The last few days I have been taking a moment to pause and take photos of the nature I see around me; the birds visiting our garden, the everyday wonders we can take for granted, and signs of spring.
Is there an ‘I love books’ gene? When my auntie researched my grandma’s family, she discovered generations of cat-loving bibliophiles. Little Miss, my three-year-old daughter, is the latest in this long line of book-loving feline-fans. Not yet able to read, she often falls asleep with a pile of books on the floor next to her bed and our cat curled up at the other end of her bed. Very cute.
I’m avoiding buying new books this year. Instead I am reading books I already have, buying second hand (I’ve added World of Books to my Consume Better list) and borrowing from the library. Inspired by reading suggestions on The Earthbound Report blog (which I recommend you follow as it’s so interesting and informative), I was delighted to discover that I could request to borrow both There is No Planet-B by Mike Berners-Lee and From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins from the library service. The books are similar in adopting an anti-fatalistic approach to the climate crisis but look at solutions from different angles. Both encouraged me to keep going on my journey of living justly when it’s easy to succumb to either consumerism and individualism on one hand or anxiety and fear on the other. It’s good to have a reminder of the importance of living simply and investing in creativity, play, rest and relationships.
Disappointed that Bird Therapy, a book about bird watching and mental health, wasn’t available from the library service, I submitted a request for them to purchase it. I can’t quite believe that I (me!!!) have the power to effect change but (just a few days later!) the book is now on order for five libraries in the county and I am on the reservation list!
Our Saturday morning library trips are becoming a regular occurrence and we return with a bag full of books and often a DVD for the children too! Renting a film reminds me of standing in front of rows of videos in the local Blockbuster in the 1990s – is anyone else out there still borrowing films?!
For now the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the countryside; the season of singing has come, and the cooing of turtledoves is heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11)
Frogspawn in our local pond; Mrs Blackbird and Mr Blackbird gathering building materials from our garden; bright splashes of celandine by the roadside; the soundtrack of birdsong as I walk to collect Small Boy from school – Spring is here.
A spring is in my step. For the first time in a while, I laugh inside and feel like a carefree girl.
Illness, an allergic reaction and stress meant our weekend didn’t go to plan. Yet, in the tiredness and tears, were some memorable moments of joy.
One of the reasons we bought our house (and not the one next door) is that the kitchen sink overlooks the garden. Washing dishes on Saturday morning, I caught sight of a blue tit splashing in our small bird bath.
We love blue tits in our house. Small Boy found me reading about birdsong and we discovered that blue tits tweet ‘see see choo choo’. We often pretend to be birds, bugs and sea creatures in our house and Small Boy enjoyed being a blue tit: ‘see see choo choo’.
(If you are interested in learning how to hide like an octopus, find food like a bee or hop like a frog, I recommend reading Howl Like a Wolf).
All four of us gathered by the windows and excitedly watched our garden guest bathe.
In the afternoon, we headed to our allotment. As we parked, we saw a small bird hopping on the grass (a red wing) and long-tailed tits were in the bare trees at the foot of our plot. Later, a robin drew near hoping for some worms (good news for us and the robin, Mr Pilgrim dug up lots!). Mr P threw one to the robin but the bird was too timid and the wise worm wriggled away. Probably for the best!
Little Miss got bored and kept declaring: ‘I want to go the library!’ Mr Pilgrim kept digging while the children enjoyed choosing books and I picked up my order of Fascism by Madeleine Allbright.
I’ve not seen any butterflies yet although there have been sightings on the Herts and Middlesex Butterfly Conservation website. I’m looking forward to seeing my first butterfly of 2019 and wondering what it will be.
My Valentine’s present was A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson – all about bumblebees. They are fascinating little creatures and it’s a delight to read Dave Goulson’s humorous yet scientific (he’s a professor of biology) prose.
Lent is approaching and I’ve bought Wild Lent (full of outside activities to help us encounter God through creation). I’m also thinking about taking up one of the Living Lent challenges, organised by the Joint Public Issues Team.
I’ve got back on my bike!
It’s only a short journey from home to work and just twice a week but it does make a difference to my mental health.
I’ve also done well at swimming once a week – aided by my new swimming costume made from recycled plastic! I’ll leave you to guess which of the colourful (garish?!) designs I chose.
The whole Pilgrim family seems to be restored by being outside and we had a fantastic Bank Holiday Weekend camping trip in ‘Trailey’ – our new-to-us trailer tent. Grandma provided the bunting and I’m trying to convince Mr P we should buy solar-powered fairy lights.
We’ve also had a surprise new addition to the family – a cat! The Furry One needed a new home and so has come to live with us. Pets are well known for helping to relieve stress and spending time stroking his soft fur is so soothing. He is adored by Little Miss and Small Boy and (somewhat surprisingly!) looked upon with a great deal of affection by Mr Pilgrim.
We are entering another busy period as a family and I know I need to look after myself and my mental health during this time. This will mean accepting that not everything is going to get done perfectly and on time. It means sometimes saying no to people’s requests and risking their rejection. It means making different decisions.
Over this last week, a number of people have expressed their concern for me. It seems that my inner angst is not as hidden as I hoped! I’m tired and tense with a spinning, aching head.
I was encouraged to think about activities which are restorative. I realised that writing this blog – focusing my mind and losing myself in a single task – is something which renews and refreshes me, and helps me to develop the resilience I need for day-to-day living.
Walking round a lake, riding my bike or going for a swim are other re-creative activities.
I am planning to start cycling to work again this week. The cold weather and a temporary office move meant I’ve not cycled to work for a while and I miss it.
I need to ensure I make time for restorative activities and to avoid the things that perpetuate the metaphorical and physical head-spinning.
