Friday, 9 September 2016

On chaos and making sense of time, the seasons and everything

Want to know the two best words in the English language? In my opinion, anyway.
Summer afternoon.

Just sit with those in your mind for a moment. Picture what they conjure up for you.

For me, it’s freedom. Warmth. Joy. Luxury. Pleasure. An endless horizon. Possibility…

I find it so hard when the air starts to cool, the light begins to change and the descent into autumn is inevitable. Fans of Fall disagree, they try to gee me up with talk of wool and warmth, roast dinners and open fires. It’s of little consolation.

I’m not quite ready. But that’s my battle.

What I am ready for, though, is the quiet return to order. Less proclamatory and bombastic than January (its spiritual big sister), September feels a more natural new year to me. Is it a hangover from back-to-school conditioning? Perhaps. Is it that autumn is an inherently more authentic time to return to order? I think it’s likely. While the light is still on our side, change is more productive than in the dark days of January.

Where our summer days were free and loose they were also unstructured and frustrating, even intentionally wasted at times. Now that the kids have gone back to school, our days have a shape to them. With this shape comes clarity. What’s clear to me is that I miss the regularity of routine - a weekly yoga class, a regular food shop, and a routine based around hours in the day and days of the week. I feel safe knowing where we are. I like to make sense of life and its rhythms in this way. It’s comforting.

So how do I plan to make sense of it all? Having clarity is the first step. The second? Untangling what I want to achieve and looking at how to make it happen. Right now, life feels like a big tangled ball of yarn. Trying to unravel it only makes the knots worse, so a different approach is needed. Having accepted it can’t all be done in one go, here’s where I’m starting.

That yoga I mentioned? Yep. Years ago, yoga was my thing. I’d practise two or three times a week and have never felt healthier. Now, I’m stiff and creaky, not sleeping well. So today, I began again, this time accompanied by Adriene. She has videos titled things like ‘yoga for when you’re in a bad mood’ and ‘yoga for a broken heart’ which made me like her instantly. One video in and I’m hooked - Adriene is natural, funny, friendly and real, the perfect approach for me. So I’m kicking off with her gentle 30 days of yoga programme.

What else? Some structure to our meals - planning, shopping, making better choices, more water. You know the drill. We all do. Why is it so hard to sort it?

Beyond this, I’m going to try to contain my working life. Being freelance and working mainly from home gives you the freedom to go and have coffee with a friend during the day, but the downside is squeezing in some extra work once the kids are in bed or first thing in the morning or even at the weekend. I’d like a little more separation between home and work. I’m always busy. I don’t consider that a virtue.

When on holiday last month, I read a fascinating piece in the Evening Standard magazine about a PR director who experienced burnout. One of the ways in which she took control of her work life was to establish core hours and to publicise them on her email signature. So, for her, that meant she would always be at work from 10am to 4pm each day, committing to reading emails at 9am, midday and 3pm only. Sounds pretty radical, huh? I’m going to attempt a similar approach.

Life and work (the two words seem interchangeable in this context) bring with them the pressure to respond to comments or emails, to keep up with social media, and to be always on. What happens if we opt out? Or limit? I think I’d like to find out. Rather than being half-heartedly present-ish most of my waking hours, what would be the impact of being completely, wholeheartedly ON but for less time? Prediction: improved productivity, commitment and reliability. What do you think?

There’s more, much more to tackle but in the spirit of not making the knots worse, it’ll do for a start. I could be (and have historically been) so hard on myself. It’s a horrible way to be. No more.

How about you? Do you enjoy the changing seasons? Is a return to routine welcome in your life, too?

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