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.

Getting Away

It’s been an exceptional year of holidays of all lengths and types.  We’ve managed short breaks as a couple, holidays with friends and family; activity holidays and chilled out breaks.

I have no idea why this year has been so holiday-focussed and can’t honestly say that it was intentional.  But it has been great fun.  We were in Edinburgh this weekend and spent a lot of time discussing how much we love trying out living in a new place.  Being a bit further away geographically enables me to take a bird’s eye view of life and to check all is well.  Somehow whilst living that life at home, I struggle to examine it.

Everywhere we go there is a conversation about whether we want to move there. It verges on obsessive.  I was slightly concerned that it’s a symptom of being unhappy where we live now, which we are definitely not. In reality, it’s a good way to reflect on what we could do better- maybe spend a bit more time lingering over coffee and newspapers in a local coffee shop, or mooching around excellent museums, or walking along rivers (or canals in Birmingham terms) to get a break from city architecture.  All of these are tiny tweaks of course.  More than that, it’s a great way to discuss everything we would miss too much about where we live – there is a lot.

Admittedly the idea of living in an amazing Georgian flat in a European capital city, spending the days walking for miles with pit stops at lovely independent coffee shops and evenings putting the world to right over excellent cocktails in interesting bars and great food in friendly local restaurants is hugely attractive.  Of course, I can’t actually afford that lifestyle for more than a few days.  And that’s ok – I am home again now in a house and community I love and back to the job I love, and starting the saving for the next holiday.

Losing my blogging way

It’s Thursday and this is the first blog this week, it’s been six days since I last blogged. I have had the time to blog, have found myself in blogging mode – awake, coffee, laptop – but have been distracted by other things.

This could be because the other things are genuinely more important. So far this week, I have had a meeting every evening, and have felt a need to use that precious morning time to sort things out for those meetings, so that may be true.

It could be because I am just not enjoying blogging any more. Also possible. I have been blogging gently for about 11 months now, maybe it’s getting a bit boring? I can’t say I love the new format that WordPress have created, and the lack of access too free photos is taking away some of my delight. I used to enjoy trying to find a photo that in some way illustrated my thoughts that morning. I did toy with the idea of making sure I always took my own photos, but I have no real desire to be a photographer.

Or, I have nothing really to say. I have run out of thoughts . There is nothing to write about. That seems unlikely, I am still able to think and life is no less full of things to write about.

No, I fear the problem is not planning. Yep, everything that goes wrong in my life is generally blamed (by me only!) on me not having planned properly. The control freak in me is dominant as planning is in full swing in January. I am planning furiously for work, Scouts, Birmingham Children’s Book Group, CAFOD group, World Day of Prayer, holidays for the year, theatre visits, offspring’s next step in life, dog’s health, my exercise regime, my Slimming World-friendly food for the day. And there’s probably more that I am planning to the nth degree.

Every morning I sit down to write this, with no plan, I have not totally planned to write on any particular morning. In the midst of a planning frenzy I feel utterly overwhelmed by the lack of a plan in blogging. So I have avoided it. Wrongly, as I suspect having to deal with no plan is a good thing for me.

it’s been a couple of weeks of meticulously planned days – even down to pretty tape keeping my spoon in place. Just no blog plans.

Gearing up and winding down

It’s the penultimate day of the holidays for the remaining home-dwelling offspring.  So the summer feels like it ends tomorrow and I am moving away from those halcyon days.

But I am determined not to waste any of the time that is left.  A colleague pointed out today that an unexpected snow day feels delicious and you cram loads in and relish every moment.  The last day of the holidays should not feel any different.

So it shall not.  I am a bit of a sleep bully at this time of the year, I know it’s hard to get back into the swing of sleeping early, but at the same time it’s the only way to make sure we have the energy to get us through the change in routine with its early mornings and full evenings.  So, I am plotting waffles for breakfast to make sure the morning feels special and to offset some of the complaints about having to get up earlier than a normal holiday morning.  I will need to work, so there will be time for indulging in the latest Netflix craze, the YouTube fix or the driving cars very fast around a virtual track, or whatever screen-based itch will need to be scratched.

Then, in a rather crazy end of summer splurge (and as it happens, related to the analogy of the snow day), we are going skiing at the local indoor ski place.  I say ‘we’ – husband and offspring are ending summer in cold fake snow.  I am heading to the spa to rest and while away a few hours, remembering that making mini holidays in amongst it all may be the best way to get through the change in seasons.

