05 Feb Stink Weather, Might As Well Work…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover date 30.1.23

 

I have decided I only want to work when the weather is lousy. Fortunately, it is another grey old day out there so I am more than willing to stay indoors and elaborate.

Think of this as my personal contribution to the global movement towards Flexible Working Hours. FWH looks like it will be the biggest change to how we arrange our lives since the invention of the 8-hour working day in 1840. So not exactly a sudden move, right? But significant.

Which is why I want to get in on the ground floor while we’re still designing how FWH works in practice.

The current thinking goes that for lots of workers, being present in the workplace from nine-to-five, Monday to Friday, is less important than actually getting the job done. And if you can do the job in four days rather than five – more efficiently because you’re happier and therefore more productive – then everybody wins.

It feels important that we’ve finally recognised that being happy makes us better workers. This “happier” bit is generally about having more time with family, managing childcare better, and giving space to non-work activities you find fulfilling. Turns out we’re raising generations of Millennials and Gen-Zers who have been watching us work every hour god sends and they have decided, No thank you, they’ll have a bit more Me-Time in their week, that glassy-eyed hypertension doesn’t look as much fun as we talk it up to be.

Hard to argue against any of this given three years of a pandemic has provided ample evidence that you don’t even have to put your pants on for a meeting now it’s via Zoom. Though we should note that pants are still preferred at in-person meetings and do remind me to tell you that story sometime.

My personal preference for flexible work would be not to nominate particular days of the week to engage in the business of business. I just want to work when it’s raining, or windy, or bleak.

This is because I am fundamentally solar powered. True, a bit of caffeine is good for a boost, but it’s the sunshine that fills my tank. Give me a blue sky and I fairly bounce – not just out of bed – out of the house and find lovely things to do.

Though not before putting a load of washing on because wasting precious drying hours offered up for free by Mother Nature is rude. If someone said they’d pay your power bill you wouldn’t turn up your snoot, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t peg out your sheets and smalls under every available clear sky. It’s just manners.

Now, I appreciate the unpredictable nature of weather forecasting could make my work schedule equally capricious – you might worry I wouldn’t get a task completed during say, summer. And yet…

Think of how much work I would have done this particular summer – I’d barely have had a day off. Can I emphasise too greatly how many bleak days, stormy days, days of flood and ferocious winds we have had this January? Have you ever had more occasion to ponder that “global warming” was the most egregious misnomer ever coined, and that maybe we would have fixed it by now if we’d named it “climate disruption” rather than something sweet? Because honestly, never has a January felt so much like June.

Still, the kids are back to school in a minute. It often fines up around then.

 

 

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23 Jan Chucking It Out There – the joy of an inorganic rubbish collection

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 23.1.23

 

Round my way, we have an annual “inorganic rubbish collection”. Not every town or city is lucky enough to get these, and I feel sorry for people who don’t experience this circus-has-come-to-town thrill.

When I first moved here, it was even flasher. Back then, each neighbourhood was designated one week a year when they could put all the things they didn’t want – a fridge, a lounge suite, a cathode ray TV – out near the road and, at some point, a truck would come and take it all away.

Take away what was left, that is. Because as the inorganic collection date moved around the city, so would people looking for interesting, useful, even re-sellable things amongst the piles on neighbourhood berms. It became a kind of Market Day, when everything was free so long as you could haul it off.

Shy shoppers would go for a stroll of an evening, casually poking through mounds with a curious toe, while more brazen hunters cruised the streets in utes and vans, gloved-up and not pretending to do anything but forage for bargains.

It’s not quite the same these days. Each household gets a short window to book a personal inorganic collection which may take up no more than a metre square tucked inside your gate. So it’s less social, less “on display”, and you miss out on that one glorious week when an entire neighbourhood looked like either a bazaar or a bombsite, depending on your view.

My cousin in Spain tells me a similar thing happens in his village all the time, but without the truck coming round. On a designated day you put out the armchair or the bed you no longer want and, whoever needs it, takes it. Though if it’s still there at dusk, it’s your responsibility to bring it back in.

Effectively, it’s a second-hand store without a middle-person involved and no money changing hands. And cute, apparently, to have dinner at your neighbour’s sometime and sit at the table you once had at your place.

Being offered a date for an inorganic pick-up was the motivation I needed to finally go through Dad’s shed. It’s nearly six years since he died, so it’s fair to say I haven’t rushed things.

