Sunday, 14 December 2008

I've decided I'm not a lazy woman I'm a downshifter.

I have recently come across a fantastic woman that I've met virtually, (like so many of my really, really good mates actually!!) through her fantabulous site Book of Rubbish Ideas, called Tracey Smith. Her book and website were recommended by another of my virtual friends Mrs Green ages ago and I had not really had either the time or the inclination to have a proper look, until a few weeks ago when I eventually got round to ordering myself a copy of the book and what a book it is! For someone like me who would consider herself a little imperfect when it comes to all things green, it offers loads of ideas and inspiration for 'greening up my act', to surely nick someone elses cliche!! Some of it I am already doing like the fact that I use very few chemicals when it comes to cleaning. There really is no need to have a zillion different bottles and jars under the sink when a microfibre cloth, some bicarb and a dash of vinegar will sort out most things. The biggest thing that I have gleaned is that it brought to my attention that we actually waste quite a bit of food, or I think we do anyway, and it really is time that I address that issue in my life now.

Tracey's blog is also full of loads of ideas too and I read with interest her 'Top Ten Tips for Downshifting Sucess' ...and as I did, the realisation hit me that this is what has happened to me this last year in Italy, although I feel now that I have fought the idea on a concious level every step of the way. I have given up a full-time job childminding and also having my own pre-school daughter at home, to suddenly having no job of my own and both kids in full-time education. It actually scared me to death really, and I have spent a lot of the last year depressed and thinking that I need to 'do' something to earn my own money to be able to buy the 'stuff' I want and also to make myself sound more interesting when speaking to the people I know. What I didn't realise was that I am actually a downshifter. All that 'stuff' that I thought I needed to buy, well I don't think I actually need it after all; in fact what was it going to be anyway? Those people who say 'but what do you do all day?' don't actually matter. In fact, a really, really good friend of ours, whenever I have ever moaned about stuff has just said, 'for christ sakes, get a job!!' like this would be the end to all my problems. However, a job. It sounds good doesn't it, but will it give me 3months off in the summer because that's what I need to look after my kids during their very long, very European, summer holiday? Or will I need to farm them out to a 'Kids Club' like an ever-increasing amount of Italians now do? or worse, send them back to the UK and miss out on parts of their life whilst the Grandparents get to spoil them and bitch about me in equal measure? I think not. They are still young and I am still needed. I might not always remember that I am lucky and that actually I enjoy it, but that's ok. That's part of being human. Will I look back and say, 'god, I wish I had worked more then', or will I look back and think, 'god me and the kids had a good time then, really, on the whole'? I think it will be the latter, don't you?

Sometimes, you need a new perspective and a new way of seeing things in order to appreciate what you have and this is what I definately gain from reading blogs such as Tracey's and Mrs Green's at the moment. So, to all the doubters, I am a downshifter, ok and not just the lazy cowbag that you thought.... now what am I going to do with all this spare time that I'm giving myself permission to have.......?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Snow, friends and how to embrace what we have.

I want to talk about a few things today, so perhaps I should kick off with the fact that we had snow on Tuesday night so we were confronted with a white mass yesterday morning. This caused a mixture of reactions in our household. For once, DH was up and around with me and the kids, rather than laying in bed until I leave to take the kids to school and then having to come back to take him to work! He was playing it cool, but I knew he was excited. The kids had no such qualms over showing their excitement and were dressed, breakfasted and wanting to go outside about 45 minutes before they needed to be at school. My reaction was a bit more lacklustre I'm afraid. I just thought to myself, 'oh God, I need to try and drive in all that and I can't remember the snow-driving rules again'. I always think it is quite amazing that one person's idea of fun can be another's worst nightmare. It goes to prove that we are all different and all a little unique, but also it depends on your point of view and the level of responsibility you take for certain situations too, I think.

