Monday, April 14

Savoring a piece of quiet

Last week a friend of mine told me the story about how her daughter would say "piece of quiet" because she was too little to recognize the homonyms of "piece" and "peace," so "peace and quiet" didn't quite make sense to her.

I like the idea of a piece of quiet. Especially last week. It was been a chaotic and emotionally taxing week for a number of reasons. I had little time to write the past two weeks or so because much has been in turmoil. When I did have time, because of the turmoil, it was hard to focus so this blog and my other blog, among other things, have been sorely neglected.

What I needed to do is savor a piece of quiet. Rather than feel as though I needed to get something accomplished in that brief sliver of time, I needed to savor that piece of quiet. Savor: to enjoy completely.

Years and years ago I joined a group of folks for a day of prayer. The idea was that we would spend time together, but alone. That is, we each found a place to be as we read, meditated, listened to music, prayed. At the end of the "day" (I think it was a period of about 8 hours), we were supposed to be spiritually and emotionally refreshed. I think I lasted about two hours and then I was done. I wasn't really bored, but the books I had weren't capturing my attention; meditation and prayer were leading to snoozing. Perhaps I didn't have the right mindset for the day, but it's also possible that I hadn't yet learned how to savor a piece of quiet. I certainly had no idea what to do with an abundance of pieces of quiet.

Americans tend not to be very good at relaxation. We know that most Americans do not take all of their vacation time. Apparently most Americans don't vacate the work place as much because of fear as anything else, and that makes sense. People are worried about falling behind in their work so the re-entry is even more exhausting because of all of the work that has piled up. Others are worried they will not be missed and someone will decide that position is no longer necessary. I get that as I was one of those people: afraid to fall behind and afraid I wouldn't be missed. So I was always connected which meant that I got only half a vacation day every day I was gone. Sometimes I did relax and did savor any pieces of quiet I had; other days I was more tense because of whatever was or wasn't happening at the office.

We aren't good at relaxing and that wears on us. Eventually we burn out and we're just not as productive. Working without opportunity to relax sets us up for failure in ways we might not see coming. It's not just entrepreneurs who need to build relaxation into their work flow, but anyone who feels as though their work life is a constant stampede of demands and expectations.

There are ways for the non-entrepreneur to tailor these relaxation tips to their own situations. The key, I think, is flexibility. “The reality is that balance is out of my control. . . .Working hard is inevitable.”

But there is always a sliver of time, even if it's going to the coffee room or to the restroom, when you can stop, or at least muffle, the voices of the madding crowd. Savor that piece of quiet. Think about something fun you did over the weekend or something a loved one said that made you laugh or something fun or engaging or interesting that is not work you hope to do one evening or soon. Or just be thankful for something. Or breathe deeply and focus on a favorite scent or color or place you've been or whatever. Or just breathe deeply and savor that piece of quiet.

No matter how large or small the piece of quiet, savor it and I bet you'll feel the difference.