Yesterday was Friday. My day off. Usually, my most favourite day in the world where I take some time to recharge my batteries and remind myself that life is not one big, giant job that makes demands of you all the time. Life is for living. Yesterday, I did not feel like that. Yesterday, there were a multitude of jobs to do. My mind was churning away, I had a ‘to-do’ list in my head and the first thing was: ‘Get the girls to school’. As any parent knows, the get the children to school part is preceded by at least 300 other jobs – which includes chivvying children along. The same conversations, the same reminders each morning. Constant chivvying. Once we were out of the house, we began our walk to school.
The walk to school is full of conversations about what the day will hold, negotiating traffic, walking through a subway (which always fills me with dread) and getting to school on time. But when we finally climbed up the concrete steps of the subway and reached the pavement, a sense of relief flooded my brain, and I started to actually look around. The walk to school is actually quite lovely because so many people have the most beautiful shrubs and trees in their front gardens – and there they were, in plain sight. Flowers of every description. And although my youngest had been telling me ever since the 21st of March that Spring was here. Spring had started. Mummy, it’s spring now. My ears had heard her – but my eyes finally acknowledged what she had been trying to tell me. Spring was here. Blossom everywhere. The most beautiful red roses that you never see in bouquets, smiling shyly at me, oblivious of their beauty, hidden slightly amongst the green foliage. Daffodils, tulips, magnolia, crocuses – all waving frantically, trying to catch my attention. And I, like so many others, just walk past them. Heads full of to-do lists, worries and chatter, not noticing the beauty in the world around us.
Mindfulness is a buzz word at the moment. Be in the moment. I received a beautiful adult colouring book once as an end of year present – it was full of flowers. I pictured myself sitting in my back room, at the round glass table, under the glass roof, in front of the French doors that open onto the garden, with a brand new set of Staedtler colouring pencils, spending an afternoon peacefully colouring in. Colouring in those flowers, looking out onto my garden, with a cup of tea, smiling and colouring in. Of course, in those reveries, I’m probably a Victorian lady, who has a lady’s maid that looks after the children and doesn’t have to deal with the arguments, squabbling and mess that goes with being a mum in the modern world. I allowed myself 2 minutes of delightful, uninterrupted day-dreaming though, put away my colouring book in a safe place, never to be seen again.
The only way, I realise that I can be in the moment – is by walking in the great outdoors. Noticing the trees swaying in the wind on a gusty day, the flowers, with their joyful colours announcing that new life is here, the peaceful sounds and movement of the river, or watching the hypnotic waves of the sea gush wildly towards me, and then retreating just as quickly, as though I had offended them.
I have to go outside to escape from the things that are bothering me in own head. From the people that might have said something that upset me, from the jobs that I have to do but haven’t managed yet, from the things that are not going my way and I can’t understand why. Going for a walk always makes me remember how temporary and small a lot of my worries are. It reminds of the cycle of life. During the winter, whilst it’s cold, we never think the evenings will ever get longer again. The trees are skeletal and bare. The days are cold. The sun is deceptive, shining brightly but heating nothing at all. And we think that we will never get through it. When will the leaves grow again? When will the days start to get longer? When will we feel the warm heat of the sun caressing our bodies again? And it just happens. All of a sudden. And we didn’t even realise where the time had gone.
There is beauty in winter though. There is no other feeling that beats being out in the freezing cold, seeing your breath in the air while you breathe, then scampering indoors and feeling the warmth of your house hit you as you walk in through the door, then making a hot cup of tea and feeling your body warm up from the inside. I love seeing the patterns that the frost makes on glass, on the pavements, how the earth seems to shine, whilst all of nature is temporarily frozen. Even when we go through tough times in life – there is beauty in that. Sometimes you realise who is truly there for you, and others may surprise you with their warmth, care and generosity. You realise how strong you are, how you are capable of doing things that you had never imagined before.
Rightly, or wrongly, I can only be ‘mindful’ outside. Noticing things in nature that we just don’t have time to notice on a day to day basis. How the shape of every tree is slightly different. The colour and patterns on the bark vary. How there are a million shades of green. And how flowers growing outside, make you feel that there must be a benevolent God, with a heart so pure – otherwise, how else could there be such beauty in the world? And for me – the sea. I am never more peaceful and happy, as I am beside the sea. Whether it is turquoise and a haven in the hot, scorching sun; or an angry, terrifying grey, crashing against the rocks, warning you with a furious passion, that you must stay away.
Go outside. When you are sad, go outside. When you are worried, go outside. When you are feeling depressed, go outside. Walk. Breathe. Notice. Notice the flowers, the trees, the birds, the cracks in the pavement, the styles of windows and doors on people’s houses.
And when you get back home, get ready to give life a go again. Nothing is ever as bad as it might seem.