Thursday, 22 August 2013

Long Days of Summer

So the holidays are in full swing, the sun is mostly blazing and there are an abundance of butterflies the likes of which I have not seen before.  The broad beans are ripe and bulging in their emerald green pods, begging to be picked and cooked.  Lazy breakfasts laden with delicious fresh summer berries and nectaries atop a hearty dollop of thick greek yoghurt are enjoyed in PJ's with no care for time.
There is a trip to Norfolk, a stay in a caravan, a wander upon vast beaches.  We crunch upon the pebbles and spy on the seals on Scroby Island, then go for massive ice-creams which are eaten on the promenade under a lush blue sky so bright you squint to look at it.
There are times at home too, just crashed out on the sofa watching a DVD, sat at the table painting, in the kitchen making some iced biscuits.
But there is also a feeling that a little bit of structure to my days again would be nice.  I'm starting to miss my routine, my work.
There are frayed tempers, the little one is bored - we've been to the seaside, the play centre, met chums, been into the countryside...but sometimes, we need to stay home and ground ourselves.  Small people don't understand this, they want to be out and about all the time and doing exciting things.  Mummy is boring, she never does anything interesting.  I sigh. 
I read lots of Blogs in the evenings and see heaps of gorgeous photographs, of people enjoying this freak British Summer time.  It all looks rather marvellous, rather perfect.  My Summer does not look like this; my home is untidy, there are unfinished jobs stacked up on my desk.  I have a fatigue upon me which has descended and will not leave and I am running out of steam, running out of ideas on how to amuse an energetic, creative six year old child single handed.  I've mostly enjoyed the holidays so far, our trips out and about as well as our days spent busying at home, but these days are full of things, and I see less and less of my paints, which makes me feel empty and irritable.
I start to feel like the bad Mummy, the one who is secretly wishing that the children were back at school.  I feel momentarily selfish for wanting to scratch that creative itch, to bed down uninterrupted and create new paintings and start new projects.  For a second, I wish I was having a magazine style summer, complete with spontaneous picnics that bulge at the seams with just baked goodies, and to accomplish it all with a happy family, a happy smile and boundless energy; to not have those wants and desires.
But real life, it's not really like that, at least not all the time.
As a Mum, I often spread myself too thin without realising.  Since my daughter was born I have instinctively put others first and very often put my own needs on the back burner...I'll get to them later, they're not important, it can wait.
It can't.
Meeting your own needs, it's not selfish - it's necessary.
If we take care of ourselves, we have far more to give to others when needed.  If we don't practice self care we run the risk of burnout or illness.  Self care can be ten minutes in a hot bath without interruptions, it can be a walk in nature, sitting with your journal and writing down your ideas, your friend taking care of your offspring while you shop - whatever lights you up.  Self care promotes calmer, happier people, it replenishes our energy, it helps us to feel good. 
With support thin on the ground this summer, I'm really feeling the need of some solitude, some sacred time to myself.  It's become a deep craving, and when I feel the insistent nudge of frustration I know it's time to act, to do something for myself that will help tip the balance back to where things are happier and easier.
It's learning to ask for support, it's learning to say yes when it's offered.  I need to remind myself of this more often.  I don't have to do it all on my own, and it's good for my daughter to be around other people too.  Making time for myself teaches my daughter that it's important to take care of yourself, to make your own needs, interests and activities a priority too.  We don't compromise our love for our families if we don't give 24/7 - in fact, it teaches our families to see us as a whole person rather than some woman who irons the school uniform and provides a taxi service to the after school clubs.
So...Summer carries on in it's blissful, warm, hazy way.  The little one is busy, engrossed in her latest I'm sneaking outside for five minutes to watch the dragonflies playing in the sun.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


The hot Summer here has temporarily been replaced by a cool breeze and the whisperings of Autumn, although I do hear that we are going to be having another heat wave soon.

The memory of searing heat reminded me of our recent holiday to France.  We stayed in a beautiful village a few kilometres south of Le Touquet, and enjoyed hot, sun drenched days that were only cooled by the occasional mammoth lightening storms at night.

Being away gives me a much needed chance to forget about everyday things, to live simply from moment to moment and to enjoy the small pleasures that surround me: A chalky turquoise wave crashing onto the shore, the discovery of a sea potato, a beautiful sunset in a foreign land, new food and drink, school-girl French.
There is an awakening of the senses when we travel somewhere new, we see new things, taste new flavours, hear fresh sounds.  We feel alive, the world feels exciting and exhilarating.  I thought about how we easily take for granted the tiny miracles that are harboured in our own back yards, how we sometimes miss the beauty and the wonder that surrounds us as we swamp ourselves with the mundane and ordinary.
So I returned home, abundant with new enthusiasm.  I decided to once more start finding miracles and gratitude around me, in my day to day chores, my everyday ordinary moments.  The colours in a newly opened geranium, scarlet as a showgirl's lipstick and reminiscent of the beautiful flowers in those pretty French villages we drove through made my heart skip with delight.  I see chalk drawings on the back yard, colourful words and art from the magical mind of a six year old child that light me up and make me smile.  I see colourful washing billowing in a breeze against an azure sky, and seagulls overhead - yes, although inland we sometimes see the gulls wheeling above the village, but rarely hear them call.  Still, it reminds me of the coast, and I feel happy to see them.
I've taken most of the school holidays off this Summer to spend with my daughter; to wander and muse, to empty my mind, bake biscuits and lemon drizzle loaf cake.  There are random and spontaneous trips to the coast, picnics in the countryside, a weekend in a caravan, time with friends and family.  I know in years to come she'll be off galavanting with her friends during the holidays and way too busy to be spending time with her Mum. So I relish this time and the things that we do together and despite having the occasional urge to leap back into my creative zone and biz, I do my best to plan creative pursuits around her and with her.  After all, it's not long til school starts up again and we can muddle along quite happily until then.
There are new ideas on the horizon for my business too, born from stepping back, from simply stopping.  There are plans blossoming and it fills me with an enthusiasm for my art which I haven't had fully in months.
So the Summer wanders on.  The light in my kitchen in the early morning is tinged with the soft, shadowed hues of a lowering sun, and I sense that Summer will soon be leaving.  I stir my coffee and thoughtfully look out of the window at the dusty green leaves and slightly overgrown wildflowers on the riverside. 
Autumn is often a time for new beginnings for me, I relish this fresh start and look forward to sharing many new things with you all in the months to come.

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