Our lives are full.
We’re all busy these days.
Whether employed, homemaker, retired, student, schoolchild, not employed… ask anyone, and they will tell you. “I’m so busy, I haven’t got a minute.” Doing what, exactly? Well, stuff – you know, my job/studies, my family, my children, my friends, that lawn won’t mow itself.
It has become okay to say that every moment is crammed with busyness, even if it only consists of online shopping and Candy Crush on your phone. And conversely, it is usual to muster a pitying smile when people say, “Oh, not much these days, life’s pretty quiet.” How idle, how pathetic, how friendless are you, with a gap in your diary.
This is death to creativity.
I too live a frantic life, mainly because of a job that demands much for long hours. Since December, I have worked through a series of work crises that have left me exhausted and singed from fire-fighting. Not to mention the family issues. I struggle to keep my writing going. My NaNo project lies neglected on my hard drive. I am proud to have posted here every week this year, but I am wrung out. What should be fun (writing) feels like another job.
I went for coffee with Sarah, and she listened to my tale of woe kindly. Then she told me to book a holiday, and I listened.
It was time to take a breath.
So on holiday, I slowed down. Without adrenaline digging its spurs into my flank, I collapsed. (Sarah saw that it would have happened in any case, and soon.) I let it all go. I forgot that I had neglected to eat clean and hit the gym, and I wore a swimsuit anyway. I accepted a fresh omelette each morning that I had not cooked, and lay in a bed that I had not made. I dipped in the sea and looked out at boats on the horizon, let the sun warm my skin, and unclenched. I made no plans. I did nothing, for hours at a time.
I needed space.
Space to think. Space to shift my brain into neutral, not with the junk food of mindless entertainment, but with simplicity and being in the moment. Space to switch off the chatter, and in the quietness of wind and waves hear little voices bubbling up.
Here’s an idea. Here’s another. What if? Try this. Why not?
These voices are drowned out in the hubbub of a busy life. Eventually, if not listened to, they fall quiet. Or worse, they morph into resentment, frustration, bitterness that leaves us sour and somehow numb.
My life has become utterly lopsided. I try clinging on to fragments of daydreams, but who has time for dreams when there is so much to do? And then, when work ends, I am spent.
It is time to nourish the little seeds. I have to find space in my everyday life and protect them from myself, the left-brained, busy, concrete self that schedules and plans and extracts maximum effort. We all do.
Whether we are creating art, or creating a life, the principle is the same. We need the gaps. We need to find space, no matter how small, not just on holiday but within the 168 hours of the week. To empty our overflowing brains so there is space for something new.