Outwardly and inwardly

Visiting the lovely Montalvo Arts Center with Jeff was a perfect blend of living inwardly and outwardly.   Saratoga, California, February 2004

Visiting lovely Montalvo Arts Center with Jeff was a perfect blend of inner joy and outer fun.
Saratoga, California, February 2004

“To live fully, outwardly and inwardly, not to ignore the external reality for the sake of the inner life, or the reverse, that’s quite a task.”Etty Hillesum

Of all the frustrations I feel about time constraints, perhaps none is greater than wishing I had the time to stay in closer touch with so many people who mean so much to me.  Computers have enabled us to do this in a quicker but sometimes less personal way, and I long to send (and receive) good old-fashioned postal mail.

I also wish I had more face-to-face fun time with friends — and I bet you do too.  And more time spent just enjoying my family.  Or the ability to visit relatives who live far away, and catch up on what is happening with my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  On and on I could go.

Yet I also crave more time alone, to get things done, to read, do crafts, pray, meditate or just sit and savor being alive.  With so many blessings to be found outwardly and inwardly, it’s difficult to strike the right balance.  Too much time with others (even when much of it takes place through fairly solitary means such as computer time and postal letters) leaves me feeling overstimulated, distracted and vaguely worried about undone tasks that are piling up.  Too much time alone, even if spent productively, can lead to rumination and a feeling of isolation.

My friend Jeanie once said that her idea of heaven would be the ability to love as completely and fully as she longed to do on earth, without being bound by time, logistics or other human constraints that can separate us from each other.  I hope that dream is coming true for her now, and I agree that it’s a wonderful thought.

Meanwhile, we all face daily the challenge of using our time wisely and well, living fully in both our inner and outer lives, so that one reflects, supports and enriches the other.  Do you find it easier to prioritize time alone, or time with others?  How do you strike the right balance, and how do you know when you need to shift gears?

One year ago today:

A safety place

25 Comments

  1. Dear Julia,
    Good morning! The questions that you posed this morning similarly cause me quite a conundrum. Even when one wants, and even feels the need, to switch from time alone to time with others, it isn’t always possible. For example, at a women’s retreat perhaps you’d like to meditate on a wonderful realization – but it’s your team’s turn to work together to prepare lunch. Alternately, I’ve taken a consulting position a thousand miles from home, and (while usually it’s a perfect balance, working with teams all day and then spending alone time in the evenings) I hear some sad news and would like to just sit with a friend (and the weekends seem so long at those times). I IM’ed a friend while she was waiting as her husband, who’d had a heart attack was having stents placed, but it wasn’t like really being there in the hospital waiting room with her.
    Most of the time though, I am fortunate to have a situation where I can schedule meetings, or take a long lunch as I please, and I’ve met several great people at work and church here, so I’m able to meet my introverted needs quite nicely. I do have to plan ahead for “friend” time, though.
    Have a wonderfully balanced day!

    • Thank you Susan! During the years I was working outside the home, I found (as you did) that the “other people time” did not always come precisely when I wished it would. Being able to have some degree of planning in one’s schedule is so important to feeling balanced, but in reality life is very unpredictable even when we think we are dictating the schedule, and I suppose we have to think of it as a form of banking; to enjoy what comes when it comes, and know that it will all (hopefully) balance out over time. I wish you a balanced weekend as well! 🙂 Happy 4th!

  2. How true! If you ever want to easily send a card through the postal mail but through your computer, even in your own handwriting, don’t forget about my offer. xo

    • Thank you M! I have not forgotten your generous offer and I still do plan to enjoy it when I am able. Thanks so much for being here!

  3. Jack

    I hadn’t been in recovery from alcoholism for too long and a young girl was sharing how she felt. None of us would probably understand, she said, but what she wanted to feel was different than how she felt at that moment. Of course, everyone in the room understood exactly what she meant. If I’m feeling this way, I want to feel that. That way, this. Alone, company. Company, alone. Such is the nature of the soul, or at least mine, to be discontented. “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God”, famously says St. Augustine.

    The really great news is that usually the source of my discontent these days is between opposing goods, not a good and an evil. Hmm, maybe there’s some growth there?

