It all started with cucumbers…
For that to make any sense, I need to back-track a bit. This is not a story about vegetables or sustainable gardening, but it is about sustainability. Our own sustainability, as busy people living busy lives in a busy world.
Last year, I was feeling increasingly …well, annoyed. Like many of us, things can get pretty demanding at times in my life, and I was feeling empty, frustrated and unsatisfied, and had no energy but had to keep on truckin’.
Why? Because I had no time for moi. I didn’t think I could make time – or justify the time – to do some of the things I was really wanting to do. Creative things like painting, drawing, learning to play the piano and spending more time creating my vision for our large, rambly out-of-control garden.
And I think it felt worse because I felt powerless to change things.
So, about those cucumbers
I realised the reason I was feeling so empty and frustrated was because I was bursting with ideas I wasn’t making time to express. Things felt very one-sided, and the creative part of me was feeling neglected and denied.
I think it was around that time I had one of those mini light bulb moments. I finally realised what a lot of wise people have already come to grips with: that to live happy, fulfilled, sustainable lives, we need to have balance.
I’d been moaning to my husband one morning about all these ideas I had and couldn’t do because ya-ya-ya I had no time.
An hour or so later, he found me in the kitchen pickling cucumbers someone had given me. His comment was: “It’s just leaching out of you. You’re even creating with food. Its finding its way out in any way it can.”
A quiet revolution
I started to make some changes.
I booked the piano tuner, and have filled this year so far with the joy of gradually being able to pick out tunes, or just make beautiful noises with chords on my gran’s lovely old piano.
I bought new paints and chalk pastels, drawing pads and canvasses. I painted a truly awful picture, messed around with chalk pastels and last weekend created something I’m sort-of-mostly-but-not-really happy with. But it was fun! I lost myself in the creation of colour and focusing on how to get a nose looking sort of right. (We won’t talk about how the mouth looks….). I’ve booked myself into a pastel workshop this month.
I bought tiles to mosaic something when we went to Thredbo earlier this year. We started knocking things down in the backyard, and my vision for a quite reflection space is starting to happen.
We made the most of the warm summer ocean current (we live on the south coast of NSW) and swam every weekend we could before it got too cold.
The truth about balance
So many people have told me I needed more balance in my life. I actually remember telling one friend years ago, who suggested I try Tai Chai, that I didn’t have time to relax. I thought I could just keep punching it out, and that I’d survive somehow.
But I know now that it really isn’t sustainable to live without making some effort to have balance in my life. And the truth is I don’t want to anymore.
What’s more, the interesting, unexpected thing about making more time for me is that, instead of leaving me feeling guilty or worried because I’ve still got a pile of stuff to do, I feel more relaxed, energised, more productive and – hey – happy.
Creating time for me, to do and be the things I want, feeds me, replenishes me. It fills my cup so that I can keep doing the other parts of my life more sustainably and more happily.
How are you filling your cup?
I think pursuing balance is especially important for people who work in EA or other support roles.
For me, beginning to honour the creative part of me has been a huge step towards havinga more balanced life. But I expect “balance” will be different for everyone. In thinking about how to create balance, it might be easier to work out what balance is not, rather than what it is. Where do I feel unsatisfied, where do I feel a tension between “what I should be doing” vs “what I want to do”? Is my life too weighted in one direction? Am I tired, crabby, feeling trapped? How’s my health? My sleep? My moods? What would I like to do? Is there something I feel I miss, or want to have a go at? All things in proportion, as they say.
How are you going to “fill your cup” today?
Catherine MacGregor, EA and self-confessed non-superwoman