Back from my holidays

Mood board production – a lot of images of open spaces, hmmm

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.

Conversations take time

I am at the end of an annual weekend catch up with two university friends.  In reality we are together for less than 24 hours, but we make the very most of the 24 hours and focus on talking and allowing conversation to go wherever it needs to.  

And part of the delight of these weekends is having the time and the space to allow conversations to meander and develop, to lull and to rise.  Our friendship was formed in the days before smart phones, in fact in the days before mobile phones of any description.  Our communications with each other were face to face in rooms and sitting rooms of university residences, in student bars and trips into London together.  Our communications with others outside the university bubble were very limited: letters, infrequent trips home and one pay phone shared between 30 people and a message system of scribbled notes pinned to a noticeboard if anyone called when you were out – or if the person answering the phone just could not be bothered to out the effort in to find you.  I know – that sounds like we were rude – but for those of you not as old as me, can you imagine the hassle of having to answer a phone on behalf of 29 other people which required you to stop whatever you were doing and run along a corridor and then spend time running around to try and find whoever was being called.  Understandably there were times when one could not be bothered. 

There was a conversation this weekend about how lovely those times were, we still did loads and felt stressed, but no doubt that communications were simple by dint of being very limited.

And this weekend has been a lovely recreation of those days of time and space for conversation, away from the distractions of a million WhatsApp/emails/texts/Facebook messages etc vying for attention.  Instead, it was just us and our focus on each other and hearing a lot of news, plans, thoughts and worries and joys in a short space of time.  Delicious.

To the person’s whose calls I did not answer – sorry, I will check the noticeboard once I am back home and queue up for the phone to call you back.

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.

Counting the blessings after the curveball

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.

Conversations over craft

I wrote in January about the need to add some creativity into my week. Scheduling a fortnightly craft evening with friends has been one way to make that happen. We don’t meet as regularly as we would all like – some weeks it just cannot happen.

Last night it did, on a perfect day. The day had involved a lot of travel, not enough sleep, a long meeting sitting down, a lot of brain work and a fair amount of walking.

Sitting, sewing, enjoying a cup of tea and chatting to friends was just what the day needed to balance it out. I was intrigued by how the conversation flows when we are focussing on a physical activity as well. It was very comforting, flowing gently from one subject to the next, interspersed by examining and praising each others’ attempts. At times we sat in gentle silence, when concentration was needed.

A companionable, creative and non-tech based gathering of good friends. Perfect.

Birthday joy

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.

Not saving it for best

Yesterday evening I was given a most lovely gift by a friend.   It is a homemade body scrub, made with care and affection and packaged beautifully and smelling deliciously of lime, lemongrass and tangerine.

Last night I carefully put it next to my case ready to pack when I leave the friend’s house.  This morning I had what feels like a brainwave.  It doesn’t take much to make it feel like a brainwave on a cold dark November morning.  What am I saving the body scrub for exactly?

It is a huge jar full of great smelling loveliness and will likely last me for ages, but it will go off eventually as it is made from natural ingredients with a limited shelf life.

I grabbed the jar and headed for the guest bathroom with its amazing power shower and made it into a full on spa experience, albeit for just a few minutes, on a random Tuesday morning.  The smells were, as planned by my friend, uplifting and energising.  And even more than that, the day started with treats and makes me feel like it can only get better.  

A very good lesson in not saving things for best.  I have no clue, today may be the best, it has certainly started very well indeed.

Social media positivity

You may have gathered that I am in a slump at the moment.  I know it is the transition of the seasons from that gorgeous hot summer to the dark of the winter.  I know it is the incredible busyness of September and October.  I know it is the change in our family circumstance as one of the offspring leaves home.  I know all of that.  Knowing it makes it much easier and I had a sense of acceptance that this was just the mood of September and October.

I do feel I am coming through it.  I have had to rest for medical reasons, so having to focus on sleeping has probably helped a lot.  I have tried to spend a bit of time reflecting on what has gone well and a lot has gone very well and I have done a lot despite the energy slump.

