Unlocking

As we move more and more back to something resembling normal routines, my brain seems to be returning to habits that were normal.  Obviously this blog is one of those.  I can’t tell you why I stopped, I just did.  I didn’t have the desire to write.  And for a while there wasn’t much happening that I had not written about.   

I am keen to read again too.  Reading was a habit that disappeared this year, I know I’m not alone in this.  It seems that the sheer volume of information in the early days of the pandemic in UK made focussing on a book far too difficult for many people.  I read some excellent books, but definitely nowhere near as many as usual.  Now I feel much more likely to pick up a book for a few minutes, rather than scrolling through news and then through social media to see people’s reactions to the news. And then sharing my views on the news with friends and family and virtually and the family in the house.  It was a crazy time.  Curling up with a book seems a much better option really doesn’t it?

I also consume books in audiobook format.  I rarely listen to a book when I am driving or travelling, I find them too hard to focus on.  But I listen to them in the house when doing other things.  Despite all that time in the house, I just could not bear to have an audio book on.  I listened to a few podcasts, but audiobooks seemed beyond me. This week I dipped back in to audiobooks.  I have no idea why that now seems appealing when it wasn’t before, but I am looking forward to finishing “In Praise of Walking: The New Science of How We Walk and Why It’s Good for Us”.  Although given the subject matter of the book, I am feeling the need to go for some long walks as well.

To be honest I am just glad reading and blogging are back in my life this week, so I’ll just be grateful rather than too bothered as to why they seem possible all of a sudden.

The fresh start of September

I do like the September feeling of a new academic year.  And this year I had expected the academic element would be totally irrelevant for us.  One son should have been living in a houseshare and the start of school where he works would have been something observed from a distance.  Younger son would have been firmly ensconced in the workplace element of his apprenticeship.

Would, could, should – they are the themes of 2020 aren’t they?  Instead of what should have been happening…

Everyone lives at home.  And we’re witnessing the return to a school job and it’s the basis of dinner time conversations this week.  The apprenticeship led to furlough, combined with a college course taking place over the summer holidays instead of the term.  And then very suddenly the furlough ended and it was back to work this week (literally he was informed on Friday!).

The expectation of last September that that was our “last academic year start” have been confounded.  Like so many expectations this year.  This one is very minor and actually is a huge positive.  I had missed all this energy in the morning, the constant stream of people moving around our relatively small house in a short space of time.  Turns out it was this feeling of movement and energy – and frankly the need to be out of the way of the movement – was needed to drive me to write.

Today is the day many youngsters head back to school.  Good luck everyone, from what I hear over dinner, schools have put so much thought and care into keeping everyone safe, I am sure it’s not going to be an easy morning for many, but I wish you the energy and patience you need to get through it.

Still running

As coronavirus became a reality in England way back in March and staying at home became a possibility I started to worry about my fitness levels.  They weren’t bad, but I had the nagging feeling that having a good level of cardiovascular fitness may help me if I were to catch coronavirus.  On Monday 23rd March I decided I ought to definitely go for a run, and go for a run every day until either I caught the virus or someone in the family did and we would all have to isolate.  Thankfully none of us have caught the virus – yet.  

And so I am still running every day.  (Except Sundays, on Sundays we go for a long walk to make a Sunday feel different). I am still nowhere near being an actual proper runner.  I run a short distance, slowly. And that lack of “proper” running has been the key.  I run for about 20 minutes, on days when that feels too hard, I run less.  I stop if I find someone to chat to, so it’s rarely 20 consecutive minutes.  I am sure I could do better and more, but I do not want to.  It’s a low bar and so is achievable, even after one glass of wine too many, a sleepless night, when it’s too cold, or too wet, or as in the run ahead of me today – too warm. 

And so this week saw me reach three months of running every day.  Me.  Not a runner.  The girls who got out of every PE lesson she could. Who did not start running until her 40s.  I run every day and am about to buy more trainers because I am wearing these ones out. This week I am feeling a bit amazed, but proud. 

All the worries

Strange times indeed.  I am acutely aware that the habit of writing these short pieces was helping me through previous odd times, which were nothing compared to this.  Come back Brexit!  Obviously that is a joke – a society divided is no fun either, and actually in ways was more worrying – for me anyway.  I have tried not to consume too much news over the past few years, an hour or so of radio news in the morning and that was pretty much it.  

I decided that I ought to be more in tune with news at the start of this year.  Mainly because I am keen to be a thoughtful part of current leadership elections.  So, one of the squares on my habit tracker was encouraging me to read the news.  

In the last couple of weeks of course, reading the news has becomes as compulsive as it has ever been in my life.  And frankly it is driving me nuts.  Most of the headlines are about what possible measures may be put in place, or what has been put in place in other places, or what someone thinks should be the official advice here.   It is not clear at all, it is frightening and confusing instead of reassuring and clear. 

I know this is unprecedented in my lifetime (gosh I write that and assume it is – I would not have forgotten a pandemic in my childhood would I?), so there are no comparisons.  This is not the same as wartime, natural disasters are awful, but again not the same. Political uncertainty makes us feel unsettled and worried, but the fears are very different. 

