Two years ago, I was in the midst of selling our house and planning our move to Spain. The exhilaration and excitement of making the decision to move abroad had worn off a little and the stress and complexity of making it all happen was starting to mount.
My daughters, 6 and 9 at the time, and I were just home from the library, and I sank into a chair with my latest book, Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock.
There was a quote that struck an immediate cord,
“Everything of lasting value takes time
— and time is at a premium these days. Parenting, like all arts, requires expanses of empty time for spontaneous, unbidden life to erupt through the humdrum of shuttling between appointments. Time is like a vast, shimmering Shangri-la that is accessed when we leave the manufactured, regimented world behind. Laughter happens in that kind of time. So does love. And meaning. We need time off from clock time. Sabbaths. Rest. Giggling. Lying in the grass…”I was refreshed reading Marie’s words. This was what our year in Spain meant to me. Time with my daughters, time with my husband. Time off the clock. We were hesitating to call our year abroad a sabbatical, as my husband would still be working some, and I intended to commit to my writing, but the idea of sabbath time, or at least more flexible time, sounded appealing and necessary to recharge and redesign our lives.
And two years later, now that we are back in the States after our year abroad, as my husband and I both work away from home offices, I remember our time in Shangri-la. We definitely had more time off the clock, and we found Europeans in general had a different outlook toward work and life and balancing the two.
We came to appreciate the Spanish idea of manana,
tomorrow or the next day, an indefinite time in the future. We realized that was the way we wanted to live no matter where we lived. Unscheduled weekends with lazy mornings, long meals and conversation together, board games, walks or bike rides. The opportunity to all be thrown together in our house without an agenda for those spontaneous moments of laughter and meaning.
But I know too that even with these memories fresh in my mind and the best intentions, it’s tough here in the U.S. to not get pulled back into our over-achieving, ambitious society that fills our calendars with color-coded appointments and has us checking the clock every hour. My husband and I are working hard to design jobs that allow us to work from home and be location independent, but that also means our work and laptops are always near.
I remind myself of Shangri-la and once my work day is over to avoid my email and Facebook and Twitter. I remind myself to sit and ease up and enjoy a snack with my daughters after school, play scrabble, get off the clock.
Do you take time off the clock? Tell us how you balance work, life, friends and family.