It reminded me a bit of a conversation I had on Facebook with an old childhood friend on Monday. I wrote my status for Monday as something like, 'Have kneaded my bread dough and it is now proving nicely', and she commented saying 'bloody hell, you are well domesticated nowadays. Makes me feel quite inadequate!' Well I felt a bit taken aback. Was this the same person who had written last week that she was really excited to be taking her kids to see Madagascar 2 at the cinema? Or the person who had had a fantastic time at her kid's school disco and been dancing away with all the kids (she is also heavily pregnant I might add here!)? When I read these things, I wished dearly that I would have been able to get excited about taking my kids to the cinema and also, if I was excited, to be able to admit it 'openly' on Facebook. But that just isn't me, as I am sure that she has never thought about making her own bread, whereas I am obsessed with it at the moment after finding little packets of Fresh yeast at the supermarket. As the late, great Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote about knitting: 'if you hate to knit, why, bless you, don't; follow your secret heart and take up something else.' I think that sometimes we see others doing stuff and we feel that that would be nice.... but..! There is no time and no inclination to fit in ALL these things. We are so accustomed nowadays to seeing certain lifestyles advertised to us and feeling that if we don't fit in to certain boxes then we are rubbish that it is hard to switch this off in ourselves. There is also the problem of recognising it on the first place too, of course as there are so many media channels that influence us covertly.

That's the thing about us humans isn't it? We are never happy with what we have. Sometimes it is best to accept things. In fact not just simply accept them, somethings are naturally unacceptable, but maybe to embrace those things that we cannot change. Perhaps what I needed to think when I woke up yesterday, was 'Snow. A good chance to practice my driving at my own pace in the snow so that I get better. As it is a fact here that life doesn't just stop when it snows.' Also, maybe reading what others are doing is also a good way to get inspired and embrace a bit of change. Perhaps my friend's post, rather than make me feel envious, would have been a good opportunity to think, oh a kid's disco, not sure I would be up for that, but I wonder if my own kids might like to put some music on later and have a dance around the front room. So inspiration rather than feeling that I am a hopeless mum. Sometimes it is the way you look at stuff that needs a rethink, as opposed to what you do.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Feeling Content

Yes, I know. I haven't written here for a while. There seem so many other things to do at the moment like reading flabby Nineteenth Century novels by Charles Dickens and George Eliot for example, and cleaning the house constantly, turning around and it looking no better than when you started, and waking up in the middle of the night because I suddenly panic that I haven't sorted out Christmas yet. You know the sort of stuff. However, I am feeling so much better in myself.... in fact I am actually feeling content at the moment. This is a very rare thing for me to say, and I am a bit dubious to talk about it, being mildly supersticious that once you say that you are feeling good, or happy or another of the plethora of positive emotions that a person can feel, it is suddenly dashed away from you again. But there it is. I am feeling content.

Makes a change from depression I can tell you. Depression and all the negative emotions that follow from it are yucky and they are destructive too. They don't just destroy the person feeling them, they go a long way to destroying those around them too. Those people you need most. It is also very good at destroying other stuff too. Jobs and careers as it is difficult to get your head out of the sand and get on with what you need to, lifestyles, you need a job and also you need to be in control of your finances which a lot of depressed people cannot do due to having their head firmly embedded in the sand.

But this contentedness. What is it and where on earth did it come from? I am not really sure I have an answer. It is like a switch has been flicked in my head. It is like rooting your feet into the ground when you practice yoga and saying 'I am here and that is that'. The Italians have some good and consise ways of expressing these things. They say 'basta' which means, 'enough' but it is much more final and defiant than the word enough. It just is enough and there is nothing more to be said. The other one I really like is 'cosi', which means 'so' or 'like this' in English and quite often you will hear Italians here saying 'é cosi' or 'it's like that' or 'it's just so' and that's it. Thats the way it is. Basta! or punto. which means full stop. Maybe it is infectious and I am picking it up from the Italians, the longer I live among them. Probably this is very likely as I am finally figuring out it is best to ask questions, listen to answers and if you can't change something 'é cosi' and that is that. You can choose how you react to stuff, and more importantly you can chose whether you react to stuff or not. That's it. Simple.

Yeah, well maybe not THAT simple but it is good to voice it and acknowledge that you do have a choice isn't it and maybe in the same way we practice something like yoga or another hobby we can practice choosing how we react. We might not always get the results we want and we might not get it right all of the time, but being aware of something is a pretty good first step on the road to changing something, or not changing something at all but learning to live with it and be content.