“Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.”- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
This month, I’ve focused on writing about health, since it’s January and the beginning of a new year.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about having Celiac disease and being gluten-free for 6.5 years. Last week, I devoted to allergies, one tangled web of problems I’ve lived with all my life. Both Celiac and allergies, though, are not hindrances. They are springboards, I convince myself, to find creative ways to live well, still.
This week, I want to share one of the most pivotal concepts which has helped me with personal well-being.
The Essential Hour
When my oldest son was born sixteen years ago, I didn’t know anything about being a mom. The nurses at the hospital taught me how to change a diaper and the other necessary moving parts of being responsible for a precious tiny person’s life. But what those nurses didn’t tell me was how little time I would have and how frazzled I would be.
The first days at home with my oldest as a baby, I felt the veil of sleeplessness and showerlessness creep up on me, that by the end of the second week, I remember wondering how I would ever manage. It seemed every waking and sleeping moment was focused on meeting everyone’s needs but my own. I felt exhausted, depleted.
At one of my son’s first check-ups, his pediatrician surprised me. He wore a vest and bow tie and wire-rimmed glasses, and smiled and said, “I have a prescription for you, Mom.”
He scribbled on the old-style prescription notepad. “This, I want you to take seriously.” He tore the paper free and handed it to me. It said, “Rx: 1 hour of time for yourself each day. A happy mom makes a happy child.”
An hour of time for myself each day? I laughed. But the doctor was right.
When life did settle into a routine, I began to see what he meant. The hour was essential. It was for doing something that filled me back up, something unique, not to become rich or famous, but because it brought joy. And that joy makes all the difference.
If I could take time to listen to what was tugging at my heart, and spend some time doing it, even if it was in short spurts of time, I felt more whole. I began to make time to write or paint or exercise or read.
The essential hour isn’t just for moms of newborns. It’s for all of us. Because life leaves us whirling, with little time to remember who we are and what we love.
It doesn’t matter if we’re working outside the home or working to care for those we love inside the home, life can crowd out the essential hour. There is always one more thing to do.
If we don’t take and make time to nurture ourselves, and our own well-being, then when the children are grow up (they almost always do, faster than we think) or when the career ends (it always does, eventually), there is not much left of ourselves.
The essential hour can begin as one hour per week and build up to one hour per day. It can happen morning, noon, or night. My friend Nina wakes at 5 am to do what she loves before her family of six is awake. I, too, rouse myself to write at 5 am in the summers, when the activity level is high. The difference that one hour makes is unmistakable. I feel human, three-dimensional, whole. And when I don’t, I’m fragmented at best.
What do you think? Do you make time for an essential hour? Do you have a strategy you want to share?