I am somewhat obsessed with Dr Rangan Chatterjee‘s books at the moment. They are ostensibly self-help books about finding good health in a world which seems bent on stressing us out. He refers to lots of medical research on the effects of stress on our bodies and of course our minds.
One of the things his books do is give permission to relax, to switch off the phones and laptops and just stop. I have been trying to turn off the electronic gizmos at 9pm and let my mind have a break from social media and email. It is hard though, as so much of what I do in my spare time I do on electronic devices.
So time management is even more crucial than ever. Not a bad thing. I am convinced that my brain does not know the difference between writing this blog or an email to a fellow Scout leader or to a work colleague. Surely the process of communicating via writing on an electronic device is the same regardless of whether I am being paid to write, or whether I am writing about stressful or fun subjects?
Last night I was expecting an evening of creativity with friends, which was cancelled at the last minute. The temptation to get on and catch up with some administrative tasks for Scouts was just too strong.
I am definitely paying for it this morning. My brain feels unrested. I slept well, but my mum always used to say that resting your body and brain is as good as sleeping. I am beginning to appreciate that wisdom as my brain definitely feels it missed out on a couple of hours of rest last night.
This weekend has been a delicious treat. It has involved work. I rarely work at weekends any more, but when I do, it is always doing the parts of the job I love the most. Speaking to people about why I do my job, how it fits with my faith and my life view and how much my small actions – combined with the many small actions of my audience, are tangibly changing the world for the better. These are opportunities for me to lift my gaze above the day to day and give me perspective. Sorely needed after last month.
I am away from home, on the south coast in Torquay. Delightfully, “home” agreed to come with me for the weekend. We are all feeling the length of winter and are tired and stressed.
Time away turns out to be just what we need. Without really deciding to, we have made the very most of hiring an AirB&B for the weekend. I have resisted doing my usual thing of insisting that we all get out and see everything. Instead, we are going with the flow. Which is restful. The dog is struggling with arthritis, so the walks have to be short. The nights are long and cold and we have bowed to Mother Nature and stayed indoors, cosy and companionable when it’s dark. The sunshine has been tremendous and we have had plenty of it – but gently. Everyone was sleep deprived this week, so we’re catching up on that too.
I was feeling overwhelmed because I have not had much planning or yoga time this week. Instead it was a week of having meetings which created more tasks to do and took away the time to do them. After finding time yesterday to plan February I am feeling better. Plus I found half an hour to get on a yoga mat. Spending some time breathing properly undoubtably helped.
Right now it is getting later on a Sunday morning. No one is stirring. I am staying with this flow though and me and the dog are enjoying just being, catching up on a load of blogs I usually read, now writing my own (on my phone) and in a minute that yoga mat will come out again.
I was aiming for an early morning walk on the beach today – the need to see everything and do everything is not quite gone! Instead I shall just be with whatever is actually happening now. The beach will still be there later and the cafe will serve elevenses as well as they do breakfast I am sure.
Thank you for support yesterday. The dog had his blood re-tested and all is well. Apparently having abnormal blood tests is something that happens sometimes, the re-test showed everything to be as expected. The vet said the very reassuring “panic over” (actually I hadn’t panicked – I was just mithering, and I should have been panicking??). I am blaming the strange test results on over-consumption of doggie birthday cake. I am blatantly not a vet, so my diagnosis of cake-affected blood panel should be ignored. The dogs tell me the cake was delicious and they feel it should be consumed more often. As you can tell, the relief is making me slightly silly.
It was a great exercise in me spending a short time writing down the problem I saw and immediately getting a new perspective on it. It is not always clearer, but it is always different to see my thoughts in writing instead of just in a muddled mess of thinking.
The day changed after blogging. The sense of being overwhelmed reduced and somehow nothing seemed so impossible. Hurrah for writing.
Good morning. Part two was promised for yesterday, but I was interrupted by having to mindfully buying a vacuum cleaner, having managed to blow up mine. Blogging time was, highly ironically, taken up by shopping online instead.
I cannot say I enjoyed the vacuum shopping particularly though – utterly boring. We did discuss whether or not we should repair the vacuum, but as it was a fairly dramatic blowing out of motor and the remaining carcass smells really quite bad, we are abandoning it. Fixing rather than replacing is of course a really important part of the process. It is specifically not-shopping, rather than shopping. My focus here is on the times when it feels we have run out of choices.
Yesterday’s shopping was a good example of the budget I mentioned earlier this week helping me enjoy shopping a bit more. Buying things for the house used to be a bit freeform. Sometimes I would not buy things that would be useful, because I thought they were too expensive, other times I would randomly buy things we probably did not need (Ikea I blame you). Having to decide how much money to put aside for house decoration and maintenance (pretty much the same thing in my book) has helped make those decisions really clear and relatively painless.
I have found reducing plastic has been another way to simplify shopping. It’s a good way to stop mindless purchase of beauty and hair products. It surprised me how much I did this. Instead I have found one shop which sells bars of shampoo so I am working my way through their selection. It will take me a while as the bars last a long time. I stopped buying shower gels and liquid hand soaps and moved to soap instead, it has been great fun experimenting with different soaps and scents. Some are great. Some are awful, but it is definitely a more intentional process than buying whatever is on sale.
All in all, it seems that reducing choice and having some internal rules about what I can and cannot buy has helped enormously. Less sense of overwhelm, a shared hobby or a specific purpose and surprisingly shopping has become much less of a dread.
It’s Tuesday. It’s very early on a Tuesday when I write this and yet so far this week two people have commented on me being a bit grumpy. Reactionary maybe. Is this news to me? Not really. Is it majorly frustrating. Oh yes.
It’s frustrating because one of my goals this year was to be calmer about things. Specifically, to stop talking so much. To pause – possibly for ever – before speaking. Being calmer and quieter was the overall aim, it sounds like I need some mini resolutions to work on this a bit more this month.
It ties in with a theme from last week – a craving for quiet and still. My brain is definitely full and very chattery at the moment, so maybe that is why it is reacting to things.
It’s all this that meditation is supposed to solve isn’t it? And yoga. And prayer, especially contemplative prayer. Yep – I have the answers. And yet… This could very well be the cause of the frustration – I know what to do, but haven’t done it. I have no excuses.
But one step at a time. Discussing this blog at the weekend, a friend described it as a way for me to write down what was top of mind and allow those thoughts some space to breathe. Space and breathing sound like things I am aiming for. Now to do some of that other stuff too. Where’s the yoga mat?
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.
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.