Not having enough time is something I’ve always blamed on having children, between playing housemaid, taxi driver and referee, they tend to suck up every last minute of any potential downtime in the day, whilst I’m trying to make it go slower. We’re all busy in our lives, juggling our commitments and chores, but is it that time is going too quick, or that we’re living it too fast?
Research shows that the UK has a reputation for a poor work-life balance and that our adult days are spent in a hurry, and almost always full of worry. Worrying about money, about paying bills, about job security and our pensions are surely things that people in all countries stress over, but what us Brit’s tend to do differently is rush at everything. We leave home early to commute to work in rush hour traffic, be that busy roads or packed public transport, and do the same back at the end of a hectic day, arriving home exhausted, lacking any motivation for anything except sleep, when often there’s a family who’s been waiting for this moment all day.
I’m a sucker for looking for shortcuts to free up time. Shopping online, early morning runs, quick sandwich or bowl of cereal at the desk while I work, washing my hair and leaving it dry by itself overnight. All the things that will give me more time in the day, but for what? To fill it up with more stuff, ramming as much as I can into an 18hour day. It may be productive, but it’s not the right way to spend our lives.
We’re told to ensure we exercise a few times a week, which is ideal for freeing the mind and de-stressing, but mix that with the children and the list of ‘to-do’s for that day, taking time out of the regimented schedule to keep fit and healthy can make what should be an energising activity rather discouraging, which in turn makes us feel unmotivated. Vicious circle much?
Living a disciplined, timetabled life can, for some be ideal. They know what they’re doing, where, on what day, at what time, but for those of us with families, demanding deadline controlled jobs and crazy houses to run, life isn’t as easy as following a timely agenda. We know we’re busy and there’s no way out of the situation we’ve found ourselves in, we need to work to pay the bills, need a house to live in, and the kids are non-refundable, but how do we make it all easier, how do we slow it all down? Other countries have it sussed, which a week in The Netherlands proved.
Staying in the beautiful Alkmaar, about 30min train outside of Amsterdam City, we found ourselves spending the week in a beautiful house on the front of the canal, a residential street where I’m pretty sure we were the only visitors. We noticed immediately how different living was here, everyone cycling freely, or using the canal boat as transport, no loud road noise (actually, not that many cars!), and the streets were unbelievably clean, which we’re definitely not accustomed to.
Granted our week was more chilled, we were on holidays so no time spent working for one, but observing the pace in which people live here was a real eye-opener. Granted, Amsterdam was crazy busy, with what seemed like billions of people wandering around but Alkmaar, as a non-touristy town, was totally different, and I envied those I saw taking life in their stride.
People cycled slowly, they sat in coffee shops reading or chatting, they sat talking with their friends with a bottle or two, taking in life as it literally passed them by on the canal, they chilled in parks relaxing on the grass or admiring the view. And the best bit? No one we saw had their head down looking at their phones, something I’m pretty sure we all do too much of!
Personally, I believe people try to do too much, me included. I’m a nightmare for not saying no to people and will constantly add more to my plate if it means helping others, often to the disadvantage of my family when I’m then too tired to do anything else! On times I want to get out of the fast lane and establish some slowness in my life, but it’s definitely a learning curve. I’ve started Yoga and daily meditation which has definitely helped clear the mind and slow it down, and a workaholic I may be, but instead of doing extra hours outside the 9-5, I’ve made the effort to do more creative writing, designing and photography for myself in any spare time that may come my way, plus some volunteering work, which helps me reflect and recharge.
The 28? weather helped with the happiness in Alkmaar no doubt, as did spending amazing quality time making new memories with Hubby and the children, in a week of no urgency and no stress, just living life as we’re meant to. Slowly.
All of our lives are flooded with tasks that need doing, places we need to be, help we need to give others but we must remember that if we keep up a rapid lifestyle, a constant barrage of rushing around, time will disappear very quickly, and we will miss out on living. We must remember to always make time for ourselves, time for our family, time for those that need our support, and ultimately time to breath. Everything else is just noise.