I’ve ben talking with a lot of people lately about what they were interested in before they got into a relationship. Certainly before they had children. And these conversations are not just with women. While this is often a real challenge for many women, men suffer from this too. The whole challenging thing of keeping your individual dreams alive while in relationships.
This is something that we don’t think should be as hard as it is and I believe that is part of the problem. It is hard, really, really hard to work and be in relationship and keep your life together, you know clean clothes, food on a regular basis and a home that isn’t a total sty, and do the things that you love and feel called to do.
They still haven’t put more than 24 hours in a day and, honestly, even if they did I doubt that would solve the problem. The challenge is making time for the things that nourish us when time is our most precious and truly limited resource. Not only making time, but making time that doesn’t feel as though we are stealing it from those we love.
It’s taken me a long while but this is what I’ve come to. When we do what we love to do, what we need to do to fill our soul, we are making our contribution to the world. Also, we are giving those we love permission to do the same. Especially if we have children because then we are teaching them that their dreams are valuable and meaningful. We are teaching them that who they are as individuals matters and that they have a contribution to make to the world, as do we all.
To get to this place we have to let go of the belief that doing something just for us is selfish rather than restorative self care.
When we do what we love to do we create a space for ourselves that allows for renewal from the many stresses of life. We add to our reservoir of inner peace and that means we add to the world’s reservoir of peace. Maybe we create a masterpiece, more likely we just create and, ideally, enjoy the process of creation. Or recreation.
The pick up basketball game you play with friends is as valuable as the painting that someone else creates. The cookies baked just because you were inspired to bake matter as much as the story someone else writes. Because this is not a competition. It is not a zero sum game. This is about deeply understanding that even within relationship we have to maintain and nurture our dreams.
Our dreams are part of the stories we have and those stories enrich the world. We need to pay attention to those dreams, feed those dreams, and encourage others to do the same. Taking time alone or in community, to do what we love, is one of the great joys of being human.
What is it that makes us feel that to take that time is selfish? What is it that makes us believe that we are meant to put all our focus outside of ourselves and onto the relationships that we value? The truly ironic thing is that this is not what we want for those whom we love. We want them to do their thing. We want them to follow their dreams or even to simply take good care of themselves on a regular basis. Yet we will deny ourself the simple pleasure of an hour alone to do the thing that is calling to us. Even when what is calling is as simple as a nap.
The belief that taking time to do the things we love is selfish is the enemy of our joy and peace. That idea imprisons us and those we love in chains of guilt. What if, instead of feeling like you were stealing time from those you love, you planned time to do what is important just to you and encouraged those around you to do the same? Maybe at the same time, maybe not. But just the willingness to say, “I see that you could use some time to do your own thing and so could I. When should we schedule that?” makes a difference. Putting brackets around time for following your own dreams, or your own nap schedule, opens up possibilities.
There is a deep fulfillment that arises within us when we do our own thing, even if only for a little while. That fulfillment feeds and softens us, makes us kinder to ourselves and others. Think of all those days where at the end you felt exhausted because all you did was attend to the needs and wants of others. Pile enough of those days one on another and it’s easy to become angry, bitter, or defeated.
So for the sake of not only your own inner peace but the inner peace of those around you, take some time. Do the thing you love, regularly, very regularly, and spread the freedom. Encourage others to do what they love and then sit back and notice how the joy quotient in your life, and theirs, has increased.