Remember as a little kid when you got placed in the corner for a timeout? This surprisingly effective maneuver on the part of the parents gives a tantrum-throwing youngster the chance to stop what they are doing and slow down a bit.
I think we all need timeouts when life becomes stressful, or even when it is not. That chance to re-evaluate where we are, how we got there. It’s a chance to figure out what to do tomorrow, next week, next year.
I just got back from a long weekend at a favorite relative’s house. She has a wonderful library of self-help books, recipe books, books on simplicity and organization. And I had free down time while she was working with absolutely nothing to do but read and enjoy the fall leaves. Absolute heaven!
Whether you call it a time out or a sabbatical, I think we need to build spaces into our lives from time to time. Creating one isn’t that hard if you can arrange for these three things:
an environment where nothing is asked or expected of you,
quiet alone time without television or needed social interaction, and
For me this comes in the form of books. I remember one summer I was a lookout in a forest wilderness, and filled my evenings reading all of the Russian greats by the light of a Coleman lantern: Tolstoy (yes, the entire War and Peace!), Dostoevski, Chekov.
Another sabbatical was a temp job I had as receptionist on the top level floor of oil company executives. There was rarely traffic at these elevators, and I got two months of modern art under my belt before I had to move on to busier, less rewarding temp activities.
A third was an academic sabbatical where I spent a semester surrounded by a stack of interlibrary loan books on chaos and complexity theory.
Although I cannot tell you exact specifics of the books that I read, they are integrated into the whole of who I am. I think differently because of their influence. And that is important to me.
So, the next time you are stymied, with no hope of finding a solution for the problems that are weighing on you, try a time out. Check into a motel room near a library and disconnect the tube. Offer to housesit for a friend who has a good library. Or consider finding a temporary part-time job at a library, bookstore, motel checkin desk in a very slow town in the off season.
And just read. You’ll be changed. You will come back to your own life and responsibilities with a different perspective. And perhaps some solutions you might not have considered otherwise.