Inside were tired brooms and garden stuff, plus two sets of drawers filled with what are now rusty nails, stiff paint brushes, bits of old rope and quite the selection of sandpapers.

To this, we added two bent scooters, four worn-out garden chairs, a 40-year-old food processor and some old containers we used to hold the smaller, rusty things. It was a mad scramble to keep it all together because foragers kept taking the containers, leaving scattered nails. One of the scooters was rescued which made the remaining one look even more broken and sad.

I felt the food processor needed an explanatory note – I wanted anyone looking to know we hadn’t been using it all this time, it had just been living in cupboard. Because I know you could look at a ragged couch on someone’s berm and think, Really? You were sitting on that till quite recently? Not what I’d pictured for you from here in the street.

I also found treasures which will stay. Dad’s hammer and plane and,best of all, his spirit level which he’d had since the 1940s. It still thrills me with its golden-green bubble like a cat’s eye, still showing what is straight and plumb, even after he’s gone.

 

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16 Jan A Summer Holiday Fantasy

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 16.1.23

 

A Pacific island resort, a ski trip to Aspen, a tootle around the East Cape… These are all options for a summer holiday, but are you thinking big enough? Because a friend has been fantasising about taking her annual break in – wait for it – the 1970s.

I see her point. Simpler times – or that’s how we remember this orange-and-brown corduroy of a decade. Those of us who were there can picture it and, for those of you who weren’t, let me paint you one.

You would drive into your 1970s holiday in a Morris 1100, the car we all had then unless we had a Morris 1300. White, usually, with red upholstery, manual gear stick and wind-up windows. There’s a handy tow bar so you can borrow the neighbour’s trailer for that essential holiday activity, a family trip to the dump.

This is where you fill the trailer with bits and nonsense from the garage, the shed, and from “underneath the house”, a space we used to have in houses built on sloping quarter acre sections where you would put broken and unwanted things for a kind of “cooling off” period.

Occasionally, something might make it back into the house for a bit – a coffee table might get a second chance as a DIY project, and your older brother might be over David Bowie but that poster would look great on your wall. After some unspecified period, though, it is agreed things are ready to move on to landfill.

You queue up at the tip with all the other Morris 1100s pulling borrowed trailers on unsealed roads navigated by dads who fancy themselves as terrifically good at this sort of thing. They deliberately place themselves in situations where they can demonstrate their trailer-reversing skills – you don’t need to back up to the edge of the abyss, but they all do.

It is January so it is stinking hot, and also stinking because it’s a tip, and in these cars without air conditioning (it’s the 70s) there’s a pointless back-and-forth about whether you should wind the windows down (to let in cool air) or up (to keep out the smell). In the end you just give in to the stink and to the shriek of seagulls tearing around, looking for something delicious amongst the old mattresses and broken chairs, and finding it often enough to keep them this far inland.

On the way home there would definitely be an ice cream or – because it is a holiday after all – a stop at the local pick-your-own strawberry farm where you’re allowed to eat as many strawberries as you like and just pay for what you’ve got in your punnet, though there will be obligatory jokes about weighing the kids on the way in and the way out and charging mum and dad the difference, ha ha!

Some of this 1970s realism may be tricky to recreate where you live, but I bet you can manage a family trip to the local playground with – for authenticity – socks and sandals for dad, and a towelling bucket-hat. And for mum? A bit of a night off for the missus with fish’n’chips out of newspaper (those seagulls will be back if you’re doing it right) and then home for board games and the inevitable family fight.

What joy! The only tweak you’d want to make to a purist’s vision of the 1970s would be slapping on some actual sunscreen rather than SPF-free coconut oil. Otherwise, you’re ready to groove.

 

 

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05 Jan Life In 2050

An edited version of this piece was published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly and is on sale from 29 December. 

 

As we get to know this New Year, I am casting my mind even further forward to life in 2050.

The glorious thing about the future is that we each get to decide what we’d like it to look like, so here’s my version of life halfway through the 21st Century.

By 2050, Baby Boomers like me will likely be sitting quietly somewhere eating soft food and waiting for Nurse to bring us a pinot. Not a terrible prospect, and only right and proper that we are making space for our children and grandchildren to get on with things.

My granddaughter, Ariana, will be 37 years old and I picture her driving the Hover Car my generation was promised by “The Jetson’s” cartoon. If not exactly that then surely by now she is living in a fossil-fuel free, zero-carbon world.

