When school started last fall, life felt more overwhelming. We had one kid in remote school and the other unschooled and both of us worked full time with no childcare at home. I really wanted to honor my commitment to take care of myself and my needs and fitting in all the pieces of the puzzle felt really tough. The foundation of our pandemic life felt a bit too shaky and I knew something would need to change at least for a bit if not permanently.
I decided to take 6 weeks off of work. I recognize the incredible privilege in my situation, and I experience both deep gratitude and pain in the inequality that exists in the world. I struggled on many levels to ask for this – from the world at large, from my manager, and strangely enough even from myself. I am glad I honored the struggles but ultimately still gave myself permission to do what I did.
Today is my last day of not working and it was absolutely magical to have that little pause especially during the holiday season. I have nothing massive to show for it externally – my house is not the most organized, my kids haven’t started eating all their vegetables, I didn’t volunteer at the food bank every weekend and I didn’t finish 12 books.
My heart and body feel deeply nourished and I feel more in love with the people in my life and humanity at large. I have a deeper capacity to feel, to connect, and to contribute, and to love myself along with my flaws. I made time for what mattered and feel even more connected to my purpose on this planet.
A couple of weeks into the break, California went into a stricter shelter in place rule which meant even outdoor activities like the zoo were no longer an option. For me, that meant embracing the slowness of winter (after about a day of grieving my own small losses and the overall global suffering with COVID).
It was lovely to feel that I was “time rich” and wasn’t multi-tasking as much. If the kids had to show me their latest Lego creation, I could pause what I was doing, get on my knees, look into their eyes and acknowledge what they had built (even though I still don’t understand what this Spinjitzu stuff is all about!). We could bake cookies at a stretch without being worried about me making it in time to my next meeting or getting to bed in time so I could wake up early and start my workday in time. It was a season of learning to be more of a human being and less of a human doing.
I gave myself permission to experience winter hibernation (like the bears!). There were evenings beside the Christmas tree with hot chocolate or a cup of Oolong tea, Christmas music in the background, and a book in my hand. Sometimes, the kids would be away giving me a good 30 min chunk by myself, and other days I’d be interrupted every few minutes. I have many joyful memories of sitting on my meditation cushion in front of the fireplace with a journal or simply my own breath and a candle beside me. I’d often keep the lighting in the house to a low in the evenings to embrace the slowness and stillness of winter. There were afternoon naps and Yoga Nidra breaks to really give my body space to rest and replenish – a lost art in our modern, frenzied world. There were solo hikes and walks in the beautiful part of the world I get to live in. My online Barre classes were longer with many 60-minute sessions this season (often with interruptions!). My eye pillow and hot shoulder wrap were put to much use. I saw a few friends on hikes and there were some zoom and phone calls, but I stayed fairly introverted during this season. I attended a Winter Solstice and a writing retreat that were also very deeply meaningful to pause and have some time with myself. And there were books and podcasts – both deeply fill up my cup!
And interestingly, there was guilt with all this solo time – the guilt of not spending that time with the kids, not helping enough at home, of not prioritizing my marriage at that time, of adding more work to my co-workers. It’s fascinating the social and cultural conditioning on this topic, especially for women and mothers. I am happy to report that I didn’t listen to that voice and chose a more integrated way of being at this time and know that I am better off because of it.
And then there were joyful moments with the kids – there was a lot of baking, a lot of Legos, okay a LOT of Legos and while I improved my building skills, my 6-year-old has told me enough times that I need way more practice! We read a lot together. My most special memories are reading in the early hours right at sun dawn on the couch with a kid (or both) snuggled up and we each holding a cup of tea in our hands. Those were also good moments of repair, coaching, and listening with the kids. We played a lot of board games, made some crafts though I was always reminded how “I was taking away time from Legos!.” There were some family hikes, bike rides, picnics, and trips to the food trucks.
As with all things parenting, there were also hard moments. One of my primary goals with taking this time off was to help more with remote learning as Sumit had been leading almost all of that. There were lots of challenging moments through that and I know my days without school were much more joyful. There were lots of insights around parenting a spirited child like Vivaan when it comes to school work and for now, we agreed that Sumit is more capable of handling all things school! And yes, mediating sibling squabbles are not my favorite parenting activity though I am learning and getting better.
My mom was with us for a few weeks which was very joyful (once the quarantine was done and COVID tests were negative!) It was lovely to have that space to laugh and cry and more importantly understand each other a bit better. We also had a few socially distanced and masks hikes and bike rides with both my sisters as well which were very joyful.
Sumit and I got to have some simple meals without the kids (thank you Legos and YouTube and Netflix!). We had evenings with Scrabble, tea, and chocolate (Sumit always wins, ugh!). We were also able to squeeze in a few walks outside while the kids hung out with my mom. We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary at home with scrabble, takeout, reflections on the year, and a movie on the couch. We had told the kids that we wanted a good chunk of time to ourselves and for the “most” part they cooperated. Saveer was very curious about “who” got us married and how did the person know what to do.
I wanted to make space to contribute and that meant baking and donating, giving to people in our community and beyond, and inspiring the kids as best as I could. I did some pro-bono coaching sessions and coaching circles and made time to help a few folks on their job search journey. Those few moments of giving were meaningful.
I know I go back to a much more intense and fast-paced way of being. I hope to carry some of this yin, slow, and reflective energy back into my everyday life. I am typically a person with rituals and goals to guide the new year but today I am choosing curiosity and savoring the life and its simple joys that are a part of my life even when it is intense and full.
Wishing all of you a purposeful, healthy, and joyful new year.
Pic Credit – Thought Catalog