That Elusive Thing Called Balance

Sitting Down, Stopping, Staying Still. These are all things I am trying to practice. It has been a long time since I’ve written here. I have drafted a few posts, but for the most part I have simply not been able to find the time. After finishing Yoga Teacher Training last year I promised myself that 2018 would be the year of routine, of slow. I wanted to have a breather and get into a run of the mill schedule that included a bit of work, school drop offs and pick ups, family time, time for cooking and the farmers market and of course craft and cups of coffee. Nothing big. Nothing busy. Plain old pure normal.

I have managed to incorporate most of these things into my life. All good things. I’ve somehow landed an incredible job at a not-for-profit that is truly family friendly. I’m job sharing with another mum of three, working the amount I want and I love it. I’m making and selling things. I’m teaching yoga. I went to the farmers market on the weekend. We spend lots of time in the country on weekends. We have chickens and a veggie patch. But after five months of trying to do it all I have realised that life can’t be contained. Things come up. Physical things. Scheduling issues. Emotions. Time or a perceived lack of it.

Truth is, I am exhausted.

And I’m still searching for that elusive thing called balance. It has to be out there, right? I feel as though I am in a constant battle with time. Each day I get up, fight with time, feel disgruntled at the lack of it, and go to bed. I stay up late to try to do things, to have time to myself. Each morning I wake tired and do it all again. That all sounds very bleak and of course I smile and do good things with my days and for the most part I am happy. But I can’t help but feel I spend more time chasing than being.

In a bid to encourage myself to slow down, to do one task at a time instead of racing time every day, I was standing with P by the school gate this morning after drop off, watching a digger move dirt. A Mum I am getting to know tapped me on the shoulder looking rushed and tired. We had been passing each other in the playground and managing nothing more than a quick “hi!” for weeks. She has been working four days a week during school hours since the start of the year, thinking it would be a good balance being there for the kids in the morning and afternoon. She’s exhausted. She can’t get everything done around the house on her one day off and she feels as though everything outside of work is just falling to pieces.

Another friend of mine has been struggling with a sick husband and sick kids during the seasonal shift, while trying to balance studying full time. She told me she woke up at 2am the other night and got out of bed to wash the lunch boxes and do the kids’ school lunches for the next day to save her time in the morning.

I can relate to all this so well. I don’t know many parents who feel as though they have struck the perfect balance between work, parenting and life. Who are able to pay the bills with ease and just sail on through. I’m sure these people are out there. But from my observation the majority of us are struggling to do everything.

I’ve complained about this before, no doubt. And I am a believer in not thinking we have to do everything. I’m realising though there’s a gap between believing in something and actually playing it out each day in your own life. This transition can require a cultural shift within the family, it means pulling away from things, getting rid of the “shoulds”. We are figuring this out in our family, slowly, slowly.

Balance… where are you, really?

Chopping Vegetables

We got home from the beach this afternoon. It was all action stations, unpacking, tidying, dinner preparation. I managed to find half an hour where I was inside, alone, chopping vegetables for dinner (with an empty fridge an a kitchen full of bags, tonight it was roast veggies and tuna for the kids and tofu red curry for the grownups). The kids were playing happily in the backyard and there was a brief moment of blissful quiet.

I poured a glass of wine and, out of habit, I set my laptop up and went to youtube, to check the channels I like to watch and see which had updated while we were away. This habit of watching a screen while I’m cooking, using it as a reward, has become such a compulsion I whipped my laptop out before the third child had closed the back door on their way out. I realised how slow it had made me at dinner time, forever stopping to search for the next clip to watch, pausing to listen to whatever was being shown or said, forgetting where I was up to with my cooking.

Clogging my mind with more: more junk, more thoughts, more noise.

I thought of my 2018 intentions and I closed the laptop. I put on some classical music, this, and was amazed by the beauty of it, by the way my thoughts – actual real-time thoughts – flowed, by the way my thumb whipped and curled around the curves of the potatoes as I peeled and chopped, grit collecting underneath my nails and noise releasing from my head, dissolving into the air around me.

