Friday, 20 May 2011

When Free Time Is No Longer 'Free'

Sometimes in life a lack of structure can lead to 'depression'. While it's beneficial to spend a period of time in quiet contemplation, allowing life to unfold in an open manner, there comes a time when structure is very necessary, not only necessary but classifed as a life saving measure!

I have come to this period of my journey.

It's understandable that many retired men and women can often go into a period of decline and depression when they have left behind the structure that 'working' brings.

Initially, great! Free time, do what you want when you want but after that many people may get sick mentally and physically, especially if life before retirement was full to brimming with activities.  Left with too much time, but being alone with thoughts that ordinarily have been hidden from view by the distractions of lifes busyness can be hell on earth for many; many not knowing what to do with the noisy chatterbox of the mind.

And much like retirees, choosing to take time out is beneficial when consciously aware and choosing to relax, feel, come to understand what we love to do.  And then we may be left with a void of time where instead of contemplating and being, we are instead like a ship without a rudder. We are knocked about by the elements and feeling powerless to our own thoughts, emotions, time.

Free time is great when it's useful. Be it contemplating, discovering and exploring who we are to activities we love doing. When 'free' time feels no longer 'free' it's time to bring structure into our day-to-day lives.

Structure may feel a scary concept after a period of free time, flowing and allowing unfolding to occur. But perhaps structure is part of the unfolding.

Variety is necessary for life to feel interesting, rewarding and satisfying.

If a child is left to its own devices it may feel unloved and unsafe. We give boundaries to children and discipline because this gives the child a sense of safety, of caring from its parents.

So why don't we do the same for ourselves?

Within myself I liken my activities lately to that of a teenager. Get up when I want, lying in bed for too long, having an element of structure but not enough, I walk, come home and slip on my lazy dressing gown. I used my dressing gown as an excuse "It's just comfortable" but what I was really doing was telling my body: "I'm ready for bed, doing nothing." Not only was I becoming a lazy teenager but a depressed one. I felt powerless to my circumstances, not in control of my life "like a boat without a rudder" being knocked around by my emotional waves. I defended my excuses saying I was bored and that I had no variety in my life but the fact is I could make a whole bunch of variety if I chose too.  Especially since I have allowed enough time to discover my interests (painting, writing, baking, photography etc.). I got confused about my inner child's needs. I thought she wanted free time, play and expression.  But she also needs discipline, structure and variety. I paint abstract and allow her to flow, but sometimes I want to paint specifics and I realised it's just as valuable to paint inside the lines as it is to paint outside. Just like life!

Painting outside = flow, allowing, being.
Painting inside = structure,discipline, variety.

And these two both need to go hand in hand to live a fulfilling, rewarding and healthy balanced life.


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