Magical May

May is such a magical month. Forgive me for being terribly British and talking about the weather, but indulge me for a minute.

Glorious blue sky, bright sunshine that calls you outside, seeming almost to reach in with warm soft fingers, take your hand and draw you through the door before you realise it. Trees are beginning to wear a halo of green, though some still stand almost bare after a cold, wet start to spring. Birds are calling, even the boy is noticing the different kinds hopping in the hedgerows, and somehow the screech of two cats yowling at each other is softened and sounds like part of the liveliness of the day.

Perhaps we appreciate it more after a week of grey skies, hail and winter vests. (A week which followed months of actual winter, as opposed to a spring which couldn’t make up its mind.)  Perhaps if you live where the sun always shines bright and the sky is always blue, you long for a soft, grey, even rainy, day. But here, today, nothing could be more perfect than the festival of spring that’s unfolding in my back garden.

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There’s always something

There’s a moment every spring when I think I’ve cracked it. All the spring seeds are sown. The beds are neat, and the weeds so small that I can kid myself I’ve pulled them all out.   I’ve even emptied the compost bins of their ‘black gold’ and there’s room to dispose of our veg peelings in them again.

And then it happens.

There’s an explosion of growth and the weeds are suddenly towering over my previous seedlings. Or a mysterious mildew appears in the greenhouse, or a late frost destroys the lush new leaves of the potato crop. There’s always something. You’d think that I’d have learned this much earlier but now, after many years of repeated lessons, I finally realise that gardening is never finished, not even temporarily.

Neither is a business, or a way of life. There’s always something. We suddenly have more work than we can cope with – or none. A new opportunity or idea raises its head and we’re thrown into a crisis of indecision or a whirl of frantic activity. The family routine changes and everything must adjust to follow suit – or the work routine changes and the family has to somehow fall into line. (This always happens the day after you find yourself thinking, “Now we’ve got the balance just right.”)

But here, in this moment of stillness as I look over the vegetable beds, I find a moment of clarity. Change is constant. We never find balance and stay there. Like riding a bike, we make constant tiny adjustments in order to stay upright.

So I’ll enjoy this time of looking over my almost-tidy, spring-poised garden, knowing it won’t last. If it did, there would be no flowers and no harvest.

How often do you stop?

Can you ever stop when you work from home?  When clients rely on you for your work and your family relies on you for food and clean underwear, can you really stop?

And if you did stop, what would you do?  Could you actually do nothing?  What does “stopping” look like?

I’ve been trying to stop.  It’s taken me a week to work out how.

Lessons learnt from a minor ailment:

Working from your bed isn’t the thing to do, despite what I tried to tell youSleeping in your bed is a much better idea.  It’s actually not possible to do decent work when you feel inhuman, and as well as potentially making yourself worse, you’re simply wasting time that you could be spending recovering.  And quite possibly making stupid mistakes that you’ll have to fix later.  (Of course I would never do this.  Ahem.)

If someone offers to help, say yes.  Whether it’s the school run, making dinner, doing the shopping – if someone else is able do it, and is volunteering to do it, say yes even if you think you could probably manage.  Don’t even think about saying to yourself, “but I should be able to cope”.  Says who?

If they don’t volunteer, ask.  They’re only not volunteering because they don’t realise you need the help, because you always manage.  Don’t be a martyr.

Giving yourself time off is hard.  That’s why you need to take more of it than you think.  I promised myself I’d take at least four days off to recover and spent two of them working the whole time because I just couldn’t switch off.  Now I’ve got that out of my system, though, I’m beginning to work out what “stopping” involves.  I just spent a whole day pottering: walking, writing, reading, trying to sleep (this one still needs practice) and a good helping of staring at the sky.  I saw a fox on my travels and did a lot of not thinking.

Perhaps you can’t do as much work as you think you can.  Not forever, anyway.  Or maybe just not now.  Not if you want to be well and to notice and enjoy the spring that’s just beginning.  Perhaps it’s time to stop, just for a while, until you work out how much work is enough work.