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.
Yesterday I said something to the boy that I shouldn’t have said and didn’t mean.
What it was doesn’t matter. What matters is that I said it because I was distracted from my most important job – Being Mum – and I messed up.
Life is full of good things at the moment: interesting work; exciting writing; fascinating learning (about coaching: I’ll tell you about it some time); fun exercise; time with friends; even rollerskating!
I had been congratulating myself on doing it all, but the truth is that something always gives.
It’s not just about how you spend your time, but where you put your mental, physical and emotional energy. Of course I need to put energy into my career, my hopes and dreams, my health and fitness – but I also need to save some (a lot) for conscious parenting. The boy needs attention – and he generally gets plenty of that – but he also needs guidance and discipline, and those weighty things have to be thought through and followed through by us, his parents. Plus, there must be energy left over for fun and silliness!
Going through life is like riding a bike: a constant balancing act. Sometimes you lean one way, sometimes another. You’ve got to keep pedalling, and you’re constantly making adjustments to the handlebars, the gears, and looking out for obstacles in the road. Sometimes you wobble or fall, but you have to get back in the saddle. And you need to remember where you’re going – and why.
This Live and Work at Home life is for me – but it’s also for my family. Being Mum is my most important job. What’s yours?
What if fiddling around sorting receipts, tidying your desk and ticking off small, basic, non-urgent tasks is actually what you should be doing right now? (Yes, even with that looming deadline.) What if your body and brain need some down time and faffing in a semi-productive way is a way to create that much-needed space?
Reams and reams have been written about how to avoid procrastination. I doubt Dickens was the first, and he certainly wasn’t the last, but he’s probably one of the best known: Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him. We all talk about wasting time as if it were a bad thing.
But today I beg to differ. Fiddly little jobs are a good way to ease into the working day, and on a good day you could find yourself doing the ‘real’ work without really noticing. On a bad day, at least you will have done something.
What’s more, you will have reduced the amount of time you have to do the big job you’ve been putting off. Yes, this is a good thing. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, work expands to fill the time available. (Another reason to love deadlines!) And spending three hours on something doesn’t necessarily make it better than it would have been had you spent one very focused hour on it.
So if faffing and fiddling are what you really need to do today, go for it. Think of it as giving your brain a rest – even a form of meditation. One that comes with the satisfaction of ticking off some very small irritating jobs from the To Do List!