This week the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge is focusing on Rule #7: Take one night for you. By taking a few hours a week to do something that is not work and is not caring for family, you can make life feel more sustainable and joyful.
Ideally, this night involves a commitment to something — so it actually happens! It’s one thing to say “I’d like to take more bubble baths.” Your bath tub isn’t going anywhere, so if somebody else wants you to do something else, you probably will. Whereas if your string quartet practices at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, if you are not there, they are a string trio. So you’ll go, even if you’re tired or busy, and you will reap the benefits of this active self-care.
Anyway, some folks wonder about the logistics. But a reasonable number of people, upon hearing this rule, say “I don’t know what I’d do with my night off.” The question is what to do, not when to do it. If you’re out of practice with doing things that are just for you, it can be tough to consider what this might be, and different communities have different options available.
So here are some ways to think about this.
First, you can get in the habit of taking a night off before you know what your potentially longer-term commitment might be. When we moved to Pennsylvania in 2011 I did not immediately find a choir to join. So, during the periods of time when my husband was traveling heavily, I would hire a sitter one night a week, go read in the library and take myself out for sushi. If your co-parent is more reliably around in the evening, you can go ahead and each take a night for now, and just treat it like an “artist’s date” (a la Julia Cameron). What do you feel like doing? Anything can work (coffee shop, park, library, gallery, bowling…). Start paying attention, because there might be things that you are particularly drawn to. If you always find yourself in art museums and galleries, for instance, maybe you’d like to take an art class.
If you happen to be a member of a gym, an easy option is to try a class you might find appealing. You don’t need to commit to this long term or set this up far ahead of time, but you might be surprised at how fun some might be. Feel free to try a few out because this certainly could become something you would enjoy for a while. Or you might hear about something from the other active members of your class that’s happening somewhere else (aerial acrobatics? a tap dancing class…?) Feel free to sign up for something for a few weeks to try it out.
You might also start thinking back to the extra curricular activities you did as a kid, and particularly those you did in high school and college when you might have had more say over your time. What did you really enjoy doing?
It can be hard to recreate the magic (I suspect one reason I didn’t join a choir for so long after moving to PA is I wanted a certain kind of choir — my all 20- and 30-something choir in NYC had a spectacular blend). But maybe you can embark on some experimentation, and start getting closer to what you loved. If you played the flute in an amazing ensemble, maybe you can pick your flute back up (you can rent one if you don’t still own yours — trust me, I’m renting a great many band instruments in this house right now…). You can play for a bit, and possibly take lessons (doable virtually, it turns out, if you don’t have a teacher nearby). Then — as you’re more plugged into this scene — you can start figuring out ensemble opportunities near you.
Your first attempt might not work. You play for a year with a community ensemble that isn’t exactly your cup of tea. But maybe you really like a handful of your fellow musicians, and you decide to form a small wind ensemble together and begin playing at local events. This could be quite promising.
You might also think about activities that are adjacent to ones you enjoyed. If you are over the age of 35, certain sports might not work so well with your current body. But you might still be able to do something fun and competitive that involves similar skills along with the social element. Softball or kickball or ultimate frisbee all seem to draw adults.
You can also just keep an open mind. Ask your friends what they do. Maybe someone is taking a pottery class that has an amazing teacher. That’s never been your thing, but it sounds cool, so you try it and it could certainly become something you like to do for a while. Maybe a friend leads a volunteer project doing something entirely different from your normal work and it sounds appealing so you try that. You get to know your fellow volunteers and wind up committing to something through that organization. Who knows?
Sometimes fun takes work to figure out. But I think this is work worth doing. When you have a night for you, you look forward to it week after week and when you do something similar week after week, you get to know people and you often improve at whatever skills you’re using. This sense of progress is a key part of satisfaction. And I’m all about enjoying life.
Have you tried different “night for you” activities?
In other news: We’re spending nine weeks working through the nine rules I cover in Tranquility by Tuesday, my most recent book. If you haven’t picked up a copy, would you please do so? Let me know if you do so I can thank you! And if you enjoyed the book, please tell a friend about it!
Here’s one of my TBT In Real Life videos about a busy woman who began taking some time for her own interests — going to musical matinees!