I've been teaching myself how to spend time by myself. With myself. A skill I hope you are developing. Because I ain't so great at it.
Being by myself is a hard feat for someone like me, so accustomed to 28 driven years of doing, achieving and over-doing, over-achieving. It's like telling the Earth to stop spinning, telling TV producers to stop making shows about pregnant teenagers from New Jersey, telling toddlers to stop picking their noses, telling Bel she's not actually speaking Spanish, telling Danjo she can't climb that coconut tree. You catch my drift? Seemingly pointless.
At first, when my anxiety was so pervasive, spending so much time alone felt like a great gift. (Of which I felt unworthy, if my brain wasn't making things complicated enough, it had to throw in a dose of self-doubt and a dash of self-depricamentalation-ating. That's not a word, but it feels like one.)
But, as my mood has leveled out, my desire to watch yet another episode of Real Housewives waned, and my household-related routines have fallen into place, I started to find myself, well, bored stiff. Home alone for stretches of HOURS!
It's almost offensive to our capitalist, Puritan, motherhood ethics. What the hell am I supposed to do with HOURS? Especially if I'm not supposed to be doing anything!?
With a bipolar diagnosis (or maybe in any state), this is tricky territory. There is a fine line between doing and doing too much. Between need to's and should do's and want to's. Between meaningfully occupying oneself and needlessly busying oneself. And over-thinking it the whole damn day.
Of course, I'm trying to keep my eye on that line, so I don't cross it into mania or into simply avoiding, hiding from my hot-mess-self. When I sit down, after my morning routine, after guests have left, after you girls are asleep, I struggle to be still and with myself, fighting the urge to get up again, to finish or to start a project, to call a friend, to plug brainlessly into the multimedia world.
So, in addition to just sitting with myself in formal meditation or yoga, I urge myself to focus on process, rather than results, as I go about my day. Colloquially, to stop and smell the roses.
Instead of baking bread because I have to or I should. Instead of taking a walk because I need exercise. Instead of walking circles around the house, finding things to put away, wipe down, fix or otherwise do, because I can't sit still with myself for one lousy minute.
Instead. When I can win the battle over myself, I take time to soak in the process. To find the joy and beauty, moment by moment. To tolerate my own company in hopes that I will one day enjoy it. To find me, to be me, not do me.
(Note to Drake: you are wrong, doing you don't work, since you can't even remember what you were doing. Also, why are Canadians taking over America? That's not rhetorical, please explain in the comments, Drake. I'm pretty sure you need a flow chart to navigate all that, but I'm going to let someone else take my idea and run with it ala this Get Low flow chart. You're welcome, Internet, for that brilliant idea. Now, scamper off and do your homework.)
When I start to get uncomfortable with myself (like maybe in that last paragraph?), I come back to the poem below (that I posted here when my life was unravelling). And I try to immerse myself in the process of my life (if only by re-visiting my photo stream), basking in the moments where I felt that life was unfolding before me instead of fighting against me.
(I know the poem is a repeat as are some of the photos for those who follow us on Facebook and Instagram, but put a cork in it and enjoy them again, all right? Consider it a meditative practice, at least, in tolerating redundancy and adorable children.)
"Love after Love"
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
- Derek Walcott
Question for the People: Are there any activities you do that focus on process? Do tell!
To curb my mania and Internet addiction, I only write once a week (if that) on this here blog. So, if you like seeing photos of baked goods, cute kids and the ways I keep myself un-busy during the week, make sure to like Dearest Daughters on Facebook.