Give Yourself Permission to Wander

by Erin Kurup

Let yourself wander. (, photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli)

photo courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli

When was the last time you did what you really love to do?

I don’t mean scheduled time for a specific hobby or halfheartedly went through the motions of pursuing an interest. I mean spontaneously, joyfully followed your heart wherever it led you.

For me, it had been a seriously long time. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I let myself be so gleefully aimless.

Until recently, that is.

Let me back up for a moment.

I belong to a truly amazing online community of multipotentialites┬ácalled the Puttytribe. The array of interests represented in this community is astonishing and inspiring. It’s like a playground for the curious mind.

But a common complaint among multipotentialites (and, really, pretty much everyone, right??) is that we don’t have enough time to pursue all our interests. Pet projects get back-burnered. All that “real life” stuff gets in the way.

So we in the Puttyribe declared a day of multipotentiality, twenty-four hours in which we would let ourselves explore whatever thing(s) we’d been longing to spend time with. We called it the Puttython.

I was expecting a good time. I figured I’d get some things done. What I did not anticipate was the glorious, ecstatic feeling produced by spending a day doing whatever I felt moved to do.

The Puttython

I started the day with a list of projects I thought I’d like to explore, but with no schedule or requirements.

First up: Plan out an upcycled quilt I’m making using shirt scraps. I figured I’d plan for an hour or so, and then I’d move on. Not a hard and fast stop time, mind you, just an assumption about when I’d get bored.

Three hours later, I was still happily immersed in my quilt. I probably could have kept going, but I didn’t want to burn out!

I ended up spending the rest of the day in creative pursuits. I hadn’t expected this. Creating things is part of my daily routine, so I figured I’d be drawn to other activities.

My day of schedule-less free time, doing what I do every day, was such bliss because I didn’t have to do any of what I did. I chose, in each moment, to do it.

Giving Yourself Permission to Wander

We are really good at guilting ourselves. It’s hard to give yourself a chunk of totally unstructured time when you keep reminding yourself of all the things you “should” be doing.

Think about it: When you take some time for yourself, how often do you end up thinking of all the things you should be doing instead? When you do something you enjoy, do you immerse yourself in it or do you keep one eye on the clock, the calendar, your to-do list? And when you schedule some “free time,” do you let yourself just wander in the moment — or do you plan what you’ll do out in advance?

If you’re like a lot of people — myself included — chances are you schedule time for a specific interest or project and then plow through it, trying to get as much done in your precious, hard-won bit of free time as you can. Probably your mind is off going over dinner plans or tomorrow’s to-do list at the same time. Your “free time” is free in name alone.

We rarely, if ever, give ourselves permission to wander. We don’t trust ourselves — to come back again, to be productive, to stop when the time comes, whatever. But by holding ourselves to rules and schedules all the time, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We are forcing ourselves out of the present and into whatever plan we’ve concocted.

This day of complete freedom was, for me, like recharging my batteries. I was able to do what I truly wanted in each moment. I could have learned about some new interests, wrapped up old projects, read a book or two. But on that morning, what my heart wanted was to spend time with fabric, yarn, needle, and thread. So I did. And the experience was invaluable.

I learned that I want to give myself permission to wander more often. I have to make this freedom part of my life on a regular basis. Now that I’ve seen how beneficial it can be, I must have more!