As we move more and more back to something resembling normal routines, my brain seems to be returning to habits that were normal. Obviously this blog is one of those. I can’t tell you why I stopped, I just did. I didn’t have the desire to write. And for a while there wasn’t much happening that I had not written about.
I am keen to read again too. Reading was a habit that disappeared this year, I know I’m not alone in this. It seems that the sheer volume of information in the early days of the pandemic in UK made focussing on a book far too difficult for many people. I read some excellent books, but definitely nowhere near as many as usual. Now I feel much more likely to pick up a book for a few minutes, rather than scrolling through news and then through social media to see people’s reactions to the news. And then sharing my views on the news with friends and family and virtually and the family in the house. It was a crazy time. Curling up with a book seems a much better option really doesn’t it?
I also consume books in audiobook format. I rarely listen to a book when I am driving or travelling, I find them too hard to focus on. But I listen to them in the house when doing other things. Despite all that time in the house, I just could not bear to have an audio book on. I listened to a few podcasts, but audiobooks seemed beyond me. This week I dipped back in to audiobooks. I have no idea why that now seems appealing when it wasn’t before, but I am looking forward to finishing “In Praise of Walking: The New Science of How We Walk and Why It’s Good for Us”. Although given the subject matter of the book, I am feeling the need to go for some long walks as well.
To be honest I am just glad reading and blogging are back in my life this week, so I’ll just be grateful rather than too bothered as to why they seem possible all of a sudden.
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!
I really didn’t think I really suffered from much FOMO until this evening.
I get it mildly when everyone is at a party except me. But I now realise that it is much easier to accept that I have chosen to do whatever else it is I am doing and to be really present in my evening out, rather than thinking on the one I am not part of.
I have yet to work out why people take such huge pleasure in telling me I missed a great night though. I may be too nostalgic and looking back with rose coloured glasses here, but I am sure that we used to reassure each other that “you didn’t miss much” or “oh it was the usual people saying the usual things” or “never mind, we’re all meeting up again next month, let’s make sure that date is right for you”.
Not so much any more. I think it shows that we are beginning to condition each other to make the fear of missing out bigger and more anxiety-inducing.
Nevertheless, I do a ton of very cool stuff, trying to do everything makes me ill and I prefer to be healthy and just do one thing thanks, so the FOMO has definitely dissipated as I have got older.
Except for when the sun shines. Then it becomes close to anxiety-inducing as I feel the need to spend as long outside as I possibly can. The current warm spell is exhausting me simply because I feel the need to be outside when I really want to be asleep in my bed. This evening I am away with work on the coast, so despite feeling travel weary and possibly a bit dehydrated, I had to walk along the seafront. And walk. Until I felt so tired and hungry I was getting a bit tearful. It still took a stern internal talking-to to make me go and find food and rest. I have even interrupted writing this to pop back outside to see the sun set. I couldn’t, wrong angle, but I did see the moon instead. But seriously! The sun will shine again, it will be warm again, why do I feel this desperate need to be outside for every possible moment? I am inventing a new ailment of fear of missing out on the daylight. It may hit those who live in the more northern areas of the country hardest.
I have been dabbling with running recently, mainly because I needed an efficient way to increase my lung capacity and running seemed like the cheapest, most time-efficient method of increasing heartrate as quickly as possible. I don’t love it, it is a tool to increase specific fitness of my cardio-vascular system. I can sort of lose myself into the rhythm of the run now, but still, not loving it as a mental escape really.
Walking on the other hand is really different. I can get into a daydreaming zone really quickly. I often don’t take my phone. This is a learnt protection after I went through a period of getting sustained headaches and the optician reckoned it was because I spent even my school run walks (back in the day) answering emails on my phone, or texting – or updating FaceBook. Lesson learnt – our eyes need a total rest from staring into middle distance. Apparently, the old advice to look away from your computer screen is hugely outdated, as that was based on us only looking at that distance during work hours. Not every waking hour.
So, walking is now just walking, letting my mind wander, enjoying chatting to fellow dog walkers, saying hi to a few people, listening to the birds. Not really being any more productive than that. And I love it. This week I am reading Claire Balding’s book about the Radio4Ramblingsprogramme, Walking Home. It is really lovely, I like her writing style and love the radio programme.
It is also inspiring me to plan to walk a long route – not all at once, but in chunks over a year. I was dragged around part of the Pembrokeshire Coast path as a young child (about 10!) and have memories of that being very hard work. But Claire Balding’s descriptions of the benefits of a longer hike are appealing. I seem to remember St Kenelm’s Way being a local possibility. Need to do some research I think. And brush up on map reading skills. And replace my boots.
Many years ago, I made a decision not to live and work in London. It’s hard to remember making that decision, it was a long time ago, but I have never regretted it. This week I remembered one of the big reasons I left. It is the sound of silence in commuting London.
I work relatively frequently in the capital and enjoy it, there is a great feeling walking from the station to work seeing international landmarks. People travel all over the world to see the Parliament building or St Paul’s Cathedral, I gawk at them on my way to a job I enjoy.
I have a relatively smooth commute, which involves lovely walking when time allows and only rarely does it involve sighs of despair as I face a sardine-like tube carriage.
This week I walked from Euston to Waterloo. Along with possibly thousands of others. And the reason for that decision to leave London flooded my senses. As I walked down a busy thoroughfare it was hard to find a good pace as there were just so many people walking along the same road. All of us walking quickly and purposefully. And in total silence.
The road was of course noisy with cars, busses, motorbikes, building work. But absolutely no human noise at all.
That was it – that sound of silence. It brought back memories of arriving at Charing Cross station on my way to work in the early 90s and hundreds of humans marching in silence. I felt a feeling of real horror at the silence. At that time I thought it was because of the contrast with my childhood in a quiet corner of Wales where silence was because of a general lack of humans. This was silence with more humans than I had possibly ever experienced.
As it happens, all these years later, I still feel a sense of horror, real anxiety when immersed in this strange silence.
I was so grateful for it being broken this morning by a bird singing, by someone on a phone call and then a colleague called me and I felt a real relief at having someone to talk to.