Well, it’s been a week! On Friday 3rd March, I came home, to a kitchen that still wasn’t finished and the cold that had been threatening all week making itself felt.
Reader, it wasn’t a cold it was COVID. Add to the list of things I don’t recommend happening to you at all, let alone when your flat looks like a tip and you don’t have a finished kitchen! I spent the best part of five days in bed, while the decorator was finishing the kitchen. That was finished on Wednesday.
I also managed to give it to Mum, which was just perfect, my friends are wonderful though, offers of food and shopping were immense, I’m very lucky.
On Thursday, I was back WFH in the ruins of the flat, sounding worse than I felt, but testing negative. Over the weekend, Ma and I have done some unpacking, there is more work to do, on Wednesday, some bedroom furniture arrives and I can finish.
Then before the end of the month, I need to clear out the living room for the flooring in there to be done and then that should be it for work to the flat for at least another 13 years!
I’ve been talking about my plans to spend some time in Lent doing the Examen more. So I thought I’d talk about what it is and why I find it useful and what I find difficult about it.
First, what it is? It’s a Jesuit thing. First started by Ignatius Loyola, the Daily Examen is a way to encourage prayer filled mindfulness, as a way to find God’s presence and discern His direction in our lives. Grace did a whole service on it a while ago.
There are lots of ways of doing this, the basic steps are:
Become aware of God’s presence – look back on your day, look for where God was and when it felt like God was absent
Review the day with gratitude – in every day, no matter how terrible something good happens. That could be a coffee with a friend, a seat on a train. Be thankful for those things
Pay attention to your emotions – we feel a range of emotions during the day, when did we feel what? According to Ignatian spirituality we detect the presence of God in the movement of our emotions, so what is God telling us?
Pray on an aspect of the day – Think about something in the day, it could be where we know we fell short, it could be something we did well, it could be something that we need help with. Consider it and pray on it. It could be asking for help, it could be more thankfulness, it could be a prayer for others.
Look forward to tomorrow – Think about tomorrow and the joys and challenges in it. Ask God for what you need to get through the day.
There are other ways of doing it and I think even if you’re not Christian or don’t believe in God, you can see the basic structure is useful for reflection and self-care. When I was really struggling with depression, I did a cut down version of it ‘three things to be grateful for in a day’ and sometimes I still do that but the examen, takes a bit of time and it’s sometimes hard to find that time, in the middle of work and tiredness and perimenopause and a life full of ‘should’ do, sometimes I just feel too tired. But when I take this time for reflection and prayer, I always feel calmer and more balanced.
Which is why I wanted to make it a Lent practice, if it takes 30 days to build a habit, then making some time for it over 46 days, will help embed it.
Salad shortages? They don’t worry me – I grow my own in a 8x5m plot. You can, too. I hate articles like this. Some people can do it, but you need a garden or an allotment. If you don’t have a garden, you can go on a waiting list. Some allotments have really cheap rent (mine is £130-ish a year), then have the cost of setting it up, you need tools, you need a place to put the tools. You could grow on windowsills but my flat doesn’t have any and good light, which my flat doesn’t have in abundance either. Then you have the cost of preparing and preserving it and I say this as a person who has just bought an extra fridge freezer for allotment produce. There are good reasons to try and grow some of your own food but it’s really unfair to suggest that everyone can do it and it’s easy. It’s not.
I didn’t have anything to say about the allotment last week and I still don’t have anything much to say because of the stupid kitchen work taking such a long time. We went to feed the birds, I still need to weed everything, I also need to order compost and buy more bird food.
I’m desperate to get onto the plot and get something done next week, is going to have to be sorting the flat out. Of course if the builders haven’t finished, I’ll spend Saturday morning at the allotment work day and some other hours rage-weeding. However much I want to be on the plot, I’m praying that doesn’t happen because I need my flat back.
So next week, little plot, next week, I can devote all my time to you and not to moving furniture.
