free time

Free Time: Ever Heard of It?

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“You will accomplish great things in your free time this week.”

-Fortune Cookie

I was having lunch with a dear friend and her family recently and received this message in my fortune cookie. It was quite fortuitous as I was out-of-town and in “vacation mode” so there was lots of “free time.” You know what I’m talking about, right? That feeling of unstructured playtime you can do whatever you want with. Yes, even as adults we get playtime! Most of us only feel it when we’re on vacation…sometimes. Sometimes “vacation” is more of a “relocation” when we feel like we need to entertain and cook and clean and plan. We don’t often get that sense of freedom that comes with “free time.”

Free time. What a wonderful concept.

I’m wondering if you feel like you have free time on a weekly or daily basis – time that is unstructured and open for you to do whatever you want. Maybe you choose to just be in the moment and do nothing. Maybe you choose to treat yourself to a coffee or trip to your favorite store. Whatever it is, it is time that you are free to do what you want to do, not necessarily need to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things we THINK we need to do and things we actually need to get done. On this recent trip I noticed that while I was away, I was not needed (by work, family, life, etc.) as much as I had felt the weeks and months leading up to the trip. I started wondering if I was putting the pressure on myself to be DOING all the time and therefore “needing to do” stuff that perhaps didn’t really NEED to be done. Are you feeling me here?!

So I decided to start an experiment.

Those who know me, know I love a good experiment! I decided to see if I could go home after this vacation and bring with me the same feeling of “not NEEDING to DO” that I felt on vacation.

This is quite fascinating to me as I have spent the last several months really challenging myself with this concept. Before vacation, I was paying attention to whether or not I was forcing things to happen or allowing them. This is a tricky concept because I get caught up in the “doing” of MAKING (forcing) things to happen. I busy myself with a lot of things I think I NEED to DO to make something happen. What I’ve seen over the years is that while there is a fair amount of doing that needs to take place in order to make things happen, there is also a fair amount of being that is also needed.

Just Being.

What I am reflecting on lately is that some of the most wonderful things happen when I am just being. Wonderful things also happen from the culmination of my doing as well. So there’s a tension between the two. In this tension and in most moments of tension I ask myself, “What is it I really want to do?” and “What feels best to me right now?” I have also noticed that the more I ask myself these searching-types of questions, I stay away from judging myself, being hard on myself, and “Shoulding” all over myself. I’m not telling myself what to do, I’m asking myself respectfully, what will be best for me at this moment. And that feels wonderful!

So when I think of accomplishing great things with my free time, I am reminded that in my free time I feel FREE. In that freedom comes openness, creativity, imagination, dreaming, excitement, wonder, options. This is the type of thinking I’m aiming to cultivate in the monthly class I offer (beginning in January) AND the rejuvenating women’s retreat happening in Napa Valley in January 2022. To find out more, visit my website!