Electric cars and electric bikes are universally affordable with charging stations as common as Vape stores used to be in 2023. Meanwhile, Vape shops don’t exist at all because everyone has worked out that breathing anything into your lungs apart from clean air is a stupid idea.

Instead of smoking or drinking, people will be micro-dosing psychedelics which will have the dual benefit of a) eliminating anxiety & depression, while also b) making you think your e-bike is a Hover Car.

In 2050, short-haul air travel is done by electric plane. They’re still working on electric planes for long-haul flights, but say they’re close to finding an extension cord that’s long enough – they’re pretty sure there’s one in the shed.

Ariana lives in a city which is actually made up of many small, self-contained and sustainable “villages”. Everything is in walking distance from home – work spaces, village schools, doctors and shops are all set around shared green spaces with swimming pools and playing fields.

The country is officially called Aotearoa following a referendum which confirmed what people were organically doing. We also had a referendum on the voting age which now starts at 16 and stops once you start listening to talkback radio.

While everyone enjoys a universal basic income, the wealthiest people in each village are the caregivers – the people who look after kids, the elderly and disabled and sick. That’s because people have decided to stop just saying thank you to nurses and teachers and mothers with words, and to value them the way we usually value things – with money.

Mostly this is down to the shift from Patriarchal Capitalism to Matriarchal Socialism. There hadn’t been an actual revolution – no one had actually smashed the patriarchy. The ladies had been threatening to do this for a while but could never find anyone to look after the kids.

Instead, in 2039 men decided they’d honestly had enough of being in charge of everything and they’d said, “You know what ladies? You really should have a turn. We’d quite like a bit of a sit down. We want more time with our kids, and maybe we’ll do some more gaming.”

Which was fair enough – the ladies had been Prime Ministers and Governor Generals and Chief Justices for a few decades, so it seemed about time they had a go at the jobs that actually involve money and power.

And what gets people out of bed in the morning? Not an alarm clock, but birdsong. The return of tūī and pīwakawaka to each neighbourhood is the clearest sign that the planet is beginning to recover and cool.

Ah, 2050. You sound lovely… Makes me want to stick around.

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26 Dec On the Joy of Making New Friends

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 26 December

 

At family gatherings, my adorable Great-Uncle Frank – a wise and witty raconteur in a family not short of them – was fond of saying at the end of a story, “Oh, well… You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”.

This was a potentially disastrous thing to say in a room full of relatives but we all knew what Frank meant. The story would have been about some daft cousin or irritating in-law who was – happily – not currently in the room. Instead, we were the ones celebrating together largely because we all liked each other, not just because we shared a fair bit of DNA.

We are terrifically lucky if we enjoy the company of our wider family. It is certainly not a given – all around the motu there are people who gird their loins and hope for the best each Christmas, while also putting an escape plan in place. “Would love to stay longer but we promised a fictional person we’d drop by with a non-existent gift and my partner has just given me the secret signal that it’s time – must dash!”

And while there is definitely something magical about being in the company of older relatives who have known you your whole life, these days I also relish spending time with relatively new friends.

I don’t know where I picked up the idea that, as you get older, is gets harder to make friends but this is definitely a load of nonsense. I suspect I might have heard it from those ghastly people who say your school and/or university years will be The Best Years of Your Life and it is all downhill from there. This was a terrifying prospect when I was all angst-riddled in my teens and twenties – this is the highlight?! – and I am happy to say that later life was much improved.

In fact, what I think really happens is that, as you get to know yourself better, you get better at making friends.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week – after a wild run of work and travel I have finally found time for myself and so have been meeting people for lunch for several days in a row. It feels wildly indulgent and also entirely necessary – to take an hour or two to catch up on news and celebrate the things that have been good.

People who know about the psychology of relationships – the platonic kind as well as the romantic ones – say there are key things to bear in mind. That it helps if you actively go looking for friendships (rather than assuming you will meet people by accident); that you should assume people will like you (this is an attractive vibe); and that it helps if you make yourself vulnerable – it draws us to each other and helps us connect.

This last one is harder for men, apparently, and easier for women who share universal experiences.

I am, it is fair to say, a chronic over-sharer. You tell me about your latest work project or that you’ve bought a new lounge suite, and I’ll blurt out some epiphany I just had with my therapist.

Even so, I just had lunch with four women and we swapped stories about parenting and periods and “what our mothers told us about sex when we were kids” and honestly, none of us knew each other even two years ago, and I don’t know what Uncle Frank would say about it, but we are properly bonded now.

