I’m a homebody. I admit it. But that doesn’t mean I always accept it.
I started hanging out with a new homeschooling friend a couple of months ago. At one point we were talking about the things we do on a weekly and daily basis. My friend observed, “You really like to keep busy, don’t you?”
This gave me pause. I do like to keep busy. But she was referring to the packed weekly schedule I had set up for myself and the kids. I don’t really like going a lot of places and seeing a lot of people. I like being around people, but I prefer to choose a handful of close friends and hang out with them pretty exclusively. Two things stand in my way of living this preference. One, there are more extroverts in the world than introverts, so most of the people I enjoy hanging out with have lots of other people they hang out with, too, which leaves them comparatively little time to hang out with me. Two, I move a lot, and I always have moved a lot. When most of the people around me have life-long friends they’re still living near and interacting with frequently, it’s not so easy for me to carve a niche for myself as one of the important people in their lives, at least not in the way I define “important people” (someone who’s the default for hanging out, calling and chatting, spending holidays, etc).
So, why do I plan so darned many outings if I don’t really enjoy going out? I guess just because I think I ought to.
Today, we stayed at home all day. It was brilliant.
I went outside to take out the stinky kitchen trash, but other than that, I didn’t even set foot outside of the house. The kids never changed out of their PJs.
Staying home was not my initial plan. The initial plan was to hang out with the homeschooling friend I mentioned above. But my daughter woke up this morning and said, “Mommy, I just want to do at-home things today. I’ve not had much alone time lately, and I need more alone time.”
I admit, I was a little disappointed at first. I do not like it when plans change at the last minute, even if they involve alone time, something I love. But when my child articulates her needs so clearly, I feel compelled to listen. Acting in the spirit of Fun Month, I set about enjoying my day. And, amazingly, I did.
I’ve identified several elements that made this day so enjoyable:
1) no time pressures. I get very uptight about being late, and not needing to go anywhere helped me stay calm and enjoy my kids rather than viewing them as a hindrance to keeping on schedule. With nowhere to go, I didn’t need to plan my day around outings, and so I didn’t stress about getting things done on time.
2) good, healthy food. This kind of falls into the “enjoying underpants management” category. Because I gave my time willingly and joyfully to my children, they were more willing to give me the time I needed to prepare the kinds of meals I like to make. As a result, we ate well today. I reheated salmon from last night. I made up some rice and made it into veggie-filled sushi rolls and nothing-filled onigiri (my daughter doesn’t like mixed foods right now). For dessert, I roasted sweet potatoes with vegan butter, maple sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. And that was just lunch. I even did the dishes.
3) getting some things done. My daughter and I practiced flute for an hour and did a reading lesson. I actually got more homeschooling done with less suffering than I have in a long time. The baby and I vacuumed the carpet and did dishes. Accomplishing tasks brings me a lot of joy, so I think that any day that I deem “fun” will necessarily involve productivity.
4) focusing on fun. For the past several months, I’ve made a point of greeting my daughter with great demonstrations of joy and a big hug when she comes out of her room in the morning, even when I’m feeling disappointed that my alone time or my just-one-kid time or my sleep time is over. In the past few days, I’ve discovered that I’m no longer just putting on a happy face; I’m truly happy to see my daughter in the morning. I really think this is a direct result of setting the expectation of joy. Today, I set the expectation and was able to carry that joy through the day.
5) being mindful of the emotions and judgments that came up. My son is at a stage where he wants me (or anyone else who’s around) to read books incessantly. Seriously. Incessantly. While I enjoy reading, and I do quite like Sandra Boynton, I generally prefer to spend hours reading something a little more involved than Moo, Baa, La La La! But during our stay-at-home day, when I started feeling bored or annoyed, I noticed that and let it be. I didn’t scold myself or try to talk myself out of it, but I didn’t wallow in it, either. I also noticed the joy I felt observing my son’s joy. That’s a sure path to happiness if I ever saw one.
5) doing something to help a friend. I love doing things for other people, especially feeding them. But all too often, I’m not content with just a little gesture or I try to cram yet another thing into my already busy day and end up feeling overwhelmed and bitter rather than fulfilled and joyful. Today, I just acted in the moment as it felt right. When I saw that the recipe was making eight mung bean burgers rather than the four I’d thought it would, I picked up the phone and asked a sick friend if she’d like four burgers so she didn’t need to worry about cooking for her family while she felt crappy. I had a little bit of anxiety when the mixture was much more liquidy than I’d expected and the burgers didn’t want to form and stay formed, but I stayed the course and they ended up turning out fine. (The kiwi lime salsa was awesome!) I even had time to bake a dozen cookies to send along. This felt great! I love feeding people!
I don’t expect every day to be so idyllic, but this was a lovely start to Fun Month. Tomorrow we’ve got flute lesson, so no stay-at-home day for us. But this gives me a chance to try out on an outing day some of the things that seemed to bring us happiness today.