    • Jack, definitely that’s growth. When I find myself torn between two wonderful things (or even fairly good things) and have to make a tough choice, I remind myself what a blessing it is to be choosing between good things rather than being tempted by destructive ones. I suppose a truly contented person might say “I feel discontent sometimes, but I don’t mind.” 😀

  4. I have always needed a lot of alone time – I guess I am solitary by nature. My struggle is more with remembering to check in with folks 🙂 I found those many years in full time work demanded so much and in evenings, weekends, holidays I would gladly close the door and be happy just being with myself, my thoughts and meditations while going about my daily tasks and creative ventures. I know most people find this quite odd, but it kept me [mostly] sane in a demanding professional life 🙂 Now in ‘almost retirement’ I sometimes actually feel a need to see people. It’s only taken a life time 🙂

    I love the immediacy of email, still love to get snail mail and happy mail is just the coolest thing ever! I was discussing with a friend just yesterday how the loss of hand written letters must be impacting into the world of researching for biographies – so much of the minutiae of life, personal thoughts and reflections must now be lost in the ether. Maybe this is really why we blog?

    • Pauline, it certainly is why I blog, and probably why so many others do too. There is something about taking the time to sit down and write – whether by hand or on computer – one has to be STILL and shut out all the distractions (at least I do). I also love writing more than phone calls because there is no worry about disturbing someone when they are busy, sleeping, etc. and a letter can be kept and read over and over, which is especially wonderful when it brings cheer or good news. Plus, it’s a great way of joining solitude with connection to others.

      Re: your need to be alone; I think most everyone must have it, though some have it to a greater degree (as I have learned from watching my husband and our eldest son). When one is out among others, the pressures can become overwhelming – the noise, the worry over saying or doing the wrong thing, the being tired or distracted by inner worries, the sense of having to keep up a superficial manner and face — not false, but not deep either — lest we put people off with too much INTENSITY in a lighthearted gathering. I think connecting through writing often feels more authentic because it is coming more purely from the self, without outside influences diluting one’s thoughts – I hope that makes sense? In any case, I’m glad you are now able to enjoy “almost retirement” and are connected to us all though blogging! Thanks for being here. I love being in touch with someone who lives in New Zealand!

  5. Yes, I too am constrained by time. Until we are with God we will not understand the joy of living in the Now.
    That being said, I set a schedule of those tasks which I have planned for any given day. But, whenever, someone, be it family or friend, may interupt in need of my company, for what ever reason, I stop what I’m doing, and share the time with them. You can never know how important your time spent with them may have been.
    -Alan

    • Alan, this reminds me of something my friend Jeanie told me years ago. She had a son with disabilities who was about five years older than Matt, and we were talking about how unpredictable our lives were, and how frustrating it was to have a day’s or week’s schedule thrown completely off track by an unexpected crisis. She said she finally learned to start each day by saying “Lord, help me be available for whatever you have in mind for me today.” She could then go about her plans but felt less frustration with the inevitable interruptions. I agree, we never know how important it might be to give someone a few minutes of our time (or even more if it’s really needed). That willingness to be available may be one of the biggest gaps in our world today, one that most needs to be filled by open hearts.

  6. It was in 2006 that I was forced to leave everyone I loved back in South Carolina. I had found a great job in Oregon working for Intel Corporation. It was the only job offer I’d gotten in 5 months of unemployment. It turned out to be a dream job for the 4 years that I worked there. It set me up for my eventual retirement, providing a pension, new vehicles and a stock portfolio to draw upon. The down side was leaving everyone I knew.

    I’ve made new friends, bonding to some that have become my surrogate family. I miss my family in South Carolina but because of the internet and free long distance cell phone service I can reach them at any time. Those who really care if I live or die keep in touch. Most of my family no longer exist to me. Their choice.

    • Bob, I think many people can identify with your situation because our society today is so mobile, and despite communication being easier than ever (with cell phones, cheap or free long distance, fax, email, and so on) it has been my experience that maintaining relationships over time and distance has become more difficult than ever. Perhaps the sheer magnitude of opportunities has overwhelmed us. In any case, I’m happy your move was a good one for you, and you were able to become close to the people you met in your new home. Perhaps there will come a time when you may be re-connected to people you once knew, but in the meantime, the value of those connections that remain is even more evident and appreciated.