It’s March tomorrow so it’s time to talk about things I’d like to do in March. As ever, let’s have a look February first.
Despite the feeling that February was my own personal trash fire of a month. Circumstances have dictated that I’ve done pretty well with these..
70,000 steps a week to equate to 280,000 for the month.
I busted through this, on Sunday night I was at 305,285. I didn’t hit 10,000 steps on six days in February, three of those days were Sundays (which is my traditional day of sloth and on the other three I was busy at work and got the Drain from Waterloo to work and even so was at over 9,000). I don’t think that it’s made any quantifiable difference, I didn’t lose weight and my mood is still grumpy but I have noticed that my feet, particularly my right foot, were not happy. The bunion has started to ache which is not a good sign and I need to investigate the private healthcare I get through work to see if it’ll cover an osteotomy, given the great leaps we’ve had in work from home, it won’t be six weeks off, but we’ll see. For now it’s probably time to get some new inserts and splints for the toe.
Stretching every day
I was less consistent about this, Ma did help with some of the hamstring stretches and I could feel my knee re-arranging itself. These did have a quantifiable effect and I need to make this a daily habit, so this will be on the list for the rest of the year.
I was very consistent about this because I was at Mum’s and there is no opportunity for mucking about, I shopped and prepped all my breakfasts for Monday to Fridays and all my lunches for Monday to Thursday, Friday was sushi day. I haven’t done that for this week for being at home with a kitchen but no kitchen equipment unpacked (for this week, I’m eating fruit for breakfast and hummus, carrots and rice cakes for lunch!). I’m eager to get back to the routine of it because it’s really nice and I feel better for it.
10pm bedtimes on school nights
I know that as a childless person, I’m not supposed to complain about not getting enough sleep, because apparently, you’ve never truly experienced tiredness until you have children. However, I am cursed by really needing sleep to function and struggling to get enough. I do know that consistency in getting your sleep to sort itself out, while I was at my Mum’s a 6am wake up was going to be enforced on workdays because Ma would worry if I wasn’t up and I needed to get the 7.27am train. 6am wake up makes 10pm an 8 hour sleep window – I never hit that but I was trying to give myself a fighting chance. At the beginning of the month, I was getting about 6h 20 to 6h30m sleep. Up until last week, it had settled to about 7h sleep a night. Last week, it was decreasing a bit and it’s been 6h 22m for the last four nights. I know, it’s odd and I’m tired. Having said that, I’m not struggling with wake ups at 6am as much as I was. That could be the habit of the 10pm bedtime, 6am wake up, it could be the changes in my diet, it could be the added walking. I have no idea. I do know it’s a habit I want to keep, I’ll like to work with it and see if it does sort itself out or if I start to feel less tired.
As the kitchen work stretched out, so did my days in the office. I’ll be in office all five days this week and as I have been for the last 4 weeks (with the exception of one Monday, I had holiday for a haircut). It’s been tiring but it’s been good. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t enjoy getting out of bed at 6am, I don’t enjoy the commute either but I haven’t had a choice and so I’ve done it and as with most things you have to do, if you face it head on, prepare for it and just get on with it, it’s not terrible. Even when the flat is done, I want to restrict the days I’m home to one or two days a week because I’ve noticed that things are easier if I’m in the office.
Sort out the flat and have it unpacked
This goal had the major caveat of ‘builders permitting’. They have not permitted. I have ‘painted the bedroom’ but although I’m home, I’m basically living in the bedroom and the only actual furniture is my bed. I can’t even do laundry right now. So this was my only real fail this month and it wasn’t my fault, it’ll move to next month.
Lent – Ash Wednesday kicked off Lent last week and I gave up sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and crisps. From my perspective of only 7 days of doing this, it’s been alright, I’m eating more fruit and some nuts. I’m grateful right now for that promise because it would be really easy to eat junk right now and while giving up those things doesn’t mean I couldn’t eat junk, (I didn’t give up ice cream) it feels against the spirit of what I’m trying to achieve. This is something I wouldn’t have noticed without the Examen. I’m not doing it every single day but I am doing it four out of seven and it does highlight where I’m being a drama queen and interestingly, I’m slightly more grumpy on the days I don’t do it. So I need to keep making time for this.
