A week of all the volunteering

The last few months have definitely been a work and play focus. The sheer volume of work that happens in January and February takes me by surprise every year. But this year I got through very much by keeping very focussed on work and trying to do a lot of socialising and travelling at weekends in order to make sure I relaxed somewhat.

Now though I am ready to turn back to the various volunteer roles I hold in life. All of which I enjoy and have a different purpose. The CAFOD group at church is preparing for Lent Fast Day this Friday and a Fairtrade wine tasting in May.

The Birmingham Children’s Book Group is part of the Bournville Book Fest this weekend and next and I will be on the Book Swap stall that we run. If you are near Rowheath Pavilion this Saturday or Bluecoat School next Saturday, come and swap children’s books.

My Scout role definitely needs some more attention, although as always with my Scout role, a fair amount has gone on in the background even if its not as visible as it could be. Now though I need to set my sights back on recruiting others who can share their administrative, financial and management skills for the benefit of the hundreds of children who enjoy Scouts every week in Birmingham. How to do that is still puzzling me a bit though.

I have resigned as a children’s liturgist after some years of service. I leave at the end of Lent, but meanwhile am working hard to train and support some new liturgists so that they are ready to take over once I step down.

It is good to be back in the mix, even if all the meetings happening in one week along with a weekend full of volunteering is a bit of a leap back into it all.

Reluctant volunteering

I am usually very careful to volunteer only for tasks I really want to do.   I sometimes want to do a task because it is a new experience that I am curious about, or it is a challenge that I know I will enjoy even if it is tricky, or it will possibly teach me a new skill.  The task may not be pleasant, but I know it will be productive in some way or other, even if to prove to me that I should not have volunteered to take it on. even those negative reasons feel valid reasons to volunteer.

Last night I volunteered purely because there was no one else volunteering to do something.   I hate doing that, I don’t know why I do it.  The task needs to be done, the person who usually does it is has no time at this point to fit that in and was very clear that she definitely could not do it.  No one else would volunteer.  So I did.  Why?  I now need to do  task which I know I am not good at.  I know I will not do it justice and that the results will not be well received, as I just don’t have the skills to do the usual good job.

I genuinely don’t know why I do this, it happens very rarely, but it happens at work, it happens outside work. I compulsively fill a gap when there is that loud silence when no one will volunteer.  It does not always happen, mostly I absolutely know myself well enough to not over stretch in time or skills.  But I am very interested in trying to work out why it happens when it does.  If you have any clues, let me know.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Don’t forget why

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!

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

Rebel Rebel

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.

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Some of the coffee has been iced.

 

 

 

New blog routine

Up until now, all of these have been written first thing in the morning.  But it’s the busy season at the moment, with various commitments and a lot going on, and frankly sleep is slightly more beneficial than blogging.

But sleep is making me blog this evening instead.  Or rather lack of it.  I am a great sleeper, it’s definitely my top skill in life.  It’s also the canary in the mine of health and wellbeing.  If I stop sleeping, there is something wrong. And I stopped sleeping a couple of nights ago, not in a huge way, I just keep waking up.  I can drop off again, because I am determinedly not engaging in a thought process, but that ability will wear off as I get more tired, I know.  So instead of having the day start with getting thoughts in order, tonight I am going to end the day with this habit.

Now, to work out what is keeping me awake.  I think it is an accumulation of things and I don’t really want to give credence to my fears. I am feeling overwhelmed, by a quantity of issues, rather than one thing in particular. I suspect what I am not doing very well is writing down everything I need to get sorted and then working out where to start.   In a peculiar way, my fear is writing everything down, because then I may just realise that I can’t do anything.

The problem with feeling overwhelmed is that it becomes harder to find a way to get the job done.  I am starting the inevitable downward spiral into feeling that I can’t do anything, I am hopeless at everything, the best thing to do is run away.  This is my very typical dramatic catastrophising of everything into something way bigger than it should be.  Tonight’s catastrophe is that someone has criticised something I put in place and I feel bad about having to deal with a difficult situation and potentially hurting someone’s feelings.  I seem to think that running away will help.  I know it won’t, but right now, that flight instinct is huge.

To add some perspective, I have handled the situation well.  Two things went wrong tonight on my watch, one was solvable this evening and so it was resolved and hopefully all will be fine.  The other issue felt much bigger.  So, I did what I will hopefully come to accept was the right thing, I listened to the concerns and I promised to deal with them.  And I will deal with it at another time, when I am not feeling overwhelmed, not today.

And meanwhile, I need to remember everything good that happened this evening, because lots did. Perfection is not mine on this occasion, but I need to not forget the good stuff, there was much much more of that than the bad stuff.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Raising morale

It’s a simple statement: “morale is low” sounds like a factual observation about the feelings of a group of people.  But what makes morale high or low?

I have been reading a lot recently about what makes individuals happy, but I am far from clear on how to make groups of people happy.  Well, far from clear on what science says about it.  .

Morale is different from efficiency or efficacy, in my experience groups can be very effective in their work, yet still have a low morale.  Eventually, the two do start to align though and it feels it should be true that motivated, happy groups of workers are more effective.

In a particular volunteering role I am feeling responsible for changing morale which is apparently low and that is being presented to me as a huge problem, so it is feeling very daunting at the moment.  I can see some clear and simple solutions: pointing out the good results of the work, which is clearly successful; thanking people for their efforts, their time and their skills, which are many and abundant; checking that people are doing what fits their skills and also what they want to be doing, offering training and support where needed.

This all seems so simple though, that it cannot be the answer.  It makes me think that there is a huge moral responsibility of any head of any team to make sure her team feel good as well as do good.  That said, I know I cannot make someone feel a particular way, so it is feeling like a conundrum.

If anyone has any good books, blogs or podcasts about morale rather than effectiveness, point me in the right direction please!

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This picture makes me feel happy anyway! Photo by b. on Pexels.com

 

 

Get outside

The weather this weekend has been better than anticipated.  Which means some welcome time outside.

We hosted a sleepover for a bunch of teens in celebration of an offspring’s birthday.  This is a group of tech-savvy teens, usually to be found in front of a screen inside.  Yet they spent a large amount of time in the garden.  A lot of this was in the dark rather late in the evening and it was not all that warm, but the call of the outside was strong.  They were hanging out and chatting on the patio, just because they could.   It’s interesting that despite their social lives now being hugely screen-based and indoors, they are still drawn to being outside.  Not for a particular purpose, being outside is enough.

On a beautiful spring morning I paid a short visit to a Scout camp, well actually it was Beavers and Cubs, the children are aged between 5 and 10.   They were so calm and content to be outside.  Wandering around a field or hunting for sticks in the hedges was keeping them incredibly happy.

My own camping season hasn’t started yet, but I too find being outside is good for my soul. Getting a dog was one way to ensure we go out every day, and in the 5 years since he came to live with us, we have indeed been outside every day to walk him, apart from a couple of days of illness and some icy weather this past winter.    In fact, when the dog can’t walk, I still go for a stroll myself.  It’s not the walking that is the aim, it is being outside.

Now that the weather is better, we will try and eat outside as much as possible, and various people will be found sitting outside on the patio, not for any reason other than being outside is a good thing.   Our garden is not well-kept, but it is an important part of our home, full of green.  And chairs.

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Chairs and chairs – the most important part of our garden