Taking Time to Think
Ever find yourself dreaming about how to escape life? Who doesn’t but how many of us actually make time or even create a space for dreaming and thinking? Countless books and a long line of spiritual gurus are driving a growing industry focused on mindful contemplation. In fact, yoga classes are so overcrowded that peace-seeking yogis are actually getting into fights over mat space 1.
Enter time saving computer applications (aka apps) like Headspace and other relaxation techniques for building better health and escaping toxic stress. But the search for tech methods to help us sit still and quiet the mind worries me. Sure these apps are conveniently nestled in our cell phones, and function like an extra body part but maybe they reinforce the very machinery responsible for our over-extended-hyper-connected-phone-addicted lifestyles?
I remember a time when my childhood escapes helped me navigate life’s problems, the worry I felt about an uncertain future and who I wanted to become when I grew up. A simple park bench down the street from my house was my refuge. This Thoreau-inspired bench sat on top of a hill overlooking a park playground, and provided sunlit views and a canvas of night stars overhead.
Early weekend mornings were my favorite bench time. I might read a book or bring a notepad for doodling. If I stayed out too late or close to dinner time, my father’s whistle brought me home. This place was sacred for me and helped me to see that I liked being with me. It was free and peaceful.
When the winter air made the park bench too cold, I’d settle for the old wooden chair in my tiny bedroom; pulling it up to the window and cramming pillows behind my back and neck to prevent my butt from falling asleep. This sacred space was my vantage on the world below, with the shadowed shapes that formed under the tall street lamps as they tangoed amongst the long rows of rooted maple trees. They moved my imagination, filling and emptying it like a child building a puzzle.
Here I reflected on everything from the people I knew, the boys I liked, the places I’d go, and why I had been born. Coincidentally, that same park bench later became the place where my future husband test-drove the marriage question. While he didn’t actually propose there, he did ask me what I thought about sharing our lives together. This was his way of managing downside risk and knowing if I’d say yes; funny he still does these test runs in our marriage!
I miss the simplicity of a dedicated space to reflect in this busy world. My blog is no exception in a world that demands relentless, virtual, attentiveness. As I travel across geographies, time and subject matter, I surf the internet at all hours of the day and compartmentalize my time within efficient blocks: wake, coffee, exercise, write, meetings, eat, sleep, email, etc. I schedule everything in my icloud calendar and create virtual work flows. Consider the success of virtual workspaces (WeWork and The Yard), virtual play-time (gaming and 3d reality glasses), and virtual relationships (dating and social media groups) to see how task-oriented we’ve become.
There’s no time for my park bench and window seat. Even if there was, would I get a cell phone signal there? I know my extensive file folders of phone apps are an added stressor because they prompt me to know more, work faster and be smarter. My phone pushes out dings to the point where I find myself thinking about hashtagging #isthisasgoodasitgets?
The Case for a She-Shed
There’s a backlash brewing and we want something better. No wonder brick and mortar retail style shopping is back in vogue as people combine the convenience of digital-commerce with the value-added approach of personal shoppers. We are hungrily embracing both platforms 2 across all facets of life. Whether it’s managing stress or working smarter, people are harnessing both virtual and physical ways to realize a more contemplative life.
Women say hello to an increasingly popular solution: “she-sheds” aka “woman caves.” They are this century’s new age decompression chamber! This type of “me-time” space is gaining mainstream popularity despite my initial skepticism. When I read about she-sheds in Country Living’s 2015 article, “7 Tips for Creating your Very Own ‘She Shed,” 3 I understood this could be a good thing. It was an answer to my park bench, albeit on a much grander scale.
A she-shed is a dedicated space whether it’s an outdoor shed just for mom to enjoy hobbies and me-time, or a well-cushioned place in your home that allows you to escape to a special quiet space. Clearly, the important thing is to have a sacred space, even if it’s a small corner of a room or a chair for relaxing. Fancy outdoor “she-shed” structure aren’t necessary but retailers like Wayfair and Target make them easy to access by shipping them right to your door. The she-sheds I read about were creative rooms that included stimulating indulgences like a wet bar and a private drawer full of chocolate to help you indulge.
Truth be told, I think having a backyard “shed” that puts women in a shared space with lawn tools and garden equipment is disconcerting, when you consider men enjoying man-cave space in a den or basement equipped with central air and heating and access to a fridge. Do you think this shed was designed by a woman? I’m guessing there’s a whole untapped market here.
Thankfully, I’m blessed to have a space inside the house in my attic on the third floor. With the help of a girlfriend who just happens to be an incredible interior designer, we’ve put a few fun touches on my she-space like this fun light fixture. It’s a far more sophisticated than my park bench or window seat, but so am I. I think I deserve these welcome luxuries as I continue to search for answers to new questions and explore creative ideas. As I write this blog in my she-space, putting pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard, I plan to set up an easel to learn how to bring brush strokes to canvas and more color to my world.
Stay tuned for the great reveal of my she-shed when it’s complete. If you have ideas or a shed-shed of your own, please send pictures or comments about your thinking space. We’ll share virtually but we’ll connect in spirit – making room for all kinds of thinking in the modern world.