This is not the way to write a blog, in fact it’s not the way to write anything at all. You are supposed to start these things with a clear message or theme or subject that you wish to tackle. You should have a clear idea of your audience and what interests them and what style of writing they prefer.
Instead I am starting an attempt to write a blog a day for a whole week – mainly to get me back into the habit of writing any blogs AT ALL. And it’s late (by my standards, the offspring are adamant that 9.30pm is not late, but then they are also adamant that waking up at 6am is not possible, in fact it is not even a thing, just a weird hypothetical concept dreamt up by their mad mother).
Where was I? Oh yes, it’s late, I do not write coherently when it’s late. As you can tell, I do not really hold a train of thought. Anyway (if you’re still reading by this point – seriously, why? – cereal packets are better worded than this!), it’s far too late for me to be thinking up themes, but I was going to write a blog every day this week and Monday is a day in this week, so here I am, writing a blog. And the title is the thought I had when I started it, so let’s just stick with that.
It has been an excellent day, in no small part because I have chatted to friends over coffee on a video call, to a good friend on the phone, to my Mum on FaceTime and been for a now-allowed socially-distant walk with a friend on her birthday. And I spent a bit of time in the garden repotting mint (possibly killing mint, but as I have no proof of that yet, I’m going with the term ‘repotting’). And we finished a jolly hard jigsaw which had been lying around taunting us for a while. All in amongst working and doing two workouts.
I have just had a couple of days off work. Not the break I had planned when I booked the days off to coincide with the end of a work project and enable some rest and recuperation. My usual rest and recuperation involves catching up with people over coffees and lunches and being out and about doing chores. It would also have been a break between a fair amount of travel (a few days in London last week and an early train to Plymouth this morning), so I was looking forward to being at home for a while as well.
I got that part of the break down pat! I can’t remember the last time I was just at home for a couple of days with no plans. Monday morning was rather odd. Waking up, going through a morning routine with the family and then them going off to the plans of their days and me having no appointments and no travel ahead of me. I do not find it the easiest of feelings, so I am this morning feeling very grateful indeed for the fact I do still have a job and although it is not the same routine as it usually would be, it is a routine imposed on me by someone else, which helps.
But I did ok on holiday. Monday was harder, I felt tired anyway – most likely the reaction to ending the project, the grey day and a belated response to the clocks changing on Sunday. Tired and unstructured should be a good combination, but I cannot let go of the need to be productive in some way, so it felt difficult. Of course, the key is to change the definition of productive in my head. Right now, productive is whatever I decide it is surely. I cannot leave the house except for my morning walk. I am struggling with staring at screens all day in work and then having to do the same to have a social life. This is not my usual life, so why my brain is still measuring a good day against the ‘old’ criteria beats me.
Yesterday I felt calmer and more accepting of the situation, I was actually fairly creative and crafted a few things – not well, but fun to take my head somewhere else. But on reflection there was also a lot more structure than there had been the day before: I had a Zoom craft morning and an afternoon Zoom tea and chat and then in the evening a choir on Zoom. And the sun was shining so we went out into the garden and cleared up a bit more.
All told I am returning to work today feeling refreshed and rested and the garden is looking ever tidier. And I am becoming ever more aware of how important my invented routines are in this time.
One of the reasons I have greatly reduced by blog frequency is the sheer distraction that is offered by my laptop in the morning. This blog is a self-indulgent way to spend my morning time. That is definitely not a bad thing at all, I believe in self-indulgence as a way to improve energy and patience for the rest of the day. I just get distracted once I switch on the laptop, so instead I have been reading rather than blogging recently, that keeps me focussed. And I don’t need to get out of bed – a definite benefit in the winter.
The truth of life in the early 21st century is that much of it takes place electronically, so booting up a laptop offers lots of distractions and opportunities to “get things done”. I am a bit addicted to getting things done. I could be balancing the accounts or doing some useful and overdue Scouting admin. I could be researching the new oven we need or booking the camping trip we are due to take. There’s a Facebook group to administer, a news story I would like to investigate further. The world is on this laptop it feels.
