Learning to stroll, browse and potter

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‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives’ Annie Dillard

When did you last think about your relationship with time? Me and time? We just don’t get on. Time pressurises me, makes me tense and controls my days. Our relationship is what some might call ‘dysfunctional’. It all came to a head this week when I was out with a friend during a day-off work. We’d arranged to meet for a morning walk followed by a lunch-time bite to eat. I had anticipated being home by 2pm-ish, aiming to get on with my household jobs.

My friend, however, has an altogether different way of relating to time. She is a stroller, not a strider.  She likes to browse, not just buy and run. She potters and sometimes procrastinates. She is also the most content person I know. My friend has regular weekends away and takes several holidays a year; she nourishes her family and friends with home-cooked meals at weekends; she never misses attending her weekly wine club. On top of all this, she works almost full-time hours as a nurse.

As our morning progressed, I found myself getting twitchy as the minutes ticked away and we still hadn’t reached our lunch destination. During our walk, my friend stopped several times to respond to text messages from her family, trying to organise an evening get-together. She made several visits to the bathroom. She lingered over the plants and gifts in the shop next to the picnic site we were visiting. She drank several mugs of tea from the huge pot we shared as we sheltered indoors from the pouring rain. I was irked. Uptight. I’d never get home by 2 o’clock at this rate.

Lunch was eventually delicious. But still, my friend just wanted to call in at the supermarket on our way home. Through gritted teeth I agreed to accompany her around the aisles. Maybe, I thought, we are just not compatible. It’s rare that we spend more than a couple of hours together, usually just snatching time after work to grab a bite to eat. But then I realised that the feeling I had been having all day was very familiar- that sneaky old time pressure had crept up again.

In our Western culture, we have been trained to believe that ‘faster is better’. In my girlhood, I wrote letters to pals around the world and waited patiently for a reply. Now we are both blessed and cursed with emails and text messages, sent with the expectation of an instant reply . hourglass-1895102_1280

Our family history can also influence how we relate to time. My parents were ‘planners’, always looking to the next project or house move. Both of my parents had a very strong work ethic. Go figure. So I’ve finally picked up a book I bought years ago, always meaning to get around to reading it but never quite finding the hours. It’s called ‘Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life’ by Waverley Fitzgerald. I’m planning to make it my companion on my journey to develop a more playful relationship with time. Here’s a fabulous quote to start things off:

‘Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls.’ – Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.

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Lessons in playfulness from my garden weeds

‘What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered’- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, one of the most playful things I have done recently is to sign up for a course called ‘Weeds and Wild Medicine.’  Once a month I spend the day with a group of like-minded souls, roaming local parkland gathering samples of wild-growing plants, in readiness to transform them into healing balms, lotions or tonics. We have to be prepared to experiment with different tastes and sensations as we discover the unique properties of each plant- bitter, astringent, warming and soothing, opening up our narrowed senses. We are encouraged to be creative with our plant combinations for each concoction, using learned knowledge and felt intuition to make our choices.

Much to the amusement (and sometimes annoyance) of my family and friends, I can no longer walk past a weed-covered grass verge without pointing out something that I recognise and describing its multiple uses. Dandelions, nettles, cleavers and daisy are no longer seen as nuisances, but as entities in their own right having endless potential! This course is a great reminder of how we can sustain ourselves through valuing the resources we have already got- it may just be that we have never really acknowledged those things as having a use.

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Seeing things with new eyes- like the grass verges- is my way of cultivating a more playful attitude towards the things around me that I previously took for granted.

When did you last look at something familiar with fresh eyes? What resources do you already have in your life that you may be taking for granted? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

What do we really mean when we say ‘have fun’?

‘Have fun’ is probably my most overused phrase. I say it to work colleagues when I know they’ve got a particularly tough day ahead. I use it at home when my husband has a daunting meeting to attend that day. I say it because I want them to know that I’m in their corner, that I’ve been there too and I’m cheering them on. But if I sit back and think about it, more often than not, rather than lifting the atmosphere, this phrase is greeted by a half-hearted smile bordering on a grimace and a word of thanks uttered through gritted teeth.
What I really mean by those to words is- see if you can adopt a playful attitude towards whatever comes up. But how often do I apply this to myself, especially in the face of a difficult day?

If we recognised the benefits of playfulness for adults and in particular, those in the therapy professions, it might be a little easier to take on board. A recent survey of psychologists found that 46 percent classed themselves as depressed and 70 percent as stressed. Science tells us that playful adults live on average 10 years longer than those who are less playful and that playful people find fewer situations to be stressful compared to the more serious amongst us. 
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Digging around in the research, there are four main qualities that are said make up a playful adult, including being:

  • Relaxed and free-spirited
  • Fun and lively
  • Spontaneous
  • Creative

I’d like to add the qualities of exploration and flexibility to these too. In future posts, I’ll be blogging about the challenge I’ve set myself to bring these qualities and attitudes into my day-to-day life.

We can also rekindle our relaxed, free-spirited, fun, lively, spontaneous and creative selves by reconnecting with what we enjoyed doing as children. Whenever I think about some of the things I loved to do as a child, I immediately feel lighter and more naturally ‘me.’ As part of my journey, I’ll be blogging about some of my favourite childhood activities too-moving me in the direction of becoming a truly Tickled Shrink!