I’ve taken this week off work for some ‘me time’ – the little lady is in nursery as usual Monday to Wednesday, so I’ve had three lovely days to myself before reprising our usual Thursday/Friday happy routine of mummy and little lady time. Three days’ leave all to myself is slightly indulgent, but I feel not even a smidgen of guilt about it. I know myself well enough by now – mainly thanks to the hard-learned life lessons bestowed by my experiences of recurrent miscarriage – to know what I need to do to keep myself well and happy. Regularly taking time to be by myself, and to spend time doing things that nourish mind, body and soul, puts me in a good place to be the best mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, colleague, jobshare partner, and simply Lucy, that I can be. It’s only taken me 37 years of being a stresspot to realise this – better late than never!
But old habits die hard. In my characteristic ‘there must be a plan’ way, I had a long list of things I wanted to achieve with my days off. This time must exciting, and productive, and relaxing. No pressure then. The list primarily comprised activities that, in the usual juggle of work and family life, I don’t often get the chance to do – such as train journeys to interesting, as yet undiscovered, parts of London; watching the world go by in a highly recommended top notch coffee shop (without a boisterous 3 year old in tow); or strolling round some of London’s wonderful – and often free – exhibitions or museums (spot the ‘I Love London’ theme emerging).
Then the pesky heatwave landed. And as luck would have it, the worst of the heatwave fell on precisely the three days that I had a rare opportunity for some me time. Apologies to anyone who enjoys hot weather, but to the heatwave I say a very loud ‘bah humbug – be off with you!’ It is just too hot, certainly for my fair Irish complexion. And much as I adore London, even I will admit that trekking round this wonderful city in 33 degree heat is not exactly relaxing, especially when you throw into the mix the disaster that is Southern Railway and its woefully unreliable service.
What to do?! In days gone by – before the newfound zen-yielding habits that my late thirties have kindly given me – I would have been a stressed mix of vexation and mild panic on realising that my plan for ‘structured and productive relaxation’ was in peril. Not so this week. It took some adjusting of headspace and perspective to embrace the idea that my solo time off would be different to what I’d planned, but still restful and nourishing. And my week has indeed been lovely, spent happily in a free-flowing rotation of the following activities.
Taking a walk in the morning. I’ve had some very enjoyable walks early ish in the morning before it got too hot, accompanied by a podcast to distract me from counting my steps and laps. Exercise at the beginning of the day is far more nourishing and invigorating than my wavering diligence in actually doing it might suggest. But my wanderings this week around South Norwood and Crystal Palace have inspired me anew and I’m determined to walk more, and more often. Especially lovely have been my strolls around the gorgeousness of South Norwood Lakes (see pic), getting to know familiar faces of regular dog walkers and other early risers, and watching the ducks on the lake seeking out the shade. A lovely way to start the day.
Pottering about the house. I’ve spent many slow, happy hours doing fairly humdrum things about the house, such as sorting out the little lady’s now-too-small clothes (a task which is not without potential for mixed emotions, so needs me to be in a particular headspace for it to be enjoyable), opening all the windows and letting the fresh London air in (an especially satisfying exercise after enduring many months of building work), and getting through lots of laundry. I find tasks like this strangely relaxing, especially when the radio is playing in the background and I have a cuppa on the go. It can be tempting to berate myself for spending time on apparently mundane tasks that just need to get done in the house at some point. But when I slowed down and decided to do household tasks I actually enjoy, I reminded myself that there can be quite some power, and satisfaction, and possibly even beauty (tick any/all that apply) in doing simple things well – taking time over them, and enjoying being ‘in the moment’.
Sleeping. Simply that. Rest is always lovely, and all the more so when it’s mid-afternoon and the rest of the world is going about its busy-ness. I’ve still not quite adjusted to the little lady dropping her afternoon nap and the precious hour or so it used to give me to myself, so this week’s afternoon naps have been especially restorative.
Reading. I berate myself frequently for the pile of unfinished and the (even larger) pile of unstarted books lying around the house. Rather than slip into the path of least resistance that is ‘you should have finished X by now’ or ‘HOW have you not read Y yet?!’ this week I’ve allowed myself to dip in and out of a couple of my most favourite current books on the go, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. No pressure reading – it’s helped me switch off from work, and from my irritation at the pesky heat, and it’s yielded lots of scribbles in my notebook of stuff I want to think/write/wonder about over the next while.
Making lists. I really love lists, and usually have several on the go in my phone or my notebook. This week has been very satisfying in consolidating some of the existing lists and creating new ones. My creativity, such as it is, has been inspired by the (re)discovery in my work handbag of some purple post-it notes, which I ADORE: they make me smile because they are an example of what I fondly think of as ‘a bit of the light fantastic.’
So thanks to the fabulous post-its, I will finish my stint of solo annual leave with several lists of wholesome, soul-nourishing tasks to complete during the summer, not least of which is at long last to get around to devising what I think is called a ‘blogging calendar’ – a vague plan around all the possible future blog posts bubbling about my head. Watch this space!
Disclaimer: in the interests of honesty and balance, I should confess that there were some other constants in how I spent my days of – drinking lots of water (pretty wholesome), having lunch in my favourite local cafés (mainly wholesome), and spending probably-too-much time on Twitter keeping an eye on the latest re-shuffle and Whitehall shenanigans (decidedly less wholesome given I’m supposed to be on holiday). Old habits really do die hard.Follow @o_lkosullivan