The other day I let my mind wander.
I don’t let it wander that much. It’s a shame really. Minds love to wander. But normally mine stays on a tight leash. From the moment I wake up until lights out, my mind is more overscheduled than a toddler with a tiara. I imagine that’s why it loves when I go to sleep. It’s the only time it gets let out to play. But I digress.
As I was saying, the other day I let my mind wander.
I was in my car. Once a week I commute into the big city, and provided I am awake enough to drive without falling asleep, I will often give myself permission to think. I actually kind of have a little routine. At some point in my commute the stimulation will become too much. Between the radio and the highway traffic I get to a point where I just need peace and quiet. So I click off the radio, set the cruise control to a speed that won’t attract unwanted attention from law enforcement, and then I call out to the universe “Okay, let’s chat”.
I have had some interesting revelations in those quiet moments. It’s as if I am sitting down with the real me. I shed the front I put on for the benefit of others. I lose the obligatory ‘should’ and my real desires come to the surface. Decisions I have been struggling with find resolutions. And good ideas manifest themselves without much effort.
I often ask myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?” It’s the same way I feel about exercise (or sex for that matter). I constantly tell myself I don’t have time for it. And yet every time I do it, I feel great! I guess I’m a slow learner.
Blaise Pascal, a physicist and philosopher in the 1600s, said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. It’s a tough thing to do – sit quietly and give yourself permission to do nothing. But it’s so good for our mental health, for our sense of our authentic selves, for our soul.
I am reminded of a story my father told me about his childhood. My grandfather was a physicist and a self-professed thinker. On days when everyone was home, my grandmother would corral her two children and remind them to play quietly. “You mustn’t disturb your father today – he’s thinking,” she would say. My Dad would sneak, tip-toeing quietly to the door of his father’s study and gently nudge it open a crack. More often than not he would find his father leaned back in his chair, cigarette in hand, unmoving and eyes staring ahead obviously lost in himself.
I’ve heard the story more than once. My father is a gifted storyteller who recalls details with startling accuracy. But he does love to retell his repertoire, God love him. And every time I hear that story I can’t help but swell with pride for his family that placed such a high value on spending alone time deep in thought.
I have a beautiful Muskoka chair on the front porch of our home. Well there are actually four of them there, but for some reason I have designated one of them as my favourite. My husband bought them for my birthday and lovingly stained and sanded them for me. Sitting in that chair, listening to the birds, sipping on a steaming cup of tea is one of my all-time favourite things to do. So…
My dearest Muskoka chair, I make you a promise that I intend to keep. We’re gonna hang out more often. You with your firm back support and beautiful brownness that perfectly matches the shutters, and me with my steaming tea and pledge to sit quietly. It’s a date.
Sarah, that was such a beautiful post. I found myself nodding in agreement many times throughout, while reading your piece. Sometimes, at the end of a busy day, I’ll realize that I didn’t have any time to actually sit and think. And those are the days when right before I fall asleep, I enjoy just being still with my thoughts. 🙂
Thanks Jennifer. Yes – me too. Sometimes the day has been so hairy that the only time to think is just before I drift off to sleep. I am always trying to remind myself to go and take some time to ponder during the day. I find I sometimes have to schedule it in! They say it’s more about the quality than the quantity 🙂
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