The art of finding balance

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may recall my New Year’s resolution to schedule active relaxation into my life, and my plan to practice daily yoga for my physical and mental well being.  Well, it’s now Labour weekend, I haven’t done any yoga since sometime in February, and I have just returned from a two-week holiday at my sister’s house in Wanaka. She has three kids of her own so when we turned up with our two she was all ready to cook and feed us, and our kids were sufficiently distracted by their cousins along with a massive house and garden to play in. So there wasn’t too much for my husband and me to do, other than enjoy the fine weather and relax.  The first few days I was so tired I didn’t want to participate in any fun activities with my family. My husband got a bit grumpy with me so I forced myself to go for an electric bike ride with him and the kids down to the lake. It was the most glorious weather and my husband was right: e-bikes are really awesome! Everyone was happy, especially when we stopped for a sorbet treat, but secretly I felt I would rather have stayed in bed and done nothing 😕.

On our fourth day there, my brother-in-law organised for all of us to go out to an island in the lake for a walk and a picnic. The weather was spectacular and the lake was almost like glass. The natural environment of Lake Wanaka and its surrounds looked so beautiful I thought to myself one really could be forgiven for thinking there’s no such thing as pollution! We stopped at Mou Waho island and went for a walk with the kids to a lake at the top, followed closely by a couple of curious weka, then we returned to the beach for a picnic before hopping back on the boat and tiki-touring around the lake on our way home. As we were cruising along in the motor boat and I cradled my sleeping boy in my arms, I felt the happiest I can recall feeling in ages. I remember looking across at my husband and thinking it was so nice to see him looking relaxed and happy too. I realised we’ve both been total grouches the past few months – of course, I’d already observed and pointed out my husband’s grumpiness a few months back, but it was sort of an epiphany for me to realise how unbearably grumpy I’ve been around my family too.  Since we sold our house in July, I’m pretty sure I can count the number of relaxing evenings and weekends we’ve had on my two hands.  Obviously, I haven’t done a single stretch, let alone an hour of yoga, in that entire time! We’ve both been so focused on making progress towards our future dream that we’ve kind of neglected our present selves.  The irony of how my obsession for healthy cooking and eating had run me ragged was not lost on me either.

I started Mrs Goodness a year and a half ago because I wanted to share with everyone my journey towards a more sustainable life.  My husband and I have made efforts to live more sustainably by prioritising our values, our health, and by making conscious decisions about how we live. We’ve drastically reduced our waste footprint, we’ve cut out an awful lot of plastic from our household, we’ve radically transformed our diets by eliminating processed foods, dairy, gluten, and a lot of sugar, we’ve sold our unaffordable house and begun the journey towards building our dream home – and yet in spite of all this, we’ve both managed to neglect three key ingredients to a sustainable life: sleep, relaxation, and rest.

I’ve been working so hard, juggling so many different projects: being a stay-at-home-mum, Mrs Goodness, relief teaching, and I’ve been wanting to throw my energies into our eco-house design but I’ve made hardly any progress at all.  The resulting stress from all these pressures has affected my sleep, my mood, my relationships, and if I’m honest with myself, my productivity.

By the end of our holiday I had come to the conclusion that I would need to reorganise and reprioritise my time and energy when I returned home. I decided that I didn’t (and don’t) want to give up on Mrs Goodness, not even my little online shop that just pays for itself, but if I want to design and document our future home and still be a nice person to live with, I have to make some changes to my life, no excuses. So here’s what I plan to do:

– I’m going to make a weekly timetable for myself. I’ve always timetabled my work days, particularly as a teacher when every hour was scheduled (I have no intention of going that far!), but funnily enough I’ve never done it as a stay-at-home-mum;

– We’ll have to embrace the idea of earning less and spending less.  I’ll have to say ‘no’ to relief teaching for a while, even though it pays so well and is so flexible (and I enjoy it), because it’s just another thing I have to juggle.  Although it felt so reassuring having a second income for a time, we haven’t actually ended up with any more money, and I was becoming a nervous wreck for it.  It’s funny how the more you have, the more you need. It’s scary to give up something you think you need and trust that you’ll be able to live without it just fine…

