May – Resurrecting Life’s Detail

DSCF2150aPosting just once or twice a month isn’t quite what I had intended for this blog but it will do for now.

As hoped for, May has been a month that has given me space to appreciate time a little more. Evenings and weekends have been less crammed and there have been fewer demands on my time than in recent months.

I find it slightly amusing that my instinct when presented with time is to fill it but I am learning how to fill it with things I enjoy and that have a result that continues past the hour that was filled. When I’ve spent the morning writing, reading, painting, baking or photographing, there is a lingering sense of product and productivity that is uniquely satisfying. Then I’m happy to spend a couple of hours watching a movie or taking a nap because the hours of the day haven’t all been ‘wasted’.

May has reminded me of how crucial the role of detail plays in my life. Without detail, time rushes on and I’m left feeling like I never quite made the most of it. Details that have been resurrected (or established for the first time) in May include:

Freezing limes and lemons ready for iced drinks (hello G&T). They look pretty, they give an added level of occasion and they keep the drink cold, without watering it down. A small extra detail makes it a whole new drink.

Having flowers in the bedrooms. Whenever I have flowers in the flat, they are usually on prominent display in the lounge where any visitor would notice them. Having flowers in other rooms, where only my husband and myself will appreciate them frequently, creates a level of detail that isn’t affirmed by other people. All of our lives are worth giving care and attention to, not just the areas that the outside world sees.

Moisturising and painting my nails. I’m not one for spending an excessive amount of time getting ready but I notice that when I take the time to introduce a more detailed routine, I feel (and look!) better as a result. Emphasise on I feel better. Spending time making sure all the clothes I wear fit me well, spending time moisturising and taking care of my skin rather than just jumping out of the shower, into a non-thought through outfit and ploughing straight onto what’s next, all contribute to a sense of wholeness and wellbeing.

Eating more healthily. In the days of yore, being overweight was a good thing. It testified to your wealth and ability to afford the choicest food… and lots of it! Nowadays, being overweight (and I acknowledge this is a huge generalisation) is often akin to having little money, not caring about what you’re putting into your body, or both. Cheap food is often fast food, filled with additives, fat and goodness knows what else. Taking time to cook a good meal and make sure I’m not overindulging in the chocolate I’m so drawn to, makes me feel better. Planning the details of a good meal (and even good treats) gives me energy that I don’t feel when I speed through life.

Social media fast: seeing the world’s natural detail. Isn’t it ironic that what some would consider cutting yourself off from the world and the influences, opinions and events that define it, often results in us connecting with the world on a much more satisfying and meaningful scale. The world is full of detail. Birds singing, dramatic clouds, sunshine, people, life. Switching off from electronic communication not only gives me some time back in and of itself, it also opens my eyes to appreciate the natural detail and beauty that already surrounds me.

Experimenting: a break from routine. Whether it’s going out for a late night walk, trying a new recipe, going to a new restaurant or meeting someone new for coffee, breaking from the norm gives life the opportunity to show me new colours, new details, new flavours and most importantly for me, new memories.

I’m sure there are many more ways in which May was all about resurrecting life’s detail for me but instead of trying to capture it all, I’ll wait until the words come unprompted. I spent this past weekend baking, reading, painting my nails and taking a long bath. I’m starting to feel refreshed, the details I’ve had time to pay attention to are bringing me joy so I’m going to take an afternoon away from online distraction and appreciate some quiet time.

Defining ‘grown-up’

When I was younger, I thought that being a grown-up meant:

  1. Being old (i.e. over 18)
  2. Being married
  3. Having kids
  4. Liking olives

As soon as I turned 18, I realised I was not a grown-up. As soon as I got married, I realised I was not a grown-up. I frequently tell my mother that I want to be as wonderful and beautiful as she is when I’m grown up.

Perhaps one day if and when we have kids, I may then consider myself a grown-up. I doubt I’ll ever like olives so by that definition I will be forever young. But there are two things of late that are making me seriously wonder whether I may actually be transitioning into the state of being grown-up and they are two things I would never have considered as part of my definition:

  1. Considering a holiday in Great Britain
  2. My tastebuds, every once in a while, actually preferring savoury to sweet

I had a very privileged upbringing with parents who were determined that I should see the world. We travelled a lot and we had incredible holidays that weren’t what my friends considered the norm. When my friends spent two weeks on a beach in Spain, I was travelling across South Africa and America or exploring Dubai and Saudi Arabia. I love to learn, I adore travelling and in my snobbish mind, a holiday always required water to be crossed in some form.

Yet I’m beginning to appreciate that a holiday is about refreshment, not just sunshine and new experiences. A holiday is about making memories but that isn’t dependent on foreign shores. I’m starting to consider a long weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon and even possibly a week in Cornwall. That may be because we’ve already had two weeks in Hawaii this year and I’m off to Berlin with work next week, but the fact that the thought has even crossed my mind to take annual leave, spend time somewhere in Great Britain and actually classify it as a holiday, is to me a sign that I may potentially be almost a grown-up.

The change in my tastebuds is more worrying. Forever a chocoholic, there have been occasions in the past few months where I have actually turned down chocolate and have even favoured a savoury snack (or fruit!) instead of my beloved cocoa treat. I can think of no other explanation for this concerning development than the fact that I am now a grown-up. If anyone can offer me an alternative explanation, I would gratefully hear it.

April – Keeping Pace with Time

P1020100aApril was hectic. It was chaotic, fast-moving, capricious – there are any number of words that could describe the speed and unpredictability of this month.

It started calm enough. The Hawaii Wedding Part 2 was lovely and we got to spend the long Easter weekend with my in-laws. Thinking about it as I write, I notice that Easter didn’t even make it into my painting. Many are surprised that, as Christians, we don’t really observe Easter. Instead, we had a Passover meal with my in-laws – it helps me to remember and be thankful more than chocolate eggs.

Then the new role really picked up and all of a sudden my work days grew longer, squeezing my evenings and resulting in very little time to recharge. Communication has become all consuming for me these past few weeks as my role has soared at a slightly unexpected rate.

In the in-between moments we celebrated our anniversary, visiting Rudyard Kipling’s house and Churchill’s house and generally having a very lovely weekend away just the two of us. Our lodger moved out after almost a year and quiet filled our flat once more. I’ll admit, it didn’t take all that long to adjust and I’m grateful to have both the physical and the mental space back again.

And then Nepal happened. A significant part of my job is disaster response so the past few days have been a haze of appeals, updates, information and urgency. I felt so blessed that I could walk into work on Monday and not have to leave behind or ignore the horrors I’d seen over the weekend but instead could do something to help. It puts a lot into perspective. I don’t think it’s right that we should feel guilty that it wasn’t us. I don’t think it’s right that we should put our lives on hold. I think we should absolutely pray, give financially and do everything we can to raise awareness of the disaster that has befallen the people of that nation. But I don’t think we’re called to stop our lives or stop experiencing joy in the good things we are blessed with because if we stop being joyful, what hope do we have to encourage and lift up those who are in despair?

We signed for our kitchen this week. In two months or so, the two year saga of our leaking roof will finally come to an end. I’m already planning what to bake, who to have round for dinner and how I can use our lovely new kitchen to make people feel at home in our home. I’m so excited. I was genuinely jumping.

And then of course we have British Summer Time. The evenings stretch out longer so that I don’t quite realise when time has run away with me until my eyelids droop and my energy dips. Those extra hours of light bring great promise. They beckon a season of extended time with friends when, hopefully, I will be able to sit back and relish that time again, rather than simply keep pace with it.