Saturday, March 25, 2006

Working Lives

Brew of the day: Organic Nettle Tea
It’s great to pick your own stinging nettles and dry a whole batch for drinking throughout the year. Enjoy your Saturday Morning Cuppa!

There was a time in humanity’s history when we worked just enough hours in a day to bring in the food we needed to eat. So, if we needed 2000 calories to sustain us, then we’d find that amount of food and then go off to play! Oh, how times have changed.

We no longer work just to cover our 2000 or so calories. We work to pay for the plates we eat off; the kitchen to store them in; the equipment to cook or preserve them in; a roof over our head with a blinding mortgage; the transport we need to get to work; seek out entertainment (rather than making our own) to unwind from the stress of the job; take on extracurricular activities to break the boredom of the 9-5; and then we work even harder so we can have an annual holiday in another country to make up for the 50 plus hours a week that we slave away for. The holiday is somehow supposed to give us bonding time with the family we’ve not seen all year. How ironic then, when some parents choose to holiday without their kids or spouse!

And somehow, in amongst all this madness, we lose sight of what really gives life meaning ~ friendships, family time, communal meals, day to day simplicity, time alone to reflect on the beauty of our Earth. Life is just one big adrenal rush these days. The rat race is a societal experiment in speed ~ and we’re all suffering from it one way or another. And then, when we die, people say they didn’t really know us! Not surprising when few people take the time to truly nurture friendships and intimate relationships.

I remember in my early twenties, before having kids, that we’d just pop over to each others' houses. I’m aware this may also, to some extent, be a cultural thing (I was raised in Australia where people are way more relaxed than the British ~ no doubt something to do with the sunshine quota!!!) but it is almost impossible to do this in the UK. Visiting friends is as diarised as going to the dentist ~ and can take just as long to get in! What have we done to ourselves? I’m watching a friend's children grow at a rapid pace and have a pang of guilt that I’ve seen them just a few times in the past year even though we live only about 14 miles away. My happiest times are always in the company of good friends or with my family.

I also remember much more spontaneity in general when I was younger. “Hey, I’m going to the beach. Wanna come?” And five minutes later we’re all on our way. Or we would head off camping for a long weekend, some six hours away from home. And it didn’t take months of planning. We just did it. We lived to play.

Paul is currently working six days a week (a requirement of the job). It is easy to feel like a single mother when I don’t see him. The girls and I build our day around a morning walk of about 3 - 4 miles. We’re blessed to live in a place of outstanding natural beauty. The fells (hills) beckon us. Each day our breath is taken away by something special on our walk. A flower, an insect, the mist rolling across the field, birdsong. Then we potter in the house or garden, make meals (Eliza loves to help make hommous or chop vegetable to snack on). The girls read, sew outfits, practise music (Bethany does piano and violin, Eliza is learning mandolin), and then I read aloud by the fire for an hour before they go to bed. Once they’re asleep I do work on the computer related to putting The Mother magazine together. Come Saturday, our whole rhythm goes out the window and we feel a sense of ‘rush’ and an expectation of making the most of our *family* day. It is also the time where I rely on Paul to help with things I can’t do on my own easily. For example, we get water once a week from Moondawn Farm (where The Mother magazine camps are held). It’s a mile from our house. The hill down to the Spring is very steep. I can bring the 25 litre container back up the hill, but it near kills me, so I leave it to Paul.

I’m planning, from next weekend, for us to all go ice skating each Saturday. To do so will require more juggling and management during the week to free up a few hours on the day.

I know our situation isn’t unique. Many women I talk to say what they find most difficult is that on Saturday mornings their partners and children have trouble integrating with each other, not having seen each other all week. And they find all of Saturday is spent fighting. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened for us. The pressure of the day still exists though.

What sort of culture have we created that tears the family ~ the fabric of our society ~ apart like this? This is NOT natural. A family is a community. They are designed by their very nature to be a community of love and companionship, to be together.

I’m on a mission to reduce our family’s needs and simplify our life enormously so that we’re both able to work from home or to work much less. Not sure I can get to the ways of my ancestors and just work to cover my daily calories but I’d sure like to. I don’t aspire to live in a castle ~ I’d happily opt for a comfy, cosy, one room yurt with a wood stove, or a log cabin in the wilderness…so long as I have a patch of ground for growing my food. More than anything, I’d like to live as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible and not be dependent on outside sources for my food, heating or power.

In the meantime, I’ve determined to make the most of where we live. Our small rented cottage, will become an eco-cottage. In the garden we’re working on putting in a small orchard, compost loo, herb garden, vegetable garden, fire ring for full moon fires and a small bread/pizza oven to share with friends. I plan to make our permaculture patch as sustainable as possible for our family.

If we’re honest, there really isn’t much we truly need. Our life is just a long list of wants. For some it is:

a tropical holiday,
a new tv,
shopping spree,
to pay a credit card bill,
a new mobile phone,
so and so’s latest CD
new décor for the bedroom

It’s funny how influenced we are by the culture around us. All the things that truly don’t matter become needs. And it is here that our addictive natures bring us down. Contentment and satisfaction in simple day to day pleasures are the signs of success NOT the size or style of our house, car, job, social set.

Our true needs of food, water, shelter, fresh air and love don’t require us to be slaves. But our desires make us slaves if at any point we truly think we need them or if our life feels unbearable without them.


Handbag Express said...
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baker st jones said...

hi veronika,
my husband's working v long hours right now too and it certainly gives a different perspective on being a mum (feeling like a single parent)! also, i'm used to having lots more time to just talk to him and share ideas and experiences...and not having that makes me feel strange.

loving your blog. anita

Askinstoo said...
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binky said...

Hi veronika
Just read your blog for the second time ever and it is refreshing and inspiring to hear someone else expressing similar views to those that i hold dear. I do sometimes feel myself getting whipped up into thinking we need this new item or that but luckliy because we dont have any money i just always remember oh we can live without it. After reading your blog ive realised that even if i did have money i would still want a simple life. I have an allotment now but would love a garden to create in - maybe one day this will happen. Im now going thru trying to simplify our life and as my partner also works full time to try to make the most of our family time with our little girl.