Over the years I have slowly but incessantly become reliant on screens to entertain me, to fill me up, to add bulk to moments of natural quiet throughout my day. Sometimes I enjoy it, but I am increasingly feeling frustrated at losing my train of thought, at turning on a screen before I even realise what I am doing, at feeling foggy-headed and full, just so full of other people’s thoughts and lives and details. Sometimes by the end of the day I feel so overstimulated I can barely think. It’s something I’m trying to be mindful of, to be aware of what is happening for me when I’m reaching for my phone, for entertainment, for external stimuli. It’s time I thought about my own screen time, not just that of the girls.

Dinner was served at 6pm. The hoards came inside. The next wave of the day began.

Checking In…

I’m feeling the need to check in briefly. I’ve got over thirty tabs open on my computer, a scatty brain, three draft blog posts that I have been working on over the past few weeks and a fast beating heart. Nothing is coming easily at the moment. I’m constantly perplexed at how busy life is… and I’m forever fighting a losing battle against it.

It’s times like these that I absolutely ache to run away, to pack our bags and throw things in the car and head off into the sunset. The urge to run away from this uncomfortable, anxious, overwhelming feeling is strong.

I’ve just put the smallest to bed for a nap. The other two are at school and kinder and I’ve got 45 minutes to spare to have lunch and a moment to myself before kinder pick-up. I spent the morning playing blocks, making bliss balls, folding the washing, putting the washing away, and I’ve also put on four loads of washing (and the dirty basket is still overflowing). I’ve changed the sheets on our bed, picked up what seemed like hundreds of pairs of shoes from the floor (so many shoes), and drank half a coffee… cold. Some yarn arrived via post this morning and I’ve got a list of birdie said orders to finish. I have a meeting tomorrow about a new project I’ve been asked to work on by a community health organisation I worked with last year.  I have an assignment due on Sunday as well as two teaching blocks to practise so I don’t humiliate myself in front of my peers at yoga on the weekend.

Yoga Teacher Training is at the intense end, with the final three months focussing on practicing teaching, assessments, an exam and I’m also (drum roll) completing my pre-natal yoga teacher training in a few weeks as a little extra (because I didn’t have enough to do). Although it feels intense, I’m thrilled to think I will be a qualified 350 hour Level 1 Yoga Teacher come December this year. And trained in pre-natal to top it off. Exciting times!

In saying that, I can feel myself yearning for simpler things. For time at home that doesn’t have my head spinning with all the things I have to do. With juggling priorities. It will be nice to have a little break from studying and for a new chapter of our lives to begin.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather, cool drinks on my back deck, trips to the beach, time to cook and walk around with bare feet, time to practise yoga without it feeling like homework.

Spring is certainly a busy time, although I heard someone say that the other day and it made me realise I kind of skipped that part of Winter where you’re meant to move inwards and enjoy some reflection. So now I’m off to do something really naughty – lay horizontal on the couch and read my book for 15 minutes. Or maybe even 20…

What are you busy with at the moment?

Immersion in the Present

Time is passing. There is only now and now and now. With young children it can be easy to daydream through the motions: the feeding, the dressing, the herding. I’ve been reading Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren and have been reminded yet again of “and this.” I find myself quoting as I pack the school lunches, as I wipe the daily grit from our old table, as I fold (or not fold) the washing, as I pull a tearful little face to my chest after a fall: And this. And this. And this. There is only ever this. At first I wondered if it only served to remind me of the monotony and take me, unwillingly, away from my airy thoughts, but with practice I have seen it bring me back into the moment, to ground me.

Over Winter I have been immersed in thought, in yoga study, in reading, in thinking. Perhaps this is nothing new (for me) but with the addition of yoga I have felt growth within myself that has surpassed all other things.

