The mantelpiece above is filled with bits and pieces that mean something to me in some way: a crocheted heart garland that I made; the painting a gift, hand painted by a friend; the mosaic made by Ted; the white candle another handmade gift from a friend; the feathers collected by the children (even the ostrich feather was found as we live close to a Wildlife Park) and the little blue bird, bought by Moo in a charity shop for a grand sum of about 50p. The sweet peas are from the garden. One day I’d like a proper wooden mantelpiece and something lovely to hang over it, but for now, this covers a hole in the wall and was a freebie, having been rescued from a skip and, in time, I will find the perfect something to hang above it.
Our coffee table does a similar job of housing ‘special things’: glass-topped and filled with various finds from the fields, woods and beaches around us (including the odd gifted more tropical shell; a present of a fossil amongst the found fossils; gifted or bought crystals). It was bought to house the children’s inevitable ‘treasures’ found whilst we are out walking. To give them a place where they can see their finds valued and where they can be admired by whomever visits (well, when you can see them under the books, knitting and papers that inevitably get put on it!)
We moved here last year. It was a chance to finally have a more stable home, moving, as we had, three times between 2010 and 2014 (renting can be tough on the notion of any sort of stable place to call home), this recent move making a fourth. I wanted whatever we brought into the house to fulfil that old chestnut of a William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Or indeed both! Well, to do this requires quite a lot of sorting out of miscellaneous material bumph, but for the most part, as far as ornamentation goes, this is slowly happening with things we believe to be not only beautiful, but meaningful.
So why, then, have I not been applying this to my more personal life? To the way I spend my hours when time is, ultimately, one of our most precious things?
I’ve become very easily distracted and unfocused. I am well aware of brain fog and in periods where I have been ill, being able to concentrate on anything has been challenging, but this seems to have persisted beyond these difficult times. I admittedly wrapped some cheese and put it in a drawer rather than the fridge this afternoon, but my concern about lack of concentration goes deeper than the odd attack of absent-mindedness common to many of us (especially, it seems, post-baby). I have been pondering this and I don’t think that it is as solely down to pain or babies, I think it’s also partly through my experience with social media. So many things now are a snapshot; a quick quote; a meme; a cute video of a cat; you probably know the sort of things I mean. There are so many distractions out there! Because I’m so often tired, I’ve become used to a fly-by “like” or “thumbs up”. I don’t often take the time to read articles as much as I might have used to. I haven’t written a personal letter for quite some time (nor a personal email, now I think of it).
I tell myself I’ll blog regularly, but struggle to carve time in the day. Sometimes this perplexes me. I don’t seem to do even half what some people seem to. I don’t ‘overschedule’ (in fact, I don’t often leave the house and garden save to walk the dog at the moment). Days are carved up by feeding and/or (just) holding Arty and the time inbetween, when everything else has to get done. He doesn’t really enjoy being in a sling (which is different as the others were quite happy), but also I’m not as fit as I was and I struggle to carry him much doing household tasks (although I can manage to walk him in the woods in a sling – as long as I’m just walking and not bending or doing anything else). Any larger amounts of activity or anything requiring concentration and smaller movement (ie typing more than a few words, or indeed, knitting, as he’s become grabby, wanting to put everything in his mouth) are difficult. It is very easy to just pick up my phone or tablet and just stroll down hitting like; typing a couple of words comment; or watching a daft video, in some sort of non-effort to fool myself into thinking that I’m being sociable.
Social media is an odd thing. It promises us community, but that isn’t quite what we actually get. Yes, it puts us in touch with people from all over the world in a constant stream of statii and shared photos, quotes, etc. But I think something is lost in that. For someone like me, who often struggles in social situations (I find ‘real life’ groups – even of people I know and get on with – rather stressful, so larger, or more unknown groups become doubly so) social media offers a bit of an excuse. Where many might use it and still see people in real life, I think it’s made me retreat more. I get a quick ‘fix’ of doing something vaguely-on-the-surface sociable (in that I am politely interacting with people), but in reality it feels somewhat empty and, if anything, I find it all rather exhausting and a ‘much of a muchness’.
That is not to say that there are not things about Facebook (and I focus on that because I don’t really understand G+ and subsequently haven’t really bothered with it for a while) that I think are valuable. I’m a member of a few excellent and interesting groups in which I feel that I am learning new things as a member. However, to be a member of those groups, I have to be a member of Facebook and, as such, there are always ads, there are quite often posts that I might rather not have seen (of varying nature) and I find that almost every (fairly frequent) visit means that either I feel my blood pressure rise, I sigh, and more often or not, cry. For example, recent events with regards to refugees is a stain upon the souls of some of those supposed to be ‘in power’and those members of the public that appear not to have an ounce of compassion. And I feel duty bound to look, to remember, because every single one of these deaths is a tragedy. But it comes up again and again in my newsfeed and it eats away at me. I just can’t keep doing it. I can keep up with the news, without it being repeated time and time again in pictures, in quotes, in the sharing of the latest awful, racist comment on Twitter (or wherever). I prefer to do something practical, or support others doing somethings practical, a regular stream of tears isn’t particularly helping this.
But I digress…
I miss the process of writing (something I’ve not done much of for years now, losing much of “my words” in the lead up to my ex husband leaving and then never quite finding them again since – I wonder where they go, because then I’d have a better chance looking for them – but I suspect that having left at the time of my ex husband, they then continued to hide amongst the hours spent scrolling down FB newsfeeds).
So I’ve been thinking. Thinking about why I want to continue to blog. Why I keep telling myself I’ll do so more regularly. What its purpose is and how to move forward to get into some sort of rhythm that facilitates me in achieving this. And more than this: if I consider ‘me’ as my own ‘house’, how does me spending time blogging and, indeed, spending any time online, contribute to my own “having nothing that I do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” in my own personal minutes, hours and days?
One of the first steps is to try and cut out some of the other distractions I struggle with whilst online and to pencil in a dedicated time to fire up the (flickering) laptop and get it done. I want to pare down the reams of bookmarks and links (Pinterest, I’ll be turning my critical eye towards you, shortly…) and rather than scattering my energy all over the place, get back to frequenting a few blogs and sites and also actually write some letters. In pen. On paper. Because I keep on saying I want to live slowly and simply, but social media doesn’t really help facilitate that (regardless of all the links shared about slowing down, being mindful, etc).
I’d also like to use some entries and photos from here (and in general) to compile into a ‘Family Book’ at the end of each year (because there hasn’t been a photo album made for some time) and would really appreciate any recommendations on printers for ‘photo books’ to this end – if you have any ideas or recommendations, please let me know!)