Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Back in the summer I doodled a mind map to try to work out what was important to me and how I would like to spend my time once I reached a point where I had more flexibility in my life. I scattered words on the page (a digital page as I always lose paper!) and linked them all up to one or more headings - Time, Think, Do, Move, and People. When I had finished the mind map I looked at my words and highlighted the ones that felt most important. This week I looked again at the doodle to help me decide what I want to prioritise once I have more free time in the spring and found ten highlighted words. Here they are, in no particular order, with a few thoughts:

Margin - even when I have "free" time I tend to cram things into it. Allowing myself time and space to just "be" without having to "do" is important. Giving myself margin isn't something that comes naturally, so I will need to make a conscious effort to leave myself free time. 

Declutter - we have lived in this house for 23 years, most of them with children. We have accumulated stuff. A lot of that stuff needs to go. Along with the decluttering we need to do some major deep cleaning and redecorating. This is a big priority for M and something to which we need to dedicate regular chunks of time.

Family - working full time too often makes me feel like a part time wife and mother. I want my family to have more of my time when I am not tired at the end of a long day.

Friends - I want to see friends more regularly and catch up with those I haven't seen for a while. It won't happen without some effort and organisation.  

Music - music is my sanity saver. Even when life is crazy busy I manage to fit in playing in bands because the extra pressure on time is more than outweighed by the opportunity it gives me to switch off from any stresses and focus on something I love. When I have more time, I would like to play more. I would also like to take some lessons. 

Read - I love to read, but when I am over busy I don't have the time or focus to read much other than online articles. Reading books takes more effort and I find I have to make a conscious effort to get myself into the habit of reading. I never used to be like this. Is it an age thing? Or is it because there are too many competing distractions? I'm looking at you Facebook!

Create - creating things seems such a positive and satisfying way to spend time. I already knit and crochet, but I would like to do more baking. I also want to write. 

Yoga - when I do yoga regularly I feel better. I get stronger and more flexible, and my balance (usually terrible!) improves. I would like to take more classes, and to get into the habit of doing at least a short yoga session at home every day. I have reached an age where making the effort to get fit and stay that way has to be a priority.

Outdoors - I spend huge chunks of my life shut in an office with no fresh air (we have windows but they can't be opened). In the winter it feels as though I hardly see daylight. Again, I know that if I get outside for some time every day I feel better, but it won't happen unless I make it a habit and get used to going out whatever the weather. I want to walk in woods and fields and breathe fresh air. 

Breathe - just breathe! 

Monday, 28 December 2015

I'm back ... and planning to stay

I miss writing. The last few months have been tough - nothing awful, a mix of domestic stuff that needed to be dealt with, work / life balance getting out of whack, and work being stressful. Free time has been in short supply; I had to cut down a bit on my music, and writing (and reading) went by the board. It certainly hasn't all been negative. There have been some very positive changes and developments and, all being well, 2016 is when I will start to reap the benefits - including having much more free time. 

The first big change was that our all-grown-up eldest daughter moved out. She is now living in a flat (apartment) in a large town nearby, working hard at her job, and loving her independence. Soon after that M left the small company of which he was a co-founder and director, deciding that it had reached the end of its natural life. He is now semi-retired and doing freelance work part-time from home which, slightly to his surprise, he loves. He is very much happier and more relaxed, and feeling very positive about the future. Middle daughter took her AS exams, got the results she was hoping for, and has been going through the university application process. She has decided to study Italian and linguistics at one of the big northern universities, but under the (highly stressful!) UK system the place she has been offered is dependent on achieving specific grades in the A2 exams she will take in June. She won't know the results until mid-August, leaving very little time to organise a Plan B if she doesn't get what she is aiming for. Meanwhile smallest daughter moved up to middle school in September - our county has an odd system where kids go to middle school from age 9 to 13 - and has settled in very happily. 

While all this was going on I was dealing with extended family practical issues, including what turned into the on / off / on again / off again house sale from hell. Finally - and I still can't quite let myself believe it! - the house is under contract and will be gone in January, which will remove a major source of stress. I will also be reducing my working hours in the New Year. From January I will be working four days a week, then going down to just two days in April. I love what I do but really need to be doing less of it. I am also helping M with certain aspects of his freelance work, and have often ended up working 5 1/2 or 6 days a week, which is definitely not sustainable in the longer term. I have had no margin for too long - barely able to fit everything in, and finding it hard to leave work stresses behind at the end of the day. I am so very much looking forward to having more time and more head space. Writing is among the many things I now hope to have time to do, both here and elsewhere. Watch this space!