 

 

 

 

 

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13 Dec Lowering The Voting Age to 16

First published by RNZ 3.12.22 “It all works better when everyone feels involved”

 

Democracy is a lot like helping out around the house – as soon as the kids show the slightest bit of interest, they should be heartily encouraged.

Doesn’t matter if they don’t do it the way you would. It takes a while to master hospital corners and stack the dishwasher “properly” (as in “to your liking”) but youthful enthusiasm should be tapped into and nurtured because society – like a household – works best when everyone feels involved.

I voted in my first general election in 1981. I’d been keen but too young in 1978, my last year at high school – though this hadn’t stopped me researching who I’d vote for if I could. The National MP was a family friend (too conservative for my liking), the Labour candidate was a teacher at school (not a favourite) so I’d signed up at the local library to hear more about the chap standing for a new party called Social Credit.

He duly popped round to our house, bless him – a surprise for my parents who were active National Party members, and no doubt disappointing for him once he found out I had no vote to give him.

Not every kid will want their own “meet the candidates” private viewing, but it feels normal – should feel normal – to be curious about how the world works in terms of who is in charge, how they get there, and where you fit in that equation. This is what adolescence is about – making sense of social structures and placing yourself in part of something bigger.

We are going to be talking about the voting age for at least the next six months – a law is being drafted to lower the age to 16 after the Supreme Court declared the voting age of 18 inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. Parliament must either agree to lower the age, or argue 16 and 17 year olds shouldn’t vote.

What grounds might you have for that? Perhaps you think 16 and 17 year olds are too immature to vote. In which case we might want to reconsider other things they do – like leave school, drive a car and pay tax. Also, if maturity is a pre-requisite for voting, we’d need a test other than date-of-birth – I’ve met some pretty flaky 39 year olds.

Perhaps you think these 200,000 new voters will all be raving lefties who will skew the results – an argument which would surely reveal a lack of confidence in conservatives’ youthful appeal. And maybe a ripple of progressive idealism would balance the curmudgeonly tide at the other end.

Or perhaps you think it is pointless because they’ll vote the way their parents tell them to. This was an argument 130 years ago against women’s suffrage (that effectively they’d double their husband’s vote) so it’s a rather dusty one. The assumption of parental influence would also suggest you’ve never had, or been, a teenager.

Instead, think about what we might capture by inviting 16 and 17 year olds into the democratic process while they are curious, mostly still at home and going to school so in a relatively stable environment, surrounded by peers also learning. Engaged and actively involved.

This is not like lowering the drinking age – no one is going to get drunk on voting. Though there’s evidence it is habit forming, that you are more likely to vote if you voted last time round.

Similarly, your teenagers are more likely to use the washing machine after you’ve guided them through it that first time. That dishwasher, though, is another story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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09 Dec Gifting

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 12.12.22

 

What kind of nana buys her grandchild a kazoo? You’re looking at it. By all means, bear this in mind as I offer my hot tips on how to do Christmas gifts.

To be fair, I was in something of a dissociative state when the kazoo ended up on the shop counter. I had taken both grandchildren – one 4 years old, the other a day off 9 – to their local mall to choose a book each as a present.

My big girl turns into Judge Judy when she’s shopping – fast, decisive, unswayable. She picks a thing, bangs her gavel and it’s done. But my small boy is like a puppy in a forest full of squirrels, distracted every 30 seconds by the next thing over there.

Choices made at last, I’d discovered my wallet was missing so we’d abandoned everything and sprinted back to the car to find it (phew) hiding under the passenger seat. Returning to the store, Nuku changed his mind again and somehow a kazoo ended up beside the books.

It turned out okay – kazoos don’t seem nearly as kazoo-ish as I remember. Also, I can turn my hearing aid down.

But this gift-buying reminded me that next on my list will be Christmas shopping. (To all of you who have already done yours, well done, so happy for you, I bet you’ve made lots of other terrific life choices which I’d love to hear about it but not right now because I’m a bit pressed for time.)

My approach with the kids – and with their mother before them – is the old-school one-two-three of Something To Eat, Something To Wear, and Something To Play With. And “play with” can also mean “read” or “experience” – so a bike in a special year, but often a book, or a family trip to the zoo.

