How life gets in the way when we are busy making other plans!
When the important areas in life are in balance, we can throw ourselves into other things with greater energy and a clear, focussed mind. When all is going well in areas such as family and health, it’s great to be able to concentrate on career goals or spend time in creative activities which give us pleasure and may even lead to a change of direction in our lives.
It’s also great to do absolutely nothing or read, catch up on TV or socialising with friends etc. These are all things which relax and restore us for the more taxing things in life.
Many people — including myself — started off a new year and a new decade in January 2020 with a list of goals we wanted to achieve e.g.: Eating healthier, developing better daily habits such as rising earlier and going to bed at a reasonable time, making space for exercise, writing or painting at designated times, de-cluttering and becoming more organised at home or at work etc. etc.
I started off the year determined to do The Minimalist Challenge again, as I felt such a great sense of achievement last year when I looked at my tidy wardrobes, kitchen cupboards and drawers. I was ready to begin another purge of clothes and cupboards I hadn’t got to last time around.
I also had set writing goals for both my fiction and non-fiction blog work etc., and hoped to spend time away at an artists’ retreat to immerse myself in writing and finish off the final edit on my new book. I had also planned to get back into walking for at least an hour every day, to do various household improvements and to have a weekend break away in Edinburgh. This was a list of things I knew I would enjoy doing, and would make me feel better in a number of areas in my work/life balance.
When I looked at those goals again at the end of January, I realised I had achieved much less than half — maybe nearer a quarter. My de-cluttering and household plans had hardly started when I spluttered to a halt, my writing retreat had to be cancelled and even if I had the time and the energy, the stormy weather put paid to any daily walking plans.
Although a bit disappointed, I am not at all surprised because as the first weeks slipped by, I could see that the journey I had planned had suddenly been re-routed. It wasn’t because I was lazy or had lost interest in any of those areas — it was simply because life had got in the way.
Unforeseen circumstances had reared their head in the shape of health issues — a recurring chest infection which affected me and several members of the family — and left me too exhausted to do any effective exercise or to concentrate on writing. This was then compounded by near and dear relatives having unexpected stays in hospital, and the ramifications of long waits in A & E then daily visiting and afterwards appointments with doctors etc.
The previous priorities of creative work, household goals, writing retreats and exercise etc., were cancelled or just disappeared into the background as we concentrated on getting everyone back to full health. It was a case of doing only the absolute necessities at home and attending to any commitments deemed too serious to put off. After that — nothing else mattered.
When random but serious things suddenly happen, our attention to family and close friends is brought sharply into focus, and we know without hesitation what matters to us in life.
Thankfully, as we move towards the end of February, we are over the worst of the illnesses and things seem a bit more predictable. Everyone is back to good health, and whilst we cancelled a number of plans, the upside is we enjoyed the company of family who came to visit at that particular time. We were also lucky in that our weekend break in Edinburgh worked out perfectly - before the most pressurised period happened — and in between the spate of health problems.
I did, unfortunately, miss a writing deadline, which has now pushed the publishing deadline for my new book back a month or so. But, the publishers were kind and understanding, and I am now back at the computer working on the outline for my 16th book.
Of course I do realise that I am lucky in that I don’t have to be in an office at a certain time every day, and that most of my life is flexible — and writing is more ‘transportable’ than other careers in that the computer can travel with you.
When the going is good, it’s great to get back to focussing on several areas at one time, and to have a good work-life balance.
Long may it last!