Downtime …

I was recently reading an article from a fellow blogger on the importance of ‘downtime’ (The importance of downtime – Niraj’s blogs (home.blog) And, as much as this topic is universal, I wonder whether it transcends all ages and stages of life.

Can you have ‘downtime’ from a life of ‘downtime’? That’s the big question.

There were moments over the past 35 and more years when this word would totally escape me – it wasn’t even part of my everyday or occasional vocabulary. Very rare was it that I would have a moment to spend by myself or for myself. These moments, if at all, would have to be stuck in at the very beginning or at the very end of the day, when alas my eyes would close and I would drift away into a dreamland far far away not knowing whether I actually had this downtime moment of not.

I certainly tried to find that work/life harmony – exercising 3 times weekly, eating right including fruits and vegetables in my diet, savouring the ‘antioxidants’ from my daily glass(es) of wine, sneaking away on weekends to the coast to soak in some much needed sun and sea breeze. It was hard work finding this harmony and I used to wonder whether stressing on the importance of finding time to de-stress wasn’t a big part of the reason we were all so stressed. And most times I would just let the day go by and whatever moments were left in it for me, I would be grateful, joyous and feel ever so blessed.

And so now that my days are filled with whatever I want to do, I wonder whether it is still necessary to seek ‘downtime’. For my days can be quite full (note that I’ve removed the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary), and tiring. Am I in fact catching up on all the ‘downtime’ moments I missed over the past years. Or am I just in another stage of life where I am able to make that ever so important choice of doing what the hell I want to do.

Stay the course my dear friends. Work/life Harmony is important. We must however manage our expectations as to what this ‘harmony’ looks like. Then and only then will you be able to achieve it.

Listening to the day end…

At first it sounds quite sad. Listening to the day end evokes a picture of someone sitting alone, maybe lonely, with only the birds, trees, flowers and frogs for company. No talking. Silence.

But even though the image may be somewhat accurate, the sense is quite the opposite. Alone yes, but not lonely. With the birds, trees, flowers and other garden creatures as the only company, certainly, but happy to be among such a simple, forgiving crowd.

And then again, imagine that person basking in the stillness of thought, feet up with a glass of wine, ending an otherwise not so busy day, quietening the mind, body and soul. With the sounds of nature – the dogs across the valley barking at Lord alone knows what, the busyness of the birds getting ready to roost for the night, one or two taking their last share of the seeds left there for them, the buzz buzzing of the night creatures coming alive, the frogs leaving the comfort of the garden beds to venture out for the evening – no one really knows where they are going.

Peace reigns.

As the sun sets, the light casts a glow on the garden that makes the flowers radiant with colour, creating a mysterious sky, but in such a soothing manner that all your muscles relax, your thoughts subside and you focus only on the breeze that caresses your face ever so gently, and the faint hustle and bustle of those poor sods rushing home after a hard day’s work (no offense intended – I’ve been there).

Listening to the day end brings calm, allows you to rationalize your worries, to notice the beauty that surrounds, bringing great anticipation for the beginning of another day to come.

And we can only hope that we will be gracious and grateful for such.

Dear Dad,

Circa 1950

For the past year and a half, you’ve been constantly on my mind. Covid-19 has sent the world in a tailspin, and as much as I miss you and mummy terribly, I’m forever grateful that you’ve been spared this ‘inconvenience’, and selfishly, that we have not had the added worry of keeping you guys safe. It would have been a lonely existence for you both, one which, after such a long and happy life, seeing your children and grandchildren almost daily, would have possibly left you bereft of what was most important to you – family.

We’ve managed well, though – and keep in touch with each other often. Meeting up when we can for quick get togethers at each other’s homes, dropping by to share excess fruit (Julie mangoes, Mummy’s favourite), Zabocas (the boys are still competing as to whose is the best), homemade bread (your eldest has become quite the baker), but most importantly, keeping our family bond strong.

You’ve left us with a legacy so ingrained that in this time of forced isolation, our family connections have pulled us through and we thank you for this.

Circa 1972

And oh the family keeps on growing – with some scattered across the globe, we still remain in touch thanks to the technology which baffled you so much towards the end. Your great grandkids keep us busy and entertained. Some we have not yet met due to Covid, and some on the way. And they all look ‘just like you’ – if not physically, certainly in their hearts which are full of love of life and family.

You would be proud, as are we.