So let’s talk about March.
The point of small goals for me, has been to try and turn some things into habits, to make them things I just do, like making my bed, brushing my teeth and taking my make up off before I go to bed. I always do these things, I know people who don’t but it doesn’t occur to me not to. At some point they just became things I do and put into my day and week without thinking about it. So now in the third month of the year, I’m going to take them with me and set some one off goals.
So continuing on from February are the Lent promises, 70,000 steps a week (310,000 for the month), stretching every day, 10pm bedtimes with 6am wake ups (on worknights) and food prep (once I have a kitchen I can do that from)
Sort out the flat and unpack it.
Not a continuation but a moved goal because it’s a one off.
Declutter the living room.
Although the living room is full of my stuff, it didn’t get any significant sorting out done before I filled it up with furniture from other rooms. It needs it, so I need to do it.
One of the reason there needs to be less stuff in the living room is because I’m about to fill it up with plants. I have a whole new set up to talk about and I can’t do that, until I set it up. Also everybody else’s seed growing is making me jealous! This month is the time for peppers and aubergines.
Order it, assemble it, have somewhere to hang my clothes.
I’m back home and things are not quite complete. There’s some snagging to do in the bedroom and the kitchen is just about workable but needs flooring, tiles and snagging. Part of me is really happy to be home to sleep in my bed, but let’s just say that the builders have not been careful with my possessions, the worse of that being the state of my mattress. None of it is life altering, it’s just been a bit careless.
However, Ma and I have painted and cleaned, and painted and cleaned some more. The only room in the flat that is anything like it was is the bathroom, everything else is a work in progress. To quote Brene Brown, no empathetic sentence ever began with ‘at least’ but I can say it’s better than having no home, that worse things are possible and it’s only for a little while longer. This is very much a first world problem.
Surprisingly, I am going to miss staying with Mum. Ok, not the inflatable bed or the commute, but the Monday night detective TV, dinner being ready when I get home, all my washing and ironing being done and just getting to spend time with Mum with nothing that we have to do. That’s been amazing. We both value our alone time, so I know it’s been a huge sacrifice for her and I’m grateful, yet again to have the best mother!
So this week, is going to be interesting, it’s looking like another full week in the office, because I can’t work at home until I have a desk I can get to or a kitchen table and none of those are happening for a couple of days. Food is only to be mostly toast and eating standing up, giving up sweets, biscuits, crisps and cakes, is a blessing because otherwise, I think I’d just eat crap, instead I get a Gail’s seeded loaf and smoked salmon for dinner!
I don’t really have a plan, just get through the week, unpack at the weekend and maybe have next Monday off to finish up. We shall see.
Lent Started on Wednesday and as I’ve done in previous years, I’m going to talk about it. If it’s not your thing, I get it, and I’ll see you sometime in the week, for my usual wittering.
So the first week of Lent.
I tend to assume that everyone knows what Lent is but it has been brought home to me this week, that this is not the case. So Lent is the period before Easter, it starts on Ash Wednesday and finishes on the Easter Saturday and it 40 days of fasting, praying and generally getting yourself really for Easter. I can heard you doing the maths now and saying that 22 February until 8 April is actually 46 days and you’d be right, the Sundays don’t count. In the Catholic Church, until the Second World War, fasting and abstinence during Lent was hardcore (only one meal a day, no meat, no eggs, no butter and generally no fun) and you had on day that you didn’t have to fast. Although given that in the northern hemisphere of the planet during most of the Church’s history, you’d be at the end of winter stores and slap in the middle of the ‘hungry gap’, chickens wouldn’t be laying and you’d be drying off cows for calving so there probably wouldn’t be much dairy available, so it makes a virtue of a necessity.
