Do you long for a dark corner in a room, door locked so no one can disturb the silence? A "Do Not Disturb" sign visible on the door, promptly followed by "No Entry." Do you long for peace and calm, your brain to empty of thoughts, words sentences and imagery? A place where there are no demands, expectations or explanations to full fill. If the answer is YES then why not opt out of life for a bit? By opting out of life I don't mean you relinquish all responsibilities, I simply mean you "park" them for a short time.
The length of time you "opt out of life" is decided by you, you decide how long you need to recharge, energise and rebuild. In my case it was 3 weeks, that's the length of time I needed to reboot the system. Get back to vitality, strength and firing on all cylinders. I packed up my suitcase, 6-year-old daughter and off we went, just the two of us to the beautiful Canary Islands where sun, sea and Sangria waited to greet us. It took me a few days to adjust initially, it's really hard to put the phone down and refrain from checking messages and emails. How appropriate all the gadgets that were created to "connect us" has had the opposite effect and has primarily disconnected us from those who really matter e.g our children, spouses and even our friends. When was the last time you sat in a cafe with your best friend and talked over a latte & cake? Most likely you now communicate through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or liked a pin on Pinterest. Do you finish a message on messenger with an emoji of a smiley face with a kiss or a hug? When was the last time you actually dished out kisses and hugs to those you love and value in life? Don't get me wrong technology has it's place in society and has it's benefits, except when you "opt out of life" because for the next three weeks I had made a commitment to my daughter and myself to simply be "present" and experience each day with gratitude, love and adventure.
I made a deal with myself only to check my phone twice a day for emails, if it was urgent I'd respond if it wasn't the auto response would kick in, "I'm on annual leave, please contact the office". The days leading up to my annual leave were interesting, I'd advise clients I was going away not due to return until 3 weeks time, please contact my colleagues should you require assistance. The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening and plausible. Some clients couldn't contain their irritation or discomfort, perhaps disguised as plain ole jealousy. Here's the thing, being self-employed you don't work Monday to Friday 9am-5pm with weekends and bank holidays off. Often you have to work late, stay until the job is done, weekends and bank holidays are compulsory and family events like weddings and sometimes funerals are dependent on what is happening that week in work. I can't request a family member to hang on and not die until we are over the next few days and it's a bit quieter in work. Yes I've missed funerals throughout the years and I've missed weddings, that's the nature of my life, my responsibilities. What I signed up to as an entrepreneur and right now I do not feel one bit guilty "opting out of life" or checking my email in the morning after breakfast and in the evening. I deserve this time, my daughter deserves this time with only me, her mummy.
The first two weeks were spent between the beach and the pool, my six-year-old making new friends but most importantly creating memories. We watched movies together and painted when it was too hot to be outside and the conversations we had were exciting, funny and precious. One morning my daughter woke up and was giggling to herself, I pulled her hair back off her face and asked what was so funny. She said she had the funniest dream. "10 giraffes were going to a party at the mouse's house only they couldn't fit through the mouse hole. One of the giraffes got stuck, his 4 legs spread out with 10,000 mice trying to pull him inside the mouse hole to the party". The detail she went into and the laughter we both shared at the thought of the giraffe stuck in the mouse hole. That is the gift of being present. Listening intensively, no distractions, laughing with her and simply being present to enjoy her dream with her. If like me you are a working mum you know how precious this moment is, usually you are the first one up in the morning racing around to get everything sorted for the day for everyone else, letting the dog out for her morning pee, sticking on the kettle for tea/coffee. Preparing the breakfast, organising the uniform for school, preparing the lunches. Waving everyone off goodbye and then you begin the clean up, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, dirty washing in the washing machine or hang it up from the wash the night before, all before you begin to start getting ready for your day "at the office" then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and you are amazed your husband is still here, still married to you because what is looking back from the mirror is not the 20 something, fresh-faced, perky boobs, tight arsed Demi Moore looking back. Instead, it's Princess Fiona, from Shrek.
