Again, I find myself writing a blog post for the first time in a long time. This time, though, the reason behind the lapse is not laziness or apathy. It’s the complete opposite, in fact. Some weeks ago, I made a conscious decision to take a sabbatical from social media. Here is one of my last Twitter posts:

17 Jun – I’ve decided that with vacation time around the corner and my mood at an all time low, now is a good time to take a sabbatical from Twitter

And this is a copy of an email I sent to my ENTIRE address book on the same day (names have been changed as usual):

Hi All

I’ve had a couple of enquiries about this in the last 24 hours so, thought it probably best to send out a wee email…
I deleted my facebook account. I posted a status saying I was going to and then just did it. I guess it removed my status from people’s timeline when I deleted the account.
I just got fed up with it. And I’m a bit fed up in general, mostly from missing Strawbug and I was beating myself up for checking facebook whilst she’s awake and with me, only to read endless horoscope and mafia games postings (my timeline was full of crap – not from you, i hasten to add – and only now and then did I share messages with people directly)…
Those who know me and love me (i.e. you guys) all have my email address and my phone numbers. So, I decided to revert to “old fashioned” communication (haha, as opposed to “totally ancient” communication – i.e. letter writing!) and start actually talking to people rather than posting a sentence on the internet like a project status report (although, email IS allowed – LOL. one has to wean oneself off gradually!).
Sorry if I sound a a bit grumpy, I am – Strawbug has decided sleep is for wimps and inevitably has ended up in our bed kicking 7 bales of sh*t out of us for the last 2 weeks. So we’re all pretty shattered.
Anyway. I’m trimming back my internet activities, for now, and focusing on the little time I have with my Beloved and Strawbug instead. I hope it will lead to a better work/life/technology balance for us all.
I hope you are all well. We are off on our holibobs for a week, couldn’t have come at a better time!
Speak to you all soon
2 days earlier, I posted this on my Facebook page (which is my actual account linked to my family and friends, not for my pen name):

15 Jun – I’ve decided to close down my facebook account… But you can contact me in the future by phone or by email. Thanks everyone – stay safe and happy 🙂 xxx

It was the result of what I called at the time, a “mini meltdown”. And, if I’m honest, I would still call it that.

Somewhere between 8th June and the 15th June I became engulfed by a wave of guilt, compounded by a wall of tiredness and a weight of sadness I had only experienced once before.

As a person who has suffered from medical depression (not just the kind that a bottle of wine and a giggle with the girls will cure, but the kind where you can’t sleep, or get out of bed, you can’t look at anyone, speak one word or eat a morsel of food and genuinely want it all to end) I was relieved to find that I consciously recognised that I was at a crossroads. One of the paths led to ending it all and the other, well, I wasn’t sure where that path lead, but my heart and my mind were telling me that it had to be better than the path I had travelled before.

So, I (very swiftly) cut out the distractions and tried to re-focus on my priorities. I have logged in to Twitter once since I started my sabbatical, to respond to a kind message from a kind Twitterer asking if I was OK. And I haven’t been back to Facebook at all. As you can tell, until now, I haven’t blogged either.

Although I still use email and text a lot, I call people more often than I used to. It’s quicker and easier to mail/text but it’s so much nicer to talk. I make a conscious effort to be “present” when I’m with my baby Girl and make the most of the little time that we have together. And my Beloved and I are also trying very hard to communicate and connect more often and more deeply. More difficult than it sounds, with a full time job and an almost 1 year old! We’re still tired, but the quality of our family time is really improving.

The biggest effect my sabbatical has had, is that it has given me time to think long and hard about my priorities, my needs and my wants. And I have come to the conclusion that I can do without the iPhone 5, I can do without the 6 weekly hair highlights and I can do without the 5* luxury breaks if it means I get to spend more time with Strawbug. So, in a couple of months, I’ll hopefully be working part time. Maybe even as little as 3 days per week. And for the remaining 4 days I’ll be a “present” Mummy and a housewife and I can’t wait! My “thinking” (in part, thanks to the recent local riots) has even gone as far as ruminating about moving to an entirely different country where Strawbug can grow up to value knowledge, culture, health and morality over gadgets, trainers, handbags and size zero bodies. But that’s for another time. I’m still mulling it over.

