I want to bring you back to a time long ago. A time when you had, well, TIME. Time to sleep. Time to eat. Time to peacefully go to the bathroom. Time for your hobbies.
Time to relax and hear…NOTHING.
Yes, a time long ago…
I call it B.C.
Remember when you were okay with staying up on a Friday night until whenever? Who cares, you’d say to yourself, I’ll just sleep in tomorrow morning. I have the time to do that. I’m not talking about sleep in as in 7:00 A.M. which often feels like a really late morning these days. I’m referring to a time when you’d wake up at noon, check the alarm clock, think to yourself, Damn, I just missed out on the better part of a day. Ah, well. It happens. Then you’d go downstairs, pour a bowl of cereal, make a cup of coffee, put on the television, and then not move for another hour or so until your body was finally ready for rigorous activity like walking.
Remember when you ate your food at a normal human rate? Yeah, you remember, don’t you? You didn’t cram it down your throat because you were worried about only having fifteen minutes to get to baseball, soccer, piano, guitar, ninja class, or whatever new thing your kid was into at the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to choking because I had to shovel dinner down my gullet in record time. I guess taking bites between frantically gathering baseball gear isn’t the best tip for safe, healthy eating habits. Remember when you could go out to nice restaurants, sip a nice glass of red wine along with a succulent piece of filet mignon cooked to perfection with a little butter and rosemary atop of it? You’d take your time slowly savoring bites of that masterful cuisine, and you’d wash it down with that cabernet thinking about nothing other than being in the moment. That sweet, sweet moment of relaxation. What a hectic week at work! It’s okay. It’s the weekend now. I have time to relax. You’d let the wine linger in your mouth for a moment, swallow, take a deep smoky oak flavored breath in, and then you’d calmly relish in the freedom of nothingness.
What a time. Am I right?
What about the bathroom? Man, wasn’t it nice to just….go? Whenever you wanted. Without people screaming and banging on the door looking for you?
“Dad! What are you doing in there?” Tommy always asks with a hint of annoyance in his voice. Oh, well excuse me, son! Is my bowel movement or the act of evacuating my bladder putting a wrench in your plans?
“Yo! Guy! What do you think I’m doing in here? I’m using the bathroom?” I give the same irritated tone right back to him. Take that you inconsiderate bathroom interrupter!
“Pee or Poop!” Did he just? Yes, he sure did. Privacy. There was a time when I had privacy.
“Oh, come on! Does it matter? Leave me alone!”
“Just want to know how long, Dad!”
Can kids cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Is that like one of the side effects of having children?
Side effects of having children may include:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Loss of sleep
Loss of appetite
Inability to focus
Inability to find inner peace
Doubting every decision you make
Nausea and vomiting (Children are magnets for the stomach flu)
Occasional marital spats with the wife (Let her win. She’s your only ally, and let’s be honest, she’s probably right)
Fits of rage (Tiny, stray Lego pieces will in fact ruin your life)
Loss of silence
Feeling of impending doom
Did we mention eye twitches?
And the list goes on….
It might sound like I wish I had all that time back. To be honest, while at times I may have fleeting moments of envy for those days before children, the truth is, I would never trade my current life. My boys are my world now; however, the other reality I am faced with is that parenting is incredibly tough at times, and what makes it even harder is the inability to stop and process things. I mean, the days are short and the tasks just keep filling up on that immeasurably long to-do list. I usually hit the couch around 9 o’clock at night. Sure, I get to “watch” a television show if I am not grading a stack of essays from my classes. Even then, I’m not even really watching that show because I’m actually thinking about the millions of things I have yet to accomplish in my week. For crying out loud, there’s a light bulb in our closet that is haunting us on a daily basis. This thing has been on my list of things to accomplish for quite some time, but I can’t get to it because it’s very low on the hierarchy of needs at the moment. A light bulb. How sad is that? Every time I flick the switch on and nothing happens, I nearly lose it.
Regardless, that’s my life. Time is remarkably elusive. Do you want to know when I decide is the best time to think about that list and all the crap I have to do? Bedtime. Right before I am supposed to get to sleep, I decide it’s a good opportunity to drop the gate at the horse track and let my brain run rampant around and around that dirt track of stress. Curious onlookers with gambling addictions place bets on when I will finally fall asleep, and before I know it, it’s two o’clock in the morning. I still haven’t slept.
Time? Where did it go?
