Oh Lake District you continue to delight and revitalise me. When I’m down in the dumps, knackered, grumpy or frustrated (or all of the above) you never fail to bring a smile to my little face. There has NEVER been a time when I haven’t come away from you feeling better. Even though your main roads are clogged up and there’s always Too Many People. Even though you’re always being rained on and your car parks are laughingly expensive. Even though you exhaust my little legs and puff my little lungs, you are my first and most heart-opening love.
And here’s the rest of my happy list this week:
1. Getting a good leg stretch. It doesn’t have to be the lovely Lake District, although that will always top my happy list. It used to be wandering through the wide streets and pokey alleyways of London. Getting confused in Soho and lost in Pimlico. Brick walls in the City and lush leaves in the parks. That damp, cold smell of the river and the gorse on Barnes Common. I’d always walk rather than get the tube. I worked in the very bottom corner of Westminster and used to walk along Milbank, up Whitehall and through Trafalgar Square, detouring to climb the steps of the National Gallery before trailing up Charing Cross Road before the never-easing confusion of Soho to meet up with friends after work. Sometimes I’d take the bus, riding the top front seat if possible like a tourist, watching the busy Chomp people running around and into each other below. But usually I was stomping around on my little legs. I still enjoy wandering round cities. Not so long ago I was in Glasgow, and walked for miles exploring this grey, dark, exhilarating city on foot. I get my stimulation from city walking, but my scarce serenity from the countryside. It only takes a few minutes of breathing in and sighing out and I’m there. Back to me.
2. Yoga (yawn). Now it’s the philosophy. I’ve just read Rebecca Pacheco’s ‘Do Your Om Thing’ and although sometimes her writing style is a little basic, the sentiments really hit me. It’s about taking the traditional teachings of yoga and translating them into this modern world. Mindfulness, gratitude etc etc etc. Look everywhere and the answers to a calm, fulfilling life are always the same. Be nice to people, give thanks to what you’ve got, appreciate the present moment, avoid negativity in all its forms. But the spirituality in yoga is the only way of thinking, faith, religion, code of ethics, whatever you’d like to call it, that has brought this home to me in a way that I can really use to my benefit. This morning I stood directly under the shower while it pounded me with water for a good five minutes. Those minutes were the calmest I’d had in days while my senses were invigorated and my mind was quietened. When I opened my eyes it was like I’d been in a different world.
3. Writing. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here, but I’m writing a book. I say that, although really at the moment I suppose I’m writing character sketches and musings on life. I know my characters well by now, but I’m finding it really tricky to piece it together into a plot (ie a book). But whatever it is at the moment, it’s a creative outlet that I realise I’ve been looking for for a long time. They say everyone has a novel in them. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t, but I’ve definitely got a chaotic bunch of ideas and questions buzzing around my brain that have had nowhere to go until now. I’ve started an online course with the Open University and have been really impressed so far. It’s cool to be learning again, and trying something new.
4. Speaking of trying something new, I’ve launched into the scary world of freelancing. It seemed to make sense with the work-childcare juggling act, but now seems to make sense with that old Life / Work balance too. I miss many, many things about the routine, comradery and office banter of my previous role. It’s hard, and makes me uneasy to be forging my own way. But with the downsides come the great payoffs of a challenge. The fulfilment, the adrenalin rush and that feeling that I’m in charge of my life. It’s exiting and liberating to have walked away from the 9-5 (or 10-6 actually – I work in the arts after all) of my old life, and I feel like I’m bravely exploring a new journey in my life. I’m loving utilising all my skills and working with dedicated, passionate, clever people on exciting art projects across my lovely local surroundings.
5. Apple Danish Nakd bars – where have you been all my life? Scrummy.
6. Minimalism. Over the past few months we’ve been decluttering our home. I read somewhere (Marie Kondo maybe?) that decluttering leads to a reduction in stress. The thought process behind that little belief is that if we have less STUFF then each decision becomes quicker and easier, because we have less choice. You know when you visit one of those giant Tescos and there are 40 types of toothpaste and 27 kinds of floss? And you weigh up the pros and cons of each product, then wonder why you spend more than an hour in the shop? That’s what I’m talking about. We’ve pared down our clothes to the ones we actually wear; copied all our DVDs to a hard drive; given our books to charity and recycled tons and tons of random objects that we just don’t need. Our home is now clean and bright (when we hoover and dust) and the plan is to keep going, being mindful of what we’re bringing into the house in the first place to prevent previously mentioned random objects from creeping back in. I’ll keep you posted!
7. Balancing my life. Or rather, TRYING to balance my life. Because it’s a constant struggle isn’t it? Work, family, partner, self, exercise, socialising, reading, swimming, yoga, blogging, sightseeing – there are SO many things I want to fit into each week. For me it’s about knowing what my capacity is. Like a bucket full of water, you can keep pouring and pouring but at some point something’s going to spill over the top – and you don’t want that to be the things that really matter. I’m getting better as I get older, and what’s making a difference is just to remember that it’s a continual process.