Am I evolving? or am I revolving? Either way, I don’t really care. The net result is bliss.


Finally! I’m blogging for a living

Well sort of…

I’ve managed to convince my boss that an Intranet would be hugely beneficial for the Company because it would a) be informative b) be fun and c) would encourage improved communication. And, per the norm here, if you stick your neck out – you’re it. RESULT! It’s my baby and after weeks of chasing the developer, the structure is ready for population.

The ‘look and feel’ presently leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m not complaining. For the last 6 working days I have been like the proverbial pig, or if you prefer, the cheshire cat. Head down, iPod on, typing away. HR procedures, project processes and hours on end spent writing blogs about this and that. And even more hours trawling the internet for fun stuff to “enthuse” my colleagues and boost morale.

It takes me back to when I was a graduate trainee and my 3rd placement was with the IT Intranet department. I learned basic HTML and spent weeks ‘being creative’ buidling pages upon pages of Intranet info for our Graduate Team and jazzing them up with animated GIFs.

In reality, I was avoiding what I was supposed to be doing as this was far more fun.

And here I am, 10 years later, doing it all over again!

Not that I care. It is a good initiative and just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s not work. This must be what it’s like to do a job you love. (Actually, I already know what that’s like, thanks to my baby girl – yes, I’m a sap, I know).

I’m genuinely excited about this little venture… I just hope everyone else gets excited by it too. Because if it falls on it’s face I may just have to face the fact that I was not born to blog and I may even have to give up blogging for good!

Easy like Sunday morning

This weekend in the UK is a 3 day weekend as we have the May Day Bank Holiday on Monday. Extra weekend days are such a treat! It’s like having 2 Sundays! You get a real shot at winding down and enjoying life.

I recently asked on my Facebook page; “What would be your perfect Sunday?”. I admit the response wasn’t overwhelming! (There were 0 comments, but its early days for the page and only 5 fans so far, so I remain positive for the future). But I have been thinking about how I would spend my perfect Sunday… and indeed whether I will be able to make the time to have a perfect Sunday this weekend.

To me though, the perfect Sunday would be like a perfect any other day of the week. And it would start with having had a really sound sleep the night before…

I’d wake at a reasonable time; not too early, but early enough to enjoy the quiet of the morning, say about 8am? The sun would be shining, the birds would be tweeting and  there would be a lovely fresh summer breeze rippling through the curtains. I can almost smell the freshly cut grass just by picturing the scene.

My Beloved and I would make our way to the garden for breakfast. And somehow, magically, with no-one else in the house, there it would be sitting ready for us. Fresh hot croissants, fresh fruit salad and a pot of really nice coffee. We would read the newspapers, browse the magazines and generally relax. Now, I’d be happy to settle for breakfast in my own garden, but if we were in our garden in our little French property by the sea (a dream of mine… check out My Bucket List) then that really would be the perfect start to the perfect day!

After breakfast, we’d wander around a local farmer’s market and then take a stroll along the beach. Again, most happy for  that to be our own beach here (with internationally renowned art installation, but a little cold and no crashing or bubbling wave sound effects) but if it could be the south of France, Malibu or St.Barts that would be preferable!

Lunch would be light and al fresco. Then I’d get together with all my friends and family for a good old fashioned party. I’m thinking BBQ, a band and one of those raised, square wooden  dance floors they have at southern fairs in the movies.. with lights all around. Of course it would need to be catered, so that everyone could relax and just enjoy… and this would definitely need to be held at our French residence as there’s not enough room in our back yard for all of my family, let alone a dance floor and a hog roast!

The day would end around 11pm (hey, that’s a late night for me), with myself, my Beloved and our little furball all cuddled up in bed with warm milk and a feel good movie… and we wouldn’t have to worry about hangovers or work the next day because in the world of Perfect Days those don’t exist.