One of the things that has helped a lot is social media.  I know it is not trendy to see social media as a force for good, but I do. I am vigilant about what I follow and what I click on, generally I avoid news consumption on social media and I make sure I interact with people, so it becomes an important part of my social activity.   It’s not my whole social activity, believe me, but it is a good part of it.

Yesterday it came up trumps in many ways.  I directly declared I needed motivation to get to a yoga class and it came in spades, delivered with gusto and humour and of course everyone was right, I felt better for going, I also felt better for having some interaction with people and knowing that they were sympathetic of my sofa versus yoga battle.  I could have asked some friends via text to nudge me, but that felt intrusive in their days.  The friends on Facebook were obviously having some downtime too and were happy to reach out to me in that downtime.  That is a lovely feeling.

Thank you to everyone who helped me out the door, I had a great evening and have had the best night’s sleep this week.  And, hugely importantly I had to walk home from the class. Walking in the dark for the first time is always a psychological hurdle in the autumn I find.  I leapt that hurdle and had a great evening, much of it down to social media.  Thank you!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here’s to a weekend of success

In any context where you are trying to change something – losing weight and getting fit are the ones that spring to mind – you are generally encouraged to make your intentions known, to be as public as possible, so that you have an accountability measure in place.

I am not sure that works.  I mean, we are all generally very polite.  I know to my health cost that no one I know would ever say “ummm Abigail, that is your third chocolate biscuit in ten minutes you may have now exceeded recommend calorie intake for today”.  I thank you for not saying it, my waistline is mine, keeping judgements to yourself is highly appreciated.

But I can totally see why people reach out for that support, knowing that you are not in a solo battle with your own willpower is helpful indeed.

I know there is some cynicism about folk having a social media presence which makes them out to be eating only green foods and running a marathon every weekend, but I, for one think it’s great.

Keep posting your weight losses, your miles run this year, your pbs over 5k, the hours you have spent meditating, the number of books you have read, the distance you have covered with an injured knee, the artwork you have created, the allotment produce you have grown, and most of all your beautiful dogs, cats and children.  I love it.  I love your success and I love celebrating it with you virtually.

Creating good habits in what is an unhealthy world is hard.  The negative judgement is within us and around us.  We are all being the best we can be and let’s keep celebrating that.

Here’s to a weekend of sharing the successes. Just so you know, my aim is to sleep 26 hours between Friday evening and Monday morning.  I’ll keep you posted on progress: 7/26 done so far.

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not my cat, not my photo

 

 

Why write a blog at all?

This blog is a totally self-indulgent attempt at creating a good habit.  A habit of writing.  I spend a lot of my day writing.  A huge amount of my work is spent writing emails.  Huge amount, I would guess at about 80% of my time is email writing and reading.  I ned to actually measure that I think.

A lot of my social life is spent writing.  Texts, WhatsApp, Facebook all feature very heavily in the organisation of my social life and the times in between meeting friends are happily spent writing to them instead.

And leisure time is often spent reading blogs, possibly not as many as I should, there are a lot of them out there.   But I really enjoy the ones I do read.  I enjoy the personal format, and the length of them. In just a few minutes there’s some food for thought without the reactions that news articles sometimes (often) arouse in me.  I struggle to read a news article without internally issuing a diatribe for or against that position.  I don’t watch soap operas and I think I crave that continuity of narrative about a person that soap operas give you.  You feel like you know the characters.  I feel I know the couple of bloggers I follow.  Obviously, I do not know them at all, I know their writing, but I enjoy dipping in and out of their blogging.

And I am trying to develop something – writing.  In a very boring reason for doing this – I enjoy writing, I love it actually, but I don’t actually do any just for fun.  This is my way of doing something I enjoy that is not an email nor a text nor minutes.  It’s just writing.  For the joy of it.  No one need read it, no one need react to it.  I am just writing for me.pexels-photo-257897.jpeg