Nowadays, it’s not very hardcore although I understand that in the Catholic Church you’re supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and if you’re over 14 not eat meat on Fridays. These are not things that I grew up doing, probably because my Mum didn’t see the point of them! But I did go to a Catholic school and we were encouraged to give something up, give to charity, think about Jesus a bit more and go to Mass more often during Lent.
I’ve always thought of it as a time to think and act like the Christian I’d like to be, rather than the one I maybe am. So I have recently started to give things up but with the provision that I give the money I save to charity, usually the food bank. This year I have a regular sum that goes to my food bank so during Lent, I’ll put something in the food collection every time I shop (donations are at an all time low). Spiritually, I’ll wonder through the Examen every day and Grace are reading through a book, which I do find useful. So it’s pretty low key. Be less greedy, more charitable, think about God more often.
One of the things that we don’t talk about is the amount of faith and hope required to go into Lent acting like this matters. Even if you’re not Christian, the end of winter is tough, we’re tired and it’s still dark in the mornings and early evening, we’ve not yet had that boost of extra sunlight and energy that makes summer easier. Right now, with everything going on in the world and the sheer effort of living through trying times (and I don’t know about anyone else but it feels like everything has been terrible every year for at least the last three), it’s hard to imagine that another kind of life is possible.
Obviously, I believe in a God that does care and that can take this six weeks and change me. So Lent is an act of hope, it’s a time to hope for better for me and better for everyone else. But dreams without a plan, are just wishes. So Lent is also a tiny plan.
So, this Lent, I’m offering God a tiny plan, to change me and the world a tiny bit or a huge amount. God can be funny like that.
There is a surefire way for the English to correctly pronounce Irish names. Just ask us. I am hopeless with languages, however I grew up Catholic in the 80’s so Niamh and Siobhan are names I know how to pronounce. (Yes, I did have two Irish grandparents but they both died before I was born and none of the Irish side of my family that I know about speak Irish at home). Having said that, I do the same thing I always do when unsure of someone’s name, I ask and make best efforts to get it right. It’s not hard to do. Although, the pronunciation of Cathal did take me by surprise recently!
Chancellor urged to reform childcare and stop urging over-50s to unretire. Hunt thinks it’s over 50’s retiring because it’s happening amongst the people he knows, who are well off. I’m nearly fifty and I know three people who have retired ‘early’ two were made redundant during the pandemic and one is retired due to ill health. I don’t know anyone else who can afford to retire early. I’d love too but I’ll probably be working past my current retirement age (67 but it’ll probably go up to 68)
Cruel ‘scam of mum and dad’ sparks a regulatory crackdown. I don’t get it. When I’m not living in her house, I talk to my mum every day (even my brother calls her every other day), in this situation, I would call her and that’s pretty much the answer. If you got texts or whatsapp messages like this asking for help, “sure, give me a shout and we’ll talk about it”. Problem solved, because if it is your kid and they need help, they will call. If it’s not, they won’t!
War, drought, staff shortages: why the price of milk has soared in the UK. I buy organic milk from Yeo Valley, which is good but it’s also £3 for 2 litres, that works for me, I drink 200mls a day with my collagen. I might also take a litre of it for yoghurt and that it pretty much it. That doesn’t really work for a family where everyone has milk in their tea and coffee or doesn’t have much money and relies of it extra nutrition. See also eggs…
Whatever happened to middle age? The mysterious case of the disappearing life stage. I have embraced the middle age label. I am middle aged and quite frankly, it’s great. I’m much clearer about the things I want in my life. If I had lots of money, I might think about retraining to do something more interesting, although I do like both my job and the company I work for, which hasn’t always been the case. There is something very freeing about this age which I’m really enjoying. I know that as someone without a partner and children, my mid life will look very different from others but I think as with anything else, it’s what you make it, it doesn’t make you!