I know it must be hard for anyone to decide what to do, hence all the opinions that are flying around.  For now, I am trying to simplify and turn down the volume on the emotional reactions and listen to official guidance and less to everyone else who is now thinks themselves an expert epidemiologist.  And I have crossed out that habit tracker line to read more news.  Less news, more fresh air, more thinking about other people is the order of the day.  Until that guidance changes of course.

Stay healthy, look after each other.

Running in the rain

I went out for a run yesterday morning – for the first time in about three weeks.  Winter illness, a lot of work travel and inclement weather all combined to stall the running habit this winter.  Yesterday I was hit with a bizarre determination to go for a run.  Bizarre in that husband was travelling for work, and I had woken up with his alarm in the middle(ish) of the night.  So, I was lacking sleep and my running partner.  And the weather was atrocious – rain and wind.  Not as bad as it has been, but not gentle weather at all.

Nevertheless, I ran.  I ran slowly, I had to keep stopping to retrieve the wandering dog who is less keen on running than he used to be.  I even stopped for a chat with one of the dog walking friends.  But I ran enough to feel I had had a workout.

And it was hugely fun, I had to divert around puddles, I leapt a few of them.  I got wet. Very wet.  But I had enough layers to stay warm and I certainly felt more awake at the end of the run that at the start of it, which was sort of the point.

I felt hugely grateful for a supply of towels on returning home.  For radiators to dry out the very soggy shoes.  For the delicious warm shower to recover. For the washing machine in which I could pile the soaked clothing.

A good mix of exhilaration and gratitude for home comforts to start the week.

Now, has writing this encouraged me to go out for another run today?

Starting the year

I am late to the slew of new year’s blogs written by many with a love of the new start that the change of the calendar offers us.  There is a large community of people who relish the challenge of setting new year’s resolutions.  And, in my email inbox and social media feeds at least, a whole load of marketing related to getting us started on great new habits right at the beginning of the year.  I am being invited to do yoga, meditate, buy courses, explore new parts of the world, sort out my budget, track my time, take on physical challenges, go sober, make this the year I find my true self, go on retreat, book many holidays.  You get the drift of the things I tend to sign up for.

I am most definitely one of those people who love new year’s resolutions, I relish the opportunity to have a blank page in front of me and to reflect on what adventures I could challenge myself with.  But here’s the thing, I make a ton of resolutions in various guises, but none of them are really ones which I have to start now in January, and even fewer do I have to start on 1st or 2nd January.

There seems to be a big thing this year of taking the opportunity of the “fresh start” as Gretchen Rubin calls this particular opportunity to change habits.  I’m not sure I believe it is a fresh start though, I love the opportunity to have some reflection and planning time, but it is perhaps not the best time to get started on life-changing habit change.  So, I’m not.  I have plans and goals and adventures ahead.  And I am loving the feeling of anticipation that the year is full of possibilities.  I think my January resolution-making is much more akin to a gardener – now is the time of the year to browse the seed catalogues and to plan the plot, and to maybe place an order for the seeds we will need to make the plot flourish.  But it’s not time to get out in the garden just yet.

Repetitive blog theme and Christmas Eve traditions

I need to start this blog blogging about blogging, it is a bit meta, but mostly it’s frustrating.  I want to blog again.  I am missing it a lot, it was a great way to start the day for a good while.  (Not every day, waking up any earlier than 6am just to write a blog is not going to happen.) But I am not really clear why I haven’t been writing if I like it so much?

Today is Christmas Eve and my mind is mainly filled with Christmas preparations and a busy sociable day ahead, but lurking in my thoughts is a review of my year and setting intentions for next year. One of the regrets of this year is letting this blog go and one of the intentions for 2020 is starting to blog regularly again. So, why wait? Let’s get Christmas Eve started with some quiet writing time.

The day holds some very lovely traditions. This morning we gather with some friends who are local but who we rarely see, sadly, we should see them much more.  But when we’re all at home we spend Christmas Eve morning together and have done for years now.  Mince pies and coffee will be consumed and much catching up will be done.

This afternoon is about preparing the Christmas food, well, some of it.  I will spend the afternoon in the kitchen with the offspring yelling at Alexa to play various Christmas songs, and stopping me playing anything choral or by Kate Rusby or Cerys Matthews.  Never fear, I get my music choice too, as they spend a lot of time trying to not be in the kitchen and pressed into sous-chef duty.  Trifles, mince pies, vegetarian main course and a range of starters are on the list.

This evening some of the family are on duty at church (we go to church as a family on Christmas Day), some of the family are visiting others, so people will be in different places for a while.  Then we will all gather together at the end of the evening at the home of some friends to celebrate over a few drinks.

And then there’ll be some kerfuffle with presents and stockings and putting baby Jesus into all the cribs. The latter part will be a doddle this year, because I have reached genius level of intelligence and put all the little Jesus ornaments together in one box and I know where that box is.  A vast improvement on the previous tradition of me scrabbling around on chairs peering at the back of shelves to try and find where I had hidden them in the decorating frenzy.  It took me a few decades to get to genius!

I hope you enjoy Christmas Eve whatever shape it takes for you.

Unsticking

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.

Last weekend of summer

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.

Mornings are changing

Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time.  Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus.  It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.  

I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning.  That’s it, no more school in the family.  Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.

So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say.  Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed.  So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.  

I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole.  I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him. 

I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run.  The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.

So I’m done – time to shape those new venture.