As I get older it becomes more apparent that there are rarely moments of true success. Success comes in small incremental moments, which often pass by uncelebrated. I do try to write down small successes at the very least, but I mostly do not remember to do so. This week I hit the deadline I wrote about last week. I have no idea of the project is a success, but I have finished everything I can do to make it succeed and it was hard work.
My family took me out to dinner to celebrate the deadline being met and all the hard work I have put in. Not celebrating the success of my piece of work – it may still fail, it is dependent on others now, not me. In the same way as an exam result depends on the grade boundaries as much as the effort you put in, or a job interview depends on who else is being interviewed and what the employer wants, as much as my performance. All of these things require lots of preparation, effort and a good amount of stress. Yet we often only celebrate if all the other elements come together and we have a visible sign of success – a new job, the top grade etc.
My lovely family decided not to wait for the others to decide on my success and instead took me out for fizz and pizza to mark the end of a stressful time and welcome me back into a calmer phase of life. I am so grateful they organised it and held me to it. Left to my own devices I would have slunk to a sofa and an evening of non-stop TV. But their kindness and cleverness truly did mark an end to the stress and yesterday felt like a new start and I felt fresher and more enthusiastic than I would have thought possible at the end of Tuesday. I am giving lots of gold stars and loads of gratitude to the family team for pizza and fizz and a great evening out.
I have half attempted blogging over the last few weeks, but have not managed to complete one; I had forgotten the cathartic benefits of writing stuff down and putting it “out there”. Today I need the catharsis.
Yesterday was one of those days that come out of the blue and knock you for six. Thursday had been lovely, starting with a family run and ending with dinner with a friend and her group of friends who are very delightful and interesting and strong women.
Then it went downhill fast with the offspring waking with a very high fever. Something made my maternal flags go up, so I sought medical advice. All of a sudden we were on the way to A&E with a case of suspected sepsis or meningitis. Neither were happening thank God. It was a long morning of tests and waiting for results, but the end result was that we were given the all clear for those nasties and sent home with a stash of antibiotics.
It was a shocking reminder that life can be fragile, things go wrong quickly and in a moment life changes forever. Yesterday ended well, with offspring feeling better and the whole family at home. Nevertheless the Mama-brain has spent many hours with the what-ifs, and processing the fact that I had forgotten about meningitis being a thing for teens, that I had started to think that those scary days of watching little ones be very poorly were behind me. The scary days just involve someone much taller than me, but they’re no less scary it turns out.
I went to bed thankful for our NHS, for the friends that stayed by me via text all day, for the support of family, for having jobs that enable us to switch to a family focus with no notice (or in my case to work part-time). And most of all, that the offspring is getting better and those nasty illnesses were not a reality I am living with today.
The pathos of Holy Week inevitably leads to the absolute joy of Easter Sunday, at the least within the church services. Taken together the services are a safe way to travel through a whole gamut of emotions and have a really happy ending.
Our Easter was certainly joyous and happy. It was a Saturday of catching up with dear family who we rarely see, cousins were reunited and took up where they left off. News was exchanged and the most delicious giant profiteroles stuffed with ice cream were eaten. Other delicious things were eaten, but the profiteroles were seriously amazing.
Easter Sunday was a joyous church occasion followed by a sumptuous Easter brunch. I am not sure I have ever cooked brunch on Easter Sunday before, but I loved it. Brunch is a great meal to be able to create a sense of abundance and it always feels like a treat.
There was of course chocolate, wine, and coffee – all of which had been fasted from by various members of the family. There was the extended family, more cousins joyfully gathering. The day had an underlying retro Wii Sports competition happening, along with Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, dog walks and frisbee playing in the park. And a lot of sun cream thanks to the amazing weather.
All in all a long and joyous day of family and feasting and being very aware of all the many blessings that surround us.
Yesterday was my birthday. I love my birthday. It is a day to relish and do the out of the ordinary. It’s day to take stock of life and enjoy what is good.
I always take a day off work on my birthday (a hangover from when I worked somewhere that offered that as a benefit), yesterday was no different.
My day was filled with a birthday plethora of family and friends, some in person, most via brilliant cards (very funny ones this year!) and kind texts and Facebook messages. It always fills me with amazement and a lot of thankfulness at the huge group of friends I have built over my nearly five decades of life and the steady growth in the family.