This morning I have given myself a stern talking to and have dragged myself off the Facebook group and am stuck to this page until I have reached my word count. Which, come to think of it, isn’t really self-indulgent, it’s rather good practice for the rest of life and a chance to focus on one task until it is satisfactorily completed. Not perfectly completed mind you, oh no, perfection is not mine and I avoid it like the plague because striving for perfection a great way to encourage procrastination and a lack of focus. This morning, done is definitely good enough.
And that’s me at the word count, so I’m out of here and back to the distractions.
I wrote in January about the need to add some creativity into my week. Scheduling a fortnightly craft evening with friends has been one way to make that happen. We don’t meet as regularly as we would all like – some weeks it just cannot happen.
Last night it did, on a perfect day. The day had involved a lot of travel, not enough sleep, a long meeting sitting down, a lot of brain work and a fair amount of walking.
Sitting, sewing, enjoying a cup of tea and chatting to friends was just what the day needed to balance it out. I was intrigued by how the conversation flows when we are focussing on a physical activity as well. It was very comforting, flowing gently from one subject to the next, interspersed by examining and praising each others’ attempts. At times we sat in gentle silence, when concentration was needed.
A companionable, creative and non-tech based gathering of good friends. Perfect.
Last year I experimented with having a single word theme for the year and I enjoyed the experiment, so this year I am continuing the process. The word for this year is “Lighten”.
It took me a while to get there, the foundation was originally the word “play”, but I couldn’t quite get a grip on what play could mean in terms of work or even some of the volunteering I do. It felt too much like it was describing something I actively need to do – spend some more time just playing for the sake of fun, rather than everything having some bigger purpose.
So my thinking developed the theme into lighten. It will hopefully have many results. I do need to take more time to just muck around – preferably not on social media, but you know what, I love instagram and so have spent a bit more time taking photos and just posting for the fun of it. I want to spend more time enjoying being creative, because, it’s fun. That will be a challenge, as it could take more time than I feel I have.
I shall also try and lighten my workload. Not the paid work, I would like to increase that, but definitely looking at what I do in my non-paid time and reduce some of those obligations which feel less fun. I would like to make it a light relief from the day job, not an addition to the email and meeting load.
I need to lighten some of the domestic load too – reducing the contents of the house, giving it a lick of paint. All that will happen later in the year though.
Lightening feels very aspirational on this dark return to work Monday morning though. A new year is a good time to feel aspirational though. Here’s to a lighter 2019.
This blog turns out to be a good example of doing something productive in the mornings. I was not aware it was until this morning’s non-exemplary lack of productivity. Or in plain English – I am having a Monday morning. I seriously cannot be bothered this morning. The weather was tough this weekend, I am tired, it feels like light years to the next holiday and the daylight hours are getting uncomfortably short.
All this will pass I am sure, but I decided to forego even attempting a blog and just try and sort out in my head where I am and what I am doing this week. So, I was sitting with coffee, bullet journal and laptop. The latter to check diary in fact.
The teen wandered in and asked, with genuine interest “so, what are you writing about today”. Genuine interest. On a Monday morning. From a teenager. About seomthing his mother is doing.
That, my friends is known as motivation. I did explain – in a VERY non-exemplary manner – that I wasn’t going to write, because frankly I just need to get my **** together.
Actually, it takes ten minutes to have a think about what needs to be done in the next couple of days, it turns out there are plenty of meetings in the diary to keep me on track. So, here we are, a blog.
It’s another one about blogging, I really do need to organise a plan in this. Yet more **** to get together. I am hoping for some enforced downtime later this week, so I may just get around to planning themes or at least have more idea than waking on a dark wet October morning and thinking that I just cannot be bothered.
I am away from home on a work conference this week and I am hankering after a bit of routine this morning, if just to overcome the feeling of discombobulation I have. I arrived in the dark last night and the moon was amazingly bright, so I could tell we were near a lake, there was forest. But that was about it. In the way of work conferences, it seemed important to get to know the people before the lie of the land, but I regretted that decision once everyone was heading to bed.
The evening had consisted of a couple of glasses of wine and way too long in the bar putting the world to rights – I should remember that if the world is not right by midnight, it is probably not going to get sorted at 1.30am – but I have been trying to remember that for decades now!
