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.
So, you have a beautiful List of Things To Do. Or just one big Thing To Do. Everything is organised; the only thing left is to actually do the things.
So you make a cup of tea, feed the rabbit, get distracted and end up doing something which never even made it onto the list. It’s not just me, is it?
The conventional advice often seems to be to jump in and do the hard thing first – get the worst of it over with. (Rather like eating your beetroot first and saving the yummy buttery mashed potato until last. Or maybe that’s just me too?) Then everything else will seem easy.
Except it doesn’t always work. When the boy and I were discussing homework yesterday (before it escalated into a shouting match – that’s a story for another day), we agreed that we both work with a different strategy, one that works better for us.
It’s this: do the easiest thing first, or the thing that you most like the look of, or the thing that will take the shortest time. That way, you’re on a roll and are more likely to continue onto the next thing and the next, rather than heaving a huge sigh of relief after the hard thing and going and making yet another cup of tea in celebration. (You may eventually end up with a pile of ‘nasty’ things to do once you’ve picked off the best ones. But somehow they look less daunting when you’ve already proved to yourself that you can get things done.
I reckon it often doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. Action begets action, and eventually you’ll get to the thing you’ve been putting off – and I bet it won’t seem half as bad by then.
His world is growing, oh so fast. Smoothly and gently, with no cracks or creaks, like a balloon being blown up.
The only cracks are within me. Deep inside, I feel them – I swear I can almost hear a creaking and a cracking in my breastbone as my heart swells along with his world.
From a distance, I watch him climb on a bus to what will be his new school in the town several miles away. I listen and nod and agree as he and a friend hatch a plan for him to ride his bike to the friend’s house, several streets away from home. No parental involvement required.
I step back and step away, because this is right. I will not stifle this growing independence. Instead, I sit with the pain in my heart and know it for what it is: growing pains. His expanding world brings growth for us both. But oh, some days it hurts.
I pause on the kitchen step, watering can in hand. The sun is dazzling. Nothing can be more beautiful than a spring day.
I take in a parcel for a neighbour and chat to her when she calls to collect it.
I speak to a client about the work her charity is doing – work that I’m helping to make possible.
I stop work at 3pm to walk up the road and collect the boy from school. I’ll only be doing this for a few more short months. I savour them.
I remember why.
I didn’t go freelance because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t start my own business to make waves, or to make millions. I didn’t want to be a businesswoman; I wanted to be here. In living and working at home the purpose, for me, is to live. To notice and enjoy the everyday moments.
The garden is green now, and beautiful. There are primroses, and strong broad bean plants, and a beloved pet rabbit. It’s our private outdoor space, a refuge and sanctuary. Yet many times, as I stare through the kitchen window at it, I see none of this. I see the thoughts I’m having and the things I’m remembering and it’s all clouded by whatever emotions I’m feeling at the time.
I’m not expert in mindfulness, but I find it’s a joyful experience to remind myself what I’m doing and what I’m seeing. What I’m doing and what I’m seeing now – this is life. If I live only in my head, life is passing me by.
So I say to myself, this is our garden. And suddenly I can truly see it again.
I say, I’m cooking stew for my family. And I breathe, and I begin to see the onions as onions, not as a chore to be done while I think about something else.
When I’m holding the boy in my arms, that’s all I’m doing. This is life. I see it. And it is enough.
When a child sees snow after two years of hoping, there is magic in the air.
It may be only a sprinking, but it’s definitely fairy dust to us.
This will be my last post before the new year. But I’m not looking forward. Or even looking back. Today, and for the coming days, I want to
Be here now.
We spend so much time trying. Trying to get things done; trying to beat the clock; trying to be a great mum; trying to think up balanced meals that eveyone will eat; trying to squeeze in one more contract; trying to make this the perfect Christmas; even trying to lighten up, for goodness’ sake!
Trying is tiring.
I never thought I’d see the day when I’d quote Star Wars in all seriousness, but it’s inevitable when you live with a small boy.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.“
Removing the trying, the striving, makes things much simpler. Choose to do – or choose not to do. There is always a choice.
For now, I choose to stop trying, and just be.