In late December, tragedy struck my life. Whilst cycling back from a romantic break in Bourton-on-the-water (yes I said Bourton-on-the-water), Storm Frank got all up in my business. He wrapped his watery claws around my iPhone, thereby signing its death warrant.
After some mild wailing, rocking back and forth and a failed experiment with an ice cream tub and a bag of rice, I paid Carphone Warehouse a visit and bought a crap £10 phone. I had to hold back the tears when a four year old picked it up, placed their innocent paws on its screen and asked: “Annnnerrrrr. Why isn’t it moving?” I proceeded to explain, through sobs, that the Samsung E1200 it wasn’t a touch screen device.
With communication now reduced to a form of predictive text-code I just couldn’t crack, everything seemed a little less, well, necessary. And so I went the whole hog and took an entire week off of email, social media and anything else related to the internet. The verdict? It was glorious. Without pauses to evaluate the worthiness of my life against those of others and an inability to plough through the ever growing electronic ’to do list’ – I instead took time to reflect. To, for the first time in a very long time, look back. And by Jove it was a revelation.
One Helluva Year
2015 was, without a doubt, one of the most formative of my life. I ran the length of a country, fell in madly in love with one of those adventurous types and wrote a book (well, a draft at least). I’d say that’s a pretty stellar 12 months by anyone’s standards. But are my daily thoughts brimming with back-slaps, satisfaction and self-hurrahs? Are they bollocks. They are instead filled with an incessant need to keep moving forwards, to the next project, the next idea, the next conquest. And I’m going to wager I’m not the only one.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of progress. When everything already achieved becomes overshadowed by all of those things we still want to do. All too often, when an aim becomes a reality, and then a normality, it ceases to hold the value it once did. Like a crazed magpie our gaze shifts immediately to the next shiny thing on the horizon, and off we go. It is bonkers.
But here’s the good news: Once you acknowledge that it’s bonkers, that there will always be the next paycheck, the next trip, the next accolade, that nothing will ever be ‘enough’- then what becomes of real value is everything you already have. The daily experiences that demand no progress and simply ask that you are there to enjoy them.
My Inner Hippy
I’ve always had a bit of hippy in me. And in my 30’s, the peace hugging, dreadlocked, nose pierced, spinach eater – she’s rising to the surface. This isn’t an announcement that I’m retiring to live deep in the New Zealand bush, to skin possums and grow my own. Perhaps one day, but for now there’s work to be done. I can’t deny the drive I have to explore what I’m capable of, and to use my days to pump as much goodness out into the atmosphere as I can.
But I am now looking at life through a different lens. I’ve realised that impatience and longing are a sure fire way to live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction. So Instead, I’m finding contentment in what many might deem to be meaningless things – in long mornings drinking coffee, dinners with family, phone calls to friends in far flung places. In making pancakes on Sundays. Do you know how much I freakin’ love making pancakes?! A LOT. And when it comes to the ‘work’ side of things, to building a new life as a bona fide adventurer, speaker and mischief maker – well, I’m greeting it that with patience too. Embracing the grind. The hustle. The back and forth. The two steps forwards, one step back.
And through all of my musings, here’s what I’ve learnt:
- The most dangerous statement you can make is: “It’ll all be better when [ insert that decision you’re waiting on / a promotion / the call up from Simon Cowell / winning the lottery ]”. Better is now.
- Drive and ambition are wonderful. So long as they are not at the expense of appreciating everything already in your life.
- Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. High-five your neighbour, high-five a stranger, high-five yourself. But for when something comes off that you worked your nuts off for – take a moment to reflect and rejoice.
- Baby steps are steps all the same. Have you ever heard anyone tell a baby that their steps are worthless? Didn’t think so. Celebrate those steps too.
- There is no job description for life. You will not wake up one day and find what you are supposed to be doing with yours written in the job section of the Guardian. It is about acknowledging and exploring curiosities – creeping ever closer to one or many passions, a day at a time.
- Sleep is the most important thing on your to do list. DO IT. (unless you have young children, in which case – I applaud you. And I will sleep for you).
- You don’t have to make ‘progress’ every day. Sometimes it’s nice to just dick about and glean enjoyment from 24 hours of your life.
The grass is never greener on the other side of the fence, I honestly believe that. So instead of looking over that fence, I’ll be spending a little more time nurturing my own. And I have a feeling that it’ll grow greener than I ever imagined. And then I’ll be inviting the neighbours around to check out how green my grass is. And they’ll be all, like ‘I can’t make it today – I’m too busy watering my own’, and I’ll be all, like “Right on man. Plant some spinach while you’re at it.” Have I taken this too far? Thought so. You get the point.
So if you’re reading this and nodding along like Churchill Dog on crack – try something out: Go to the top of a hill, take a bath, or take the Labradoodle for a long walk. And do the best thing you’ve done so far in 2016 – stop and look back.