How does the saying go? Still waters run deep,” if I recall. And, like most clichés, there is enough truth in the old, worn-out phrase to justify how the phrase wore out in the first place.
“Still waters run deep.” How things that appear to be still and quiet can actually hide passion and action, beneath the surface.
And, in my case, how taking the time to slow down and take stock has helped to bring me back to life and energy, from the brink of burnout.
As the year and our time abroad simultaneously draw to a close, I have been thinking about ways that I can apply the lessons I’ve learned during this quiet escape to the often noisy and busy life I lead in Melbourne. We can’t all live out our days in beautiful French villages, so how do we find rhythm and balance in what constitutes “ordinary life” for each of us?
I don’t feel that I have the answer yet, but I have learned some lessons that I hope to take with me into Australia in 2019. So I thought I’d share them today, partly because people have been asking me about how I’ll go adjusting when we return, and partly because maybe by telling you, I’ll feel that much more accountable to follow through.
This sabbatical was a precious gift, and I don’t want to let it drift away with the breeze.
* Saying no. I am going to say no a lot more. I will say it gently, and with love, and probably often with a twinge of sadness and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). But I will say no, nevertheless, because saying yes has contributed to the feeling of overwhelm that threatened to drown these particular ‘still waters’ more than once in the past year.
* Eating well. It didn’t take an extended sojourn in France for me to learn that this was important, but it did take an extended stay for me to actually put this into practise. After we return, I want to eat at meal times and not snack in between. I won’t be too extreme in terms of limiting our diets, but I will do my best to make more of our meals rather than buying takeout, and to continue to challenge my children to try new things and embrace new flavours.
* Becoming my own benefactor. This is something I touch on, briefly, in my Create With Confidence course, but which I am also going to apply to myself this year. The idea is that rather than putting all the pressure on my art to earn my living (ie. “I want to create and I need to eat, and so I need to make money from the things I create”), I will be willing to do other non-creative things that earn a living, in order to fund the art I want to create. Part of this is because I am learning, slowly, that when I make art for money, I lose the love for the art. And I want to keep that love.
* Making for joy. By becoming my own benefactor, I also free myself up to create things purely for the joy of creating them. I’ve signed up for some workshops at the botanical gardens in January, learning to paint botanicals. I’m going to crate an illustrated almanac. I’ve fallen back in love with this blog (you may have noticed more frequent posts of late), because I’ve stopped writing for any reason other than for the joy of creating, and the desire to share my thoughts, ideas and questions, with you. I’ll launch that podcast. All of this feels exciting and genuinely freeing, because by earning my money in other places, I don’t have to find ways to make these ‘heart projects’ financially viable.
* Writing more letters. While in France, I have loved sinking back into the habit of writing long, chatty letters and making mail-art, purely for the joy of connecting with someone, or giving them joy.
* Escaping to nature. I am going to be deliberate about taking time out on weekends to escape into nature. Parks, forests, paddocks, orchards… trees are where I recharge, so I intend to be more proactive in seeking them out and losing myself among them. There will be picnics!
* Finding beauty. I live in the inner-city, and there is so much that I adore about where I live. But the truth is, I dream about a country escape, and I’ve realised I had subconsciously come to resent my home and its lack of open spaces. The same goes for my longing for a cooler climate. I truly detest the hot summer in Australia, and it always seems to last for such a long time. My goal, when I return, is to pretend to be a tourist in my own town. To imagine I am visiting for the first time, and in this way to fall back in love with the city I call home.
UPDATE: The evening after this blog post went live, I was listening to the Hashtag Authentic podcast with Sara Tasker, in which she chatted with Hannah Bulliant about “setting tingly goals for the new year.” I found myself shouting “YES” into my headphones while alone in the kitchen, and so much of their conversation resonated, for me, with the thoughts and ideas I’ve shared here. So if you’d like some further inspiration along the same lines (but much better articulated), take a listen to their episode, here.