Tag Archives: Slow living

I’m back (with no vengeance)

downloadI’ve been away from this blog for a while, partly due to medical reasons.

Back in November I had open surgery at my local hospital to remove a huge fibroid. (apologies if this is TMI but for the sake of women who haven’t heard: uterine fibroids are a bummer, and they affect 40% of the female population. Get yourselves checked, just sayin’).

I was scheduled to spend three days in hospital followed by a month off, which ended up turning into ten days and two months off. I spent those two months at home, largely unable to go out (we live on a 3rd floor with no lift) just sleeping, eating and resting.

Looking back, it was kind of nice.

I feel quite bad saying this, with regards to my family and friends who worried (specially while I was in hospital), my boyfriend who had to play housewife (he discovered some things don’t auto-clean) and my co-workers, who did all my work (to the intern who did it for free: you have my eternal gratitude).

But it’s true, once I was released from the hospital and out of harm’s way, the forced rest felt good. I had nothing to do but relax – doctor’s orders.

Before the operation I’d had the misguided idea that recovery would be some sort of holiday (like women who save big projects for maternity leave) – I would finally read, write, tidy our shit around the flat.

But in all this time, I did almost nothing. When I wasn’t high on painkillers, I was just plain exhausted. And let’s face it, no matter how much time I have on my hands, I just hate tidying.

I discovered something rather precious though. It’s something every nonagenarian probably knows: if you only have two hours in the day when you’re not too tired to contemplate doing anything, you save your energy for what matters.

When life slows down to snail pace, you soon figure out what your priorities are.

For me, I found resting mattered, rushing didn’t. Phoning relatives mattered, keeping up with Facebook didn’t. Watering plants mattered, reading the news didn’t.

I drank herbal tea and watched enough Netflix for a lifetime (or so I thought then, until they released the new Good Wife season). I didn’t write or read. I sometimes picked up crayons and sketched daily life, just for fun.

I don’t think I’d felt such calm and contentment since childhood. 

Needless to say, it was only good while it lasted because I knew it wouldn’t.

In due course normal life resumed. I felt a little more energetic every day, so after spending Christmas in France I went back to work. I hooked up with friends again, I finished a few books that had been gathering (metaphorical) dust in my kindle.

Eventually, I even felt like writing again.

So, here I am. It’s good to be back.

Happy Easter!

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It’s my favourite time of the year in London: chocolate bunnies have been creeping up in shops for weeks (following from Valentine’s Day chocolate hearts, and soon to be replaced by Pimm’s and disposable barbecues), and the sudden influx of tourists from the Continent gives us a taste summer to come.

Spring is in full swing, days are getting longer, skirts are getting shorter, and the Londoners who aren’t flying out for the long weekend are in a great mood as they look forward to four lazy days of parties and (weather permitting) picnics.

I’m not a religious person and I don’t have children, so I have no particular reason to rejoice at Easter for either the resurrection of the Lord or the prospects of egg hunts. And sadly I will miss my eldest nephew’s first epic hunt, seeing that he’s 3 and I’m not sure last year he really knew what was going on.

But just  because I won’t be with my family doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking of them – in fact I probably will be, as I walk around Greenwich Park admiring the trees in bloom and, much to my boyfriend’s annoyment, cooing at the new “baby leaves”. 

As I see children looking for hidden eggs I will probably be thinking of the children I know, and by extension of the children of Europe and beyond, who will collectively at the same point in time be engaged in so many egg hunts with their respective families.

Because I like to daydream, this might lead me to think of the children of generations past, who might have celebrated in a similar fashion, back in the day when eggs were real eggs, and would have been hard-boiled or hollowed and decorated by hand… a tradition which I had no doubt endures in some parts, but not here where eggs are most commonly Cadbury’s.

This will probably take me back to the egg hunts of my own childhood, and the one time I decorated eggs at school, with limited success. And also back to our old Sunday school, when a poor lady of saintly patience tried to explain Easter to a group of kids set on making her life miserable (“Miss, if we have to forgive, how come God sends people to Hell?”), and the story of Jesus being crucified on the day of Jewish Easter (“Pâque Juive”) which is the French word for Passover.

As I contemplate over two millennia of history starting in Jerusalem and fast-forward to the millions (billions? trillions?) of families celebrating so many Easter and Passover holidays following traditions that have endured centuries all the way to today’s Cadbury’s eggs, and the cherry trees in pink blossom that remind me that Easter is also a feast of renewal and spring, I might begin to feel a little dizzy. 

