Thursday, 4 July 2013

Why can't I say no?

I took to my bed this week. After 10 days of frenetic activity, my body went on strike. Exhaustion had set in, along with a temperature. There was no way out: I had to retreat to the cool, white space under my duvet. And so I lay there, racked by the knowledge of everything I needed to do - and couldn't do. Even as I popped some painkillers, I was calculating how long it would take before analgesia set in so that I could answer a few emails in bed and possibly put on another load of washing.
Clock and pills - sick of modern life and time pressures?
Timesick? 
© Captainzz | Dreamstime.com

This is modern life for the middle-aged. Somehow we can never find the pause button. Whether we go out to work or 'stay' at home, we fill our lives to the nth degree. Was it always like this? Did the ladies of Jane Austen's era drill their needles through their embroidery, scribble a few letters before luncheon and then gallop down to the Assembly Rooms to gossip about the Dowager so-and-so? Possibly, although I suspect our time-pressed routines have more to do with the advent of technology and modern child-rearing, than any innate need to rush through life.

Ironically technology was once heralded as a panacea to reduce hard work and long hours. Back in the 1950s, Winston Churchill believed that the proliferation of machines would eventually "give the working man what he's never had - four days' work and then three days' fun". Quite clearly Mr Churchill never anticipated the power and stealth of the smartphone. As well as fostering a culture of 24/7 working, the small screen also feeds our addiction to online gaming and social media. In any spare moment, my husband is either concocting his next move on Wordfeud or checking stocks / emails on his Blackberry.

Add children to the blend and you're sunk. Running small lives, as well as your own, pretty much mops up any spare time. Someone wise once told me there are three main elements in life, but if you want to stay sane, you can only accomplish two of them well:

  • Work
  • Family / children
  • Social life

I persist in the belief that I can just about manage all three to varying degrees, until my body gives out and shouts STOP! 

Apart from physical collapse, there is one other solution: taking a holiday. For a few weeks a year, we cease working and can (if we choose) turn off the social flow. For once, we actually allow ourselves time to relax and reflect more deeply on life. Mr Churchill's three days of fun might never come, but thank God (or the state) for holiday entitlement. It may yet save us from mental overload.

Right! All I need to do now is squeeze in a visit to the gym, organise picnic food for the weekend, dash out another 500 words of my novel, do some ironing and then trot down to my kids' school for the summer production this afternoon... Someone please pass me the Nurofen!



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"The key to any good family saga is to create characters the reader will care about, family secrets that will be solved eventually but aren't immediately obvious, and a setting that makes interesting reading. This novel scores on all points..." 
- 5* Amazon review, June 2013

My book, A Sister for Margot, is now only £1.99 / $2.99 on Amazon!