I am inspired by a birthday gift from a fabulous friend – a book subscription which started in August and will go on into the New Year. Each month there is a package on my doorstep (it’s already great because it’s six presents!) of a book chosen particularly for me by the people who work in a Wellington bookstore. Their picks are based on my answers to their questionnaire: what kind of books I love, what have I enjoyed recently, what are my all-time favourites, what would I not have a bar of…

A personal note comes in each package. “A local novel full of loveable weirdos… Enjoy!” from Jane, and “Some super wholesome essays – don’t worry, they won’t rot your teeth with sugary sentiment.” from Becks.

There has been only one misstep – a book which I’d already read and adored. Proof, of course, that they’ve nailed what I like, and easily exchanged for another I’d had my eye on.

It is a remarkable feeling, to open each parcel and see what these book-loving bookstore people have chosen for me. It is a delight to think that someone has held you in their head as they’ve scanned their shelves for just the thing you might fancy.

It reminds you that this is the magical part of gifts – knowing someone has been thinking about you even when you weren’t around, and wanting to make you happy, and finding the present that will do this.

Of course, the other thing about books arriving in the mail is that they don’t accidentally come with a kazoo. How you feel about that is over to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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05 Dec Get Into Your Comfort Zone

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 5.12.22

 

My Christmas gift to myself between now and the 25th of December is to get right inside my Comfort Zone and stay there.

Yes, you read that right. I know any number of self-help gurus and motivational speakers will urge you to “do something every day that scares you”, to challenge yourself, break out of your routine, to feel the fear and do it anyway…

Go for your life if you fancy it, but I’d be keen on a bit of mundanity. Honestly, I reckon we all deserve a few days under the duvet at this point – if not literally (I’d quite like it literally) then on a spiritual level.

These last few years have been a wild ride of learning new things, embracing the new normal, managing uncertainty and assessing health risks daily. Now I find myself craving the familiar and comfortable and predictable.

It hit me over the weekend as I drove – using GPS and blind faith – around a city I don’t know well, looking for things whose location was a mystery. I wanted to find a bookshop, a florist and some doughnuts to make my granddaughter’s birthday sparkle which meant navigating unknown roads in torrential rain.

Side note: Is there a city anywhere in this fine country not currently up to its chin in roadworks? I mean, it is terrific that our infrastructure is getting a good seeing to, but navigating city streets sometimes feels like trying to dance with someone who is undergoing surgery. (Macabre analogy but it came to me while I was sitting at a Stop/Go sign and I’m using it so I can feel that time wasn’t wasted.)

What hit me was how exhausted I felt about being on high alert in unfamiliar territory. That I wanted to be somewhere I knew, and to switch into auto-pilot. I wanted a day – maybe a few in succession – that didn’t involve launching myself into a new activity, meeting new people, or trying a thing I’d never done before.

This is unusual for me. I like novelty – unknown places, unfamiliar food, new frocks. I relish driving on roads I’ve never travelled before and go out of my way (literally) to find them. I was thrilled to take the coast road home from Russell recently, aware as I wound up each hill and dropped down to the coastline again and again that this was the first time I had seen any of this land or that view of the sea.

But we have all, I think, been moving at pace this year while also on high alert. There has been a sense of urgency about being with each other, getting on planes, catching up on things we couldn’t do for what seemed like a very long time.

Though “long time” is relative. I reflect often on my grandparents and great-grandparents whose lives were much more disrupted and for much longer by a couple of World Wars, and admire their resilience and social cohesion, and wonder if we’d have managed to keep the blackout curtains closed.

Meanwhile, there will be no Christmas gifts for sky-diving or taking up the banjo, thank you. I’m not even going to try a new recipe. We will have the usual Christmas Trifle because this is, after all, what “traditions” are for – to comfort us with the familiar.

So join me as I pop on my slippers and step right back into my Comfort Zone – a place which will feel like a bit of a novelty.

 

 

 

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29 Nov Happy 90th Birthday to the NZ Woman’s Weekly

Published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28 November 2022

 

There is every chance that in 1934, when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother and visiting the doctor, there was a copy of the NZ Woman’s Weekly in the waiting room.

The magazine would have been 2 years old then and surely already a staple of waiting spaces. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in a waiting room without a NZ Woman’s Weekly in it, except maybe during the early part of this pandemic when we weren’t allowed to touch things, and possibly the odd corporate foyer where they’d prefer you to have a go at enjoying their latest annual report. There’s nothing like a group photo of the Board of Executives, most of whom are named “John”, to have you hankering for some celebrity gossip and a new recipe for eggplant.