Oh and at some point in my perfect day, I’d receive a call from an Internet Mogul offering me mega-sponsorship so that I could give up my job and blog for a living!

The Green Green Grass

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work/life balance (again!). The outcome of my ruminations, mostly, seem to be that I need less (or no) work and more life. I watched Revolutionary Road over the weekend and it struck me that the main character in that story was seeking the exact opposite.

So is it a case of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Or, is it that what we need to do is follow the advice of many psychologists and learn to be happy with what we have? What is it that keeps us wanting more?

I read a quote once that said something about loving what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. I don’t love what I do. I know of only 2 of my friends who do love their jobs. The rest of us do it to pay the bills and support the lifestyle that we want to live… Well, sort of. I’m sure that there’s a negative impact on that lifestyle from the burden of the jobs that grind us down.

Maybe I need a change of career. I’m looking for flexible working hours, preferably working from home/anywhere I happen to be. A job that’s interesting and varied and presents the oportunity for creativity, a daily sense if achievement, not too much stress and a good dose of smiling and laughter.

Anyone got any suggestions? Oh, and if it paid enough to allow me to live in a nice warm place near a beach that would be a bonus!

All work and no play…

We’ve touched on the elusive work/life balance before… And I can tell you now that it’s unlikely that I’ll be making any glorious revelations in this post (so if you’re searching for answers, you can pretty much stop reading now – actually that’s not entirely true. There’s a wee surprise in there somewhere).

It strikes me though, that just about everyone I know, has trouble living the life they really want. Not, that everyone I know is grossly unhappy, don’t get me wrong. But it does seem like we’re all over-worked.

Whether we work for large multi-nationals, or small family run businesses, part time or full time, big boss man or shop floor; the recurring theme seems to be that our employers want so much from us… Too much.

My beloved, normally a night owl who comes to life around the witching hour, took to his bed at 7:30 this evening complaining of feeling cold and tired ( you should know that our house is like Miami 24/7/365 because I don’t believe in putting a jumper on). I myself had a cold recently for a full 2 weeks followed by laryngitis! And we’re not the only ones! It could just be that the autumn is turning to winter and there’s a lot of little bugs going around. But, you have to trust your Mum and mine would say “you’re run down”. Yeah, run down because we work so hard.

I just did a reccie on t’internet to find some evidence to support my overworked theory. Expecting to come up trumps, I came across an article in the Guardian newspaper from March of this year which, shock horror!, completely disproves it.

The Fourth European Working Conditions Survey, 2007 (approximately 30,000 people questioned in 31 countries) tells us that Turkey has the
longest hours worked in Europe (54 hours per week). The UK comes in at number 29 working on average 35 hours per week. The EU average is 39 hours per week. We do apparently, come in at number 1 for most hours worked during weekends and evenings, though, due to the fact that most of us work in Service industries now, as opposed to manufacturing.

I personally work hours closer to the EU average than the UK average and most of my girlfriends who work 4 days per week to spend more time with their kids still end up working the “average” 35 hours in a shorter period of time.

But, am I alone in thinking that 39 hours is too much? And in reality it’s more than that, when you’re only break is to walk to the coffee machine and you eat lunch at your desk every day ( even if you are spending that time updating your facebook status and doing some Christmas shopping online). Then you have to load in the commute and suddenly you find that you have about 3 hours at home in the evenings before you go to bed and then get up and do it all again.

So, am I just lazy? Or are we indeed working too hard? Maybe it’s what we do or don’t do with our non-working time that makes us feel that we never get a break… Or maybe life has always been hard and we just need to pull our socks up and get on with it!

Still, I can’t help thinking… Sitting in my (not too) small Gite in the South of France, writing my blog for a living in between pottery making and yoga and still having time to bake fresh bread and cakes every day would be much nicer than dragging myself in and out of the office every day for the next 30 years… Too much to ask? Or too high expectations? Maybe that’s the problem.

Someone once said “find a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I’m not sure that my Bank Manager would agree!