If you are a single mum doing this routine daily all by yourself working full time, then I salute you, you are my hero and a Queen. always remember that and never let anyone take from you what you are achieving daily. Looking back from my mirror is a worn out, grey-haired, exhausted early 40's serial entrepreneur who's boobs are now at her knees, her arse is at her ankles and she looks 3 or 4 months pregnant all the time. Opting out of life is the only thing that will save my sanity right now and give me space and time to look after ME. For far too long I have looked after everyone else and ensured their needs were met above my own. I have always come Paddy last down the list of priorities and maybe that's my own fault for not valuing myself enough to take care of me, my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations. That's all changed now as I sit here reflecting on my life sipping Sangria, taking in the beautiful scenery while my daughter plays in the sand a few feet away with her newly acquired friends. My life is hectic, my schedule gruelling. I rarely get time to switch off yet society deems that I should be the perfect mother, wife, friend, entrepreneur and society can go take a run and jump. From this day forward I choose to put my own needs first. That's not being selfish, in the words of my 6 year old it's being a "smart cookie". I am learning her lingo because I am spending quality time with her and if that means I am not at the office at the beck and call of my clients or I am not at the end of the phone or available for lunch, night outs with my girlfriends then so be it. 6 year old's are actually great fun to be around, they bring out the child in you and let's face it after looking in the mirror and seeing what I saw, an overworked, underpaid, exhausted 40+ year old, being transported back to childhood where I can experience pillow fights instead of pressure, coloring instead of sales targets, swimming in the sea instead of invoicing, chasing waves instead of chasing payment on overdue accounts, skipping instead of mustering up enough funds to pay the revenue commissioners is looking pretty appealing from where I am currently sitting. Give me sand castles, ice cream and hanging out with a six-year-old any day of the week. Who in their right mind wouldn't choose that? The toughest decision I've had to make so far on this trip is what flavour ice cream to have. Ferro Roche or Hazelnut. Sometimes I can't choose so I have both. That's probably why I have my 3 to 4-month pregnancy belly but life is too short not to have ice cream and indulge in the things we love.
The third week my husband joined us and our 6-year-old daughter is elated, she hasn't seen daddy in 2 weeks and couldn't contain the happiness. The final week was spent as a family, reconnecting with family values, sitting together at mealtimes instead of eating separately depending on the day's activities/inventory and communicating, without the phones, iPads and emoji's. Of course, the bills will still be there when we get back, the sales targets will have to be met the tax man will have to be paid but right now here in this moment none of that matters because I am working on #creatingalifeoffreedom. My ultimate goal is not to have to worry about any of those things, my ultimate goal is to only have to worry about what flavour ice cream I will choose next or if I'll have a pillow fight or watch a movie with my six-year-old. Because one day she will be 20 years old just like her brother and she won't want to make sand castles with me or have pillow fights. I am hoping we will always share some ice cream, though.
5 benefits of opting out of life for a short time.
1 Return refreshed, rejuvenated, revitalised which will give birth to more creative ideas. Experience clear thinking which allows you to find simplistic solutions to problems.
2 Spend quality time with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. This is priceless.
3 Became more focused which vastly improves productivity, especially in completing those long tasks you've been putting off. A change of environment helps you work smarter and manage time better. I had two opportunities per day to read/answer emails. Working remotely helped me focus on the things that were important and discard or shelve the items that could be dealt with at a later date upon my return. I learned effective time management.
4 Return physically healthier and happier. The stress literally left my body as I practised meditation, walking, running and day dreaming. All of which boosts your mood and your potential to come up with collaborative projects.
5 Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Upon our return, even the dog was excited to see us. When you are absent from a person's life even for a short period of time they value and appreciate you more.
Guess what? The business is still here, no clients were lost during this period and we all experienced many benefits from "Opting Out Of Life" for a short period - Try it, you won't regret a moment of it.
Don't forget to connect with me via twitter & facebook - Share your "Opting Out Of Life Stories" I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to connect and start #creatingalifeoffreedom
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