It’s March Already: Taking Stock.

We are in March already. Sometimes I want to just press pause for a moment, but no matter how    hard we try the cyclone of life collects us up in its frenzied twister and dumps us into the new month. The arrival of March signals a change in seasons, cooler autumnal weather, which ultimately signals winter. While we can’t complain too much in this southern tip of Australia with warm sunny days every day this week and the same for next week, the mornings are decidedly cooler.

My daughter observed on a day last week when the temperature tipped 36 º, that in Summer she longs for the Winter, and in Winter she misses the warmth of the Summer. I completely understand this, and often find the same. Although the benefit of adulthood is that I can remind myself not to wish life away. The cooler weather will come, all longing aside. It will come anyway. And then we will curse how cold it has got, and will the Winter days to pass so we can glimpse the Spring.

As most of you who read regularly will know, I took all of December off Facebook. It was quite a    revelation. If you’ve ever given up sugar or caffeine, I liken the experience to this. Withdrawal headaches in the first week, shadowy voices calling you back with temptation. December was a hard month to step away, with parties and lots of goodwill – and perhaps a toned down version of the internet outrage. There were a few times in that first week where I did feel that I was missing out.

Then I started being mindful and taking stock of what I was doing in the time where I would otherwise be staring into that lonely blue computer screen. I found time for art, reading – both books and magazines. I found an embroidery, buried in a box, that I started more than 20 years ago. It was a gift from my Mother-in-law when we still lived in the UK. I haven’t done a lot of work on it, but it has been lovely to be able to pick up, do a little then put it down again.

First corner completed (most of it was done 20 years ago!)

 

Making progress on the second corner!

It is only when we stop and take stock that the important things come back into focus. My  daughter is giving up the iPad for Lent, so I decided to pick up her lead and give up evenings on Facebook. I find the evening is when it becomes so insidious – it’s my down time from the busyness of the day, the kids are in bed. Facebook is easy, it’s so mindless that before I know it an hour has passed and I’m fast losing my evening to something I don’t much care for. The happy result thus far, is that I’ll have a quick look during the day but my separation from has highlighted just how inane it can be.

While I have made some lovely connections on there, and been able to keep in touch with friends and family who are not in my immediate orbit, there is a lot to wade through for these benefits. But enough Facebook bashing, this post is about taking stock.

So this is where I am at on this day in early March.

Making : time for the things that I love doing (well, trying to anyway)

Cooking : Jamie’s Fiery Dan Dan Noodles from the Jamie’s America cook book. It’s a good way to use bok choi, which I’m really not keen on, but it comes in my organic box and I hate the waste!

Drinking : right now it’s tea, but over the weekend it was home brewed beer, and some bubbles.

Reading: I just finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, and tonight I start The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman.

Wanting: a little something to nibble with my cuppa

Looking: at a gorgeous rose I just picked from my garden. (See above right). The bush is old and gnarly, and the roses are covered in thick thorns but it never fails to produce velvety bright orange roses. This one is still in bud. I love the anticipation of what it will become, and the smell is just heavenly.

Playing: with my four-year old daughter (well, in a minute. We are going to the park just as soon as I finish my cuppa.)

Deciding: How to spend the long weekend in Melbourne. We are contemplating a camping trip but I am also keen on a slow weekend pottering around the house, mornings in pjs and pots of tea in bed.

Wishing: that this weather would last forever. It is my perfect climate, sunny and warm, but cooler at night so sleeping is easy.

Enjoying: being back into reading, and making time in the evening for reading.

Waiting: for my second round of home grown strawberries to ripen

Liking: growing my own strawberries. There has not been an abundance, perhaps one or two a day, but we split them five ways and all enjoy a slither. I feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, the sweetness…

Wondering: what 2017 has in store

Loving: getting to know our new chooks – we have four of them. And they are funny little things.

Pondering: how I can get more organised, why siblings fight so much and how I can tune out from that.