As I type, the littlest wanders over with a shell. I hold it to her ear. “Listen,” I say, “can you hear the sea?”

And this.

I sip my coffee.

And this.

Over the weekend we went to Apollo Bay and I attended a whole day workshop with Melbourne writer, Arnold Zable. The parallels between yoga and writing were illuminated as I listened to his words: “To be a writer, you have to be here, you have to be mindful, grounded. You have to witness.” Because if you aren’t there to witness something, to witness it deeply and fully, then to capture that moment in words later is going to leave you unreliable; the moment dulled through the fog of your inattention.

So go out and allow yourself to see. Notice the way the morning light hits the edges of a plant in your window. See the wisp of hair on your child’s forehead and know its habit to swing this way, or that. Feel the crackle of eucalyptus leaves beneath your feet, the solidity of your legs, your body moving through air – feel it as though you are moving through water, or soup. Step outside in the fading light and smell your neighbour’s open fire, smell the chill of the evening, the dampness of the soil.

And lastly, this: Xavier Rudd singing out from my computer speakers: Cherish this moment. Cherish this breath.

Transition: Back To School

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This summer has felt never-ending in the best kind of way. Our days have been slow and close to home, we have spent most of our time in the garden, planting, weeding, raking; all meditative and focussed and dirty. I’m sure our vitamin d levels have been replenished and the amount of dirt ingested by the small ones has surely given immune systems a boost. I’ve visited the library – twice! – on my own and wandered the aisles without having to hush loud voices or balance a baby on my hip. We’ve been to the beach and read magazines and books in the middle of the day with our feet up (latest library haul pictured above). Six weeks of adult company every day has been glorious and indulgent.

The only problem now is that it is about to end.

School starts back next week. We’re loading up the washing machine looking for white socks and uniforms. We’re scratching our heads trying to remember the old routine, what time do we need to get up? Who needs lunches on what days? When does kinder go back? The thought of the morning rush makes me cringe, and annoying issues like how to fit a baby’s midday sleep in amongst inconveniently timed kinder and school pick ups are slowly twisting their way back into my brain.

I always struggle with transitions of this sort. I seem to ride along on such a high when things are easy and breezy, but the inevitable slump that follows change of any kind has become such a predictable pattern for me, noticed only with the passing of time. The challenge now is having a vague idea of what lies ahead and trying to figure out ways to combat it before it arrives, heavy and dull, in my lap. I can predict feelings of nostalgia and yearning when I think back even to this moment, sitting here with my feet up having a cup of peppermint tea, while the baby sleeps and the girls read on the couch, KB pottering away in the yard outside. The sun will still shine next week, but for the most part I’ll be alone again when demands of water or food or help tying a shoelace arise.

There are a few things I’m planning on doing this week to help us all get ready for the return to school and work. Firstly we are all making a concerted effort to get to bed earlier, and start to rise earlier once again. Over the last month it hasn’t been uncommon for KB and I to watch that illusive second episode in the evenings instead of getting some much needed sleep… many nights seeing us awake as the clock struck twelve. The girls have also been staying up late, playing musical beds, sleeping in their teepee or reading until all hours.

Secondly, meal prep! We’ve been lazily preparing whatever it is we feel like at each meal, having a bit too much take away and eating later than usual. That’s what summer is all about though right? Nevertheless it’s time to reign things in. I’ll be meal planning again as of this week and getting back into the routine of food prep on Sundays which is something I have actually missed doing over these warm summer weekends.

Our garden is looking pretty amazing (if I do say so) but the house has suffered from a bit of neglect while we’ve been out soaking up the sun (who am I kidding, there’s usually a fair amount of house-neglect going on summer or no). We’ll give her a once-over this week and try to start fresh next week. I’m always trying to get into the habit of doing a wash every day and folding washing as it comes off the racks, but I abhor washing so this is always a boring work in progress for me.

