I am beginning to determine the period in my day that I am finding most difficult and it is the time between 4 and 7 in the afternoons. For a whole heap of reasons I think.
During the week, having spent all day in my home working, I pack away the work clobber to face an evening still in my home. I change my clothes and then walk the few steps from the desk to another room and that is the total physical transition, no train journey, no listening to the radio in traffic, no walk back from the station, no brief visit to my Mum on route from work. All of those mark my usual transitions. My working from home is too sporadic for me to have a proper routine and I struggle with transition from work to not work in normal times anyway when I work from home.
The weekends are even stranger, I have a long weekend anyway as I do not work on a Friday. It is especially difficult on a Friday and Saturday. Those are the evenings we are often out, often with friends. For three days I am relishing having time at home to potter and sort things out around the home. I catch up with family and friends, I can surf the internet, catch up with folks on social media, read a book. I seem to run out of steam by about 4ish in the afternoon at the weekend. I sort of realise that this is it, whatever the evening holds, and we plan something for each evening, it is a variety of the theme of hanging out at home. There is nothing to get ready for, there is no moment of leaving one location for another. There is just more time at home.
On Saturday I remembered I do have some tools to help – and for the past couple of days have had half an hour of movement and stillness, focus on me and focus on everyone. I do some yoga, gentle movement helps, focussing on my breath and physical movement. Then a time of meditation and prayer help ground me further in my own faith and also in the wider world and it helps to hand the anxiety at this point of the day back to God for a bit. This helped a lot this weekend, so I am going to see if it works today on a work day as well. I am very grateful that these tools were in the toolbox already, and that I have remembered them.
Today is the spring equinox here in UK. At last the long nights are over, the days will be longer than the nights from now on. I am certainly stirring much earlier to the sound of the birds in the garden.
I love the equinoxes, and the solstices for that matter, I like these moments where we acknowledge the effects of the sun and nature on our lives. Especially for this city dweller, whose exposure to nature is more limited.
The start of spring is a time of hope for me most years and today will not be different. Without hope, this period of distance from others will be hard. So my focus this morning is on all the good things.
We’ve been without physical Scouting for all of three days in the UK and yet there is virtual scouting happening already and I know many volunteers are putting plans in place to meet up online next week. Work is moving apace to create activities young people can do at home, but still part of a group. So much creativity and determination to keep communities together.
Choirs seem to be determined to keep going. Gareth Malone is creating a virtual choir, a friend has invited me to Sofa Singers and my husband’s physical choir is working on how to move their weekly rehearsal online.
I have long used Yoga With Adriene at home and now other teachers are moving that way, I have heard of a Tai Chi class being live streamed and have just signed up for a yoga nidra sound bath this weekend.
Online book groups are flourishing apparently and my own Facebook book group has spent the week discussing whatever we’re reading now and recommending books for the time we may have available for reading now.
My son recommended a programme for playing games together (not free), the RSC has made recordings of its productions available online. There are museums you can visit virtually. I am sure there will be so many other things we can do over the coming weeks. For today as we start spring, the creativity and sense of community that is springing up is giving me lots of hope.
I rarely work to big deadlines, instead I have busy periods and quieter ones at work. Just occasionally a project comes along that has a definite, unmovable deadline. There is one of those looming this week. And I just do not feel happy working like this. I don’t think I ever have. Even assignment deadlines at university were something I avoided, by having everything ready early. That sounds like I was being super diligent, but not really, giving myself some wiggle room just makes me calmer and happier.
In a work context when you’re working as a team in a fairly dynamic context of things developing and changing quickly through the project, its just not possible to be ready much before the deadline. So I am having to live with the stressful feelings instead. I’m dealing with it in different ways, from a glass of wine to reading lots, from long baths to short runs and this week ,as it all comes to a head, I am adding in huge dollops of yoga, meditation and prayer.
I’m doing my very best to take time away from work, as I know working many more hours will not make the work better. But it is still all whirring around in my mind – which is frustrating: I have deliberately put it all to one side and yet still wake up thinking about the project, or find my mind wandering back to it in downward-facing dog. I know, I know, I should watch the thoughts appear and not engage with them, but just note they’re there and let them pass. I’m trying honestly, but it is hard. So I have accepted that this is just not a comfortable way to work for me, I just don’t like hard deadlines. And that’s ok, I have a job where they do not happen very often and for that I am hugely grateful.
This weekend has been a delicious treat. It has involved work. I rarely work at weekends any more, but when I do, it is always doing the parts of the job I love the most. Speaking to people about why I do my job, how it fits with my faith and my life view and how much my small actions – combined with the many small actions of my audience, are tangibly changing the world for the better. These are opportunities for me to lift my gaze above the day to day and give me perspective. Sorely needed after last month.
I am away from home, on the south coast in Torquay. Delightfully, “home” agreed to come with me for the weekend. We are all feeling the length of winter and are tired and stressed.
