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.
I am not known for my handiwork skills, nor my practical expertise in gardening or decorating. I tell myself constantly that I am not a practical person in the physical sense.
Yet, I can planned pack for a holiday, I can cook for a houseful of people, I can organise brilliant parties and bake amazing cakes. I can see how a room of furniture could be arranged, I can place plants and pictures in the “right” places, I can choose colour schemes for rooms. All of which are practical, physical skills and I am good at them all. I need to change that narrative in my head.
One of my aims this month was to create space in my day for doing something different, something that does not involve typing on a screen or meeting in a room of people making more to do lists. I decided some more time crafting would be good. I have been trying to sew. It is not neat and tidy, but I am only starting out, so why would it be? It is fun. And a bit addictive.
I have managed to meet up with friends three times in the month to do some gentle sewing or knitting together over a cuppa. A friend and I had a fun afternoon wet felting and making some beautifully wonky coasters. It is a social activity as well as a relaxing one.
Looking at my progress I realise why I tell myself I am no good at it – it takes practise, it takes time. Embroidery, knitting, felting are not skills we’re born with, they’re skills we learn. I am as able as anyone else to learn the skills, but they take time.
Finding the space to sew a bit or do anything creative has shone a light on how I spend my time – a lot of what I do is very similar, both in work and in my home life – organising lists, groups of people, planning, emailing, meeting. It has been fun doing something very contrasting, but it has also given me a real insight into how little variation in activity there is in my week.
This week has been really full, but an excellent week over all. I’ve learnt some useful things and travelled to some interesting meetings and have hung out with people of all ages.
This week I travelled to London, Bristol and Crewe. I led possibly the most nerve-wracking meeting I ever had and survived, which was important – it was an excellent test in controlling nerves, proving to myself that I feel better if I am well prepared and that I can drive an agenda very well.
I read lots of public transport, I gave myself time for planning things at work, each of the journeys felt very productive. In fact the whole work/not work split in hours felt good this week, with me being flexible as needed and intentional about that flexibility.
I met some brilliant women all older than me with a sense of fun and a curiosity about life. I hung out with a group of 20 somethings, all young enough to be my children, chatting about life this week whilst learning to knit. I sat in a room of Scout leaders with years of experience and boundless enthusiasm and skills between them. I caught up with some old friends.
I saw some theatre from a new young theatre group, I have listened to podcasts galore on driving commutes, I’ve hung out with my Mum and both the children. And I have practised some yoga every day and spent a bit of time journalling and stuck to pretty healthy eating all week.
I’ve managed to fit in a nap and have bought a new outfit for a party – one that definitely stretches my comfort zones but it feels really fun. And I have a brilliant weekend to look forward to.
All in all a week where I am hugely grateful for volunteering in church and scouts, my job which never fails to interest me and the decision to send the offspring to Stage2 Youth theatre, start yoga and go to Slimming World.