Thursday, 24 May 2012

Holiday unplugged

I've been reading a lot recently of people 'unplugging' - no email, no iPhone, no Facebook, Twitter etc - for a weekend, a week or longer.  Mostly, it seems, they've been doing it in order to reconnect with real life (and, I suspect, to see if they could cope). 

I love being unplugged.  I've never joined Facebook, Twitter or done anything which could be called social networking.  On occasion I've been asked why, and never really come up with a satisfactory answer. 

"The thought gives me the willies,"

or "I like to talk to real people in real life"

aren't really very helpful responses, and "I spend enough time at the computer for work - why would I want to spend my time off there too," while it is completely true and comes close, doesn't quite cover it either.

 I want to live my life, not read about other people's; connect with people I care about face to face; be outside; make things; dawdle about feeding the ducks; write when inspiration strikes...

And that's what I'll be doing next week on holiday.  No blogging either, then - that would be cheating.  I'll be back in a week or two.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A child's perspective

We have electric radiators in our house.  They have vents in the top where the warm air comes through.  This morning, when I suddenly wondered where the boy was (that ominous quiet was deafening), I peeped into the spare room/office, only to find him with the digital camera*, taking photos of the view down the vents into the inside.

A couple of minutes later, I peeped in again and he was photographing the pages of a book which was lying on the bed.  Then he was inspecting my spinning wheel. 

He was quietly exploring his own world in his own way, totally absorbed in what he was doing.  And it was all about the process: he then came to take a film of me putting on my makeup, not because he wanted a film of me but because he wanted to see how long a film the camera would let him take.  (For the record, one minute.)

He wasn't thinking about what he had to do next (go to school, as it happens) or what he'd just been doing, or how he had to get the photo just right.  He was just doing it, because he felt like it and wanted to see what happened if he did.

What would happen if I lived a whole day like that?

*It's his camera.  We gave him an old one with a slight mark on the lens which we notice but he doesn't.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

It's only stressful if you can't do anything about it

I had several sleepless nights last week.  Proper sleepless nights, where worry takes over your mind; every time you close your eyes the same scenarios play out in your head and you get up and do something else because it’s too painful not to.  Then you eventually fall asleep for a couple of hours only to dream the same scenarios until the boy comes in for an early morning cuddle and you don't know whether to be relieved that the night's over or miserable because you feel so tired.

It was work stress.  I’d taken on too much and a deadline was looming.  It was an externally imposed one with no room for negotiation.  But I’m used to deadlines.  I work with them all the time.  They focus the mind.  (And unlike Terry Pratchett, I’m not used to the sound they make as the go whooshing past.  I meet deadlines.  Always.)

The problem was that I couldn’t actually do the work yet as I was waiting for information and input from others.  All I could do was think about it, wonder if I could have organised the whole thing better, wonder if I’d bitten off more than I could chew, worry that I was giving a bad impression…   

When the day came that I could actually start the work, I snapped out of it.  I worked hard, I put in extra hours, I was busier than ever - but the stress went away.  I knew I could do it; I wasn't stuck helplessly unable to do anything.  I wonder if this is the same for everyone.  I am a do-er, and when I say I'll do something I know I will finish it.  Doing is much more comforting than thinking about doing, or worrying about not doing.

Monday, 14 May 2012

A day that flowed perfectly

Now, I could have done without the 5:30am start, but when a six-year-old is awake, he's awake.  And the sun was shining and I had work to do, so up I got.

From then on, there was a kind of rhythm to the day which I couldn't have planned but which perfectly encapsulated my vision of life revolving around home, with work and family all intermingled in a positive way.

Granted, it was Sunday and in the normal way of things I would not have been working on a Sunday at all - I try to be strict about days off - but deadlines loomed and it had to be done.  Anyway, the story:

I worked for 2.5 hours in the early morning, completely focused and achieving a lot.  Then I cooked pancakes for the boy, faffed in the garden with him, did the supermarket run and on a whim bought food for a barbecue lunch.  (It was the weekend and it wasn't raining - had to be done.)  So we cooked and ate outside for the first time this year.

I would like to wax lyrical about this relaxing family occasion, how we lingered over a delicious meal in the sunshine... but the boy was tired and grumpy, not hungry, didn't like the potatoes...  Still, we were outside, all together and the sun was shining.  And I liked the potatoes!  The chicken was pretty good too.