Forever and always……

On the other side of Covid-19 …

I always try to look at the positive side of life.  It just makes more sense.  And as such, even though Covid has brought many many downsides, I am still standing firm that there has be a bright light at the end of this very long tunnel.  We’ve witnessed many many good things though – with amazing people stepping up and helping within societies and communities, families coming together for the common good – in some instances for the very first time.

I acknowledge that we’ve all lost – family, friends, livelihoods, time with family and friends, education …. and the list goes on and on… but I can’t help believing that there has to be a damn good reason for our pain.

There must be a lesson that we need to learn – that I need to learn.  Otherwise, this dark era will be for nought.

We’ve learned that family and friends are more than just important – they are critical to our well-being.  We’ve learned that our materialistic way of life is worth little at the end of the day.  We’ve learned that we are all in this thing called life, together.  That for one of us to survive, we all need to survive.  That we are social beings who struggle without human contact and interaction.  That as much as technology has got us through this to a large extent, it is not to be revered.  That to get through this our faith is also an important factor.

And none of this is new.  We’ve been given a chance to step back, take a second look at where we were heading, where we truly want to be going, and press that reset button.

Stop.  Don’t yell at me.  I know there are people suffering.  I too am suffering.

But I honestly believe that amidst all of this, if we can just spare one moment, we will all realise that we have a tremendous amount to be grateful for, and that to move forward on a more sustainable path, we need to make some changes.  That coming through that Covid tunnel not only depends on a serious vaccination programme, but on an internal rejuvenation process that each of us must take.

What has the past year and a half taught you.   What have you done without, that you realise is of little significance to your happiness? What blessings have kept you going?

Nurture those things that you realise are important. And get rid of those things that are merely superficial.

We are a village.   A village that is not as large as you believe it to be.  We can do simple things to help the village grow and prosper. Each one of us is a critical spoke in the wheel.

I’ve noticed that within my small circle of family and friends, simple things have kept us together – the sharing of our time – a simple telephone call to check in – sharing our overabundance of fruit, a new recipe, an extra loaf of homemade bread, a not so funny joke.  We have bonded in a way that we may not have if life had remained on its fast-paced track. And I am sure you have too.

As much as I favour the positive side of life, I worry though that this simple life will not last long.  When the world is once again available in all its glory, will I be strong enough to continue to focus on quality vs quantity.  Will I be humble enough to nurture a simple life?

Serenity abounds

Always give thanks…

We all take this time of year to reflect. Reflect on what we have done, could have done, should have done. What we will do differently in the New Year to achieve different results – to become the person we always wanted to be and make promises to be better in every way in the New Year. This Year will be the best year of our lives.

I’ve stopped doing that – quite some time ago. I’ve learned that making New Year’s resolutions are filled with drunken hopes of ideals that, for the most part, never happen. Filled with wishes that never come true. Filled with high expectations that I can never live up to.

Now, I simply thank God. Thank Him for my blessings. And I have very many. I thank Him for my husband of thirty-something years who still manages to surprise and delight me in the simplest of ways, my children who continue to burst my heart with pride, my daughters-in-law who share my passion for life, and now my grandson, who has opened my heart to a different kind of love and adoration that I never knew existed.

I thank Him for my siblings who always have my back, no matter what. I thank him for my friends who always show up, without expectations. I thank Him for my health, my passion to carry on, my love of life.

And with this gratitude I embrace the New Year knowing that I can and will survive, endure, enjoy whatever life has to offer.

May your New Year be filled with an abundance of blessings.

Where is your reset button…

Relax, Recuperate and Reset. Recently a colleague asked me to describe my perfect unwind day. Immediately my mind floated to what I call a ‘pajama day’. The name speaks for itself. Sleep, eat, read, movies and more sleep. In other words, sheer self indulgence. No-one to take care of. No-one to interrupt you. No-one to disturb you from yourself.

As I sit here facing the peaceful ocean with the cliched view of my naked toes in the forefront of the beautiful calming sea, I realise that my sense of rest, relax and recover comes in many shapes and forms. Often I sit and stare into oblivion letting my mind wander over my blessings, my dreams, my aspirations. At other times, I take to my running to transport me to a place of peace and quiet while I work out my frustrations, disappointments and losses through hard physical work.

And then again at times, I focus on the persons around me. I listen to their quiet chatter, their spontaneous laughter, simple signs of life being lived. And in every instance the fact that my mind has moved away from the mundane thoughts that preoccupy me (whether they are positive or not so positive), allows for the creation of a void to be filled with the thoughts I choose. Those that keep me rested, relaxed and restored.

