Friday, January 6, 2012

Recess! Resolving to Take Time to Play

Me and Dad, San Francisco, Dec 2011
By now, many of you have probably read the fantastic piece from Pico Iyer in the New York Times, "The Joy of Quiet." If you haven't, go ahead and give it a read. I'll wait.

My dad (that's him up in that picture with me) sent me a link to this article a few days before New Years when it was first published in the newspaper. It isn't that this article, although well-written and meditative, says anything so terribly new or revolutionary. It was the timing of it. I read it in that reflective space between Christmas and the end of the year, and felt drawn to statements like this one:

We barely have enough time to see how little time we have (most Web pages, researchers find, are visited for 10 seconds or less). And the more that floods in on us (the Kardashians, Obamacare, “Dancing with the Stars”), the less of ourselves we have to give to every snippet.

And this one:

...It’s only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it. 

I read this article and I thought, "Yes." Yes, this is what I need. I need quiet space and time to filter all the words, images, and messages that bombard me so constantly that there are days when I feel physically battered by the time I pull down the covers and slip into bed. I need quiet space to recharge myself and remember why I am doing what I'm doing and to find new inspiration. Quiet space. That's exactly what has been missing.

So, of course, I made a New Year's resolution to make more quiet space in my days. This felt good and healthy and spiritual and all sorts of other noble things.

On New Year's Day, my husband Scott and I took a walk and I broached the subject: how do we go about making quiet space in our days? And there was silence. From both of us. And not the good kind of introspective silence that was the point of the whole conversation, but more the awkward kind of two people completely flummoxed.

I tried asking it in another way: what does quiet space look like? Feel like?

I thought of sitting meditation. Yoga. Staring out the window into space. Napping. Going for runs without listening to music or podcasts. Turning off the computer. Turning off the iPhone. Even putting down my book and setting the magazines aside.

Is it just me or does quiet space sound pretty boring?

It sounds like the kind of thing that would feel good and healthy and noble for about a week before kicking it to the curb. It sounds like all things that I've done before, none of which ever stuck. This realization was frustrating to me. Because I do feel overwhelmed with the barrage of information that flies at me every day. I do feel that need to step away. But I don't think quiet space is really the answer for me.

Mom, drinking Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco, Dec 2011
Over the next few days, I kept mulling this over. Quiet space. Quiet space. Quiet space. I thought about the times when I feel happiest and most relaxed. Sometimes that happens when I'm staring out the window at nothing. Sometimes that happens when I'm paging through blogs on the computer. The feeling can come up while listening to Rage Against the Machine on an afternoon run. I actually feel it quite a lot when I'm snapping pictures with my iPhone like the ones in this post.

There were many characteristics that tied these moments together. Here's the revised list quiet space qualifiers: timelessness, lightness, creativity, spontaneity, joy, abandonment (the good kind), playfulness.

Then I finally put it together. My "quiet space" looks an awful lot like "play time." That made me smile.

Play time is exactly what I need. It's what I've always needed. If left to my own devices, I tend to be a very serious person. Focused. Logical. Hardworking. Play time is for later, after all the work is done. The kind of quiet time described in that New York Times article sounded, to me, like more of the serious focus that I already have in spades. I need time to play.

So that's my New Year's resolution: take a recess every day, in the middle of the day. Exactly like we used to have back in school. It's unstructured time with relaxed rules and no set schedule. And then back to work, but a little more refreshed and ready than before. Yes.

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