Coming up for air...

posted on: Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Things I have learned, now that I am currently not working. There is time...

I wake in the morning and normally I would, within seconds, be assessing whether it was a work day, who was going where, what I had in my schedule. Every decision would stem from that; how much time I had to do any given thing. I see now how time-obsessed I have been for so many years. Not unlike many, many women, I have worked since the day I finished University until now, punctuated only by two episodes of maternity leave, both lasting 8 months. Looking back, of course the time I was not working when I had my babies could hardly be described as 'not working'. Those early months were amongst the hardest work ever!

via sailboats and seersucker
The thing I notice the most is that my whole attitude to time dictated how I had to schedule every activity within an inch of its life. For example, laundry had to be done on certain days because if it wasn't no one would have any clothes to wear. I couldn't ever put it off as I knew that I would be working the next day. I religiously allocated slots of time to everything, constantly, and just that action over 10 years has, I can see now, been exhausting. I am exhausted with the scheduling and the logistics. Every invitation requires military decision-making on work commitments and their impact of school collection times. Every 'nice thing' could be slightly tarnished by the fact that I would have to move heaven and earth to make it happen. This particularly noticeable with the children, whose activities and needs I now find I can accommodate with minimal extra effort. It becomes a pleasure rather than a chore...

Yet - my mind is not still or passive with the relief of not working for a while. Not working is almost not natural to me. It's all I have ever done and I find my mind wandering to what my colleagues are doing, who is doing my work, what projects are slipping, what decisions are faltering. Then of course I remind myself that life goes on in the corporate world and not for one second would I presume that they can't live without me, be it temporarily or permanently.

This leads me as well to the working mother vs stay at home mother conundrum.  I feel like I can now look at both sides. Much like childbirth, which I experienced on one occasion with all the drugs and on the other with none. I can honestly say neither was better or worse, the experiences were just different. I see now how attached I have been for so long to the working mother crusade, as if I single-handedly had to champion the fact that women can work and be good mothers. I find this fascinating now that I can see it more objectively.

All the advice I have had to slow down in recent weeks does ring true now and I see that I was going too fast; dare I say dangerously so. My body and the pain I have been feeling (read: trying to ignore for over a year) have been telling me; it's time to stop. I spend my days now just trying to 'be' and when I write that, I really mean it this time. I have purported to just 'be' before on this blog, and I see that I was tricking myself in the belief that I was. Now - this time - is different.

I am left with the unnerving realisation that the pain is linked to the life I have been leading; in some way the stress and honestly, I had never thought of this, but the ergonomics of how I live have contributed to all of my muscles just seizing up. I try now to notice that my shoulders are hunched all of the time. I consciously have to drop them when I sit typing this or when I drive the kids to school. The tension is gradually seeping away but my goodness it's a slow progress. I tell myself: it took years to get this way, it won't stop in 4 weeks.

I don't really know what tomorrow holds, let alone the future. It is completely alien to me to be in this sort of free-fall; decisions unmade, life choices unknown. But isn't that the thing with well being? You can't rush it...

...dawn in the Isle of Wight...taken by my husband on his iphone...