It’s been a busy few months and planning the day was a casualty of having too much on my plate over the past few weeks. So friends and family stepped in and planned for me. My birthday involved breakfast out with my husband, a run, some downtime, outdoor swimming and jacuzzi and a relaxed lunch, dinner with family. I ate my favourite foods and drank excellent wine.
None of yesterday would have felt special without the people involved. I felt loved and cherished and that feels good. Thank you everyone.
“I hope you have a quiet weekend planned” in an email from a close colleague late last week evoked a firm declaration that my weekend, and the few days annual leave I have taken, are indeed quiet. They need to be, I am recovering from an injury and a hectic few weeks at work.
Swiftly following the declaration was the plan for the weekend. It involves visiting three siblings and their combined six children, my parents in law, as well as two sets of very close family friends, all in a 250mile round car trip.
I wasn’t lying though, this is resting. I love heading back to where I grew up and catching up with people I love seeing, but whom daily life rarely gives me a window to see. Seeing so many people on one trip is especially brilliant.
We are staying with various delightful hosts who are feeding me and handing me drinks on a regular basis. The walks are frequent, but gentle and in brilliant autumn sunshine on the beach or around castles. I live a long way from the beach and although I live close to a castle it really is not as stunning as those in Pembrokeshire.
The nieces and nephews are energetic and delightful, they’re all adoring of the auntie they rarely see and are mainly entertained by their teenage cousins.
Apart from chatting and catching up with everyone, there is plenty of time for sewing the cross stitch I have had lingering in the background for years, reading a chapter of a book and even a much-needed nap. I have had time to catch up on some blogs I read, listen to podcasts and even smarten up this blog too.
All in all, an energising few days of intentional rest, made possible by being in a different environment surrounded by family. Perfect. Not a perfect way to rest for everyone admittedly, but this extrovert traveller loves it.
I am trying to write this whilst also having a conversation with two members of my family and dealing with a dog who is insisting on being cuddled over the top of the laptop. The teen has just read the first line and has just jokingly accused me of prioritising screen time over him. I have suggested he head towards the shower as he is supposed to be. All fairly normal family chaos.
We have, as the children have got older, settled into a lovely morning routine. We all wake up and prepare for the day in our own way. Not all of us want large amounts of social interaction over breakfast.
But we eventually gather for a walk, which each of us does our best to prioritise. And it is that walk that is the key. We know that whatever else we do in the morning, we will get to hang out with each other at some point very soon.
This has always been true, the walk to school was always the time for us to chat and sort out problems and listen to the news from school, or the latest obsession in the minds of a small child.
It still took me decades to work out that this is our happy time though. My one slight regret is that I did not realise years earlier that we all really enjoy the bustle of the mornings. We all like the noise of a house getting ready for the day. We’re not always cheerful, but somehow it’s at least understandable, and therefore acceptable, to be grumpy or stressed in the morning, so those moods don’t affect others quite so much. It took me years and years though to let go of a vision of bright sunny mornings filled with cheerful humans.
I am pleased we have all reached the point of enjoying mornings though. It makes life much easier. Not much quieter or calmer, but I can’t have everything.
One very important strategy in a full-on work period was enforced rest this weekend. I have just corrected that word ‘rest’ – originally it said ‘nothing’. Resting is not doing nothing though, and this weekend it was meticulously planned to make sure I ahd time properly resting, and time being social and active.
I met a friend of Friday afternoon (one of my two afternoons off in a week) and hung out with the teen a bit. I went to a yoga class and then out for dinner with the husband. A good mix of social and exercise and a lot of fun in all cases. Saturday morning involved a run in the rain, another yoga class and a list of relatively quick chores and a lot of laundry. With that done then I felt very entitled to be less active. I read, I slept and I watched a lot of TV.
I was very tempted to carry on with that on Sunday, but TV was making my head hurt and it was feeling too isolated.
Instead, Sunday was a day of going to church then having the family over for Sunday lunch. A post-lunch snooze (yes, we’re the sort of family who has a race for a sofa for a snooze) was followed by a walk in the local country park. You could tell the dogs were happy with the return of the autumn/winter routine.
I then enforced more rest, whilst deliberately stopping me from hitting the sofa and watching more TV by getting out a jigsaw puzzle. And also cooking an apple crumble with the apple we had found on our walk. Definitely happy family time.
Hopefully that deliberate resting has set me up well for the week ahead.