Friday, April 20, 2007

Ms. Theologian Takes Downtime

Dear Ms Theologian

My work schedule has shifted from 40 hours to 35 hours (yay! flex time!) Now I have the chance to pick my daughter up from daycare an hour early. I should do this without hesitation, but I sort of don't want to. I really feel guilty. We spend a lot of time together in the evenings, even in the mornings, and definitely on the weekends. Should I just pick up my daughter?

-Guilty at Starbucks

Dear Guilty,

There is a good reason that people don't ask Ms. Theologian parenting questions. But let's address this from a spirituality and the workplace point of view.

One of the best things Ms. Theologian was able to do in college was nothing. She did nothing a lot. Sometimes in Communist bookstore/cafes, sometimes on her bed. She just sat and thought. Not really about anything. Ms. Theologian tends to take this time in the early mornings now, and outside. She mentions this because before college, Ms. Theologian didn't actually know that she was allowed to do nothing. She thought she always had to do something. This was incorrect.

This nothing time is called downtime. It is really important. And no one will tell you to take it for yourself, because our society tends to praise go, go, going. When you do nothing, people tend to call you names (slacker, loser, selfish, bad parent, unemployed...). You aren't any of those things. You are taking care of yourself.

You sound as if you may be depleted, and are being given the opportunity to recharge and self-nurture. So Ms. Theologian is totally fine with you sitting in Starbucks for an hour, walking in the park, sitting on a bench, or going to a spa for a mini-massage. If your guilt precludes this, you might make a deal that you pick up your daughter an hour early two days a week, but the other time is yours. (This is assuming your day care situation is clean, safe, friendly, and flexible. But really Ms. Theolgoian is not answering this from a parenting point of view.)

Julia Cameron believes that artists need this down time (and she believes that all of us are artists, some of us are just more blocked than others):

An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency. Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family as withdrawal from them. It is.

For an artist, withdrawal is necessary. Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts. If such deprivation continues, our artist becomes sullen, depressed, hostile. We eventually became like cornered animals, snarling at our family and friends to leave us alone and stop making unreasonable demands.

We are the ones making unreasonable demands. We expect our artist to be able to function without giving it what it needs to do so. An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted. (Cameron, pp. 96-97)

So with both Ms. Theologian and Ms. Cameron behind you, to Starbucks you go!

--Ms. Theologian