I recently read a post by a blogger I haven’t come across before (found through the Britmums My Best Post of the Week linky) called Josie, who’s post on managing and coping with motherhood (primarily, I feel aimed towards a complete newbie who hasn’t yet had a chance to get their head round the life-altering change a baby brings) got me thinking about mindfulness and how to live more ‘in the moment’ in general.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to be quite an anxious person and often find myself worrying about one thing or another. I get stressed out quite easily and having a child exacerbated this no end! Having two children has cranked it up to stress volume overload! I even began developing a ‘stress rash’ – a small area on my left arm which flares up into an angry, itchy, raised rash the day after a particularly stressful, angry or overwhelmingly negative experience. Its a classic example of the mind alone bringing something that’s not really real into full physical existence.
In the last few weeks I’ve had two or three really stressful experiences and my arm has been flashing itchy red like a demented traffic light.
A few years ago I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of Information Overload – another experiential stress zone. I now remember that while I was researching this piece of work I stumbled across Carl Honore’s paen to something called the Slow Movement, “In Praise of Slow”. (I’ve just discovered he has a website www.carlhonore.com) He talks of the way in which our culture teaches us that speed is the key to everything – from fast cars to multi-tasking and earning a fast buck. I love the fact that he was inspired to write his book after reading a newspaper article encouraging parents to condense well-loved classic children’s stories into minute-long soundbites in order to get out of the nursery quicker and pick back up on all those must-do adult activities.
At first glance, the One-Minute Bedtime series sounds almost too good to be true. Rattle off six or seven “stories,” and still finish inside ten minutes – what could be better? Then, as I begin to wonder how quickly Amazon can ship me the full set, redemption comes in the shape of a counter-question. Have I gone completely insane?
I think this thought captures what so many of us think and feel on a daily basis. I want to be a good parent, but do I have the time? And then there’s “I want to be a good partner, but do I have the time?”. Life with small children can not only be a stressful experience in itself, but can also make you feel like everything else you do that doesn’t involve them has to be done at breakneck speed in order to make the most of this precious little time. Hence if I find myself with one day off while they’re both in paid childcare I must squeeze in a house-clean, cook two casseroles, fill out a passport application, do two loads of washing, write a blog post, have a cervical smear, etc, etc, ad infinitum – sod relaxation and escapism! And fitting in the needs of a relationship on top of this? Forgive me for the utter selfishness but if I find myself with ten spare minutes I’m going to want to pick up a good book/soak in a bubbly bath/research some fun activities that I like the look of and help me remember who I am and who I want to be.
I feel that sometimes I’m on the edge of a minor breakdown and something has to change. I need to slow down, live more in the moment, let go of this constant need to “keep up with the Joneses” (which is exacerbated no end by the cult of social media one-upmanship) and learn to live on less and value more of what I’ve got.