Making Space

Friday morning, 6.30am. Why am I awake? 

I don’t know.

Lee’s awake too, doing some prep work before a meeting in a couple of hours time. 

We’ve got lots to do this afternoon: drop the cat off at my father-in-law’s (it’s still fun to say that), shop for super exciting things like gloves and socks, eat everything left in the fridge, and pack our suitcases ready for – yes, you guessed it – our ski trip!

I might’ve mentioned before that I’m not a skier, so this will be my first ski trip, although not my first time on skis. There was an unsuccessful Dry Slope experience with Guides (yes, aged 12) that my mum still reminds me of, and an ill-fated visit to the indoor slope at Milton Keynes a few years ago that was really no better. 

I’m much more comfortable with melted snow.

You know, water.

When I’m in a boat.

But whatever, same thing essentially, right?

Either way, next week you can expect my Instagram to change from avocados and the River Cam, to schnitzels, snow boots and mountain views. 

Lee and I are both in need of a break.

We’ve had so much going on recently, both work and personally, that our “us time” has become a real luxury when we get to have it. 

I think, because of that, I was really touched by yesterday’s episode of my favourite podcast; The Slow Home Podcast. Brooke was talking to her guest Dr Justin Coulson – a professional psychologist and expert in family relationships – about family life, parenting and intentional relationships, and there was one moment in particular that really resonated with me. While talking about managing a busy schedule, they mentioned not just making sure to leave space for family time, but to consciously make space for family time.

What a powerful idea.

How often do we delay date night because “something’s come up at work”? How many times have we chosen to stay out for one more drink with the girls rather than going home to DVDs and takeaway pizza with mum and dad? Maybe it’s something as simple as having your phone on the table at dinner in case you get a call or urgent email; ever done that?

We need to start scheduling in those things, especially if we’re at a busy period of work or life. We need to give those things a priority status, not just think of them as something that happens automatically. 

Isn’t that the very definition of taking something, or someone, for granted?

Spending quality time with my loved ones is a surefire way to recharge my batteries.

I’m not saying it works for everyone, and I’m not saying I’m some kind of Saint – on more than one occasion I’ve been known to get in the car after a nine-person Sunday Dinner at my Mum’s, and need to sit quietly for the hour and a half drive home, just to relax and wind down a bit! 

But nonetheless, I think we would all agree that relationships are important to us all. Romantically, yes, but familial and friendly as well. 

Unless of course you don’t want anyone to like you, and would prefer everyone you ever met to walk away from you thinking, “what a dick. horrible, mean, self obsessed person.”

So, back to this idea of making space. It’s a difficult one to get your head around, I think because it first requires you to recognise what you’re currently prioritising over your relationships. For example, I’ve realised that I often let other people’s actions negatively affect my own attitude, which of course hugely impacts the time that I spend with Lee. 

What on earth am I doing that for?! Sorry pal, but that’s not okay.

Now, of course, some of the prioritisations we make are non-negotiable – being a doctor on call for example – or have to do with our own wellbeing – choosing to leave home ten minutes earlier than necessary so that you can get a cup of coffee in peace before your first meeting – but some of them (my guess is most of them) have something to do with the demands of work.

Recognising that in yourself is tough, because it requires you to say, “right now, my work is more important than my husband / wife / mum / health / best friend / kids.” And that is hard. And sometimes you will have to work late every night to deliver something for a needy client. But just imagine for a second that you’d made plans with a friend for Thursday night. Would you stick to it? Of course you would, because you’d agreed it, and you’d scheduled it, and you’re a decent human being.

What if you scheduled in your family time?

I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but I think it works in two ways:

  1. In doing so, you’ve made that time a priority. You’ve put it front of mind and recognised that it’s important. Well done you!
  2. If it’s physically present in your diary, your secretary / manager / whoever isn’t going to book you a meeting when there’s already something in at that time! Sneaky win!

But for those times when work or life really does take over, and you really do have to cancel things and make those difficult choices… When things calm down, remember to take it back. 

That’s why I can’t wait for this skiing holiday. 

We’ve earned it, and we deserve it!

Oh, and should my attempts in any way resemble the dry slope incident, I’ve been readily prepared and downloaded a selection of Slow Living books for my personal education.
All being well, reporting next week from the Austrian Schmittenhöhe slopes!!

Have a lovely weekend!

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