‘The man who made time made plenty of it’…….or so my Dad often quips anyway.
He usually rolls out that particular gem during times of high stress in my life. I tend to find it reassuring in the short term, that is, until the impending deadline of doom becomes an unavoidable reality again. I then realise that time is a luxury I wish I had more of. I feel about time the way that most people feel about money – I have enough to get by and live a relatively average life from day to day, but if I had more of it, I reckon that I would be so much happier and comfortable in life. When I say time, I really mean time to myself. To have the luxury of recharging whenever I felt necessary would be the equivalent of winning the lottery to me. Time is my wealth.
Needing lots of time to myself doesn’t necessarily spring from being an introvert. I am a self-diagnosed ambivert, who enjoys the company of like-minded people, as well as time on my own. However, at the ripe old age of 32, the older I get, the more I feel more of an inclination towards the introversion side. I think that the past decade of my life has really been influential in chiselling out this definite aspect of my personality.
Over the past ten years, I have been and still am a teacher, facilitator, daughter, sister, girlfriend, aunt, friend and part-time carer. I work in a caring profession. I also take on the role of carer in my personal life. It isn’t overly intensive, but it is constant. I feel blessed to have many beautiful friends who feel comfortable in my company, and we often swap stories of advice with each other. As an empath, it comes as second nature to me, and I am more than happy to help and support others. But sometimes, by the time that all bases are covered in terms of everyone having their piece, on any given day, there may be very little opportunity before bed to squeeze in some very necessary wind-down time alone.
At present, I am working on saying ‘No’, and doing so without allowing a wave of guilt to swell and wash over me afterwards. A decade of my twenties spent juggling care-giving with setting high expectations for myself in the world of academia and personal development, as well as being an omnipresent social butterfly at the weekends led to running on an adrenalin that could not maintain sustainability.
Officially in my thirties now.
Officially a little bit life-tired.
Officially need some rest.
I cannot and do not want to turn away from my responsibilities, but I do want to implement freedom of choice, and respectfully refuse invites to social events , without guilt attached, when I feel necessary. And when might it be necessary? When I feel high-stress energy within and know that it needs calm and space to rebalance.
Neuroplasticity is a huge buzzword in psychology and science at the minute. It basically means that humans possess the ability to rewire their brain. The direction that this rewiring takes can be influenced by the environment, behaviours, thoughts and emotions of the person. This knowledge is beneficial for people who get too caught up in the busy-ness of giving time and energy to others, because despite the challenges, we now know that it is still possible to achieve a state of balance. Science has also discovered that the only way that the brain can automatically recalibrate stress levels to normal, without any effort from the person, is when we sleep. Outside of that, we can aid the rebalancing through embracing purposefully calming environments, rejuvenating practices and restful opportunities for time out.
So while my friends may have felt that I was full of endless energy for madness in my twenties, that adrenalin has begun to run dry a little now. I still love enjoying exciting adventures, and spontaneous fun, but just in shorter spurts now, so that those experiences can be balanced with a bit of down time to recharge. Recharge might mean simply having a nap, or engaging in activities like meditation, dancing, listening to music, reading, writing or spending time in nature.
My different caring roles require me to be sociable, and giving with my energy. And so, the balance comes back around when I ‘exit the sociability building’ every so often during my free time. Unfortunately, this may mean sometimes saying ‘Yes’ to social invites, and fully meaning it at the time, but backing out on the day. Not through social anxiety, but due to social exhaustion. Also, at times when I ignore the inner voice that tells me that I’m too exhausted to go, and I go regardless, I have often ended up feeling physically unwell due to sheer exhaustion and burn out. And so this is why I am working on saying ‘No’ without any guilt repercussions. (Not always easy for a natural people-pleaser!) I do commit to being ‘there’ for those I care about and love as far as possible in any way that I can. And in turn, at times when they feel that I am not there as much as they would like me to be, I hope they know that I do not love them any less.
When a child is asked what they imagine their ideal life would be like as an adult, I doubt that many would answer, ‘A life that gives me time to myself’. I’m sure I didn’t as a child either! But knowing now what I didn’t know then, I would wish for more time, every time. Sometimes our most precious riches are the simple things that we have previously taken for granted. Time is my wealth.
P.S. A massive shoutout to those who juggle parenting in the mix too –that is just a whole other level of time mastery!
(Thanks to A Lust For Life for publishing this article on their website also.)