Today I watched my son play at 5 PM while my daughter watched math videos on her computer while she ate dinner. We have pizza once a week Friday, so it takes much longer to cook than most meals I serve. I cut fresh tomatoes for myself, I like the tomato even though there is already cooked tomato, my daughter does too. We walked 4.6 miles round trip, from 11 AM to 3:30 through the neighborhood stopping to pick up a picnic lunch, browse at dollar tree and play at the park.
I drew out the day into 24 square blocks earlier and colored them in to try to explain that I asked my daughter to focus only for two hours and I gave her five hours everyday to play.
Somehow the square blocks seem to put life in a certain perspective that I’ve never noticed before.
I use Sketchpad.io a free online drawing app to work out basic models and rough sketches digitally, it’s very user friendly for someone who has never used online drawing programs.
This is my/my kids life right now, the blue is sleep, a lot (but interrupted so…), the red is eating (between cooking – serving – feeding baby – cleaning each meal takes about an hour) and exercise, and bathing – teeth brushing ext. It takes us 15 of our 24 blocks just to serve our body. They yellow is playtime, special play time at 12 (where I do what my daughter wants – kind of bonding) outdoor play time at 2 (supposed to be the very best thing for kid’s brains), crafting play time at 3 (painting or art always seemed to help my daughter with her emotional issues, kind of art therapy more than a class), 5 is bonding time with my son and independent hands free time for my daughter (like Legos in her room, or beads), 6 is electronic play time for my daughter and my son plays independently (in the room with me, but he is happy to play by himself). Green is where I teach school to both kids, but letting my younger son wander to blocks or join us if he wants, pink is the only time my husband joins us on an average work day, it’s really half an hour at 7PM, then he eats, then half an hour at 8PM, then he showers, but it’s pretty much an hour a day that he spends time with us, enjoying the kids, but not actually helping with teeth brushing or anything draining. 8PM we are transitioning to sleep, I do a lot of reading to the kids, teeth brushing ext. What was crazy to me is that I never realized how much time is dedicated to just surviving and staying healthy. 63% for us, I have no real idea how much it is for other people, but that’s what it is for us and it’s actually worse for my husband, since his works feeds us and commute is needed to work his time is spend 92% surviving, 8% free-time.
This is time divided by when I’m serving my body (blue, via sleep, eating, exercise, hygiene) when I feel like I am working (red) and the hours of my life I feel I enjoy. 63% feeding the body – 25% “working” – 12% enjoying life.
In response to reading a comment that life feels meaningless often, no matter my optimism I can’t but completely agree, the green square is the time in my life I “feel” a sense of meaning. 4% of my normal day feels significant to me. It would be so easy to let that time slip away.
This is the same time arranged as a pyramid. Looking at survival, we do what we must: sleep, bathe, eat, exercise and a deep tension exists between work vs enjoyment vs meaning. None of those things are “wrong,” but if you work 8 hours instead of my 6, it’s so possible to imagine enjoyment or meaning being swallowed up, if you commute a long commute… it’s as if your week days are just for survival then.
I know there are the weekends, but I don’t think life is meant to be lived in such a way that the average day of your life isn’t enjoyable or meaningful.
Doing this exercise today was quite mundane, but somehow the visuals, as plain as they are tell me at a really deep level how important this one hour is to me. This is the only time I feel like I make a difference. People would say, and it’s probably true, that I make a difference as a mother in 96% of the day, but the only time I feel a sense of flow, impact, meaning, significance is the 4% that most of my family sees as a waste of time.
It was definitely worth doing this today as a dialogue between myself and myself. Now I can understand both why my husband is so tired on average and also why I need to preserve this time that makes me feel like a human being vs a noble child care robot.
The first thing I thought of is that 4% isn’t enough time, but then I thought, at least I have that 4%. I didn’t always and not everyone does. It was hard won, mostly through better and better time management, which requires better and better boundaries, which is motivated by better and better sense of self, which happened from painful increasing mindfulness and self awareness. I spend a lot of time taking care of my kids, but the ironic thing is that, when I didn’t have them I wasted my time trying to please everyone in my life rather than do what mattered to myself. The kids made me too tired to continue running away from letting others down, then I was broken of the habit, I decided to stop letting myself down and let people find their own way (or not). It sounds cruel, but for an adult it is actually true respect to be given the space to learn to care for yourself. Obviously there is room for teamwork and paying help forward and human kindness, but there should be some limit (a different limit for every relationship, yet always a limit somewhere).
I really enjoyed writing tonight, I think I’ve been afraid my whole life to know who I am, but the more I find myself (nerdy, thoughtful, sensitive) I really don’t hate myself. They call the unknown side the dark side, but for me it’s more like the light side, it’s as if I lost the good of myself, rather than the bad? Hmm.
A wonderful night or day to you my friends! Or horrible! Life at it’s worst always has a certain value, like coffee, a good coffee is better, but a bad coffee first thing in the morning is still a welcome friend.
Poem for the Road
(It wasn’t rainy here, just have this on my mind tonight, for some reason it always struck me as beautiful. Completely reminds me of Thomas’ wonderful post from last autumn.)
The Rainy Day:
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;– HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.