Delicious Downtime

Ash Cave under Christmas snow.

I was told by my wonderful blog mentors, that an active blog should appear at least once a week.  Well, I just violated that — on purpose.  It was the holidays and time for some downtime.

Our family spent part of the time tucked in a cabin in the Hocking Hills.  There the cliffs block out cell service.  When’s the last time you were with friends or family and someone wasn’t fiddling with a smart phone or electronic gadget?

We all need this precious downtime.

The social media world brings us connection but also a constant barrage of messages.  We can’t possibly keep up.  We’re always behind.  Not only that, but it fragments our thinking into little bits of time.

Downtime helps us reconnect with ourselves.  A break in routine gives us space to examine it. Space to remember our true selves and set new goals.

Downtime gives us space to think.  As an author, people often ask me “where do you get your ideas?”  The answer is simple.  Walking.  Hiking.  Being alone outside.  I got the idea for my current children’s middle grade novel while cross-country skiing with my dad two years ago.  Many months of starlighting later (=getting up at 5 or 6am), it’s now nearly done.  We can fit work into small amounts of time, but thoughts need space to wander. Downtime lets our unconscious roam.

Downtime adds rhythm to our lives.  If we’re always “up” we miss life’s cycles.  Holidays, family times, simple breaks in the pattern.  The new year only feels like a New Year if you  make it.

Children need downtime, too.

Unfill your kids’ days.  Make no plans for after school.  Enjoy empty weekends – or at least empty mornings.  Allow them so much time they are ‘bored.’

Watch empty time transform.  My oldest son announced he had nothing to do last week.  He started fidgeting with magnets.  Soon he’d expanded the magnet play into an entire game of ‘magnet monopoly’ played with various objects on a cookie sheet.  He was enthralled with his new game and played it for two hours.  When we don’t focus on filling our children up, the spark inside them will have a chance to shine.

Let kids discover themselves.  Kids need time to spend getting to know themselves. Time alone. Time with their own interests. Time engaging that small voice inside that is growing and developing and telling them who they are. They need time to listen to its whisper.

The New Year is here.  I’m back in my routines – much happier than when I left them.  The world may not slow down, but we all need to take the time to withdraw.  To think.  To learn.  To listen.

When was the last time you disengaged from phone and email?  How long have you ever gone without contact with your regular world?

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5 Responses to Delicious Downtime

  1. Laurie Buchanan says:

    Heather – “…thoughts need space to wander.” Yes, Yes, YES!

  2. It follows that allowing kids to be kids (giving them plenty of playtime) is valid advice for adults, as well. Glad you took time to recharge your batteries, Heather.

    I suspect that many people who are constantly busy, constantly socializing, constantly doing something, anything, do so because they are afraid to spend time alone to get to know themselves. Or they’ve done that, and don’t like what they discover.

    We could use about six more inches of snow here in southern MN so I can get out and uncover a great story idea while cross-country skiing, too. 🙂