  7. I have a hard time – perhaps opposite of what most have == i try to always put others first at the expense of neglecting things on the ‘lisa’ list.. but i reason that work will always be there, but my loved ones will not.

    i still have very slow internet, and i cannot see what i am typing in the comment box. hopefully there are no typos!

    lisa/z

    • Hi Lisa, no typos! Better than I would do, I’m sure. Your words are wise and worth remembering – “the work will always be there.” I can remember Richard Carlson writing in one of his books that certain jobs (he referred to the painting of the Golden Gate Bridge) are ongoing and will never be done, and we must come to terms with the fact that most of us will die with our “inbox” full – and that’s not a bad thing. It was sad that he died unexpectedly not long after I read that, certainly with his life very full and unfinished, at least in terms of scheduled obligations. While I very much appreciate your unselfishness (and will always remember how you were one of the first to write me with concerned good wishes when I first started this blog) I do want to remind you that one important thing to realize is, you need to make room for at least a bit of fun “Lisa” time, since Lisa, like all the other loved ones, will not always be there. Take care amiga and thanks for being here! ❤

      • Thanks, amiga! i’m with a tour group for the next two days, and we’re having a great time.. it’s nice to have a balance!

        z

  8. raynard

    Julia, Sunday, thru Tuesday, it’ just me and my dogs. I get home and there is “usually no phone calls to return. ( dont get me started on mail I have a ” pile /basket for that one). Feed myself and the dogs, unwind on my tablet( no t.v mind you and all my reading is done). Can’t go to bed too early or” I will wake up at 1 or 2 am ad my dogs will think it’s time to go out. Early Saturday in my weekly reading of magazines. Since I dont have time to go to the library , I read it on my computer. Last time I checked , God rested in the 7th day and ” he wasnt a workaholic to” try to impress the boss”. Be blessed

    • Raynard, I am very thankful for that 7th day of rest and its enduring example to everyone and everything on earth (including even the fields with rotated crops). It’s up to us to make sure we fill those rest times with things that truly give our souls respite. It sounds as if you have a good schedule worked out. Hope you are enjoying a nice holiday today.

  9. When I was single, and lived alone I would sometimes crave company, but I never minded going out on my own to dinner or a movie. I even traveled alone. When you do, I found that I attracted others. When my boys were very young I craved alone time. The days could be long and exhausting and often boring, too, though I wouldn’t change a day of it for the world. I got to watch them grow up. I feel that I have good balance in my life now, at least most of the time. We have a huge block party on the 4th ever year, but now that the boys are older, I don’t need to attend and be attentive every minute. So…my oldest son is reading in his room (what he loves), Mike is preparing food for the BBQ after watching a soccer match with his friend (what he loves) and my 14 year old son is down the block with his friend laughing, jumping, screaming and playing on the water slide and dunk tank. What am I doing? Writing on your blog. We’re all happy! 🙂

    • I really enjoyed this quick virtual visit to your holiday. It sounds much like how our family has always enjoyed our days off, with each of us taking time for our individual pursuits, yet somehow a feeling of camaraderie and togetherness through it all. I think your ability to enjoy doing things on your own has prepared you well to live in an all-male household! I know I’ve often felt that way about my own love of solitude. It’s hard for my friends who have daughters to imagine how perennially out-voted women in a family full of males can be! 😀 Let’s just say we don’t do much shopping as a family 😀 😀 😀

      • Perennially out-voted…I love that.

        Clothes shopping for the men of the house is generally done semi-annually, and with a minimum of fuss. Shopping, unless your talking Fry’s Electronics or the Apple Store is not to be savored.

        I enjoyed reading our similarities in celebration. I found it comforting, too. Thanks, Julia.

        • Alys, I think women who live in all-male households are especially grateful for their time with female friends! I always said that it was probably good I didn’t have a daughter, so I’m not complaining, but there are some pastimes that very few men seem to understand. 😀

          • Agreed. Conversely, they’re always trying to get me to race a car in Mario. I tried these endeavors when they were younger, but I have zero ability and even less interest. Now I just cheer them on.

            • I think they probably appreciate your cheers as much as they would your participation. “Zero ability and even less interest” is a perfect description of how I feel about such things too. Outside of going to baseball games with them occasionally, I’m happy to have them take some “guy time” together.

              • Exactly! Guy time is invaluable for everyone concerned.

                😉

                • I so agree!

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