My enforced week off has done me the world of good. My dad had sent me a brochure about stress symptoms, and I recognised every single one of them, which made me feel a lot better in itself. I just couldn't understand why I couldn't pull myself together, kick myself up the backside and just get on with it. Me, who normally has boundless energy and can carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. But my body was very clear and wouldn't let me. And once I recognised that and stopped trying to fight it, I felt a lot calmer and happier. I just had a very quiet week. Kept some structure - I got the kids off to school and did some chores around the house - but made sure I had plenty of rest and scheduled lots of me-time too. And I think that is what helped me most - finally having some time for me. I have two lasting memories of my week off, and one is starting work on the garden, for the first time in years, and secondly popping to town one day (to look at the plants on the market!) and then treating myself to coffee and some knitting time on my own in the sunshine. It just felt so good to sit there and have nobody ask what was going to be for supper, if their uniform was clean yet, or how to open a file on the computer. I just enjoyed my own company and a bit of peace and quiet.
At the end of that week I came to the conclusion that I don't put myself first often enough. I think it's something we women are good at: taking care of others, making sure they're happy and looked after, and often putting our needs and wishes and desires last, thereby usually not having time for ourselves at all. And it doesn't make me happy. So from now on I'm going to put myself first more often. I'm going to try and treat myself to the odd coffee on my own, with some knitting time thrown in. And from now on, I'm going to start knitting just for me. I do enjoy knitting for others, but I'm not sure everybody always appreciates how much effort and above all love goes into it. I see so many things that I'd like to make for myself, but most of the time I have a project for somebody else on the needles. Maybe it's time to change that!
As for the garden... When I first moved here, 15 years ago, the garden was a mess. J. and I did it up together and had a lovely cottage garden that first summer. Then when the children arrived, he took over most of the work, but it was still lovely. He lost interest as our marriage started to disintegrate, and when he first left, I found it too much work to cope on my own with two small children and a garden which needed quite a bit of work by then. So I let it go, for several years. But B. bought the children a trampoline for their birthday and he predicted that if they were spending time outside, I'd get on with some gardening. During my week off I cleared the little patio area by the back door and the little circular patio at the back of the garden, and cleaned the garden furniture. Next thing I know, the children want to have their after school snacks in the garden, and supper too if at all possible, and want to help me clear things up. N. started sweeping some of the paving slabs and suddenly we could walk to the lawn without slipping on dead leaves. And that was it, no stopping us. I now have several herbs growing in pots by the back door, three pots with sweet peas, we have radishes and salad plants, I'm waiting for the nasturtiums to germinate, and this weekend we planted verbenas and stocks. Most evenings we are outside, just spending half an hour or so on clearing a little patch and then planting it up again, or sometimes just watering what we have already done up. I find it strangely addictive, and keep having to go outside to see what the plants are doing (annoyingly it's turned really cold in the last week or so and nothing's germinating!).
So, slowly I'm getting back to normal. I find that I can still get tired if I overdo it, and then when I do get tired, it's an all-consuming tiredness. I still sleep more than I normally would, but at least I feel more back to my old self again. I just didn't recognise myself 3 weeks ago and that was a frightening feeling. And at some point, I'm sure, I'll feel like a trip to Holland again. But at the moment, I'm just enjoying being home. And I think that's what I missed most, in all those months of uncertainty.