Considering: going for an after dinner walk. The sun is shining till late in the evening at the moment and it’s an opportunity to claim half an hour for myself.

Buying: not too much but considering a new couch. Our current couch is 15 years old and was bought pre-kids, but now that there are five of us, we don’t all fit on it.

Watching: The Crown – just so good.

Hoping: to spend more time in our art room – maybe over the long weekend.

Marvelling: at how my eight year old son can continue to talk non-stop without drawing breath.

Cringing: at my Kath & Kim dancing on Saturday night. Fun at the time though…

Needing: a nana nap. And a slower pace of life.

Questioning: our way of life, we seem to chase our tails working, earning, spending…

Smelling: my gorgeous home-grown rose.

Wearing: shorts and a t-shirt, it’s 28C and sunny.

Following: lots of England-based people on Instagram, which is making me pine for the mother-land…

Noticing: how tired I feel right now.

Knowing: that we are all doing the best we can.

Thinking: that kindness costs nothing and it can make the world of difference.

Admiring: lots of artists on Instagram

Sorting: dinner out – the kids are excited about the fiery Dan Dan noodles

Getting: excited about planning our trip to Vietnam in July (recommendations please!).

Bookmarking: not much actually, it’s amazing how much less online reading I do since disengaging from Facebook.

Coveting: not much, but maybe that new couch

Disliking: all the running around and chasing of our tails

Opening: a new book tonight – excited!

Giggling: at my funny little chooks.

Feeling: thankful for the day I’ve had.

Snacking: hmmm, perhaps some cheese and crackers, or some nuts. I didn’t realise I was so hungry!

Helping: my son with his home work – this is his first year of homework and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

Hearing: my kids chatter (and not fight!)

What’s been happening for you? 

2017 Spinning The Plates

Well, I know it’s like… half way through January, but dang, how did that happen??? 2017, I mean, it’s like I looked up and the year was over, and the new one had begun. That isn’t meant to happen when you are trying to live a ‘slow’ life.

I’m about to head off camping for a week so thought I’d jot down a few musings for 2017. I’ve done the whole ‘choose a word’ thing for each new year for the past couple of years, but like past resolutions, the word was quickly forgotten. I can’t even remember my last year’s word, and given 2016 finished only two weeks ago, I’m thinking that the ‘word’ thing doesn’t work for me.

I know that that particular exercise is inspired by that lovely feeling of possibility that comes with the start of a new year, and I completely embrace those possibilities. There is something so wonderful and energising about possibilities.

But I want to start as I mean to go on.

And I want to mean it. 

I’ve found what most inspires me is hope. Which can include ambition, and professional goals. But I think there is so much more to life than this limited framework. For me, hope includes plans for travel; working towards more meaningful interactions: with my family, with my friends, with my clients and work peers, and within the community that I live in.

Those connections are so important. Call me a cynic, or perhaps a little bit jaded, but there seems to be a lot of grabbing going on, in insidious ways. People ‘reaching out’ with the sole intention of trying to sell you something, sign you up to something, to get you follow them to increase their stats or numbers…

This year, 2017, is about looking for hope, enjoying what I’ve created, hoping it continues, investing myself in projects, and people and family so all the beauty does continue.

Finding joy in the small things and continuing my slow journey is a central focus. I feel lucky to be able to say that mostly I’ve got the ‘work/life balance’ right in my life. That’s partly due to committing to a slower lifestyle; you actually need less when you live slowly and intentionally. I know. A revelation.

 I’m looking for things that are bigger than me. The world is shrinking into the tiny social media connections of Facebook and Instagram and I don’t want to shrink with it.

Last year, I was in a client meeting and a team member was introduced and one of her ‘achievements’ was growing her Instagram followers to over 50,000. This was one of the reasons for having her on board. I left that meeting feeling a little disillusioned.