– I’ll have a fixed amount of time I can spend on Mrs Goodness. I’ll just have to accept if I can’t write very often, even though I have a big long list of posts I desperately want to write! You may have noticed that I have adjusted my shipping days to just Tuesday and Friday for shop orders. I also need to make better use of my time on social media…🙄 and my workshops I wanted to do will just have to wait;

– I’m going to schedule regular dog walks outdoors. A year of rain most days hasn’t been conducive to me getting regular fresh air, but I guess I’ll just need to embrace the idea of getting a bit wet sometimes. I need to physically remove myself from the stresses and distractions of my home in order to relax; mostly because I have a noisy, needy two-year-old boy living here with me and also because we’re temporarily living in my father-in-law’s house. While he is very easy to live with, justified or not I still find the arrangement stressful;

– I bought some beeswax ear plugs. While earplugs are not the most comfortable things to wear, they have already paid for themselves a few times over as I have had a week of uninterrupted sleep (my husband snores);

– I downloaded an app to my phone that tracks my basal body temperature (my herbalist asked me to record my body temp so she could gain an insight into the state of my hormones). It also tracks sleep patterns, so I have been recording my sleep and wake times as well.  What surprises me is how much sleep deficit I am accumulating – I currently have a sleep debt of 16 hours since starting this just three weeks ago! 😳;

– I’m going to keep up my wholefoods DF GF diet and lifestyle, in spite of the time and effort it requires. I really believe it’s worth it, now and over the long term.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of preparing good food for myself and my family – when I have the time to do it and I’m not rushing!

And then, as if the Fates knew I was unlikely to follow through on my new resolutions, my husband broke his collarbone on the eve of our departure and we had to extend our relaxing holiday from what was supposed to be one week, to two! And just to be sure that I wouldn’t turn on my laptop and start working again, they inflicted on me the worst head cold EVER.  But we are now home again, and we are taking our time to recover before launching back into work.  My shoulders aren’t tense and I don’t feel stressed.  The kids are very happy and settled because mum and dad aren’t grouchy.  The dog is thrilled to be getting cuddles from me again.  And the fridge is restocked with fresh veggies, fruit jellies, bliss balls, freshly squeezed nut mylk, and homemade mayonnaise!

Finding a sustainable balance in life is going to be a constant effort for me, I know it. I’m a creative, impatient, perfectionist, praise-junkie by nature, and unfortunately for me this society generally rewards really unsustainable lifestyle practices like skipping sleep, working all the time, eating and drinking crap (I feel like such a misfit for eating real food!), and trying to do everything quickly.  I’ve embraced slow food all right, but slow living is a whole other challenge I have yet to conquer and maintain.  I’m not entirely confident I will be able to hold on to this state of calm for longer than about a week, but I’m going to try nevertheless.  Right now I have a million and one things I want/need to do, but instead I am simply going to follow the sage advice of author and ‘lifestyle philosopher’, Alexandra Stoddard:

Slow down.

Calm down.

Don’t worry.

Don’t hurry.

Trust the process.

…and I’ll take just one small step at a time.

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  • I’d be interested in the beeswax earplugs recipe – the ones I bought in Raglan years ago and I kept them for the extreme situations, not daily use e.g. tramping huts or holidays where we have an early start and lots of noise when sleeping. Only thing is I had to ‘share’ them with my boy in a tramping hut where I woke up to him crying because another tramper was snoring so loud. So I divided them up, now you can’t do that with plastic foam earplugs very easily! – But no rushing to post the recipe – there’s enough rushing to be had in Hamilton at the moment without that, stick to your priorities!

    • Hi there! Thanks for your comments; it’s nice to get feedback from people who are reading my thoughts! I’ll definitely share the beeswax earplugs recipe because my experimental pair work well for now; I just want to improve on the recipe a bit but I’m waiting for some organic cotton balls to arrive first. I’m so excited that I can just put them in the compost bin when I’m ready to switch to a fresh pair!