So I like the thought of this magazine being there for Grandma right at the very beginning of my mother’s life.  Certainly by the time I came along the Weekly was a constant in our lives. Recent copies would be stacked neatly in my grandmother’s living room magazine rack, while the latest was close by with a cup of tea. Any number of back issues could be found in the sunporch at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s – a terrific way to while away a rainy school holiday afternoon.

It is inside these pages that I first saw the Royal Family in colour (our TV only provided black & white images because I am very old) and I marvelled at their matching dress-coat-hat ensembles in thrilling pastel shades. The ladies of our town tended towards black for church, maybe a wild splash of navy.

I would try my hand at the crosswords and quizzes, and read Letters to the Editor that were rather more glass-half-full than the ones published in the Levin Chronicle. People who wrote to the newspaper mostly pointed out how badly someone had got things wrong, but these letters to the magazine were from people who said they’d enjoyed reading a thing, or felt that way, too, or had another story to share.

When you’re little, celebrities get mixed up with other people you’ve heard of but haven’t yet met. The name “Jean Wishart” was so familiar, I thought it belonged to an actual family friend, not the famous stranger who edited the Weekly from 1952 to 1984. She lived in a corner of my mind with Aunt Daisy who I initially assumed was a distant relative of my Dad’s.

My mother, who took her fashion seriously, subscribed to English Vogue which she picked up monthly from our local bookstore. But in between she’d collect my grandmother’s Weekly and wasn’t above giving it a jolly good onceover before dropping it round to hers.

When it briefly looked like we’d lost the Weekly in 2020, I heard a man describe it as “a women’s magazine” in a way that suggested a magazine for women was less important than a magazine for people (men). Rude. It has been one of the few places we have always been able to read our own stories over the last 90 years.

I also heard this man say, “I don’t know anyone who reads it”. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I leave my copies in the magazine rack in my living room, and my daughter and granddaughter will occasionally pounce on them for celebrity gossip and local news, and maybe this column.

Five generations over 90 years. Happy Birthday to us, and many more.

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21 Nov What You Learn on Your Day Off

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.11.22

 

There is a moment in each holiday when you can feel like maybe this whole relaxation thing is just too stressful and you’re tempted to give up and put your work pants back on.

I almost pulled the plug on this mini break away before it even started. (As I write this I can wriggle my toes and feel the sand stuck between them so, spoiler alert, I made it in the end.) I had a job booked up north – one night only – and decided to go earlier and stay later to do… well, nothing at all. Sleep, read, walk, eat, stare at things.

I can tell when I am nearing burn-out. The voice in my head (the one we all have with that endless running commentary) turns into a right cow. I’ll be in the shower in the morning, minding my own business, and she’ll be all, “You shouldn’t have done that, you’re stupid, and also everyone is stupid and also mean, and I bet nothing goes right today, see, shampoo in your eye, typical.” And it takes a fair bit of energy to shush her which is a pity because you’re short on energy which is how she got in that mood.

So a little break away, a change of scene, waking up without an alarm seemed a sensible idea. But all efforts to clear my agenda for a couple of days were thwarted and the day before I packed my bag I realised I’d also have to pack my laptop, a box of research notes and a long To Do list with deadlines attached. Maybe just cancel the motel and stay home where I keep the stationery and the coffee? Also, the cat had seen my suitcase and he looked sad.

But I pushed on and I can tell you that ten minutes out of the city I felt my shoulders drop, and 30 minutes into the 3 hour trip I was singing and grinning, two of my favourite things.

There is something about geographical distance from the location of your usual routine that makes even routine things feels a bit sparkly. I can look up from my GST spreadsheet, see the ocean and listen to the waves for a minute, and the association of these things makes totting up the columns almost a joy.

All the work feels fun – the gig for a roomful of lawyers, even my business emails have a certain joie de vivre.

I’ve also had one of my epiphanies.

On other holidays, once I’ve relaxed, slowed down, noticed how bright the colours are and begun to feel time as something vast and full of choices, I’ve tried to sort of … bottle that feeling. “Remember this when you get home,” I’ve thought, “take this holiday feeling with you, try to live this deliberately and with this much pleasure all the time.”

But of course, you go back into your old routine. Which is when your internal monologue will grab a chance in the shower to suggest you’re a failure, that you’ve let the magical holiday feeling slip through your hands.

But of course it has – it isn’t possible to live like you’re on holiday when you’re not. Instead, it is enough to feel it mindfully at the time, to know you are capable of relaxing into yourself when you get the chance – for a week, or a day, or even an afternoon.

Heading home now to plan the next one.

 

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