Aside from that I’m determined to cope with this transition with ease and grace, not like a moody teenager on house arrest.

A Morning Routine

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There’s a little obsession of mine that I may not have told you about. It’s reading about people’s morning routines. I love hearing how people start their day. I love the routine, the rhythm of it. The calmness, the self care. But there’s one thing I notice while I’m peering into someone’s life on YouTube, watching them pad around their white apartment barefoot, sipping on a hot cup of chai or staring wistfully out their window:

They don’t have children.

I still enjoy watching, and remembering a time when I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do in the mornings. But a lot of the talk about morning routines is unrealistic for a harried mother of three. There’s a rebellious part of me, though, that is determined to get my mornings back or, at the very least, figure out ways that I can incorporate something for me in the mornings, in amongst the ruckus. I know my day is better when I start the morning right.

It’s Saturday today, so things are naturally slower. Today, I think to myself, today is the day I will implement my new morning routine. I’m picturing lounging around on the couch, preparing an instagram worthy breakfast with at least five colours of the rainbow and the perfect combination of macro and micro nutrients, I’ll do some stretches and of course the girls will just be happy for me to do my own thing…

It begins: I have been trying really hard to drink a bottle of water with lemon or apple cider vinegar first thing, as I am not naturally hungry in the mornings and often don’t eat until after I have dropped the girls at school/kinder, at which point the baby is usually around my ankles needing some attention. So, I sat on the couch drinking my water. I got up three times to tend to the girls (get a drink, refill a porridge bowl, wipe up spilt milk). Then. I had a coffee (oh dear, that is meant to come later, not sneak in at number two on the routine list!). And then suddenly the day was moving on, the girls were ready to do something and there were blueberries squished into the cracks in the floorboards and the dog needed more water and… I forgot to eat breakfast. The morning was over.

Now it’s morning tea time and I’m tucking into the toast and smoothie pictured above, while the girls have their morning tea. Two out of three of them are dressed, and the telly is on… ahhh Saturday mornings!

I suppose my morning routine will start another day. I don’t think it will be like the ones I see on YouTube. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Baby is 18 months old now, and she (mostly) sleeps through the night. I’m getting a bit more sleep and KB will be on school holidays as of next week. There’s a freshness to the air that only summer can bring, the cicadas are calling and the days are long.

I still have hope.

A Kind of Meditation

Moving slowly around the kitchen, buttering toast, filling cups of water. Flicking on the coffee machine. Quiet thoughts floating past my consciousness. Wiping faces, passing wooden spoons and saucepans to idle hands. Sweeping the floor, wiping the tiles on hands and knees because the mop broke. Feeding the dog, filling her bowl. Putting seeds out for the birds, pausing for a small moment in the sunshine. Taking off my shoes, walking barefoot on the boards. Picking flowers with the girls, placing jars with their arrangements around the house. Getting in the car, doing up the straps, pausing for a moment to breathe. Coming home again, unloading. Repeat, repeat, repeat throughout the day for various this and that; shops, school, kinder. Putting the kettle on, spooning tea into the pot. Standing for a moment to collect my thoughts. Moving again, pouring the tea, folding the clothes, reading a book to eager ears. Turning on the oven, chopping vegetables. Leaning over to pick things up off the floor, clearing space. Turning the oven off, serving up the food. Wiping faces, changing nappies, running a clear warm bath. Warming pyjamas by the heater, doing up buttons, encouraging little bodies into bed. Tucking in, giving kisses.

Re-boiling the kettle.

Sitting on the couch.

Barely moving.

Tired but content.

Turning Down the Volume

I heard excited squeals from the back yard this afternoon. I went outside to find Bird and the Pixie jumping up and down next to the four wattle trees we planted a couple of years ago along the fence, now in full flower. Last year they produced a few flowers here and there, but this has been their first proper show. I was taken aback by

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Over the Weekend

It’s Monday and we had the most glorious weekend. It started when I was presented with a hot coffee first thing and told to drink it in bed. I opened the curtain and let the light stream in and sat with Birdie curled up next to me and slowly sipped.

