I love many many things about living in the countryside. Other things, a bit less so.
The conversation with friends tends to go like this:
“What zone are you in?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not in a zone. I am beyond the zones.”
“Huh? Is that expensive?”
“So, how much does it cost for me to get to you?”
“It’s £27.60 for a One Day Travelcard.”
Travel woes aside, we also have major issues with the internet. It keeps breaking. Every few days we have BT vans parked up along the too-narrow road outside, digging around, but nothing much happens. We, apparently, have BT Infinity, but all that seems to be needed to qualify is infinite patience as yet another connection gets lost, mid-way, losing another rewritten post, or refusing, entirely, to upload a hi-res image. Not the stuff of great existential enlightenment this, but you know, when trying to keep a website up & running, a bit of a quandary.
And also why some posts may not go out like clockwork… which, is where the silver lining comes in. Last night, after a long day at work, enough rain to flood my welly boots thrice over, a delayed commute and the smallest slither of time with the children before bed, the internet lost connection. I do not regularly work late, but when I do so, and consistently so, it affects me rather negatively. I’m sure it does the same to us all (or I am just particularly rubbish). Because just one week of later nights, sedentary days, and so much screen time that my left eye has developed a twitch, my mood shifted gear. Irritability, impatience, cynicism, negativity… my reactions, which are ordinarily optimistic, laid-back, measured, became snappy and I found myself sniping at my nearest and dearest. All from spending just one single week in front of a computer screen, when I might otherwise, of course, have been doing my yoga (Movement for Modern Life are my saviours – I must get back to that mat!), diving back into a novel (Anne Enright’s back catalogue, and the new Jonathan Franzen, are bringing me unmitigated delight, alongside shards of sharpest, sobering pain), having deep and meaningful conversations with my husband (well, sometimes… but mostly dissecting Sorkin’s mind, and bemoaning the marketing budgets of kid-targeting confectionary brands)… you know, just, living, relaxing, catching one’s breath… nothing grand or fancy, just some simplicity with some silence thrown in.
Work can fill every space, between every space, if you let it. And sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes it’s what you want to do with your time, and it feels hugely fulfilling, uplifting even… but there’s a point at which you have to step back and check in with the palpitating heart, unstoppable typing fingers, weary eyes and achy back… and realise that this isn’t healthy. That there has to be a cut-off point… gaps around the busy-ness, to catch the moment at which it stopped being fulfilling, and started taking away energy you didn’t really have to give. And, one hopes, long before it becomes yet another source of discontent and exhaustion.
The problem, I’ve realised, is often with the goals we set ourselves. Do we set them because we have no choice? Or do we set them because we think there is no other way? Deciding to blog daily was my choice – something I’d never managed before, alongside the inevitable full-time work and home challenges. What’s come from it is an excuse to check in that bit more often… a journal in digital form, that makes me question the validity of my own actions at times, and helps with that eternal quest to notice the wood, not just the trees. Writing things down made me see how my mood had changed… how tying oneself to a restrictive working remit can backfire… where’s the contingency plan when ‘life happens’ and you don’t meet that deadline or ace that meeting? The answer, I have come to feel, most keenly, does not lie within these keyboard keys. As I look up, see that dusk has fallen and the clock struck 9, I learn my next lesson: next time, do only what feels right and rewarding. Leave the rest for another time, when you have learned the value of time.