Day 5 of my countdown to Christmas and I am thinking about how lucky I am to be warm. Stormy weather is forecast for today which, with the recent drop in temperature, makes it a day best spent hibernating. I am sitting at my desk, wrapped in a duvet, a warm cup of coffee by my side. I feel cosy and content.

My preparations for Christmas are starting to take shape. I do just about all of my shopping on line these days so have been browsing the internet and placing orders each evening. The interesting looking parcels and boxes are starting to arrive and the items on my ‘to do’ lists are gradually being ticked off.

I realise, of course, how lucky I am. We have never been a family that has gone overboard with gift buying, but I know that there are many people who would struggle to afford the presents that we exchange. We are blessed in so many ways with our health, each other and the comforts we enjoy. I am thankful for all of this.

I pulled a new book from my shelves this morning as I felt I was ready to immerse myself in another world. After reading a good book I require recovery time so do not always have one on the go. An ending, no matter how satisfactory, forces me to set aside the characters whose lives I have become involved with. Sometimes it can be a regretful goodbye as I do not wish to leave their world. A good book is so precious and powerful.

The book I selected this morning has turned out to be an excellent choice for where I currently am in my life. It was recommended to me by a Facebook friend who I have also met in person on a couple of occasions. I believe that I would enjoy getting to know her better should the opportunity arise so her recommendation was of interest.

The book is ‘Human Traces’ by Sebastian Faulks. I have had mixed experiences with this author. I would highly recommend ‘Birdsong’ to anyone, it is a rare and brilliantly written book. I also thought ‘Engleby’ was excellent, so powerful and thought provoking. ‘Charlotte Grey’ disappointed me though as I found it weak compared to his other tales. As Engleby proved, I do not need to like the protagonist, but Charlotte Grey’s behaviour did not strike me as consistent; for a supposedly clever woman she behaved foolishly. ‘On Green Dolphin Street’ was entertaining but lacked depth. It was not a bad book, worth reading, but not as good as some of his others.

I had bought ‘Human Traces’ when it was recommended but knew nothing about the plot until I picked it up today. It turns out to be about two psychiatrists, which is apt and interesting to me, particularly at this time. I am currently in week five of a six week, distance learning psychology course offered by the University of Warwick. Naturally I am interested in the subject matter or I would not have signed up but, even so, the course has exceeded my expectations.

I enjoy being made to think and the videoed lectures, interviews and reading matter certainly generate plenty of new thoughts. They have introduced me to concepts and ideas about how the human mind functions and how we, as humans, cope with and react to life’s variety of situations. I hope that my recent learning will enhance my enjoyment of a book that explores this subject when it was in it’s infancy as far as the medical establishment was concerned. From his previous books I deduce that Sebastian Faulks carefully researches his subject matter before spinning a readable and sometimes demanding tale around it. I have high hopes that I will enjoy this one.

As part of my course I have been doing a lot of thinking about myself and those I know. Not the introspective naval gazing that can be selfishly destructive and judgemental, but a more dispassionate appraisal of behaviour and why we act as we do. A six week, part time course with a little additional reading is only ever going to offer a taster for such a complex subject, but a little learning can be enough to stretch the mind. I may feel better in myself after physical exercise, but I do enjoy exercising my mind rather more.

The strong winds outside are doing their best to blow the last of the leaves from the trees, and into my garden that I so carefully raked and cleared of debris earlier in the week. I will not be venturing out today though, other than to care for my hens. Rather I will curl up with my book and allow myself to be cocooned in the warmth of my home. I will relish this comfort as I immerse myself in a new and hopefully captivating world.



Coping with inactivity

The continuing cold weather is impacting our normally active household. Low temperatures and biting winds make the warmth of the house with all it’s modern, electronic entertainments so much more appealing than venturing outside. We are like hibernating bears in our cave, peeking out from time to time to see if the winter snow has gone, then curling up by the fire to await the arrival of spring. I am in two minds as to whether this period of rest is beneficial or time wasted.

Modern life can be so hectic as we try to meet the demands and fulfil the desires of those around us whilst pursuing our own interests and ambitions. It is important to allow ourselves periods of rest and inactivity but I find that too much sloth makes me sluggish and can bring me down. I need to keep myself active to avoid the mood drops.

It can be hard to avoid trying to make the others in my household conform to what works for me. My children have all the pressures of school work, assessments and exams to deal with alongside the angst of the teenage years. I am torn between giving them the space to use their free time as they choose and trying to encourage a little socialisation and contribution to the family. Increasingly they are forming a unit amongst themselves that does not include their parents. I guess this is a natural progression but makes me feel so old!

Having my husband home for the long, holiday weekend forced me to make a little bit more of an effort than I do when it is just me and the kids. The house got properly tidied, we had family round for a meal and I joined my husband at the gym for a workout. I was trying to fit in with what I thought he would want to see happening; it is hard to know if I picked up on this correctly or not. He has returned to work with a nasty cold so cannot be expected to exude cheer.

I am trying to avoid living my life as I think others want me to. Now that my children are older this is no longer necessary and it gives them the wrong message. Young children need a constant carer who can teach by example so playing the part well is necessary. Teenagers, on the other hand, need to learn that adults do not exist purely for their convenience. I am more than happy to offer them whatever support they need but I do not intend to let them walk all over me. I do still feel the need to encourage them to live mindfully. They probably see my suggestions as nagging; it can be tricky to get the balance right between remaining interested and involved without stifling them.

I like to be around when my children are off school even if I am not required. In the busy routine of our term time lives it can be hard to relax with them so the holidays offer us a chance to randomly chat and do small things together. It also gives me an excuse to put my feet up more often than I normally would as they pursue their own interests. Whilst I may get to the end of a day and feel that I have achieved little I do believe that this should not always be required. So much of our time is spent preparing for the future, be it earning money that we can then choose to spend to improve our lives, working for exams that will open doors to a better life or working out to keep our bodies in better working order. Alongside these important tasks we should not be forgetting to simply enjoy living. However we choose to fill our down time, if we are enjoying what we do then the time is not wasted.

Perhaps it simply feels wrong to be spending such a long holiday doing so little because in previous years the Easter break has offered weather warm enough to enjoy spending extended periods of time outside. This year it has not been possible to even wrap up against the biting cold and enjoy a walk; the weather is just too unpleasant.

For now we will continue to hibernate and try to simply enjoy each others company. The children may be frustrated by the need to stay indoors but a little time to relax should enable us to recharge our batteries and reconnect with each other. The return to routine will come too soon; the warmer weather cannot arrive soon enough.

English: Black Bear mother and cubs in den,, h...