I’d gone back to uni to do my Masters’ in Editing & Communications. During the time that I was studying I gave birth to two of my three children. Visited the Mother & Baby Sleep Unit with both of them, sold our house, bought another and moved across the other side of the city, and in my final semester of uni I joined the Marketing and Communications department of a top tier law firm. It was a struggle to say the least. To hear that someone was on board the project because they grew their Instagram followers to 50,000 left me wondering if I’d wasted my time, energy and money on study.

When I say that the world is shrinking into our social media connections, I fear for struggle and the pain and the energy that people put in to doing work that has depth and real meaning. When someone can appear with a large Instagram following and be hired on the strength of that… Social media is the way of the world, I get that, but I live in hope that there is movement beyond this flakey imaginary world. I know now that my MA could never be wasted, because it was so personally enriching. That’s what I’m coming back to. Enriching my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives.

This is why I took the month of December off Facebook and I rediscovered life before social media. Time to read, watch great TV (although there was no Netflix back then!). Don’t get me wrong I’ve actually made some lovely friends online, through blogging, who I’ve never met in person but definitely have a connection with. So YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, they all have a place, but rightfully, they should only take up a small space in our lives.

On my month off I discovered an embroidery in a box that my mother-in-law gave me so many years ago, when we still lived in England – before we were married. I had done one corner and started the second, put it away and forgot it ever existed. I’ve come back to that, I’ve done a little bit more on it. I’m rusty, that’s for sure.

When I started I had my mother-in-law to defer to, but now we live on opposite sides of the planet. I had forgotten how to do a french knot. When I realised I couldn’t remember how to do this, she would have been asleep so I couldn’t even Skype to ask. Thank goodness for YouTube (see, not all bad!). I’m still rusty, but at least I know how to do it now.

These are the little things that I speak of. Having projects, making plans, investing in my lovely community and friends and family. Rumi offers advice for those who have lost hope in life:

“Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

Friendships can nourish us. Strong relationships can nourish us.

Retreat in equal measure is just as important, which I experienced with my Facebook break. But it is also part of a living a slow and intentional life. Retreat provides sustenance. I’m still learning how to spin all the plates and keep things ticking over, but setting out with the intention to go gently means I look forward to the new year, whatever it may hold, with a simple recipe up my sleeve.

Retreat, hope, love, kindness and repeat. Practise one at a time, or all together.

Do you have a plan for your 2017?

Summer is HERE! (A tentative declaration) ☀️

At the beginning of a new season I get so wrapped up in the possibilities of said new season, and do often declare that this said new season is most definitely my favourite season of all. So Summer is my current favourite. (Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever declared Winter my favourite, but for my northern hemisphere readers, I did write an article for Essential Kids about the things I love about winter, you can read that here, if you’re shivering your way through pre-Christmas celebrations).

I love the seasons and while I complain about the cold weather, I don’t think I could live in a climate that doesn’t have all four seasons. So, I say this very tentatively, because well… Melbourne. Four seasons in one day, and all that. But I think I can say it now: [Read more…]

The Hardness: It’s Just That Sometimes Life Is Hard

I have an amazing life, I am the first to recognise this. I know it. I have three beautiful healthy children. A gorgeous, generous, thoughtful and hilariously funny husband, a comfortable home. I am healthy (mostly). But sometimes the hardness comes and sits on my chest. For no reason at all.

When I say hardness, I mean the hardness of life. When easy things become hard. Life is ticking over, the world is turning as it does, but suddenly life is like swimming against a tide.

I go into a zone where I am critical of myself. I convince myself of all sorts of not good things. The world beneath me is shaky and uncertain.

This partly why I decided to have a break from Facebook, as I think if your armour is fragile social media (but particularly Facebook) can easily crack through it.

My husband has had surgery recently so my workload on the home front significantly increased for a time (testament to how much he does at home). I also have a dodgy hip and because of this I can’t sleep properly. I get sciatica at night and it continuously wakes me up. I feel like I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. Sleep deprivation alters your world view. I know this from experience.

