Recently I had a recurring daydream about living in the middle of nowhere with my family. I imagined a ranch-style house with a front porch and a couple steps leading down onto a grassy lawn where my kids and a couple dogs–that I don’t presently have–played carefree.
The sound of cars and city-noise were unfamiliar and if I looked beyond our little plot of land all I could see was rolling hills, scattered clouds and birds in the sky. That’s the life, I’d think to myself, as I pushed our stroller down a busy street just as a noisy motorbike thundered past trailing loud music, fumes and a car horn, having jumped a two-way stop sign.
When I told my wife about my daydream she smiled and added a few things to our house, including more children, but then chuckled and said, “You know you’d get so bored, right?!” I then mounted a weak defense before eventually conceding that, yes, in all likelihood I would get really bored and start hankering for our city-life once again.
So why then did this daydream seem to be at the forefront of my mind? Why did living in the middle of nowhere become so attractive to me?
Perhaps it’s because I now have a family and their health and wellbeing is foremost in my mind these days. Perhaps it’s because I want to be in nature having spent most of my life living in cities. Both are valid reasons.
However, as I thought over why this daydream had become more recurrent I began connecting a few dots that pointed to a deeper and more unsettling reality–my life had become too convoluted.
Around the same time that my daydreams had become more frequent, I had also become a bit of a bear and my poor wife and children had been on the receiving end of it. You know those Snickers commercials where you have someone who’s turned into a curmudgeon then they eat a Snickers? That was me. Except the solution for me wasn’t as straightforward as eating chocolate.
Once I’d acknowledged that I had become a grump (and apologized to my wife) and connected these two seemingly unrelated aspects of my life it was easy to locate the problem.
As a husband and father of two infants, I was still trying to do too much.
I was still trying to be a good friend, keep up to date on current events, maintain my fitness and other various hobbies. Somehow I’d convinced myself that it was a good idea to keep my plate buffet-style full and in the process let my mental and emotional health deteriorate. It was no wonder that I started to find solace in this fantasy that all my problems would be solved if we had a little house on the prairie.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that if you feel as though your life is overwhelming that your kneejerk reaction is to want to run and hide somewhere quiet and empty of people.
That was me. Even the things that recharged me, like seeing friends, working out and reading became a chore as time seemed to be constantly slipping through my hands. I started to feel like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, who was running late and struggling to make it to the next thing on time.
Whether it’s being a parent or negotiating a demanding job I’ve realized in those moments I had to make some adjustments if I was going to keep my sanity and not become a fully-fledged ogre in my own self-made rabbit race, get it?!
Once I’d identified the problem I was able to make a few simple fixes that have restored me to my post-Snickers self.
Here are my top 3:
- Who matters most and who are you keeping up appearances with? This is a tough one as pleasing people and conversely displeasing them is one of our biggest fears. A few years back I made an intentional choice to prioritize the relationships that mattered most in my life instead of trying to be everyone’s best friend. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to new friendships I’m just a lot more comfortable saying no.
- Be the boss of your phone. This was probably one of the best things I did to keep my sanity. I put my phone on airplane mode every Saturday, all day, and from 8 AM to 8 PM every day. With few exceptions, there is absolutely no reason why you need your phone on 24/7. Trust me, planet Earth will keep orbiting the sun without you needing to tend to it.
- Do not compromise on what recharges you. I love to read and workout. My wife, who knows me best and sometimes better than I know myself, commented that I’m a more present husband, father and friend when I take time for myself.