It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in the Harmony House. The weather is cool but drizzly, which is a nice change after the heat of the previous week. I have had a lovely slow morning where I woke without an alarm and felt refreshed, I took my time having breakfast and making my West End Matcha tea and then I listened to a the latest episode of The Slow Home Podcast while I pottered about the house tidying up. Crinkle the cat was hanging around, my darling husband was sleeping in and then watching sport and then cooking bacon and there was absolutely no urgency or rushing. It’s got me feeling very reflective.
In short, it was my ideal morning. I feel very grateful to have realised that several days a week (usually 3 but sometimes more, sometimes less) I get to live a version of my ideal day. Mostly it involves being a homebody, lots of self-care, spending time with my little family, a phone conversation with one of my loved ones and learning about topics I love. Often it involves coaching of some sort, whether that be working with a client, participating in a webinar or doing some further study. All of these things, to me, represent a significant slowing down from the life I lead the other days of the week.
That life sees me rising very early (often before the sun), commuting for over an hour, functioning at work amidst the chaos and feelings of ‘never enough’ and ‘too busy for a toilet break’, followed by either a long commute home, dinner and bed, or staying overnight in the town where I work as it is too long of a commute to do both ways every day. There are many things I love about that life. I actually enjoy my commute because I get to listen to awesome podcasts and sometimes have long, meaningful conversations with my bestie via the magic of hands-free mobile technology. I really love the people who open their homes to me when I need a home-away-from-home and they feed me delicious food and we have many wonderful conversations. And I really enjoy many aspects of my job — especially the connections with lovely staff and students and the great music we get to enjoy and create.
But ultimately that life represents a lot of things that are not ideal for me. It’s frantic and exhausting for a start. Anyone who knows a teacher knows that it’s far from the 9 – 3 job some people think it is. The days really are chock-a-block full and lunch-times are not really a break but a chance to chase up students who you need to see and prepare for lessons and organise all manner of ensembles and rehearsals. The more days I have off in a week, the worse the busy-ness of the 9 – 3 hours gets. Since I’ve had the fit-bit it has become easier to see just how active these hours are for me. I regularly do 12,000 steps in a day at school. That’s without any attempt at setting aside time for exercise. On more than one occasion I’ve made it to 20,000 steps in a school day. There is also the emotional drain of a system that is never-ending in it’s quest for ‘perfection’ and where some of the clients and customers are really, really hard to get along with. As a highly sensitive person, I find it really draining to be interacting with such hostility so regularly. Plus, the constant improvement agenda and quest for more, more, more and better, better, better is quite a trigger to this recovering perfectionist. It’s also in stark contrast to my values, which is also emotionally draining.
The other problem is that this life also takes me away from my home and haven 4 days a week (sometimes more!). It’s an epiphany I’ve had before but I’m realising anew lately just how crucial this haven is for my health and happiness. It’s the reason I’m really not keen to have any guests stay over-night ever again, actually, although this is an ongoing conversation in our household at the moment. But being at home, either alone or with Stuart, gives me the chance to recharge my energy and block out the frantic noise of the world. It’s crucial for my self-care, it’s what reconnects me to my husband and to myself. So having to get up and rush to leave by 6.15am every work-day morning and either not get home until 6.15pm or, if I stay overnight in Esk, until the following day robs me of that re-charge time. As much as I love the dear friends I stay with in Esk, and as much as they look after me and give me everything I could possibly want in a home-away-from-home, it isn’t actually home. It’s not my space and staying there means I don’t get to see my husband or my cat for usually 36 hours minimum, sometimes closer to 72 hours depending on the week. Of course I know that is nothing compared to the separation that some couples deal with and I also know that I can choose to drive home any night that I like and I can even choose to work somewhere else. But neither of those options are really better options to me. In fact, this situation is the best that it could be right now. But that doesn’t mean it is the ideal. And it’s certainly not slow, which is what I’m craving right now.
So, next year, I am planning on dropping back to a 50% teaching load which will end up as 1 x full day and 2 x three-quarter days of teaching. At this stage, it will probably be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which will mean three big days of commuting and busy-ness, but I’ll get to be home in my haven with my husband every night and I’ll get a day off in between every work day to recover and recharge and refocus. It’s more slowing down and another step towards my ideal life and I’m really looking forward to it.
Before then, though, I still have 7 weeks of the term to get through. This coming week I’m working 5 days because we have our school Awards Night on Tuesday (usually my day off) so I’ll be working Tuesday and staying away from home 3 nights this week. After that, the marking and reporting cycle will begin in earnest, so things are about to ramp up in that regard. As a result, I’ve decided to take the pressure of myself with The Harmony Agenda for a while. I’ll be blogging still, but perhaps not as regularly. I had planned to re-launch the Self-Care Matters E-Course in November in the new 12-week format but I don’t think I will now. I think I’ll leave that until the New Year because it does need some re-working and I won’t be able to devote the time or energy to it that I’d like at this stage.
I also plan on focusing more of my energy into developing resources for other teachers to be able to prioritise self-care. As such, I’ll be putting as much of my knowledge into practice to get through this term in as slow and self-care-filled manner possible. I am starting a Facebook group for teachers to support each other in self-care because I see a real need for a safe space for this online. And I will continue with the coaching part-time as well.
I feel really grateful to have not only the opportunity to create a version of my ideal life on the weekends and the odd day off during the week, but also to have the perspective to realise that for now, although I’d really like more of the ideal life, I need to do what needs to be done to get there sustainably. At the moment that means slowing down on the business building because I have to focus on staying well and doing my job well too. I know this isn’t forever and that at some stage in the future I will miss this school and these students, so I will appreciate them while I can. And I’ll focus on the nice bits and try to let go of the not-so-nice bits. And I’ll remind myself that even when I have to slow down and change my plans, even when I make less progress in all areas of my life than I want and especially when I feel like I have let myself or others down, I am enough, already and always.
My health and happiness has to be my priority, and that’s ok. I want to help as many people as possible to realise that they can prioritise themselves too, but I want to do that in a way that is congruent and sustainable. No use burning myself out spreading the self-care message! So for now I will live my values as much as possible, slow down and practice self-care, and lead by example. That’s my harmony agenda. What’s yours?