What do you do with your spare time?
Stop laughing. Alright, I get it. I have three kids, five and under. Boy, do I get it.
When I meet up with a friend that I haven’t seen in months, the invariable question is “What have you been up to lately?” I struggle to answer. My life has a tendency to run together in a long stream of wiping noses, potty breaks, diapers, and cleaning up nonsensical messes. I haven’t been using my interlude.
An interlude, a pause in the day, means different things for different people. For me, interlude is the space between “Mom!” and “Mooommmmmm!!” I jokingly tell my husband that I work on projects in spans of 35.7 seconds or less. (My daughter literally just brought me a sippy cup with poop on the bottom. I have no idea where the mystery poop originated from….I really don’t want to know.)
I hope this isn’t a disappointment, but this is not a post on increasing productivity. I think we are all told often enough that we need to do more with our time. I get sick to death of “doing.” When someone asks “What have you been up to lately?” they are not asking for the checked off task list. They are asking about your life. It is time to live more.
How? Start by changing the way you use your interlude.
Identify your Interlude
Maybe it is your morning commute to work, or the space between refereeing one sibling squabble and the next. I grab little moments scattered throughout the day, and then I have a glorious span of time when the entire house is asleep.
Put a leash on your scrolling thumb.
Anybody else catch themselves scrolling through social media, not really seeing anything? It’s the thing I do when I am too exhausted to do anything else, but I need a distraction. Use that gap in ways that feed your soul. Worship. Meditate on a verse of scripture. Pray. Pause and listen to the world around you.
Make sure your stash of emergency chocolate in the closet is stocked.
This could be literal or figurative, I’ll let you guess which is the case in my life. Take mini mental vacations when you feel like you are about to lose your mind. Steal away to the closet to eat a piece of chocolate you don’t have to share, grab a hot shower while the baby naps, or run through the drive-thru on the way to work to pick up your favorite coffee drink. Whatever it is, acknowledge the moment, and appreciate the stuffing out of it.
Say “No.” and “Wait.”
We’ve all heard this before. In this instance, I am talking on the micro level. Don’t do something for someone that they can do for themselves. Don’t jump up to meet wants like they are dire necessities. I get caught up in the mad dash of caring for little people with a wide variety of needs, and I habitually do things for an older child that they are capable of doing unassisted. Or I bounce from one request to the next, when I need to teach them the importance of waiting.
Say yes to the right things. Play with your kids. Say yes to your spouse when they want you to pause and spend time with them. Say yes to the friend you haven’t sat down with in forever. Tasks will always be there, but life goes on whether you live it or not.
Literally, go outside. Breath some fresh air. Or maybe for you, it can mean doing something outside the normal schedule. Change the crazy circle of your life by simply choosing to do something different.
Pick a few key goals for the day. Maybe I am the only one, but my brain keeps a running tab of all the things I need to do, and convinces me I should be able to accomplish all of it in a single day. I run around trying to get everything done, and have nothing to show for it except exhaustion. I am a list person, but those goals do not have to be task-oriented. Put relationship building on your schedule.
Make eye contact. Smile. Laugh. Communicate. Connect with your child. Connect with your spouse. Connect with your friends. Most importantly, connect with God. Pause in strategic moments and purposefully choose to live! I love praying when I am in the car alone. I can’t fall into my habit of bouncing around “doing stuff,” so God and I pause and chat.
Express yourself. Everyone has something that makes their heart come alive. Maybe its cooking, painting, crafting, exercise. Whatever it is, find a way to incorporate it into those little pauses in the day. My soul finds the most peace when I am writing. It is the art form God has given me to connect with Him, and with others. I very rarely get the opportunity to sit and write in long spurts unless everyone is asleep. So, I keep a notebook out and jot down little ideas throughout the day. It isn’t my natural style. I love long uninterrupted stretches to create, but my life doesn’t work that way anymore so I have adapted to use the interludes.
Be the still strong force in your swirling day. Don’t be afraid to press pause. Stop striving to keep everything in order and give God the opportunity to be the conductor.
This is not an all-inclusive list on ways to give more life to your interludes. How do you live a more intentional life and avoid being carried off in the madness of busy days?