Over lunch we planned an outing to a nearby park, but after we'd cleared up, the tired and grumpy boy came over to me for a cuddle.  I sat down with him on my lap, he snuggled in and went to sleep.  5:30 starts obviously don't agree with him any more either!  He slept for a couple of hours while I cuddled him, dozed a bit myself and enjoyed sitting in a quiet house on a sunny day being forced to do absolutely nothing.

He took a while to come to after waking up, then didn't want to do anything.  Everything I suggested was rejected, including a walk to the village playground.  After a bit of soul-searching I'm afraid I resorted to bribery and asked if he'd like to walk to the village shop to look at the comics.  Instant approval.  So we meandered down to the shop, talking about the ducks, the ants, Ben 10 (a little too much Ben 10 for my liking...) and a dozen other things.  At the shop, after a comic had been chosen, I casually suggested we went to the playground.  This had suddenly changed from a stupid idea into an excellent one, and off we ran.

After the park it was home to Daddy and tea, followed by much laughter as they played together in the living room and I weeded the garden.  The boy joined me outside, feeding piles of weeds to the rabbit and then plotting to dig a tunnel to his friend's house two doors down.  The beginnings of the hole is still there now.

It was quiet, nothing spectacular happened, and I had to work on a Sunday.  But I wouldn't change any of it.  It was a perfect day.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

A Room of One's Own

(With apologies to Virginia Woolf for pinching her title.  I've recently started reading that book actually, but stalled as it needs concentration which I don't have much of at the end of the day.)

After 4 years of working from home I finally acquired a room of my own earlier this year.  It still has to function as a spare bedroom for guests but thanks to a friend's suggestions (her spatial awareness and interior design sense are much better than mine!) we have also found room - just - for a good-sized desk and a shelving unit which not only houses all my work files but my fabric stash, knitting yarn stash and some of my book collection.  The monitor is wall-mounted on an adjustable arm so I can push it back when I'm not using it, and the keyboard is wireless, all of which means it's really easy to swap computer for sewing machine or other playthings.

I could work anywhere.  I've been known to bring the laptop down to the settee when a poorly boy is home from school, or to the kitchen table, and I used to do all my sewing at the kitchen table too, but I'd much rather be in my 'nest' upstairs, surrounded by all my things.  It's a work room but it's also a play room and it's all mine.  Somehow it makes it easier to think, and to create.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Reasons NOT to work at home

I'm inclined to paint a very rosy picture of working from home.  There are a lot of positives.  This morning, I have encountered one or two of the negatives.  Here they are:

1. Computer problems are your problems, not someone else's.  (Actually I am very fortunate to have a resident IT Man - my husband - but he is inconveniently absent during the day.)

2. You end up working extra hours when you were hoping to have a quiet morning packing and preparing for a work trip this afternoon.

3. There is nobody to delegate said extra work to.

4. There is nobody to complain about any of the above to.

5. There is nobody to blame for agreeing to do the extra work except yourself.

6. You feel guilty for walking around the mess that is begging to be tidied off the living room floor.

7. You end up having egg and chips for lunch to comfort yourself in the midst of this extra stress, and then feel guilty about that too.

But I'd still choose it over going out to work for someone else every day!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Small pieces

One of the many things I love about working at home is that small pieces of things I enjoy can find their way into my day.

Yesterday I spent a good few hours working hard on writing a funding application for a client and was satisfied when I finished it.  I read a few pages of a book while eating my lunch.  I walked up to school with my husband to pick up our son.  (Side note: in the sunshine!  No rain yesterday, although normal service has now been resumed.)  I spent half an hour weeding the allotment and enjoying the sunshine.  I cooked a lovely salmon curry (and it only took half an hour) for dinner while 'the boys' played lego, and in the evening I knitted a few more rows on a shawl/blanket I seem to have been knitting for a very long time.

I've probably painted a rather too idyllic picture of my life here.  Insert laundry sorting, dishwashing, bed-making, tax-form-filling and other less lovely items into that picture in about the same measures as the other stuff.  But even they are part of the patchwork of quarter-hours which make up a day in and around the home.