love what you’re talking about here. I am getting back to my daily meditation practise. It is my own way of realizing that the world doesn’t need me to make it spin. My latest version of meditation has me lying on the carpet, with bent legs resting on a chair, blanket and a pillow and the timer set for thirty minutes. With the knees at 90 degrees, right above the hips, its a great way to realign the pelvis/back after all the sitting at the computer. More than that it’s a lovely way to give the entire body a rest from the work of staying upright. It’s a great way to focus on just breathing. I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks again for starting this discussion. It’s great.
    http://www.colleenfriesen.com/blog

    • Colleen, my lower back loves the sound of your meditation posture! I think I’d have to work up to 30 minutes of that…I know I’d be getting antsy long before the timer went off. But that’s exactly the thing I need to work on.

  7. Oh, my dear — you ask the big question. Winding up or slowing down? Yours is the second post I’ve read today about being still. What is it? I’ve felt that nag, too. I tend to seldom be still and do nothing. The loveliness of doing nothing. Where did I hear that recently? If I’m sitting I must be reading or knitting or doing a puzzle. The mind doesn’t stop.

    My summer was a wind-down — quieter at work, weekends and vacation at the lake where I didn’t feel guilty to sit in the sun or putter. At home — with work ramping up, I feel almost compelled to be productive at home (as the house is in disarray). But for the past few nights I’ve been racing to finish my book club read before next week and find that I’m enjoying settling in under a quilt, a Gypsy on my lap or close by, and turning the pages. Perhaps there is no guilt because I have a deadline. But at least I am being still.

    • You and I struggle with some of the same things – the need to be productive, plus the desire to be doing all the many things we love so much. It’s strange that even though I feel by body crave stillness, I find it hard to give in to it. Like now – I’ve barely gotten home, eaten dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, looked through the mail…and here I am. Shouldn’t I just pour a glass of wine and go be still for a while?

  8. Becca,

    I just posted about this very thing, today! There are other people abroad in our world – including some of the movers and shakers in the cyber-side-of-things, who feel precisely the same way and struggle with the same issues. You’ll see.

    And just one other thing – “being still” is not equivalent to “doing nothing”. I know that with every fiber of my being, but I want to think about it some more before writing about it.

  9. We’re on the same wavelength once again, Becca. I’ve heard this feeling expressed by you before. I think you’re coming to it, as am I.

    Yoga has helped me tremendously. I must qualify that by confessing that my yoga class is not only a beginner class but a senior class, too. It’s basically balance and stretching of the most gentle kind. Ha! I’m no master! But we ease into it with a bit of relaxation/meditation/stretching at the beginning and end with deep meditation. So wonderful! I can not tell you how wonderful. Where has this been all my life.

    The mind is never still. It constantly races with darting thoughts. We don’t even realize it. I find that a few minutes to allow the mind to rest each day is an incredibly restorative thing. It’s a gift.
    Bella

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