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Tomorrow will not look anything like this.   Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

 

Summer problems

Obviously there are no real problems with summer.  Summer is a beautiful, gorgeous, energising time of the year.

I adore the long summer holidays for the break from the routine that can start to feel oppressive.  Now that the offspring are older, the summer really gives a sense of ease.  Only me to get up and get out in the morning.  A feeling of fun in the evening as we hang out and do things as a family instead of execute a finely tuned evening of activities, transport and eating which are seemingly designed to test our life skills in every way.

The summer holiday mornings are especially precious, with a delicious combination of more sleep and more time spent with the husband.  They are more tired though, as early nights seem to disappear in the change to the summer routine.  But that just means more coffee and chat.

All in all, it is a good time where time seems to stretch a bit further.  And so less gets done.  There’s the rub.  That feeling that I have loads more time as the deadlines are softer means I don’t gets things done.  The running has fallen by the wayside.  The blogging has been non-existent.  This morning it occurs to me that I have not really looked at my diary or the to do list all week.  There are advantages to the morning rush of the school term.

But for now, let’s enjoy these last few precious days of the relaxed routine.

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there have been holiday mornings of photographing sunrises.  Delicious

 

 

I forgot to switch off

I spend a good deal of energy trying to reduce our energy use as a family, I am regularly turning off lights, chargers, TVs, all that sort of thing.  Sometimes though I forget to switch off my own brain.  It’s not quite as easy as flicking a switch.  Ooh it riles me when I write that – it really is as easy as flicking a switch, why is that so difficult for my housemates?

Anyway, back to switching off the brain.  I finished a work day by continuing to work on a train journey and then switching to doing some volunteer work via emails and some thinking about a new project.

I didn’t stop when I got home and did some more thinking and emailing (apologies to those Scouts who I inundated with emails last night).  I headed to bed later than I should have, but I did go through the usual rituals and I did unpack my case, so I thought I was well settled.

Nevertheless, I started to wake early, possible about 04.30 and my brain was already back in the Scout emails I had been occupied with last night.  Not in a bad way, not worried or anxious, just back in that zone.  I gave up trying to sleep at 05.30 and have done the emails before I can even settle to this.  I don’t feel tired, I feel productive.  I will not at 2pm this afternoon.

I am guessing that settling down to watch an hour or so of TV last night may have helped.  It is these times that TV is perfect for moving my brain into a different space. It honestly did not occur to me to switch the TV on.

Or maybe I just need to accept that sometimes I just don’t sleep as well as I need to, and today will be hard, but it’s one tired day.  I will of course be fine.

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Coffee consumption is go.  And I suspect will continue

Resting in the theatre

It is one of those weeks where there is a lot happening, more by coincidence than design.  The challenge is to recognise that some of what we have a tendency to call busy is relaxing and energising.  Theatre being the best example of that for me.  I love the theatre, I love the whole experience of watching a live performance along with other people.  I love the sets, costumes, lighting, music.  I am fascinated by the actors’ ability to remember lines, to be in the right spot at the right time. It is magical, in a way that TV or cinema rarely are for me.

There is still a tendency to call it ‘busy’ though.  You have to be at the theatre at a set time, the tickets have to be bought in advance, you have no choice as to when the play ends.  All of those things have correlations with a meeting I suppose. But the huge difference is I am always energised by the theatre – an effect that lasts into the next day.

Last night I saw This Houseat The Rep with friends, so there was a chance to discuss it afterwards which is always fun.  Chatting about and dissecting the play is all part of the enjoyment for me.  Reliving any experience through speaking, writing, or thinking about an experience makes it more impactful, so it is a good exercise, but it’s worth paying attention to reliving the good experiences more than the bad.   I enjoy the anticipation as well, which is what makes the logistics of a theatre trip a totally different experience than attending a meeting.  But maybe I need to try and make the meeting experience more like a theatre trip, now that would improve the quality of life.

PS I am not a theatre reviewer, for that I recommend Love A Good Play, excellent short blogs on each play that an avid theatre-goer sees.  Not that I can find her review for This House, which I am sure she saw in its time at The National Theatre.

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Photo of Birmingham Rep from birmingham-rep.co.uk