Well it’ll either be that or the Pimm’s…

Cheers, and wherever you are, have a great weekend!

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Lazy is good

P1030517 low resWhen I was little, perhaps seven or eight, I used to get told off for eating too much.

I couldn’t figure out why, seeing that well, delicious food is all around and it would be a shame not to taste it all. (And it might have helped that the French word for “greedy” is “gourmand”, which evoked a more gourmet glutton.)

As an adult, I sort of see my parents’ point – it is more ladylike to show hum, some restraint. But nevertheless, I still prefer the company of people who love their food.

The same goes with being lazy. Laziness wasn’t particularly encouraged at home, and if you ask me that’s a bit of a shame. My hyperactive Dad used to always ask whether we fancied “doing something”, while we were in the middle of say, having a cup of tea, playing with the dog, or reading a novel. As if we weren’t already doing something.

As you might have guessed from reading previous posts, I’m a big advocate of slow, restorative activities. Especially those that appear as though you’re not really doing anything useful.

First because I don’t believe life is always about being useful.

Second, because I am sure day-dreaming, navel-gazing time is essential to imagination and creativity… not to mention your mental health.

When your mind is empty, you create space for more. When you let go of the ongoing chatter in your head and allow yourself to just be, you open up endless possibility for new ideas.

Some of the greatest advances to science were made by people while they were in the bath (Archimedes), or snoozing under a tree (Newton). Coincidence?

Downtime is never wasted time. I’ve heard people say that the busier you are, the more time you should spend in meditation, because you will be able to achieve more in your everyday life. (The Dalai-Lama, who we can only assume i a little busy being a world leader, is said to do four hours a day).

Your head will be clearer. Your problems will seem smaller. Solutions to dilemnas might come to you out of the blue.

We all lead busy lives, so next time you find yourself overloaded with commitments at work or at home, why not try taking just a few minutes to be lazy and daydream?

Perhaps you can just pause to notice the delicious smells rising as you cook dinner. Or sing along to your favourite song. Give your dog a good belly rub, or pause to admire the flowers on your windowsill. Sip tea. Cloud gaze. Whatever makes your heart sing.

Be present. Contemplate. Let your thoughts wander. Watch your problems disappear.

Cherish this quiet time, as soon enough you will be called back to your life’s busy-ness.

You may want to bring a notebook for when you start getting genius ideas…

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might enjoy:
Living life at your own pace
Everyday meditations: A cup of green tea
The things that only you see

Living life at your own pace

P1030629 low resSince I had a road accident two years ago (Iin which I was fine, but the car was written off), I have been scared of driving. It’s rarely a problem, because I live in London and travel by public transport most of the time. I only drive once in a while when I visit family in the French countryside. I tend to worry about it days ahead.

Last week I had to drive my mum’s car to the supermarket. It’s a small car, I know the way along the quiet lanes, so it should be no big deal.

I was scared, so I drove really, really slowly. I stopped a long time at crossings, stayed well away from other cars, and let people overtake me on the main road. Basically, I drove like a granny. After a few minutes, something happened – I realised I was almost enjoying myself.

Which lead me to think, the problem isn’t so much that I am scared to drive, but that I have been pushing myself to drive faster than I was comfortable with.

I have been neglecting what my senses were telling me, to follow what I thought was “the norm”.

By driving what I felt was “embarrassingly slowly”, I was doing just fine. And importantly, I dared to pick up the car rather than shy away and stay home.

This reminds me of something else: for years I had tried repeatedly to get into running to lose weight… and failed miserably each time after a few painful runs. Until I recently read this advice from famous gym instructor James Duigan (of Bodyism fame – a fitness genius): When you start running, you should go at a pace where you can easily maintain a conversation. 

What?! I You mean you are not really supposed to be sick after a run? That was a turning point for me.

I now jog so slow you’d think I’m going backwards, but guess what – I absolutely love it.

I’m not saying everyone should take more time to do things slowly by the way. I know people who enjoy doing many things in a day, and tirelessly do things at a brisk pace in order to move on to the next thing – my parents are still like that in their 60s (which might explain a few things!), and that’s fine too.

Did you ever notice how uncomfortable it is to try and walk at someone else’s pace for a long time? If they are too fast you’ll be out of breath, but if they are too slow you will be infuriated.

Bottom line is, it’s important to keep to find the pace that suits YOU. This way instead of giving up because you feel uncomfortable, you will keep going effortlessy.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
The Importance of Being You
Trusting the Process
Analysis Paralysis