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Leaving it all Behind

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

18th September, 2018

So following from my previous post, I'm sitting here writing, but sadly not at the 5am slot I can only dream of. It's 10.26am and, once again, I didn't manage to get up to write in the hours of dawn and also - annoyingly - didn't manage to get back to sleep either, woken several times between 4 and 7am. So I've spent the last (roughly) three and a half hours lying in a dark room, trying to get one tired Isaac (rubbing his eyes and clearly not ready for 'up', but fighting sleep) and me back to sleep. I failed. The most I managed was some ruminating negative thoughts and one (uplifting) podcast. So here I am, writing at 10.28am. 

That little introduction was just to let you know how far I've got with implementing my morning routine in the style of the author of Rest: Why you get more done when you work less, the author who also writes about his successful morning routine and his creative work. It's any writer's dream. But then, as I was lying there this morning, I thought, well the author is a man after all... And that means I can be pretty sure that he wasn't breastfeeding through the night and woken alternately by a toddler and a baby. So I can comfort myself with that thought..

Still. I do hate going back to bed in the mornings and getting up late. Even when it's a holiday and it feels legitimate to lie in, there's something about it that just feels a bit... horrible. Especially when it hasn't even resulted in extra sleep.

But anyway, I digress. Because what I wanted to write about today was the feeling of 'leaving it all behind.' This is a feeling - or phenomenon - that I love. It's not so much the idea of leaving jobs behind, or a certain place (though that is part of it), but more the leaving of actual physical stuff  behind, something which I LOVE. I notice this when I go on retreats. I love the feeling of walking into a fairly bare room (with hardly more decoration than perhaps a crucifix above the bed) with just my suitcase of things for the week. I love the feeling of unpacking my limited possessions into little drawers and cupboards and having the simplicity all around me. It's more than the absence of clutter. It feels like an arrival at a certain 'lightness' somehow.

And this is what happened when I walked into our little 'cabinet' in the woods at Centre Parcs. And I've noticed how its effect all week. The only toys we brought for Gracie were 'Starry Bear' (a gift from Grandad, which she cannot sleep without), some books and a colouring book and pens. Poor Isaac didn't get anything, since I omitted to pack the board books I'd planned. So there's a real absence of toys all around and also a feeling of space: big windows, open-plan kitchen, dining & lounge, and an absence of stuff. I was listening to my usual Jen Fulwiler podcast a week or so ago about clutter. She was on a mission to declutter, since her house, with six kids in it, had become out of control. So she called in professional help and something she says is that every single thing we own ('right down to those little paper clips in a drawer') takes up some of our time. 

How very true. I've noticed this week that I've spent substantially less time stooped over in a 'picking up' position. I don't have wooden pieces of fruit or Lego, or various soft toys, or an untold number of books and blankets and crayons to gather. And Grace has found ways of entertaining herself nonetheless. As has Isaac, who is currently playing with his usual favourite toy: a set of wires. This time he's found them under the resident TV. 

We've spent much more time outside. And yes, I know it's easier here. We have the woods and the soft play and the bikes and the swimming pool. I know it's not quite like home. And I do admit that Grace has been watching more TV than usual, a little holiday treat I have allowed myself so I can have 'lazy' mornings. But this could still apply when we're back. Even though I've decluttered a lot and I've even discovered that it's one of my 'blue flames' and I actually enjoy it, we still have a lot of stuff, an excess of paraphernalia. And this week is a reminder to me that when you're without that stuff, you have more time. I know that we have the luxury here of not having to own all the things we usually need - from the pair of shoes you just keep for weddings to the wedding dress you just can't part with even though you might never put it on again - and that is a temporary luxury. But still. It has reminded me of an important truth, and given me that lovely feeling of lightness that I get when I stay in convents/hotels/apartments that are free from stuff. 

Another thing I notice an absence of here (and any parent/ auntie/ uncle/ grandparent readers will relate to this, I'm sure) is baby gates. I don't have to open and close baby gates every time I go in and out of rooms. What wonderful flow. What wonderful freedom!

So. I am determined to continue the Mission that every parent has - and it's definitely a weekly mission, if not a daily one - of honing our possessions to just the ones we really love and need. Apparently, one family's way of doing this was to actually insist on no further gifts for their children (they were a big family), unless they were gifts of activities like piano lessons or such. Quite revolutionary and an idea that appeals to me, though I don't know whether it would be depriving my family of the joy they get in giving to the Tinies. And I would also be in danger of descending into hypocrisy, since I've recently ordered a box set of 50 Usbourne books, for Gracie's reading programme, which I am especially excited about, and which are awaiting my return...

Gracie's phrase for the day: 'If you do that again Isaac you'll get no ice cream. And you'll just get vegetables.'

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