I have retreated back into the house from my bed this morning. My bed had moved temporarily into the garden, albeit in a tent. Last night was a record-breaking attempt by Northumberland Scouts to get 65,000 scouts sleeping out of their beds. We have some small tents which fit in the garden, so we all moved out there for last night. Camping in the garden is rather weird, but easy to keep warm, I just kept carrying bedding out of the house until I felt the nest would be warm enough. And then I added a hot water bottle.
As is my habit when camping, I slept badly last night, very aware that I was not in my bed and slightly tense that I am going to get cold. That is a risk in the UK in spring, but I wake up on night one camping in a heat wave in France worried that I may get cold. The habit is very firmly that I sleep badly on the first night and then brilliantly after that. But somehow sleeping badly when camping does not have a huge effect on the next day. I reckon I sleep very soundly in between waking up and checking I am warm.
So this morning I woke up just after sunrise, loving the sound of the birds and feeling very refreshed. The dog was hilarious, overly excited that we were waking up in a tent, but extremely determined that that was enough of the camping and we needed to head back to the house – all of 2 metres away from our heads. To be fair there is dog food in the house and not in the tent. And I admit that I haven’t gone back outside – there is coffee here and stepping back outside made me realise that it is actually quite chilly out there.
But I feel very exhilarated having done something different. I feel like my brain has had a bit of a reset and that can only be good. And I am not working today, so having a nap later is a possibility.
The new season is off to a good start and it is full of all the meetings and all the to-do lists and all the chores. I am determined to find balance this month between times filled with tasks and time for not doing very much at all.
The weekend has been a good example of that balance, although I lacked sleep and exercise, which I am paying for this week. The weekend was the lovely Moseley Folk & Arts Festival and despite the weather (ridiculously chilly) it was a very calming and enjoyable weekend. It’s a weekend of switching off and not doing much except being entertained by a whole variety of musicians and catching up with friends we bumped into. We worked out that this is the eighth year in a row that we have been to the festival, so it’s safe to say that it has become our traditional way to end the summer season.
In amongst the festival were various Scouts meetings and a meeting of the Birmingham Children’s Book Groups. All were very productive and we have great plans to put on events, support others better etc.
The challenge this week is that I am a bit sleep deprived after the weekend and have eaten less well than I should have and not done as much exercise as I could have – all of which is lowering energy levels. Yet I have another week of meetings and that to do list looms large. Time to stop writing and either go and get some things done, or do some exercise to get the energy flowing again.
It’s one of those weeks where the diary is full and there are lots of people to meet with and conversations to be had and thinking to be done. The meetings are later in the evening than I love, the work days involve travelling a fair amount.
So today I am checking in on the foundations. I am considering blackout blinds, because the earlier sunrise is waking me slightly earlier than I want. But in the meantime, my new found habit of not drinking caffeine after noon and my Lenten avoidance of alcohol are ensuring I am sleeping well for the hours I am in bed. I am also trying to wind down at the end of the day doing some light journalling and reading before bed to switch off, even when the meetings finish late.
Exercise has been a bit harder to fit in, but I have done some yoga and a run so far this week. Even the days without yoga and running have had good walks in the sunshine. And the sunshine has really really helped.
Food has been great thanks to planning the week’s menu and deciding who is cooking each evening (I have got off very lightly on that this week). That said, I need to stop writing and go and make some lunch to take with me today!
I have had time every day to catch up with family and have grabbed coffee with friends. All the Scout meetings have been interesting and full of lovely, supportive people. And we are not quite half way through the week.
The second half of the week – that is after 6pm on Thursday – has no work (I have Friday off) , no volunteer meetings and lots of fun planned. I will definitely have plenty of time to be quiet, reflective and prayerful and to play the piano and spend some time being creative. The balance of life is not within every hour or every day, but over the weeks and months.
I am somewhat obsessed with Dr Rangan Chatterjee‘s books at the moment. They are ostensibly self-help books about finding good health in a world which seems bent on stressing us out. He refers to lots of medical research on the effects of stress on our bodies and of course our minds.
One of the things his books do is give permission to relax, to switch off the phones and laptops and just stop. I have been trying to turn off the electronic gizmos at 9pm and let my mind have a break from social media and email. It is hard though, as so much of what I do in my spare time I do on electronic devices.
So time management is even more crucial than ever. Not a bad thing. I am convinced that my brain does not know the difference between writing this blog or an email to a fellow Scout leader or to a work colleague. Surely the process of communicating via writing on an electronic device is the same regardless of whether I am being paid to write, or whether I am writing about stressful or fun subjects?
Last night I was expecting an evening of creativity with friends, which was cancelled at the last minute. The temptation to get on and catch up with some administrative tasks for Scouts was just too strong.
I am definitely paying for it this morning. My brain feels unrested. I slept well, but my mum always used to say that resting your body and brain is as good as sleeping. I am beginning to appreciate that wisdom as my brain definitely feels it missed out on a couple of hours of rest last night.
Last week was full on, and writing this took a back seat. As did running and yoga. So this morning is a reassessment of what is important in the week ahead. But I am trying to be gentle with myself rather than looking at the yoga and run records for the month so far and beating myself up. Or looking back and realising it is five days since I wrote my ‘daily’ blog.
I have got into the bad habit of noticing what I have NOT done, but last week was hugely productive. I made contact with various people in Scouts and ended up having some very productive conversations. It is good to be back in touch with some really inspiring and dedicated people.
The Birmingham Children’s Book Group were at Bournville BookFest on Saturday and I spent the day in a rather chilly marquee, chatting to interesting, lovely people about children’s books and reading in families and schools. And publicising our monthly Book Swap (second Saturday of every month at Bournville Community Hub, 9.30 to 10.30).