And Christmas… And I miss my Mum.

I got a text message from my daughter’s ballet school to say that I should make sure that I am at their Christmas party because she is getting an award. So proud and happy. But sad too, because Mum is the first person I would call to tell.

But, no one to call.

Everyone is busy, and frazzled, and tired.

I think there are more people than we know who feel like I do. Particularly at this time of year.

Why do we hide vulnerability? Is it so bad to be human? Struggle is a deeply human experience so I am perplexed about why we try to pretend that life is peachy all of the time.

Social media certainly perpetuates this. But I think it’s ok for life not to be peachy all the time. And it’s ok not to pretend that it is.

But I know that tomorrow is a new day.

There is sunshine ahead. 

How are you feeling at this jolly time of year?

 

December 1: Quitting Facebook (for one month)

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I’ve been pondering my relationship with Facebook for a while, and I’ve written about it in the past.  I happened upon the idea of quitting Facebook for a month, a few weeks ago. In the weeks in between then and now, I’ve been oscillating between doing it and not.

The fact that I have spent so much time mulling it over in my mind says to me, that yes, I need to do this. Like any addiction, there will always be a reason to keep going. But seriously, this is Facebook, why is even the prospect of coming off it a bit scary?

It’s that thought that sold me. That thought, and this excellent article by Mark Serrels, that appeared in SMH on Monday. The timing was amazing, and if I’m getting all woo woo on you, I’d say it was a SIGN! Another sign was that it didn’t appear in my Facebook feed. I found it all by myself!!! (Reassuring me that I don’t need Facebook to find interesting, meaningful and current content to read).

The truth of it is, I constantly feel time poor. I look forward to the evening so I can watch a documentary that I’ve heard about, or read a book, or finish a sketch. Or anything really, that’s not Facebook. But every night it is the same. I think ‘I’ll just have a quick look, before I start (insert lovely activity that is not Facebook that I’ve planned for the evening). Then suddenly it’s 10pm, my eyes have glazed over and I’ve not moved off the couch.

Just like Mark Serrels describes in his piece:

REFRESH… REFRESH… REFRESH

 

 

angryThere is also the outrage. I’m so tired of the outrage on Facebook. There are somethings that deserve to media attention, all our energy and outrage. But there are many other things that when I see them I can just feel energy being dragged out of me. There are beautiful and kind people frequenting Facebook, but there are also mean, bully, passive aggressive people on there as well, who are using it to be mean, to bully and be passive aggressive.

I don’t think it’s the forum for an argument. But it has become a platform for this, which is a shame.

I admire people who can log in once or twice a week; Facebook does not seem to have that same insidious affect on their lives. It not only robs me of my evenings, it’s now also stealing my thinking time from me while I decide whether or not to take this challenge. Thinking time while I’m hanging out the washing, or chopping spuds for dinner. Important thinking time where I work out what children need to be where, what’s happening on the weekend, whether I need to buy birthday presents, cook a cake, or take a plate. The sort of thinking that has to be done when you’re running a household with five people in it. Not very exciting thinking, but necessary nonetheless.

So I decided, it would be an experiment just to see. To see how it feels in the evening to have time to do all those things that I want to, to see how connected I still feel, to actually see how important it is to me.

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I’m staying on Instagram, it just doesn’t seem to suck my time the way Facebook does. I’m going to continue to blog, so if you want to continue reading and usually click though from Facebook, click on the subscribe link and my posts will be emailed to you.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little uncomfortable about this experiment. Again, this is further evidence that it needs to happen.

From midnight tonight, until January 1, 2017 I’ll be absent from Facebook. December seems an appropriate time to do this; I want to be fully engaged and present with my family during the Christmas period and I’m sure this will help.

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Is anyone else up for the challenge? I’d love to share the journey with someone else, but I’m also happy to go it alone.

Let me know if you’re up for the challenge.

 I’d love to know how you feel about Facebook, does it take up too much room in your life?