Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Slowing down in a world of fast living...

My youngest daughter doesn’t cope well when things get too busy.  She will tolerate it for a while but ‘melt down’ if a quiet nap isn’t forthcoming and I quickly find myself in a darkened room gently rocking and soothing her into slumber.

Whilst I completely understand that this is a ‘baby’ thing (I’m sure there’s a better term to use there), I am also forced to wonder if this isn’t an approach to life that I could do with a little more of myself.

My life is busy…  Everyone that I speak to seems to be the same.  In fact, often we seem to compete (although we would all deny it) on who is busiest.  The ability to say we’re exhausted and have been racing around almost gets worn like a badge of honor – like we’re living life to the full and struggling against sleep and relaxation as much as possible.

I do have to question the sanity of this approach (and while I do, I freely admit to being the same – with an ongoing competition between myself and my husband over who is in fact more exhausted…).   Do we really need to be so busy in order to live happy, fulfilling lives (and achieve what NEEDS to get done)?  Or have we forgotten what to do with quiet time?

A friend of mine shared an interesting blog entry that she wrote this week – asking whether slow living is essential for a sustainable life.  It really made me think and I’ve gone back to read it a number of times.  Before I left Australia I ran a Massage and Natural Therapies clinic.  My life was focused on doing things as naturally as possible and seeking balance in health and life.  I don’t know where this has gone, but would really like to get it back!  So, maybe that is one of my longer term goals.  That being said, I did enjoy the challenge of the corporate world so how these two desires gel effectively is perhaps a bigger question...?

Much of our move to Australia and the lifestyle we are aspiring to is based around the principle of leading a slower and simpler life.  Less 'stuff', fewer organised activities and more time enjoying the simpler things – in particular quality time together.  The most exciting thing for me (and in my head – the one thing that if we can achieve I will deem the move a success) is the ability to have one family meal together every day.  It’s a simple goal but one that is completely unachievable here in Singapore as working hours and commute times only just (and only on some days) allow my husband to make it home for bedtime let alone for dinner with my eldest daughter. 

This all seems like a simple and easy to achieve plight doesn’t it?  It has been such a long time since I enjoyed time ‘being’ I can barely remember how to do it (about 8 years ago I spent 6 weeks on a beach in Thailand quietly contemplating my life, the universe and everything).  

Someone recently suggested how much extra time could be added to the day if I turned the TV off and they were right – I now seem to have much more time getting little jobs done rather than wasting time sitting in front of the sixth replay of American Idol which I frankly found a bit boring the first time – and yet can’t look away from.  And a few of these little tools seem to work in gaining back some time.

But the bigger challenge may come in changing my own outlook.  On the weekend we had an afternoon free.  It’s a rare thing – one whole afternoon (post lunchtime naps) with nothing we needed to do or get done.  I boldly told my husband that my daughter could do with some quiet time to just play with her toys.  He happily agreed but not 10 minutes later I was pacing around demanding to know ‘the plan’ (yes, my husband is a patient man)…  We ended up out shopping for items my daughter kind of needed (but probably could have done without), letting her play on the indoor playground (although she has a bedroom full of toys she never has time to play with) and then giving her dinner before we came home.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of a quiet afternoon at home with no plans.

I don’t think we’ve always been like this.  It is something that was there in England but seems to have intensified living in Singapore.  When I was working (before the birth of my youngest) last year, my daughter was dropped at nursery at 7.45am and collected by my husband some time around 6.30pm.  I would usually be home around the same time when we would rush her through a quick dinner (must have been tough on her digestion), into the bath and a quick story before lights out at 7.30pm.  I’m not proud of this and both my husband and I hated it.  But, for both of us to have our busy full time jobs here that’s how life was.  I can only imagine how chaotic it would be if I was returning to work in May upon the end of my scheduled maternity leave - with a whole other little person to consider.  What this did lead to was what I consider guilty parenting…  Our weekends quickly filled with activities anchored around our daughter – indoor play centres, water parks, the zoo etc and shopping for anything she may desire – puzzles, DVDs etc. 

Although the time I have with my daughter has changed significantly since I’ve been at home, the weekends are still packed full of activities ‘for her’.  The completely ridiculous point in all of this is to sustain all these activities (and shopping), both my husband and I need to work.

I am hoping that new surroundings will help us to change these habits and embrace quieter things.  But, I’m aware that I am going to need to be conscious of this and make a decision (and ongoing little decisions) to simply ‘be’ - at least some of the time.   And that in itself is another journey!

And of course the bigger question – how do I then sustain that when it does come time to return to work?

Quick update on last weeks commitments…  Making any sort of pledge over nutrition and eating habits is a stupid, stupid idea the week of Easter…  I will take this on from now…  Otherwise I’m doing well – will update later in the month.

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