Time away turns out to be just what we need. Without really deciding to, we have made the very most of hiring an AirB&B for the weekend. I have resisted doing my usual thing of insisting that we all get out and see everything. Instead, we are going with the flow. Which is restful. The dog is struggling with arthritis, so the walks have to be short. The nights are long and cold and we have bowed to Mother Nature and stayed indoors, cosy and companionable when it’s dark. The sunshine has been tremendous and we have had plenty of it – but gently. Everyone was sleep deprived this week, so we’re catching up on that too.
I was feeling overwhelmed because I have not had much planning or yoga time this week. Instead it was a week of having meetings which created more tasks to do and took away the time to do them. After finding time yesterday to plan February I am feeling better. Plus I found half an hour to get on a yoga mat. Spending some time breathing properly undoubtably helped.
Right now it is getting later on a Sunday morning. No one is stirring. I am staying with this flow though and me and the dog are enjoying just being, catching up on a load of blogs I usually read, now writing my own (on my phone) and in a minute that yoga mat will come out again.
I was aiming for an early morning walk on the beach today – the need to see everything and do everything is not quite gone! Instead I shall just be with whatever is actually happening now. The beach will still be there later and the cafe will serve elevenses as well as they do breakfast I am sure.
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.
One of the tools in the box to settle me into the new routine this month is yoga. Writing that has made me giggle. It’s not a new routine, it’s the old routine, but there has been a two week break of loveliness and so I am struggling. There we have it. I am an energetic, healthy and enthusiastic person, who just struggles with her routine changing. Somewhat like a toddler!
Anyway, in my adult self, I am being very sensible and am carving out time to do some yoga every day this month. I am using the lovely Yoga with Adriene series online, as that does not involve me finding a time I can attend a class, nor leaving the house again in days of work travel and other meetings.
It is a month’s programme for which I had to set an intention. Mine was simple – show up every day and see what happens. It’s been interesting. First of all, I have shown up every day, one night at 11:15pm, squeezing in that day’s practice at a time I rarely do anything useful. I slept brilliantly that night – not enough sleep, but great quality. I have proven that I do have time to stop and just be once a day.
The sessions are following some sort of path and surprise me every day. I am not great at a home practice of yoga, but I am thoroughly enjoying this gentle guidance. I am still responsible for getting myself onto the mat and letting go enough to follow the path. I like that guidance, I enjoy being challenged to do something unexpected and it takes away making choices and worrying I am making the wrong choice, a real relief.
I can do more than I think, I have very little faith in my physical self to do anything really, but I can feel myself letting go of some of the negative expectations and giving it a go, a good feeling.
Good lessons so far and we’re only a third of the way through. Wisdom will be mine by the end of the month. Ok, maybe not!
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!
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.
It’s Tuesday. It’s very early on a Tuesday when I write this and yet so far this week two people have commented on me being a bit grumpy. Reactionary maybe. Is this news to me? Not really. Is it majorly frustrating. Oh yes.
It’s frustrating because one of my goals this year was to be calmer about things. Specifically, to stop talking so much. To pause – possibly for ever – before speaking. Being calmer and quieter was the overall aim, it sounds like I need some mini resolutions to work on this a bit more this month.
It ties in with a theme from last week – a craving for quiet and still. My brain is definitely full and very chattery at the moment, so maybe that is why it is reacting to things.
It’s all this that meditation is supposed to solve isn’t it? And yoga. And prayer, especially contemplative prayer. Yep – I have the answers. And yet… This could very well be the cause of the frustration – I know what to do, but haven’t done it. I have no excuses.
But one step at a time. Discussing this blog at the weekend, a friend described it as a way for me to write down what was top of mind and allow those thoughts some space to breathe. Space and breathing sound like things I am aiming for. Now to do some of that other stuff too. Where’s the yoga mat?
I went to a yoga class last night for the first time in a long time. I love going to yoga classes. About 18 months ago I started to attend regularly, but have been a bit lax in attendance lately, mainly due to work commitments.
Last night’s class was a mix of yin and yang yoga. Yin yoga is a recent discovery for me and I love it. Oddly it is everything I used to dislike about yoga – trying to stay still with physical discomfort. There is no way I would have enjoyed it a year ago, but yoga has taught me that everything passes, don’t fight your reality right now, instead accept it and relax. If you can manage that, it hurts a bit less. I say hurt, it’s not pain, it is discomfort. And it is discomfort caused by having bad posture and not moving and stretching enough during the day. My body thanks me for living with the discomfort. But doesn’t thank me until afterwards, there is no instant gratification.
All great lessons for life.
I enjoy being with other people in the classes and the teachers surprise you with new routines or postures, which adds a mental challenge. I am determined to make the time to attend more often now and hopefully that will inspire me to get the mat out at home more often.
PS in a reflection of my gorgeous bank holiday weekend, I found myself sort of dreaming in shavasana (the final relaxing pose) that I was holding a champagne flute in my right hand. I needed that yoga.