For months now, my to do list has had either the word ‘blog’ or, as I realised that that was not going to happen, the word ‘write’ scrawled on it. I’ve put it on daily to-do lists, on weekly habit trackers, on priority lists for months or weeks or seasons. It has been something I want to do, but, well, just have not.
How does a habit become a not-habit? Something occurs that breaks the physical aspect of the habit and then, before I know it, I just don’t do something any more.
In the case of writing, it was sleeping badly in the night that broke the habit. Waking up early to write was hard work. That phase of sleeplessness wore off months ago though and yet, no writing.
The summer routine was definitely different to the winter routine, and somehow, although I can’t quite work out why, writing first thing didn’t fit quite as well.
Then came a slight obsession with not reaching for a screen first thing in the morning, which made writing on a laptop impossible. I have no doubt that not working on a screen first thing, when my day is spent doing that almost exclusively is a good thing. But, despite that, I kept ‘ blog’ or ‘write’ on the to do list and felt a bit rubbish about myself for never getting it done.
As we move towards November, I am steeling myself for winter proper and the reduced daylight. And sitting here and writing first thing in the morning feels like a comforting thing to do in the winter, so well worth getting back in the habit I think.
This week is my back to school week. There is no literal school involved at all, I no longer work in a school and my own school days ended 30 years ago. Nevertheless, this time of year fills me with the anticipation of a new start, so my thoughts are turning to new challenges.
Which is in itself a challenge as I am trying to not take on more things, but to create space in my week, where there is nothing scheduled. So classes in machine embroidery or ceramics are not appropriate – however tempting they may be.
Instead, I am turning back to all the things that have been abandoned over the summer.
I lifted the lid on the piano last night for the first time this summer and am committing to a lot more practice this term. The laptop has come out this morning, and typing this blog feels like heading back to a good routine after such a prolonged break from it. The end of this week sees various Scout meetings to plan new challenges and I have an autumn of Scout training ahead of me as I really start to get into a new role. I have rejoined a book group I had taken a break from, the next book to read has been ordered from the library.
My new term will not contain anything new, but picking up the things I let drop over a long summer feels exciting anyway – after all I know I love doing all these things. Children’s return to school may involve a new school, teachers or subjects, but ostensibly they are heading back into a familiar routine, so my back to school is not too far from reality. Now, all I need is some new stationery and a new bag…
Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time. Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus. It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.
I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings. Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning. That’s it, no more school in the family. Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.
So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say. Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed. So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.
I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole. I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him.
I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run. The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.
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.
I am away from home on a work conference this week and I am hankering after a bit of routine this morning, if just to overcome the feeling of discombobulation I have. I arrived in the dark last night and the moon was amazingly bright, so I could tell we were near a lake, there was forest. But that was about it. In the way of work conferences, it seemed important to get to know the people before the lie of the land, but I regretted that decision once everyone was heading to bed.
The evening had consisted of a couple of glasses of wine and way too long in the bar putting the world to rights – I should remember that if the world is not right by midnight, it is probably not going to get sorted at 1.30am – but I have been trying to remember that for decades now!
Inevitably, the wave of homesickness engulfed me as soon as I was alone. Interestingly, I was fairly detached from it – a new thing for me. I observed the homesickness, put it down to tiredness and discombobulation and went to sleep.
My brain woke me at first light and I got outside to explore straight away. The homesickness has completely gone. Knowing where I physically am helps to settle me down, definitely. I am reaching for routines that are familiar, hence the blog. Now, I need to remember that morning-after wisdom of not staying in the bar until 1.30am.
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.