Quality time. It’s a term much bandied about and one that’s often misinterpreted. All with noble intent, of course. For working professionals there’s a lot of pressure to spend “quality time” with loved ones whom we may feel (correctly or incorrectly) we have neglected all year – parents, spouses, partners, close friends or children.
As a result, during the December/January break we often muster our forces and put on our game faces preparing to enter a social minefield and a consumerist battleground. This is when we are usually at our most weary.
Why do something so counterintuitive? Because we feel compelled to entertain, to welcome, to give gifts we probably cannot afford, to take vacations in exotic locations that only those with respectable currencies in their wallets can actually afford.
We smile and tolerate in-laws and extended family. We overeat. We overdrink. We take our children to overcrowded and overpriced sightseeing locations – malls, museums, amusement parks, beaches and cinemas – all in the name of…yes. That strange, misunderstood concept. Quality time.
As we limp into Silly Season 2018, tired, overwhelmed and aching for proper rest and relaxation, we would like to propose a redefinition of quality time that focuses a lot more on the self.
These holidays, make sure that you fill your own proverbial well – at least for part of the year-end break. Time alone and time doing what you love will make you a better son or daughter, a better partner, a better friend and a better parent.
The analogy that is often used for taking care of ourselves so that we can take better care of others is that of the oxygen mask in an aeroplane. Your cabin attendant reminds you during the safety check on any flight that in the event of an emergency, a parent is to first take a good lungful of good old O2 before handing the mask over to a child or other dependant.
Why? Because if you pass out due to lack of air, let’s face it, you are no jolly good to anyone – including yourself. You need to inhale so that you have the energy and wits required to cope in that situation.
That’s why this festive season we encourage you to get jolly. Truly jolly. And to get good at being jolly. That doesn’t mean drinking too much rum punch and dancing and singing along to whichever cheesy and overplayed Boney M Christmas hit is blaring over the radio. It means making time to do what you love. And to do it with whomever you happen to love to do that particular thing with. Not who you feel you should do it with.
Even better, take some time to be alone and do the things you love in solitude. Read. Walk. Swim. Paint – a canvas or your fingernails, it doesn’t matter. Take long baths and even longer naps. Find a quiet corner in a coffee shop or public park and people watch. Drink tea. Sip slowly. Just be.
We generally spend far too little time with ourselves and its highly underrated to do so. You need to check in with yourself. Find out how YOU are doing. How you’re REALLY doing.
Don’t force it. Be gentle. The whole point of this exercise is that in order for something to have real value, to be “of quality”, it has to be authentic. It has to feel and be genuine, real and restorative.
The Irish-born 18th century novelist Laurence Sterne observed: “In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.” Today, someone might respond: “True dat.”
Don’t forget it and give yourself that gift this festive season. Guilt-free. Because you need it. Because it will make you better company. Because it will make you a more effective worker next year. And because being a martyr? Well, ain’t nobody got time for that!