Putting Yourself and Friendships in Time-out
By Susan DeBow
When my kids were growing up, the concept of “time-out” was not in our vocabulary. We sent kids to their room or told them to, “Sit there and don’t make a sound!” but never did we say, “Okay, you are going to get a time-out.” The whole concept of that, to me, was stupid and too “Mr. Rogers.”
Now I see the value. Not necessarily for kids, since I don’t have any at home to put in a time-out. But for myself and some of my friendships, time-outs have become part of my repertoire for dealing with life.
This past summer, was when I began learning the value of time-outs. I went on vacation with a group of people that I love. Hilton Head. Lovely house with its own pool. A dream vacation for me. It was delightful, especially after I learned my new coping technique.
I don’t know about you, but after I am around a group of people for too much time, I begin to get the vapors. My skin begins to crawl, and my head tilts to the side; my tongue drapes from my mouth, and my eyes roll back in my head. And Lord knows what can soon come out of my mouth. Think Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
For years, when this occurred, I would use all of my might to keep from imploding or exploding. I’d tough it out and dread. Not so any more. Why? Because finally, after 58 years, I figured it out. When I felt the vapors coming on, I simply said, “Well, I am going to go put myself in time-out.” Then I would trot off to my room where I would rest, regroup and let my ears rest. Within an hour or so, I would return to the group and be my lovely, captivating self. Sense of humor intact.
During my time-outs, I would sometimes rest on my bed, maybe scan the internet or perhaps watch out my window and listen to the birds. I would release tensions that I might have felt and return my mind to the here and now. Hell, sometimes I prayed for patience.
I have always found it way too easy to lose myself when I am with a group. When that happens, I am not happy. And I am not myself. Time-outs help me be myself. They help me give others a break.
There is another use for time-outs. Friends. Sometimes I don’t like my friends. Yes, I said it. On occasion, I have been so upset with some of my friends that I have considered discontinuing friendships.
I stew and fret over slights and words said and unsaid. I get on my high-horse and become holier than thou. For those of you who ride a high horse, I am sure you know how lonely that can be.
Knowing that my mind and logic can sometimes not be trusted, I have learned another technique that helps protect me from myself. Time-out for friends! Yes-sir-ee Bob, I give friendships a time-out. Cooling off periods that not only give myself breaks from my friends, but my friends get breaks for me. Sometimes the time-out is just a few days, but more often than not, they are in the range of two to three weeks. Enough time for personalities to settle down, patterns to be broken and the absence makes the heart grow fonder theory to take place.
Most of my friends are pretty long-term. Fifty-five years. Twenty years. Fifteen years. We know a lot about each other. The good. The bad. And the ugly. And, as much as friendships buoy me in life, sometimes they can drag me down. And give me – you guessed it – the vapors. But instead of trying to determine whether I should end a friendship because I am feeling frustrated either with my friend or myself, I give the friendship a time-out.
I have been using the time-out method for a few months now, and it is working. In the case of friendships, I don’t announce the time-out. Nature takes its course. So far, so good. It has been invigorating. It is fun to catch up with friends after a time-out. Time-outs allow us both to expand our horizons, spend time with other friends that add to our lives and relearn the reasons why we are friends in the first place.
Because I am such an imperfect person in most aspects of my life, I have had to learn hints, tools and techniques to help me with anything that has to do with another human being; a.k.a..…relationships.
I will never roll my eyes when I hear a mother tell her child, “You need a time-out.” It is now a tool in my life’s arsenal. And you know who I might use it on next?
About this writer
- Susan DeBow is a Midwest writer with a Southern heart. Her work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Family Circle, Christian Science Monitor, Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Writer, Poets and Writers, among many others. Her first novel, Cleaning Closets, was published in 2007 by Dialogue Publishing.