Being An Atari In An XBox World
Image Credit: http://walltoyou.com/4725/atari-breakout-game.html
My schedule the past few weeks has been packed, at least by my definition. I'm constantly moving between activities with the kids, computer time, and housework. The space in between the activities is dwindling, with less and less time to pause before moving onto the next thing. It is that which has me concerned.
I used to THRIVE on this type of frantic schedule. I lived with a constant sense of anxiety in my stomach. If that anxiety wasn't there, it felt like something must be wrong. (....Yeah.) I was busy and felt justified in that busy-ness. An exhausted sigh and a glance at my watch before I started a conversation made me feel important.
I had a lot to learn.
Years of being out of the traditional business world while I raised my young children taught me a different pace. It was one that was no less hectic, but that operated on a different clock. It didn't matter what time my watch said - if my baby needed to eat, he needed to eat. I couldn't schedule a diaper change at 2 p.m. so that I could have a meeting at 2:15.
I discovered that life doesn't always operate by the time on the clock.
Alongside this change in schedule, I started adding more space into my life. This meant not scheduling things back-to-back. Granted, it was out of necessity (have you ever tried to keep a schedule with two young kids?) - but it was an important change.
Space on the outside created room for me to hear the frantic noise on the inside. My thoughts, so very persistent, kept wanting to move even if my body wanted to slow down. Again, I had thought this type of mental activity was not only normal, but desirable. (I didn't realize until recently that it is that frantic nature of thoughts that spurs so much of our stress...and why would I ever desire such a thing?)
Within all of this space, though, at least the anxiety no longer seemed normal. If I felt anxious, it meant something was wrong, not right.
As the kids started being able to do more things on their own, I revived my creative self and connections to the world outside of my home through blogging and art. Like an addict, part of me craved that fast-paced, never Off timing of the online world. The part of me that had grown to live within the space, though, appreciated the ability to turn off the computer when I felt it was simply too much.
The next few years were dances with this drive to be more, do more, schedule more and the craving to slow down, keep space, and schedule less. I didn't find some magic formula. Every day was another practice of paying attention to what was calling, both within and around me. (Emails piling up? Kids getting restless? My own sense of energy drained?)
This practice started to work, as I found greater ease with my online and offline schedules, between my home life and my business life. But that's the fun part about life.
As soon as you learn the waltz, life starts playing tango music.
My recent journeys have taken me more and more into the offline and "real-time" worlds, interacting with those in my own community and having one-on-one conversations with friends and new acquaintances in cafes or via Skype.
It is here that I feel like the pixilated pong game tying to play alongside Grand Theft Auto.
I am an Atari in an XBox world.
Slow and simple.
However, I itch to join in, if just to prove that I can keep pace with it all.
But as I look around me at the parents pulling their kids through the stores, the dark circles hidden under concealer of women quickly dining at the cafe during their business lunch breaks, the overwhelming noise of conversation online and offline about lack of sleep, the desire to slow down, and soaring stress levels, I realize that perhaps it isn't just me.
Maybe we've all filled in every pixel of our lives, every second with activities and thoughts of what we should be doing and worries and dreams and food and meetings and and and and... that there isn't any space left. It looks pretty on the outside, and we can certainly find connection through our shared misery, but is this how we really want to live?
I know that often, our schedules can't necessarily be altered - nor would we want to. I feel blessed by all of the things on my calendar this week. The practice arises in finding space within what is.
Maybe it isn't so much about space in our schedules, but space in our thoughts that makes the difference....
I glance at the clock: 55 minutes before my next appointment and I still need to get lunch and swimming gear ready for the kids. The anxiety within swells and the pace of the game seems to speed up. And yet, even within this, I am still breathing.
One breath in, one breath out.
How fortunate I am!
There is such space around me, around this, that my lungs are filling and releasing, my body is moving and stretching, ... and my thoughts can change and take new perspectives on these moments.
I hear the pace around me - the tick of the clock, the ping of notifications coming from my phone, my daughter clicking legos together upstairs. And I return, again and again, to the pace of my breath.