Inevitably, the wave of homesickness engulfed me as soon as I was alone. Interestingly, I was fairly detached from it – a new thing for me. I observed the homesickness, put it down to tiredness and discombobulation and went to sleep.
My brain woke me at first light and I got outside to explore straight away. The homesickness has completely gone. Knowing where I physically am helps to settle me down, definitely. I am reaching for routines that are familiar, hence the blog. Now, I need to remember that morning-after wisdom of not staying in the bar until 1.30am.
I had a conversation with someone yesterday about a volunteering project; it did me the power of good. This conversation ended in a fit of giggles as we allowed ourselves to be a bit ridiculous and find perspective in humour. It also included the other person urging me to write this blog again.
My brain is feeling full and overwhelmed. There is a danger of forgetting what the point of it all is.
I forget that having a family is about hanging out with some cool people all the time, watching them grow and change every day.
I forget that having a job is – because I am very privileged to have a good job which pays me to do something I love and believe in – about using my skills and passions in a professional capacity. It’s about travelling and meeting people. It’s about learning and developing every month.
I forget that volunteering is about having fun, it’s about facing the challenges as a team, leaning on and supporting each other. Very importantly, it really is about finding the fun in those challenges, enjoying putting our heads (and sometimes hands) together to solve the problems. It’s about remembering that any community endeavour will hit bumps, some people will struggle, people will sometimes forget it was supposed to be good fun. We’re there to work out how to support each other through it, to continue to flourish together as a team.
I love the busy, but I do lose perspective. Yesterday’s conversation reminded me that the few minutes I spend to write this are fun, they help in reminding me of all the things I forget. To the other person in the conversation: thank you!
It has been a busy week. Celebrating the end of the summer holidays – we experimented with celebrating, as opposed to limping into the new academic year, it was fun. Getting to grips with a new routine – we’re not there yet, several after-school activities are only starting this week. Coping with the reawakening that happens at the start of September – my inbox is filled with announcements, updates and plans and I am out every evening this week. Most importantly, celebrating a significant family birthday with lots of family and friends. We had a gorgeous weekend of parties, presents, good food and good wine. Just as it all should be.
There is no doubt I am an extrovert, I gain my energy by being with people, I get lonely quickly. As I get older though, I am noticing that I am maybe not as extrovert as I think I am. I talk a lot, I am loud, I like being with lots of people. Yet, I am currently craving some time alone, some quiet, some time just being with my own thoughts for a while. My commutes into work last week felt very precious indeed, as I relished being alone in the car. It’s not quite as much peace as I need though, the whole having to concentrate on driving gets in the way of ones thoughts wandering properly.
This time in the morning with a journal and a blog was so important in the busyness of last week. I have loved spending some time doing a tiny bit of yoga in the last week – because it is quiet and still.
My next challenge for myself is to carve out quiet minutes in my day, to stop waiting for a quiet time to present itself, rather to make it happen myself. And not to worry about it being a certain period of time. Just two minutes a day of being in silence would help hugely in this busy time of change.
I had a quiet weekend this weekend, followed by a Monday evening with very little planned. And I didn’t really fill any of that time with anything in particular. We browsed some shops and drank lots of coffee and hung out with some friends, but it was all very low key. Yesterday evening I flicked through a magazine and browsed social media. Just, you know, kicking back and doing nothing really.
That feels so deliciously counter-cultural in these days of even our mediation or prayer time having an app associated with it, even our strolls through the park leading to a move streak on the wearable tech measuring every step I take between the coffee machine and the outside sofa.
I am as guilty as anyone of being sucked into the concept of what “gets measured gets done”. This month, I am going to rebel against it. I may not be able to rebel against the demon circles of Apple Watch just yet (that is an addiction too big!), but I am easing off on making sure I run three times a week or yoga twice, or meditate every day – or whatever other blather I hold over myself. It is the busy season at work and I have got myself into a busy season elsewhere in life. So, in the bits that I don’t need to make busy, I am going to very deliberately not measure or record or even worry about them.
Let’s see how long this lasts? Now, let’s switch on the coffee machine, I have 15 minutes before I need to work.