I spent five hours in the kitchen with my three little helpers yesterday afternoon, and I feel so organised for the week. I made tamari trail mix, raw trail mix, salted caramel bliss balls (with nuts for those eating at home), coconut cacao bliss balls (with seeds for those taking to work/school), sneaky veg muffins, sweet potato and lentil frittata, and a giant batch of kitchari (a traditional Ayurvedic recipe which is gentle on tummies and great to eat during the change of season into Autumn. I made enough for a family meal + five adult lunches). I was planning on making red kidney bean bolognese sauce as well for one of our dinners this week but we ran out of time, I will make that in the next few days. The girls donned their aprons (the baby joined us with a rusk and contributed with some squeals here and there) and helped to pour, mix, roll, chop and grate. Things are slower with them in the kitchen and I have to make a conscious effort to include them and allow things to go at a slower pace.

We went to a local native plant sale, met some friends and took turns minding children and wandering around. We bought some natives for our garden and even found time to plant a few.

On Saturday KB took all three girls out and I stayed at home for the whole morning cleaning the house, I think this was a major contributing factor to the calm flow that followed us throughout the remainder of our weekend. It took about four hours, but oh! What a difference it made to our attitudes and our time spent at home over the weekend, without falling over things and each other. Now we just have to try to maintain our sense of order, for a little while at least.

It’s weekends like these I like best, with time to think and potter and make. I hope you had a wonderful one too, wherever you may be.

Creating White Space In Life

2016-04-07 12.56.01It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. The washing, the meal prep, the entertainment, the shopping lists, the to-dos. Over the holidays I had a lot of time to consider my life and how each day is spent. When I had just one baby at home the days seemed long and sometimes, empty. I did whatever I wanted; the days were slow and fairly carefree, which has only been recognised in hindsight, of course.

Nowadays with school and kindergarten drop offs and pick ups, my days seem surprisingly chaotic and full, and not always in a good way. I’m finding it hard to adjust and I feel like a real wimp for saying so.

My goal this term is to try to create more down time, more white space. I have a tendency to book up every moment, to say yes to everything, to schedule things in. I’ve started writing “home” on some days on our calendar, to remind myself that in between the necessary driving and delivering of children, I (we) need time to breathe. It’s not just to make sure that dinner is on the table (my goal is to have it ready by 5pm in order to get baths and bedtimes happening at a reasonable hour for my Bird, who finds it very difficult to wind down in the evenings… some would say she’s a lot like her mama). It’s also because the poor baby isn’t in any sort of daily rhythm and she is now ten months old (today!). She has most of her sleeps in the car or the ergo or the pram and they are usually short lived, either due to necessity or just because she barely sleeps a wink (like her sister). Overnight she wakes three times at minimum and has done since she was born. It’s fair to say I’m tired, and I’m guessing she is too! Yes, there is yet another reason for us to take things down a notch.

The other day, with reckless abandon, we packed a picnic lunch, got in the car and went for a bushwalk (see picture). I am always shocked to get out there and realise this is where we live. The time spent in nature worked wonders for all of us and when we got back to the car I really felt regenerated. It was then that my decision was made to make a conscious effort to create more space simply to breathe.

Today after school drop off we came straight home. Baby P is having a sleep and miraculously it’s been 35 minutes so far (totally jinxed myself then and she literally started crying as I pressed full stop). The Pixie is home from kinder with a cough and is watching Octonauts. The breakfast dishes have been washed (thanks to a simple but super tip from my mum – to fill up the sink with hot soapy water first thing and dump all the dishes in there as you go) and today my one goal is to do a few loads of washing and hopefully write a few incredibly late thank you cards for gifts we received when Baby was born (OOPS!).

What are you all up to today? I hope you find some time for yourself, wherever you are.

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