Generally we believe that we must get far away from our day to day surroundings to be able to press that reset button. I have proven to myself however, that the reset button is at my finger tips. I have complete control over it. Do you?

33 years and counting…

My eldest brother, as is usual, was one of the first this morning to congratulate me on yet another year of marriage. He also took the opportunity to remind me that Jesus Christ lived for 33 years and that during his short life he had performed just as many miracles, suggesting at the same time that I should expect an Amethyst stone from my husband on this occasion. My sister was quick to chime in noting that that would indeed be a miracle.
It got me to thinking though as to whether or not my life had been filled with as many miracles, if any at all. I guess the mere fact that my husband is still alive after so many years of marriage could be considered some type of miracle. My three sons would probably attest that they are living miracles considering the many occasions I threatened to tie them up in a tree and leave them there for good. If my dogs could talk, they too would thank their lucky stars that their many digging episodes in my garden didn’t end more tragically.
I sound like a mad lady, and yes, at times I may have acted like one. But reminiscing on my married life I can confirm that I have witnessed many miracles. Not those of the like of Jesus Christ maybe – there are many a time, though, that I would certainly have liked to have been able to change water into wine – but, there have been small ones which make life full and worth the while.
– The miracle of giving life – holding your treasures against your body for the first time, welcoming them into your world.
– The miracle of family – skipping bravely through life with the confidence that someone has got your back
– The miracle of unconditional love – knowing that when you mess up, because inevitably you do, there’s that one person who will help you pick up the pieces and move on
Two of my sons are soon to embark on this wonderful journey of marriage. And I’m hoping that their life, too, will be filled with many many miracles.

Blogging in the Rain…

Perspective plays a critical role in your outlook on life.
Here I am, in one of the most beautiful places on earth, expecting to spend what one would imagine to be an idyllic weekend on a small Caribbean island – sand, sea, bliss. Not a care in the world. Freedom from the everyday shackles of the world of work and life.
The reality is that the rain is pelting down blurring one of the most beautiful views you can witness, my hopes of spending some me-time lazing in the sun on the beach with the cliche’d umbrella drink in one hand, dashed. My recently polished toes glistening in the sun, evidence of a fun filled holiday weekend – forget that.
And yet my heart is light, my smile is broad and I am at my happiest.
What I see is the earth being nourished. What I hear is the pulsating music of my favourite artistes making my feet with their recently polished toes, dance uncontrollably. What I have are friends to make my heart light and enjoy the moment with me. And that umbrella’d drink? Well, that’s the icing on the cake.
Here’s to life. May we always seek the positive.

In search of the sunset…

What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon than following your son in his search for that perfect sunset. With the rain beating on the road as you climb the mountain, you anxiously anticipate the clarity and beauty of the setting sun as the rain dissipates. You hope for clouds as they always add interest and mystery. You look forward to the serenity of the view and the peace and quiet that such beauty brings. You capture the changes in the sky as the sun sinks ever so slowly into the depths of the horizon. And you very secretly thank God for such precious moments.

Anxiety

I discovered my ‘height anxiety’ one day hiking with my 4 boys (husband included). “Come mom. Look at how high we are” squealed my eldest son, just 9 years old maybe, perched at the side of a cliff beckoning me to come share the amazing view with him. I’m a sucker for views, sunsets, the outdoors, flowers. So without a thought, I immediately turned to share in the moment but, on seeing him at the edge, my heart started to contract. My chest started to heave, my breathing became shallow and there wasn’t enough oxygen in the world for all of us.

I might be exaggerating somewhat. But I knew I couldn’t watch him or the view. My husband, much braver than I and my other two sons were already there pointing, smiling, gasping at what must have been the perfect view. Not wanting to spoil the moment, however, I simply turned around and made some excuse for wanting to move away.

Needless to say, that entire holiday was filled with heights, precipices and perfect views. And my boys could not be happier enjoying the thrills of standing at the edge, relishing in the fact that we were so high up above the ground. Just writing about it makes me cringe and want to turn away.

Fast forward to the present. Well I’ve made some strides. I tell myself that unless there’s a major earthquake or some idiot pushes you, you’ll be fine. Think of the amazing view.

Take a chance and enjoy the moment.

Does is work? Most times. My boys still love sitting at the edge and I always want to be with them. So the math is easy. As I grow older conquering my fears gets easier. With my heart full and my mind strong, I move forward.