Tonight as I write my blog, I am multi-tasking. Please don’t be offended, you do have my full attention but there are times when one must do more than one thing at a time! And as a female I am in the unique position that I can do many many things at once, I can cook dinner, sort out the washing, hold a conference call, arrange childcare, rearrange appointments on the online calendar and drink wine all simultaneously!
As a mother of three, step mother to three more, to be fair the older two require no step mothering, owner of a business, partner to the wonderful Mr G (more of him on another day) and friend to several wonderful people, I rarely have a moment to call all mine.
I could never turn off my phone as at any given moment, one of the kids may need a lift, advice, a shoulder to cry on, or a mother to rant at. That happens a lot, ranting at me! Just so you know, I might meditate daily, I may believe in the greater good, I may make my life’s work all about helping others and developing compassion, but that doesn’t make the ranting any easier to take.
My business, The Dawn Lister Therapy Centre – although all about wellbeing – will not stay well without my care and attention. So care and attention it is given. Mr G and I, well our relationship, without time, the occasional snogging session and an open heart will turn into just another job on the to-do list.
So when your to-do list becomes as long as your arm, how do you manage to fit it all in? How do you make time to meditate each day, work, be a mum, be a lover, and find time to be yourself? And in what order do you put things? How do I manage to not go mad? How do I find my inner muse, the part of me that creates, is inspired, is in love with words, ideas and concepts, the part of me that dreams up projects and makes me get up in the middle of the night rejecting sleep. Sleep is for wimps! The inner muse wants to write poetry and paint, she tells stories and writes workshops and blogs! She believes she can help the government make a better job of helping the disadvantaged and has written some of her best work in the dead of night. In case you are wondering Mr Cameron didn’t reply. And I am not holding my breath.
All of this flies in the face of all of my mindfulness teachings. Teachings which I am responsible for sharing with the general population. Teachings I know work wonderfully, and which have kept me sane for the past few decades. Without mindfulness I may well have lost my marbles mid divorce, or during particularly trying teenage times. Blood may have been spilled had mindfulness not been in my blood!
So I am basically breaking my own rules, doing more than one thing at a time. But, but but I am rule breaker, I am the girl who set up a book club and doesn’t read the book as it has been chosen for me, versus because I want to read it. I redefine stubborn.
I think maybe just maybe it is ok to chuck the old rule book out of the window from time to time. To allow our mind to run riot, to listen to the inner muse and allow her to create ideas, music, words, stories! If I never let the mind go free then my inner muse never gets to play. I worked for a while with a bipolar artist, who told me that they didn’t really want to get past their darkness as they created some of their best work from that dark place.
This I can understand, it makes perfect sense to me. The mind is a complex thing, full of ideas, stories, plans and history, it needs space to roam, to remember, to heal, to create. My mind will never do well on a leash, she is far too stubborn and far too maverick. My mind will never allow me to become a militant mindfulness pioneer. My mind believes in balance, be mindful but have fun with it, let your mind explore its own potential for creativity, for what is the point in the discipline of mindfulness if it creates a cage that locks you in.
I am going to own up. I work better with a bit of background noise, a bit of my mind listening to the news, a piece of classical music, or tonight I am listening to with one ear to “The Theory of Everything”, the life story of Dr Stephen Hawking (a fabulous piece of cinema; if you haven’t seen it then make time, but have the tissues ready) whilst the other part of my mind is busy getting on with thinking, creating and sharing.
I have no idea why I work better this way, but I do. Perhaps it is because I have never really had complete stillness and quiet. Much as I love it, much as I crave that quiet it is not the whole story for me, it is just part of the recipe.
Like all good recipes its all in the prep. I was prepped in a tiny three bed flat in one of the rougher parts of Edinburgh. My sister and I shared a room and she was an absolute brat, you know you were Jenny, so don’t pretend any different! Four kids in a tiny space, a TV blaring all the time, and the sounds of the kids on the estate pouring through the windows. I learnt to study, write and entertain myself with noise and drama as the soundtrack to my youth.
Our life was coloured by the sounds of poverty, desperation and violence. Jenny and I could hear the headboard of our neighbour banging rhythmically against our bedroom wall. We thought she was playing a game with us and so would bang back! Not everyone has a prostitute as a neighbour, it was a source of scandal and gossip in our stairwell, as she would stand in her window with a red light bulb framing her silhouette, cars driving past, catcalling and tooting! I remember one day coming home from school and Mum and Dad had swapped rooms with us; I was so thrilled as it was a bigger room and my sister and I could do with the space. In truth we had been after the room for years. Years later we learnt it was the banging of her headboard on our wall which had precipitated the switch. We had complained about the noise to my parents but in our innocence had no idea what it was that was going on. Mum and Dad did of course and ensured our innocent ears where protected. How funny!
Noise was part of my life, a lack of privacy amongst other things pushing me out of my home at 16 into 9 years of house shares, room shares and then kids. I guess I am not meant to have my own space. which is probably why I find myself regularly carving out time for myself in my day, walking in the woods, eating lunch quietly in a café, sitting at my desk listening to the birds outside the window, door closed pretending I have a client. Oops, secret’s out!
The place I went to for silence and privacy in my childhood was the loo, no one would bother me in there, well, not unless they needed the facilities. I would take a cup of tea and an apple to the loo along with a good book. Funny thing is I am all grown up now, 45 next week, and you would think I would get that time to myself more easily but no, if I go to the loo either the dog or the kids wander in. My boundary issues I know, I am working on it. I have kind of got used to bathing and weeing with either a dog panting at my feet or a child sitting on the loo telling me about the latest boyfriend drama, college deadline threatened or inquiry about just “how fat” their thighs are. Fat they are not, in case you are wondering!
In rare moments of quiet, stillness and space I get ideas, and inspiration, but to transcribe them to do something more formal with those ideas I prefer a little bit of background noise.
Does that mean I have failed in the whole mindfulness arena? Am a charlatan, a conman, a mindfulness cheat? I think not, I embrace that fact that perhaps sometimes what we need is stimulation, distraction, noise to feed our minds. Then when the moment is right I seek out that stillness, which is an essential part of my recipe and let the noise, creativity and ideas ferment, then turn up the heat and let it cook.
So please don’t worry yourself if you are not in a state of perpetual mindfulness, don’t worry if you need a little time to indulge in the chaos of an unruly mind, creativity, the inner muse may not be all that keen on to much stillness!
Be mindful in your inner chaos, get in there, get messy, make space for whatever it is you need. And throw away the rule book, do what makes you happy, what makes your heart sing.