What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare

You’ve heard it before.  I know I have; my Mum quotes it at every opportunity.  (Thanks, Mum.)  But today, stop what you’re doing, read it again, and really feel it.  Today (and probably every day) it says more than my own words ever could.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
W.H. Davies
As always, I offer these words to myself as much as I offer them to you.  They are what I need to hear, and perhaps you do too.  Let’s stop, and “stare as long as sheep or cows”.

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.

Be here now

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.

Playtime: enjoying the season

I’m taking a week to enjoy autumn – now it’s finally beginning to arrive.

It’s just dawned on me that school holidays offer that possibility.  There’s the summer break – that’s obvious.  But then there’s October half term (autumn); Christmas and February half term (two opportunities to experience two faces of winter!) and then Easter and spring.

It’s so easy to barrel through life, head down and not looking to right and left.  I’m going to take a week to look up, and to left and right, to play in the leaves and let the wind tangle my hair.  See you in November.

Playing hooky

It takes practice to be able to estimate how long a job will take.  I’m pretty good at it now.  I learnt early on to build in plenty of slack for:

  • Faffing time (on the part of the client; I can faff with the best of them, but not where work is concerned)
  • Moving of goalposts (sometimes a job isn’t quite what you thought it was going to be)
  • Unexpected days off school (for my child, or even the client’s)
  • Other people’s contributions not being made on time
  • IT gremlins
  • Something else I hadn’t even thought of

In general, it’s good to expect the unexpected.  Usually, the extra time I’ve built in gets used up, one way or another.  (Which I suppose means it’s not extra at all!)

Sometimes, though, the stars align and I get a burst of miraculous energy which means I can award myself some Time Off.  It feels like playing hooky, but why else do we work from home if not for the perks it brings?

I’m particularly smug this morning, having had an hour’s bike ride in the glorious autumn sunshine before the heavens opened.  Sheets of rain are pouring down my windows now, as I sit at my desk.  Play hooky whenever you can.  Carpe diem and all that!

A summer pause

August, like mischievous child, is calling me.

“Come outside and play!” he squeals.

“Look,” he whispers, “September is hiding in the bushes.  Sshhhh… Let’s run away.” And he darts around the corner, giggling and making aeroplane noises.

And, because his delight is infectious, I follow, and we dance in the sunshine.

You’ll excuse me, I hope, if the next couple of weeks are a little quiet on the blogging front.  The boy, the husband and I will be outside, making the most of August.

September?  She’ll wait patiently, like the kindly schoolmistress she is.  She has a lot to teach us, and, believe me, she has many, many things for me to d0, but for now she’s content to watch the children playing.

Come September, posts will be coming to you as regular as clockwork, themed and carefully crafted.  Because September is always a turning point.  But for now, with leaves in our hair, sand in our shoes and ice lollies in our hands, let’s take a summer pause…

Coming up for air

Sometimes work is all-consuming.  Raising your head can be like coming up for air after a long swim underwater, or like the first taste of food after a long illness.

Today I was given the gift of a spare couple of hours in between enormous, heavy, challenging jobs.  First I looked around in amazement at the world which had carried on around me without my noticing.  Somehow I had fed the boy and the husband and made sure everyone had clean pants.  (Though I fear I’d done little more than that.)  Somehow the broad beans had continued growing and nothing in the greenhouse had quite died.  Neighbours were going about their business.  The sun was even shining.

After a long moment of wondering what to do, I wandered out into that sunshine.  I picked a bowl full of broad beans for tea, and another of salad leaves.  I foraged among the forest of pea plants to find the few that were swelling enough to give the boy a treat.  I breathed for what seemed like the first time in weeks.

When work feels like an illness, you’ve been doing too much.  How many times do we have to learn the lesson that we can only do so much?

What a joy it is, though, to feel that sense of waking up, to see and appreciate the home and the people around you almost as if for the first time.  It’s a gift that almost makes the hard work worthwhile.  It may take some time, but balance is beginning to return.