So, what’s the point of this post? Am I just complaining about something we all deal with? Am I hoping you’ll hear this sad tune on my tiny, insignificant violin and feel sorry for me? Nope, I’m just hoping you can relate, and when you’re staring blankly at that bedroom wall desperately trying to stop your mind from wandering and churning, I hope you know you’re not alone. More importantly, I want to give you a huge suggestion.
Despite the notion that we never have time anymore, I want you to make time for something.
Michelle and I were so bad at this early on with kids. We always felt guilty grabbing a drink with a friend, going fishing, or getting nails done. We refused to give ourselves the time we needed, and even to this day, we can be better about it. We’ve no doubt learned from our mistakes, and we now realize that giving ourselves a brief return to alone time drastically improves our mood when we’re with the boys. Whatever it is you like to do, find the time to do it. I’d like to throw this your way as well.
I won’t lie, that was really hard for me to write down. It just sounds so incredibly awkward and weird, and I feel like it makes me sound strange. Maybe not to you, but for me, I don’t know, it used to be wildly unorthodox to my mindset. Meditation was so far outside my comfort level before I actually gave it a try. I didn’t really grow up with anything remotely close to meditation or even talking about feelings all that much, so I had such a negative perception when a friend first recommended Mindfulness Meditation to help me with my sleeping issues. I laughed and just couldn’t shake away all the stereotypes I had in my head about it. Finally, one night, I decided that four nights of sleeplessness in a row would be unbearable, and I was ready to try anything. Usually, I would struggle with sleep every other night or so, but now it was becoming increasingly regular, and let me tell you, dealing with nearly 150 teenagers the next day on four hours of sleep is no easy task.
So, I set aside a half hour before bed. I didn’t care what was happening outside of my basement. I was dedicating thirty minutes of some me time, and seeing that it was 9:30, the boys had been in bed for nearly two hours. Deciding my students’ essays could wait one more day, I set out on my first try at meditation. I had already been given some links and articles beforehand (I’ll share below with you at the end of this post), so I somewhat knew what I should do, but I had no idea what to expect. I got in my recliner, made myself comfortable, put on the YouTube video my friend recommended, and well I….meditated. At first, I didn’t think any of it would work. Nobody was in the basement with me, and yet I was so completely embarassed that I was even trying this stupid thing.
Then, I did what I was told.
Count from one to ten over and over and over again in your head. Visualize the numbers and see them as you repeat them slowly and methodically in your mind’s eye. If an outside thought invades, start from one again. Don’t go past ten. Restart when you hit ten. See the numbers differently each time and don’t focus on anything but the numbers and the calm music in the background. Then, when other thoughts are no longer invading your concentration on those numbers, focus on every part of your body starting with your toes and move to the top of your head. Feel the weight of your body in the chair. Give each part your entire focus. See if you can feel the rhythm of the blood as it fills your fingers.
I’m telling you, I never felt goofier in my whole entire life, until I realized that it was actually working. In thirty minutes time, guess what I thought about? The numbers one through ten and the sensation of my ass in the recliner! That’s it! Do you know how much of an accomplishment that was for this ADHD brain of mine? I succeeded in putting a halt to my incessantly racing mind, and I forced it to stop thinking about all the meaningless tasks I had to do. Thirty whole minutes of me time and NOTHINGNESS!
Sweet Mother of God! A return to the days before children!
Speaking of thoughts, chew on this one for a second. We have an hour out of the day when we encourage kids to learn about physical health and force them to exercise physically, yet mental health plays a very minimal role in curriculum throughout a kid’s day. What about you? I bet a good amount of us are concerned about whether or not we’re fitting in enough gym time, but how many of us take time to exercise our mental health? I’m not preaching here, I swear. Going to the gym is important too. No doubt. I’m just saying that as parents, we’re juggling not only our lives, but the lives of our kids as well. Dang, that’s a lot of pressure. And while I know time is so very limited these days, we have to find time for this. Find time to exercise not only your physical well being but your mental well being too. This may very well go down as my most out there posts for some of you, but if you have never meditated, do me a favor and just try it once. What’s the harm? You look like a hippie for roughly thirty minutes? Who cares? You may find, like I did, that your preconceived notions were completely misguided, and who knows, you might just find yourself in a new routine at night like I have.
What are some other ways you deal with the stress of parenting? How do you unwind and make time for yourself? How do you get your mind off the countless things we’re tasked with on a daily basis?
Check out these links on Mindfulness Meditation:
Do what works for you. I change things up for me. Here are some good reads though:
This is the background noise I use: