I’ve written about this before, but parenting is changing more and more around here. Possibly just in my head though. One of the offspring moved out of his teens last weekend and milestones like that make you stop and reflect a bit.
It is an odd time of letting go at this stage of parenting, which I am very happy to do. The weekend was great fun: he came home and we had all the usual family celebrations of decorating the house with banners, a takeaway meal, opening presents together and a family lunch and board games. Nothing flashy, just the usual traditions.
And then he went back to his own home. We took down all the birthday decorations on his actual birthday, when traditionally they have stayed up for about a week. It did feel a bit strange, but to be honest, it felt fine, just unusual. I had a moment concerned that we were just eliminating him from our weekend as soon as he had left. Only a moment though.
I am proud and thrilled that he wanted to come and celebrate with us at all and that he wanted all the traditions which we have created over the years. I am equally thrilled that he then wanted to go home and take his birthday with him, because it was his celebration, not mine. It is an odd time of loving two opposites, him being here and him being away, putting up the decorations and taking them down again. I’m curious to know how this parenting thing continues to develop.
As I get older it becomes more apparent that there are rarely moments of true success. Success comes in small incremental moments, which often pass by uncelebrated. I do try to write down small successes at the very least, but I mostly do not remember to do so. This week I hit the deadline I wrote about last week. I have no idea of the project is a success, but I have finished everything I can do to make it succeed and it was hard work.
My family took me out to dinner to celebrate the deadline being met and all the hard work I have put in. Not celebrating the success of my piece of work – it may still fail, it is dependent on others now, not me. In the same way as an exam result depends on the grade boundaries as much as the effort you put in, or a job interview depends on who else is being interviewed and what the employer wants, as much as my performance. All of these things require lots of preparation, effort and a good amount of stress. Yet we often only celebrate if all the other elements come together and we have a visible sign of success – a new job, the top grade etc.
My lovely family decided not to wait for the others to decide on my success and instead took me out for fizz and pizza to mark the end of a stressful time and welcome me back into a calmer phase of life. I am so grateful they organised it and held me to it. Left to my own devices I would have slunk to a sofa and an evening of non-stop TV. But their kindness and cleverness truly did mark an end to the stress and yesterday felt like a new start and I felt fresher and more enthusiastic than I would have thought possible at the end of Tuesday. I am giving lots of gold stars and loads of gratitude to the family team for pizza and fizz and a great evening out.
I rarely work to big deadlines, instead I have busy periods and quieter ones at work. Just occasionally a project comes along that has a definite, unmovable deadline. There is one of those looming this week. And I just do not feel happy working like this. I don’t think I ever have. Even assignment deadlines at university were something I avoided, by having everything ready early. That sounds like I was being super diligent, but not really, giving myself some wiggle room just makes me calmer and happier.
In a work context when you’re working as a team in a fairly dynamic context of things developing and changing quickly through the project, its just not possible to be ready much before the deadline. So I am having to live with the stressful feelings instead. I’m dealing with it in different ways, from a glass of wine to reading lots, from long baths to short runs and this week ,as it all comes to a head, I am adding in huge dollops of yoga, meditation and prayer.
I’m doing my very best to take time away from work, as I know working many more hours will not make the work better. But it is still all whirring around in my mind – which is frustrating: I have deliberately put it all to one side and yet still wake up thinking about the project, or find my mind wandering back to it in downward-facing dog. I know, I know, I should watch the thoughts appear and not engage with them, but just note they’re there and let them pass. I’m trying honestly, but it is hard. So I have accepted that this is just not a comfortable way to work for me, I just don’t like hard deadlines. And that’s ok, I have a job where they do not happen very often and for that I am hugely grateful.
It’s been an exceptional year of holidays of all lengths and types. We’ve managed short breaks as a couple, holidays with friends and family; activity holidays and chilled out breaks.
I have no idea why this year has been so holiday-focussed and can’t honestly say that it was intentional. But it has been great fun. We were in Edinburgh this weekend and spent a lot of time discussing how much we love trying out living in a new place. Being a bit further away geographically enables me to take a bird’s eye view of life and to check all is well. Somehow whilst living that life at home, I struggle to examine it.
Everywhere we go there is a conversation about whether we want to move there. It verges on obsessive. I was slightly concerned that it’s a symptom of being unhappy where we live now, which we are definitely not. In reality, it’s a good way to reflect on what we could do better- maybe spend a bit more time lingering over coffee and newspapers in a local coffee shop, or mooching around excellent museums, or walking along rivers (or canals in Birmingham terms) to get a break from city architecture. All of these are tiny tweaks of course. More than that, it’s a great way to discuss everything we would miss too much about where we live – there is a lot.
Admittedly the idea of living in an amazing Georgian flat in a European capital city, spending the days walking for miles with pit stops at lovely independent coffee shops and evenings putting the world to right over excellent cocktails in interesting bars and great food in friendly local restaurants is hugely attractive. Of course, I can’t actually afford that lifestyle for more than a few days. And that’s ok – I am home again now in a house and community I love and back to the job I love, and starting the saving for the next holiday.
For months now, my to do list has had either the word ‘blog’ or, as I realised that that was not going to happen, the word ‘write’ scrawled on it. I’ve put it on daily to-do lists, on weekly habit trackers, on priority lists for months or weeks or seasons. It has been something I want to do, but, well, just have not.
How does a habit become a not-habit? Something occurs that breaks the physical aspect of the habit and then, before I know it, I just don’t do something any more.
In the case of writing, it was sleeping badly in the night that broke the habit. Waking up early to write was hard work. That phase of sleeplessness wore off months ago though and yet, no writing.
The summer routine was definitely different to the winter routine, and somehow, although I can’t quite work out why, writing first thing didn’t fit quite as well.
Then came a slight obsession with not reaching for a screen first thing in the morning, which made writing on a laptop impossible. I have no doubt that not working on a screen first thing, when my day is spent doing that almost exclusively is a good thing. But, despite that, I kept ‘ blog’ or ‘write’ on the to do list and felt a bit rubbish about myself for never getting it done.
As we move towards November, I am steeling myself for winter proper and the reduced daylight. And sitting here and writing first thing in the morning feels like a comforting thing to do in the winter, so well worth getting back in the habit I think.
The new season is off to a good start and it is full of all the meetings and all the to-do lists and all the chores. I am determined to find balance this month between times filled with tasks and time for not doing very much at all.
The weekend has been a good example of that balance, although I lacked sleep and exercise, which I am paying for this week. The weekend was the lovely Moseley Folk & Arts Festival and despite the weather (ridiculously chilly) it was a very calming and enjoyable weekend. It’s a weekend of switching off and not doing much except being entertained by a whole variety of musicians and catching up with friends we bumped into. We worked out that this is the eighth year in a row that we have been to the festival, so it’s safe to say that it has become our traditional way to end the summer season.
In amongst the festival were various Scouts meetings and a meeting of the Birmingham Children’s Book Groups. All were very productive and we have great plans to put on events, support others better etc.
The challenge this week is that I am a bit sleep deprived after the weekend and have eaten less well than I should have and not done as much exercise as I could have – all of which is lowering energy levels. Yet I have another week of meetings and that to do list looms large. Time to stop writing and either go and get some things done, or do some exercise to get the energy flowing again.
It’s our traditional last weekend of summer this weekend. Moseley Folk Festival always happens the weekend after the bank holiday weekend and usually the weekend before school starts again, so for the last several years, we have seen this as the end of the summer period.
Am I a huge folk music fan? No, not really, but I do really enjoy live music. The location in Moseley Park is lovely, a weekend surrounded by trees and water. This year the festival promises to be bigger, not a positive in my eyes, as I have relished the tininess of the festival – from one spot on a picnic blank, you can see pretty much all the site. There is a familiarity for us – we know which food we like to indulge in, we know roughly where we want to put that picnic blanket, we feel soothed by the routine.
This year I decided that we would not go, we would try and change the tradition, maybe just go for a day instead of a whole weekend. Then reality hit, I am not one that likes to feel I am in a rut, but you know what – I love this tradition, it’s a lovely way to mark the transition into a new season. I will spend the weekend not doing much, just thinking thoughts, sharing time with family, listening to good music and eating good food. A good way to gather energy for the full season ahead. So off we head for the weekend again.