Flânerie: the Benefits of Aimless Idle Behavior

aimless idle behavior

I propose that periods of aimless idle behavior or flânerie, are necessary for a life of purpose.

flâ·ne·rie
ˌflän(ə)ˈrē/
noun
  1. aimless idle behavior.

We cannot go full steam forever. We cannot endlessly produce with joy without time to slow and notice and absorb from our surroundings. We cannot consistently serve others without periods of being nourished ourselves.

I am a fan of regular, luscious bouts of purposeful aimless idle behavior.

Words make me happy and I first came across the word flânerie several years ago and tucked it into the little purple notebook I keep in my bag at all times. Very briefly, it was used to describe certain men in 19th century France, in particular, who resisted “the social controls of modern industry“, ignored the rush hour, and meandered through the streets noticing, reflecting, observing.

Some of us, in our own ways, are trying to push back against the rush hour, are we not?

I need some weekends to read new books or lay on my bed and watch Netflix, guilt free. To go for long walks and hang out with family without an agenda or to-do list. To sit and chat and discuss ideas deeply and at leisure.

When I travel I want as few constraints as possible. I want to wander, people watch, stop where it suits my fancy. Take an unexpected turn. Wake up curious and allow the day to simply unfold.

I want space in my life to take my time, to opt out of rushing. To meander and putter and occasionally jump in the car and drive somewhere for a mini adventure. To play it by ear.

When we go off script for a bit, loosen our grip on our schedules and tightly managed lives, we experience many benefits.

We recharge

Downtime and self care are necessary. When we take mini breaks or give ourselves permission to relax and just be for a while, we get refueled for the journey. We cannot pour out if we don’t also pour in. We recharge when we make space for our souls to rest.

We tune in to what our minds, bodies, and spirits have been speaking to us

We are often so busy running that we fail to hear the messages that our bodies, minds and spirits are speaking to us. Sometimes screaming to us. In our efforts to keep it all together, be super productive, or serve everyone else we disregard our true needs and feelings. They always find a way to the surface eventually. We need to learn to listen if we are to live with purpose, health and joy.

A little idle wandering promotes creativity and problem solving

How many times have you stepped back from the problem at hand to jump into the shower or get out for a walk and were hit with a new idea, a creative approach, the very answer you were seeking? Spending time in a book or watching a movie has often helped me see the world through a different lens. There have been many times where a turn of a phrase or the learning curve of a fictional character provided an answer I was seeking or profoundly inspired and encouraged me.

We are reminded that our value does not lie solely in our productivity

We matter just because. Our ability to perfectly perform, to keep all the balls up in the air at all times cannot determine our absolute worth. We have a right to rest. We have a right to be and take up space in the world even when we are not busy, doing, rushing, satisfying the needs of another.

Practicing the art of flânerie might actually boost our productivity when we are working

Many companies are realizing that longer work hours inhibit productivity. Giving people a shorter work day so they can live healthier lives, lives that include naps and leisure, often greatly increases productivity and quality of work. It can help us engage with increased focus in deep and meaningful work.

So what do you think? Can you see how a little more aimless idle behavior or “flânerie” might just help you live a purposeful life?

Krista xo

If You Find Yourself Back in the Valley Again

back in the valley

I have been crying a lot these past days. I haven’t been quite feeling myself all year.

It started with me giving up one of my last crutches. Wine took the edge off my anxiety and allowed me to feel more at ease in social situations, including family gatherings.

After giving up wine, my weight started creeping up consistently. My anxiety started amping up months ago and then rose to a place it hadn’t been in years. A very uncomfortable place.

I persisted with all the quality mood-supporting nutrition and supplements and the mindset work and self care that I always do. I pulled back, said no to great opportunities, set stronger boundaries around social media to give space for my soul to rest.

And then the anxiety seemed to leave finally, suddenly, but left me slumped in a low mood. If I am honest, which frankly I don’t want to be because you might judge me, we might call it depression. The same low-grade depression that has followed me around most of my life. The depression that tells me I am a loser to be here again. That questions why other people seem to manage life far more easily, so what exactly is my problem?

My girlfriend reminds me that I am loveable. She messages me all the beautiful things she sees in me and it helps. I tell myself that she is right and my feelings are temporary. I won’t live in this place forever.

But I am horrified to admit that I am back in the valley again.

I consider buying a bottle of wine. But I know that wine won’t fix this and then I will have to start the work of letting go of numbing all over again. I go for a really long walk instead.

I ask for help. I reach out to the psychologist who walked me through a hard time in the past. I cry with my girlfriend. I tentatively tell my husband how I am not really ok. Everyone looks at me and thinks because my house is orderly that I must be ok. When I was young I was an honor student so I must have been ok.

I talk to my doctor and she adjusts my thyroid meds again. She listens well and is kind but this is the third appointment that I have said something is not right and it is only now that my labs reflect to her a need for a change in dosage.

And maybe in a week I will be ok. But I’d rather not be here again at all. Even for a week.

But for now I am back in the valley again.

Telling the truth is hard.

Telling you the truth is hard. Please do not for a second believe that baring my soul comes easy to me. I do it because otherwise I don’t know what will happen to me. I tell you the truth not just because I want you to know you are not alone. I want you to see that we are all in progress. That we are all worth fighting for. I also tell you because it is one way of holding myself accountable; it prevents me from retreating and isolating and spiraling downward.

I fear I might lose clients. I mean, why would you come to me if I struggle myself? Although years ago my psychologist told me that all counsellors he knows go to counselling themselves and I have never forgotten this. And just yesterday my doctor assured me that I am not a fraud if I support you even as I get support for myself.

I feel shame at not being able to truly, once and for all, fix myself. I wonder if my whole life is going to be like this: a series of ups and downs. Because that is painful to think about. I wonder if I am just lazy or weak. But then I realize that as a young child I struggled and looking back I don’t think that little girl even knew about being lazy or weak. She just felt too sad. Too lonely. Too much pain and she didn’t quite know what to do with it all.

I fear I might be shutting the door on writing opportunities because I am not a neat and tidy “simple living” writer. I am a messy, imperfect human being. One who struggles. One who needs to speak truth and who continues to fight for freedom and wholeness for herself. And for you.

Maybe you will unsubscribe. You don’t like what you see in me. You only want cheery posts. I wish I had it in me to only offer cheery posts.

I don’t want you to look at me differently when you see me on the street. Or judge me when I am feeling better and back to writing about choosing joy. I just want you to ask for help yourself if you need it. If you have energy to think about some of the ways you could kill yourself, you have energy to pick up the phone and ask for help.

I am back in the valley again.

I don’t want advice; believe me I have spent years learning and researching and applying information to my daily walk. I want you to hear me. That is all. I want you to listen when your brother or your son tells you he is not ok. It doesn’t matter if their life looks great to you. No, they are not just being dramatic.

When someone asks for help, they will often ask only once.

As a little girl I told my dad I would be dead by the time I was 18. I meant it. He didn’t hear me. When someone asks for help, they will often ask only once. Please do not ignore them.

Despite what I know now I am not a fabulous listener; I’m still working on it. But I am also working on asking for help. Not hoping others read my mind or expecting them to meet my every emotional need. But taking personal responsibility for the full truth of who I am and what I need and using my voice loudly and clearly.

So if you find yourself back in the valley again, please ask for help. You are worth fighting for.

Krista xo