I’ve had this poem on my mind for a while. I took the title of my post from it. It’s called “No Time,” by my wise friend Johnna Ferguson:

pressed
for the sleeping and eating,
care of the young and
the sleeping and eating,
duties of shelter,
to keep it clean and warm
and lit and locked and live,
and all the wordless aspects
of errands and urgencies,
without details, lacking words,
and the sleeping and eating
and

no time.

Read the rest of it here (and really, do go and read it). I love this poem; my mind returns to it often, as I feel my children pulling time from my life, by the strand and by the handful.

It’s me right now, stealing time from other things I could/should/ought to be doing to write this. The weight of all my unfinished tasks feels oppressive, like I can never take time, or rather, like I somehow never deserve to take some of that time and give it to myself.

I took Shelah’s recommendation from last month and read This is How We Grow, by Christina Hibbert.I found her story of adopting her sister’s children compelling, but I appreciated her professional insights even more. She walked me through her process of getting through something really rough. I was struck by how often she forced herself, with her trained psychologist’s insight, to make space for exercise, for journaling, for time alone. And it helped heal her.

My takeaway from This is How We Grow: I really need to take better care of myself. To give myself more time. And even just writing that feels so narcissistic, like I’m bad for thinking that the solution to my woes and discouragement could be found by looking in instead of looking out. I’m trained to look out right now: to my husband, kids, visiting teachees, calling.

But a couple weeks ago I took a weekend and went to a hotel, all by myself (major applause and credit to my husband, who sees my need for time and insisted that I should go). It felt strange at first. The air conditioner in the room was loud, but that was the only sound. The entire room was clean, and I didn’t have to clean it. I could use the bathroom without emerging from it to see my children, all of them, gathered around the door, each wanting something from me.

I wrote and went to the temple and ate good food. I went shopping (Savers, baby!) and bought new clothes, including two almost-new pairs of black shoes that perfectly replaced my worn out ones. I felt more like a human being, like my own self, than I have in years. And, wouldn’t you know, when I came home I was a better mother.

I can’t take that kind of time very often. It’s a luxury, caviar and diamonds and $300 shoes instead of $8 ones. But I need to stop telling myself the lie that I don’t deserve it, or that my kids need me too much to take time away. My kids need the best kind of me, and I’m starting to see that when I don’t take time for myself, I am cheating all of us.

How do you beg, borrow, or steal time that restores you? What are your favorite restorative things to do? Is it as hard to give yourself permission to take time as it is for me?

5 Comments

  1. Cindy

    August 4, 2014

    My mom died when I was 30. The year after she died my 3 sisters and I (ages 20 to 31) had a girls night in Park City. It was wonderful. We ate and shopped and sat in the hot tub and we talked about our mom. We decided that since we didn’t have her to take care of us anymore we needed to take care of each other, and that this was one way we’d do that.

    That year I had three kids and my whole family was in Utah so that one night away wasn’t a huge inconvenience. But I lived in North Carolina, and I homeschooled my 3 kids, and a few years later I had triplets. All of those things made this new tradition terribly inconvenient. I still did it, though, (except for the year the triplets were 8 months old) even though it was never convenient. The interesting thing was how much better I always was for having taken the trip. I was always tired when I got back, and jet-lagged, and overwhelmed. But I was also always stunned at how beautiful and wonderful and adorable my children were.

    I have struggled with the awareness that most of my peers don’t allow themselves to do things like this–and with the understanding that it is such a healthy thing for me to do. I understand our effort as Latter Day Saints is to not be like the world–to be selfless instead of selfish, to do for others instead of ourselves. Like you said, to look out instead of in. I think though that to some degree though we have thrown the baby out with the bath water and have created a culture in which too many women feel guilt at taking care of their own needs, even while knowing that taking that time/space for themselves makes everything else work better…

  2. Kellie aka Selwyn

    August 5, 2014

    Taking time for myself can be so difficult, let alone the giving myself permission to just stop. I take the moments I can – I “send” myself to bed when it’s raining hard, so I can relax and hear the sound of rain on the roof (one of my favourite sounds). I’m getting back in the habit of giving myself time to go for a run in the mornings, instead of doing “one more thing”.

    Last year I visited the States, and had a night on my own in a hotel room. The depth of quiet and aloneness was sublime!

    How about you write me a permission slip for time, and I write you one? Sounds like a plan to me!

  3. Catherine

    August 5, 2014

    Thanks for this, Emily. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the one thing I feel like I need in my life right now that’s missing: restorative leisure time. (Unfortunately, I tend to spend the 10 minutes of “leisure time” that I get here and there in the day on Facebook or something equally mindless and equally unrestorative.) Some of the reasons why this is lacking in my life is because of the ages of my kids and some is because we moved last year and the relationships that tend to restore me take time to build. But some is because I simply need to decide–as you say–to make it happen, to choose to be restored.

  4. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    August 5, 2014

    I hear you. I was thinking about this very same thing this morning. This summer has not been the loose and free-from schedule reprieve I thought it would be (which makes me laugh at myself–how could I even expect that with nine children living at home?) And yet I have to take steps to guard my sanity. I enjoyed the post a week or so ago about going to a monastery. I’ve tossed it around in my brain, knowing it is not feasible for me (we don’t live near one) but my daughter cleans rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn and could get me a room there for $45ish. Right now what I do is guard certain times–I get up early enough to exercise (alone) and read the scriptures and pray before the children wake. I started reading The Artist’s Way a few years ago (need to finish it) and was writing in my journal for 20 minutes a day back then. THAT was restorative in a big way! I am trying to get back to that. I call a halt in the middle of the day and go in my room for two hours. It is naptime for the baby, quiet time for everyone else. I nap for 20ish minutes, do paperwork, read, etc. And at 5:00 when I have one child working on dinner, I have been trying to read novels on the back porch. The children are all playing around me so I am not alone but I do get some reading in. I also hang a load of laundry (or more) each day. That is zen-like too. At night, when the kids are in bed (8:00 ostensibly) I work on projects with the goal to quit at 10:00 and read until I drop off. I need to be better at sticking to my self-appointed times. Oh and the weekend nights, especially Fridays are SACRED time. My husband and I leave the children at home and go for walks, read at Barnes and Noble, grocery shop, etc. coming back to watch a movie (the only time I watch stuff) and eat chocolate and fruit. I spend too much time on facebook because of where I am–little bits and pieces of time. I want to curb that.

  5. Johnna Ferguson

    August 6, 2014

    Ana, I love Artist’s Way too.

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