Thank you for reading.
Little Miss’s favourite phrase at the moment is ‘walk, please!’ and so today she and I went for a short stroll. She walks slowly delighting in everything she experiences: a worm, a tree, a flower, a puddle, a digger, a car, a man, a stone.
Walking at Little Miss’s pace changes my perspective and brings me a deep joy and peace.
I’m currently reading Free by Mark and Lisa Scandrette – the book contains lots of tasks so it’s not the usual linear read. One of the earliest exercises is a time, money and meaning self-assessment. Unsurprisingly, my strengths are ‘Work and Meaning’ and ‘Global Sustainability’ and the areas I need to grow in are ‘Time Management’ and ‘Soul Issues’ (again not a surprise!).
I have been reading and re-reading the chapter entitled ‘Value and Align Your Time’ and wondering what I can do differently.
I’m realising some of the change is attitudinal. It’s going to be a good few years until I can have a regular day off with no responsibilities but I can decide to ignore the mess and play. A few Sundays ago, Small Boy and I enjoyed making Lego vehicles together – with fire shooters!
At one point, Small Boy said to me: ‘We’re having a day off, Mummy’ and I realised how changing the pace benefits the whole family.
I am also learning to recognise what I am not responsible for and accepting I can be involved in a project without it all being dependent upon me. I was becoming tired and drained just by worrying and thinking unnecessarily.
It’s not just my attitude, I am learning to say ‘no’; I can’t say yes to every invitation and opportunity. Shauna Niequist writing in her book Present Over Perfect challenged me to not to compare my capacity to other people’s: I know what I can manage and it doesn’t matter if others can do more or less.
As Stephen Covey wrote: ‘You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.‘
What’s your yes?
Every day, week or month seems to be associated with a cause: this week we’ve had World Homeless Day, World Mental Health Day and International Day of the Girl. Three issues I care deeply about and would have liked to have written about here. I just haven’t had time.
We gave our Little Miss the complete set of Little Miss books for her first birthday last month (a charity shop purchase from earlier this year) and I discovered a kindred spirit in Little Miss Busy. Little Miss Busy is only happy when she is occupied on some task and finds it very difficult to rest!
Last month in The times are a-changing, I wrote about the challenge of managing my time and responsibilities wisely. This hasn’t been easy and I’m still struggling to find a sustainable and sensible solution.
As well as tracking my spending for October, I am trying to be accountable with my diary. What am I saying yes to? Is it because I want to be needed or am I genuinely required? Am I saying yes because I am scared of letting people down and I don’t want people to think badly of me? How can I prioritise the people who mean the most to me and often seem to get the worst of me?
I’ve been reading Consumer Detox (purchased for 50p from a charity shop!) which underlines the importance of relationship, rest and rhythm. I’m a long way from where I’d like to be.
I downloaded the Headspace app last night to help learn to meditate and to be mindful. It’s only ten minutes a day but it’s a start!
I once heard someone say that the only people who like change are wet babies but I’m not sure this is true. Little Miss certainly doesn’t enjoy having her nappy changed. She wriggles, rolls over and speedily crawls away.
I have a similar approach to change. I like it but only when I am in control. When I’m not, then I too, twist and turn and try to make my escape!
I’m using reusable nappies more and more now. I tried the ones my friend gave me and grew in confidence. I then discovered my local council (Hertfordshire) run a scheme where they give parents FREE reusable nappies – I love our Totsbots ‘bumbrella’ nappy.
I was shocked to discover that 4% of UK landfill is nappies and so I’m keen to reduce our use of disposables, and the ones we do have are Naty – an ‘eco nappy’. We’re also using Naty wipes and biodegradable nappy bags.
I much prefer Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes which are not only kinder to our beautiful world but they are more efficient!
September is a month of change for Family Pilgrim as new routines, relationships and responsibilities begin. For all four of us, there will be change to our days. My year of maternity leave ends and I am returning to my paid employment with a mixture of emotions: excitement, apprehension, guilt and sadness. Small Boy starts nursery at our local primary school and both Small Boy and Little Miss will be looked after by a childminder for some of the week.
I hope I am returning to work with increased skills, wisdom and maturity and I am confident that Small Boy and Little Miss will thrive in their childcare settings but I know there are going to be challenges along the way for all of us. For me, I need to manage my different responsibilities and time wisely.
I found this image on the Mind and Soul Facebook page this week with the heading ‘Getting ready to go back to school? What are your best MH (mental health) tips for the new term?‘ It’s good advice for us as a family as we navigate the newness of the month – rest, exercise, good food and fun activities will help us adjust well.
One of the things I have discovered in the past 12 months is the power of small changes. Last September started with one big change as Little Miss joined Family Pilgrim but as we have sought to live more justly, we have made many small changes, including:
- Buying vegetables and meat from a local farm
- Asking ‘who made our clothes?’ when shopping
- Stopped buying items from Amazon
- Taking reusable cups with us to church
- Buying Method laundry detergent and cleaning products
- Using the Ecosia search engine
- Using the Tearfund weekly prayer resource
- Sending emails and signing petitions – from a ban on selling seahorses on Etsy to the Woodland Trust tree charter to Amnesty’s campaign to urge the Maldives to not reinstate the death penalty
The small changes I have made give me hope and confidence that I can continue to adapt and grow. Things don’t have to be the same!
So – because I like lists and actions – here are three mini challenges for the autumn:
- Hit the pause button regularly throughout the day – stop, listen, look, breathe and pray
- Create not consume when feeling sad or stressed
- Love: the apostle Paul wrote: ‘If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ If I buy fair trade, avoid single-use plastics, lobby my MP, eat organic meat but do not have love, I gain nothing.
And what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.