When you’re a child, a year lasts forever. Adding ‘and a half’ to your age is completely necessary when you are 9½, to express the enormity of everything that’s happened since you were 9…. But as you get older, the years seem shorter and the smaller the percentage a year actually is of your life. Eventually, each year is just a tiny sliver of time…
Sometimes I feel that life is getting away from me… like speeded-up film, the images pass in front of my eyes so quickly they blur, while I live on my treadmill of work and chores and responsibilities and things I ‘have’ to do, so busy I have literally no time to smell the roses. to slow down and take a step back. I had great plans for the long Summer school holidays; days out and adventures, and evenings spent laughing with friends in the twilight… but I was working and the weather was awful… then I looked up and suddenly it’s Autumn. There are apples hanging ripe on the trees, the leaves are changing colour, and I’m needing my snuggly boots and sweaters instead of flip-flops and fake tan.
Marking the seasons, such as they are (really, what happened to the British Summer?) can be a good way to feel more in tune with the natural rhythms of life, though it can be difficult if you don’t have a garden or a park or a way to get outside and immerse yourself in the colours and sounds and scents of nature. I’ve always loved Autumn; the new academic year brings a fresh start, different challenges, a sense of excitement, that anything is possible. I love the evenings drawing in, making jam and chutney from the produce in the garden, the crispness in the air and the smell of smoke from a wood burner. It always feels like a productive time of year, a positive time to make changes and put ideas into action.
For me, the plan is to occasionally get off the treadmill of ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ and start making space in my life for the things that matter. Stepping out of time removes that sense of striving to keep up, always wanting to be somewhere else because the clock tells you that you should be moving, doing. It’s about creating ‘quality time’ (though that’s such a hideous cliche). I did some DIY today – that might not sound like quality time, but believe me, the sense of achievement is enormous; we’ve been in this house for 18 months and the scuffed paint in the downstairs loo has irritated me every single day. But what made it special? My youngest daughter decided to help me, so we had an enjoyable hour getting messy together, and as that tiny room has the most amazing acoustics, we spent it painting and singing at the tops of our off-key voices.
Instead of wanting to cry every time I hear ABBA’s ‘Slipping through my fingers’, because oh God, my children are getting so grown-up, I’ll make sure I spend that special time with them doing things we all enjoy – ‘making memories’ (another cliched phrase – I associate that one with people whose Instafeed is full of Cath Kidston…). Instead of mourning for an endless summer on the beach, I’ll revel in Autumn colours and wintry walks. Instead of feeling vaguely anxious that other people are somehow achieving more than me, I’m determined to carve out more space for the writing and creative pursuits that give me my own sense of achievement. I’ll be the pilot, which means sometimes I can put on the brakes and spend an hour doing what I want to do – not because I ‘should’ be doing it, but for pure enjoyment.