Sunday morning was spent at church, collecting donations to CAFOD’s Fast Day and showing the film of Mahinur’s story . I met new volunteers to our Children’s Liturgy team and started their training. I caught up with some other friends at coffee after mass. A very sociable morning which felt useful.
Sunday afternoon included cooking lunch for the extended family, who we have not seen for an age. Time was spent reading and watching TV as a family. We had an evening dog walk to the pub to catch up with good friends.
Writing it all down helps me realise that it’s not that I have done nothing, I just chose to prioritise volunteering over exercise and blogging for a couple of days. And by blogging the list I get to start this week with a tick in the blog box on this week’s to do list. Two birds with one blog. Have a good 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.
In weeks like this where work involves a fair amount of travel, I take comfort in dividing my week in half. There are 168 hours in a week, my week starts at 6am on a Monday morning, so the half way point is Thursday at 6pm. The first half of my week has been focussed on work. I have travelled to Plymouth and back and Bristol and back and worked full and productive days. Today I have a good day planned with useful meetings and some discussions with colleagues in the diary.
It’s been very full and very work-focussed though. That said, I have had dinner with a friend, I squeezed in one run, and have done quite a bot of Scouts volunteering, as well as getting some plans in place for family events and the pre-Christmas season. I have also had a good amount of down time watching Netflix (I am obsessed with Gilmore Girls!) and surfing social media. So, it has been far from all work.
It still does not feel quite as balanced as it could be though, so the halving the week is a great comfort. The reality is that I will do absolutely no work at all in the second half of the week, and thinking of my week like that really helps me see the balance. And even in this last half a day of this half of the week (yes my brain does work like this!), I am squeezing in a blog writing session, I have just had a lovely ten minutes thinking through the day and I will manage a run before work. I am also taking some time off to attend a school appointment, so there is family time in the day too.
Just reflecting on how much Scouting and me-time there has been already helps to energise me. here’s to the second half of the week.
I made it through September. I feel a real sense of jubilation at that fact. September is always the hardest month. It is a month of transition from the endless days of summer to the full days of autumn. The mornings are very different to August mornings. Mornings are important to me, as I am sure is abundantly clear from this blog.
Lots of my social and voluntary groups take an August break and then we all try and catch up in September. The challenges we were able to hide from in August suddenly take centre stage again. The teachers start putting pressure on parents to ensure their children are all top of the class. Countdowns to Christmas pop up on my social media feeds – seriously they do, I have a Christmas-obsessed family.
Even the news becomes more serious again, I feel less able to pretend it’s all going to be ok. And as for work – those gentle hours of August where I have the time to think before responding, where I have the space for a bit of creativity – all gone and replaced by more emails and more demands on my brain than I can possibly cope with. And not enough space in my day to stop and work out which fire to fight first.
I also added to September some amazing family weekends and a week’s work travel to Rome, as well as another two weeks of travel in UK for work. What I have abandoned are my friends and Scouting. Which is why I now feel a joy at the new month. Everything that I got wrong last month can be put right in October. To all those who have not seen me for a month, or who are waiting for something from me – it’s a new month. All shall be well. I shall once again be efficient and available. Here’s to blind optimism induced by an arbitrary dating system.
Pastimes are funny things aren’t they? We all manage to find something to do with our time, but I wonder whether we choose them or fall into them really. I am in the choosing category. I am considering a new type of volunteering, but am deciding against it as it involves meetings, managing processes and strategies and well, fairly much what I spend time doing at work. I have spent various evenings this week at meetings and that does not feel like a hobby.
I think I am looking for some very specific things from a hobby. It needs to be something different from what I do at work, so less about doing something that directly builds my business skills and more about being practically creative or physical.
Learning new and different skills is important to me too, I am challenged by my job and a lot of the volunteering I do, but I would like the challenge of learning a totally new skill, not necessarily getting good at something, just trying to learn it. And I am certain I am not looking for a hobby for life, I just want to try out some new things.
I am fascinated by how people fit hobbies in. Someone I know has interests as diverse as Scouts, photography, pyrotechnics and trains, alongside working and having a beautiful family. He may even be reading this in a spare moment. It’s impressive and it’s that diversity I am aiming for.
Interestingly people I meet in Scouts seem to have very diverse hobbies, I think it is because as an organisation Scouts encourages acquiring a wide range of skills for life and offers a taste of many potential hobbies.
The weather this weekend has been better than anticipated. Which means some welcome time outside.
We hosted a sleepover for a bunch of teens in celebration of an offspring’s birthday. This is a group of tech-savvy teens, usually to be found in front of a screen inside. Yet they spent a large amount of time in the garden. A lot of this was in the dark rather late in the evening and it was not all that warm, but the call of the outside was strong. They were hanging out and chatting on the patio, just because they could. It’s interesting that despite their social lives now being hugely screen-based and indoors, they are still drawn to being outside. Not for a particular purpose, being outside is enough.
On a beautiful spring morning I paid a short visit to a Scout camp, well actually it was Beavers and Cubs, the children are aged between 5 and 10. They were so calm and content to be outside. Wandering around a field or hunting for sticks in the hedges was keeping them incredibly happy.
My own camping season hasn’t started yet, but I too find being outside is good for my soul. Getting a dog was one way to ensure we go out every day, and in the 5 years since he came to live with us, we have indeed been outside every day to walk him, apart from a couple of days of illness and some icy weather this past winter. In fact, when the dog can’t walk, I still go for a stroll myself. It’s not the walking that is the aim, it is being outside.
Now that the weather is better, we will try and eat outside as much as possible, and various people will be found sitting outside on the patio, not for any reason other than being outside is a good thing. Our garden is not well-kept, but it is an important part of our home, full of green. And chairs.