This time of year is often thought as an ending – end of the year, winter solstice equating the mid point in winter, days getting longer and yet winter can also be a time of renewal. A time for clear outs, declutters and bonfires. A time to embrace the changing seasons, wrap up in winter coats and walk outside even when it’s cold and wet.
Getting outside is always important but this year in these strange COVID times especially it’s important to keep those daylight moments regular and frequent. As the Swedes say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. If you find yourself shivering and shunning the great outdoors this winter break it might the time to invest in a new pair of socks or an all-weather winter coat. I still try to call in at my allotment occasionally to clear away weeds and cover over beds and it can be a delight even in winter.
And for those of us stuck in tier four this Christmas there is not much else to do but visit the great outdoors or meet a friend occasionally for an outdoor stroll. I’ve been struck by how adaptable my children are to this new normal – meeting a friend in the park to shoot some hoops even though it’s raining, going on walks round the nearby muddy fields, taking time to perfect guitar chords: al have frequently trumped screen time so far this holiday. Yes of course there is still worrying levels of screen time and endless mine-craft but what has stood out is how keen they are to connect with their friends even if it means walking round a soggy field just to do that.
Tier four was a shock to many of us, I had not been keeping up with the news much as an act of self care, so first I heard were friends and family texting to say all our plans were cancelled. But it’s also possible that for some people some good will come of this time as we learn to slow down and take notice of our surroundings . As I stood chatting to a friend in the park during a torrential downpour she said ‘One day we will laugh at this.’ It’s hard to see the brighter side right now but hopefully better days are not too far off.
I read somewhere recently that 40-somethings are often in the rush hour of their lives. The article said this is when career and child rearing responsibilities reach their pinnacles leaving those in their forties with very little free-time outside of work and child-rearing. The moniker Dual Earners, Toddler Twins (DEETs) rings very true for me and my partner.
It feels as though we have had toddler ‘twins’ for decades, though of course it has only been six years. And by definition neither of them are officially toddlers anymore nor twins. But having two young kids while trying to have a career is trying and frequently tests my mindfulness practice, let alone trying to carve out a new career for yourself at the same time.
Add to this mix the never ending story of retraining, which so many of us undertake in our thirties and forties because we realise we want something different or need something that fits round the kids, and you have levels of busy-ness unknown to our parents generation.
When my parents were in their forties they weren’t schlepping off onto training courses and retreats. You decided what you wanted to do at 18 and pretty much stuck with it. There are of course pros and cons to this model but in their forties I think they were certainly relaxing, watching TV and going down the pub more than I ever do!
I realised the other day, as I got in from London and had half an hour before needing to pick the kids up, that what I thought I should do was turn the computer on and catch up with emails and then head back out into the world even more frazzled than when I arrived. But I paused and guess what? A different idea came to mind. How about leaving the computer off, putting the kettle on and allowing myself half an hour with the paper before getting the kids?
Deep down we know that’s what our parent’s generation would have done with a spare half hour, rather than thinking their blog that has 3 readers desperately needs to be updated, on which note I down tools for lunch!
Today’s total practice time: 35 minutes (20 minutes qigong and 15 minutes self-compassion meditation)
It’s often when we need it least that illness can strike. Although saying that is there ever a good time to be ill? All week I have been catching up with my work – both from my day job and from my mindfulness teaching work that I do. Blog posts, emails, advertising, lesson planning, proof reading my new mindfulness booklet, burning CDs and labelling them – it all takes up time.
And last week I was unable to do any of these day to day tasks as I was on retreat in Lockerbie, although at times I blinked and found myself remembering Tibet and my travels there. It was a wonderful, nourishing retreat and also very hard work. And of course this week has been all about playing catch up.
My oldest has had a hacking cough all week and I have insisted she trudge in to school every chilly day so that I can get my work done. She was fine and she didn’t need a whole week off but today she looked at me and just said ‘mummy, I think I need to rest my voice’.
As a teacher I know that feeling only too well so I relented and said OK you can have today off. This caused a meltdown in my youngest who on twigging that the oldest was having a day off decided he too was so ill school was not option.
As I almost dragged him bodily into school, a forced smile on my face, and the oldest ‘ill’ one kept skipping with delight (in between hacking coughs) at the idea of having a whole mummy day at home, I recalled, or perhaps it was somewhat later, what Jon Kabat-Zinn says about kids.
Let your children be your own zen master, he advises. That way whatever they throw at you, you can take a deep breath and tell yourself this is all part of the practice!
Total Practice Time: So far today ZERO, but the intention is there!