A simpler life? Ha

I really did think when we moved out to rural Wales that I would end up with a simpler life. When I left corporate life and had my year out I almost thought I had achieved it.  It might have been busy with gardening and growing things and cooking and family but it was simpler, for a few months!  I wasn't whizzing around the country and getting on and off planes and trains.  I wasn't trying to balance the demands of a job which I loved with the fact that I wanted time at home with the people who matter to me.  I wasn't always feeling that I was stretched too thin.  I sat outside with a cup of tea in the sun.  I turned over in bed in the morning and slept for another half hour.
So how come I am all stretched out again like an old hankie, practically see through?  Well some of it is to do with starting work again, working for myself and loving it but once again suffering from my usual tendency to say yes when I should perhaps say no.  Some of it is in getting involved in things on a voluntary basis for the Flintshire Tourism Association and The Blackden Trust.  These are things I want to do, they are all interesting and all worthwhile and I thought it was time to do some giving back after a lifetime of having no slack at all to do anything other than work and raise children.  Some of it is that spring is coming and two acres of garden need time and energy.  I would probably rather do that than most things but my garden time is getting squeezed hard.  Some of it is the way life has changed now that my father in law has come to live here.  It is not difficult and there is much pleasure and love in it but things don't half take a long time.  And some of it is the time that is going into visiting my brother since he had his stroke, another thing which matters to me very much.  And what about family and friends and really wanting to stick with the Welsh and the yoga and wouldn't it be great to do a bit of garden visiting with my blogging friends? 
Mmmm, time for a bit of pruning I think but this time it is hard to see what to prune.  I want it all.

Suggestions for achieving a simpler life on a postcard please! 

Alternatively there is keeping on spinning plates and wondering if I am just the type of person who will always be plate spinning.  Anyone out there with the answers?


  1. I haven't got any answers, none, short of making hard choices and culling some activities.

    Can empathise with you on how unplanned for commitments suddenly eat in to your plans and time disappears at an alarming rate.

    My only advise would be, is, if juggling all these plates makes you feel stressed, or unhappy, then something has to give.

    Be kind to yourself


  2. ...and what is the right time of year to prune this particular thorny problem?

    Life is sounding a little pressured - as Zoë says, be kind to yourself.

    I'm certainly up for a garden visit, just name the date. We are here of course, with a bed between north and south Wales if you would like to break your journey....

  3. I have to write everything down if I'm in this kind of position and work it out on paper. You know the kind of thing ... What are the good and bad things about either sticking with my naked white water rafting class or giving it up?.. Am I only doing the needlepoint for dummies class because a friend asked me to go?...

  4. In my old working life I met many people who had moved to Wales for a simpler life, but they often ended up busier than ever. Poor transport, higher cost of living, the effort involved in getting anywhere - it all adds up. Also, I once read that we carry ourselves with us wherever we go, so perhaps you are just naturally a plate-spinner.

  5. I do empathise with you. I garden and write my blog to escape but although I love both they have only added to my busy life. Its hard trying to be all things to all people and keeping those plates spinning. I read recently the following: stand for 5 minutes and take in the view. Concentrate on what you see, if other thoughts come into your head, remove them and take in what you can see as though you have never seen it before. Breathe deeply and slowly. Its a great 5 min meditation and really does work.

  6. Hi Zoe - I am feeling pretty ok now about everything on my plate, just knowing that I haven't got it right yet! And yes, being kind to yourself is the best answer.
    Mountainear - oh what a lovely response. Thank you. Will email you as have been seeing Jo.
    Fran - I think the writing it all down answer is a very good one. I have done this before and, as one of life's natural list makers, should certainly do it again. Not sure why I haven't. Maybe haven't got a big enough piece of paper!

  7. Hi Elizabeth
    I think it's just personality types!!
    I too tend to push myself and end up tired.
    Maybe just try a little strategy such as an hour per day to do whatever you want!! No guilt tho.
    Remember to walk through the magnificent Welsh countryside. There is nowhere like it.
    Hope you feel better soon

  8. I suspect you may be a natural plate spinner ... just remember to not add any more - it sounds like you have a fair few plates going.

    Do you think we ever get the balance really right for more than a little while at a time? I know that I am busier then I was before I moved to Wales ... but it is all good.

  9. I know you are super busy! People we love and things we enjoy....all take t.i.m.e. I think someday I may wake uup with nothing to do. Now THAT would be sad. I admire you for taking the time to do all you do. Time is life. You are giving some of your life to those you love. There are different seasons in life for all of us. This must be one of your busy ones!! Hang in there! And don't forget to take a little TIME for YOU!

  10. If you find the magic answer Elizabeth let me know :) I thoroughly sympathise with the stretching thin feeling. My aging parents have needed a lot of support over the last couple of years. Not easy when they are nearly 200 miles away and there's a limit to what you can achieve over the phone.

    I think that you have identified an issue yourself when you say "but once again suffering from my usual tendency to say yes when I should perhaps say no" :) As far as work goes saying no can be hard. I think that we are always worried about offending people if we say no but a well qualified no should not upset any reasonable person. Do you rush into work commitments on the spot or go away and take time to mull offers over thoroughly?

    I do hope that you can carry on with all the activities that give you pleasure and as spring arrives with its longer nights you will have more time for the gardening :)

  11. hi Liz...what you say strikes a cord...it's like climbing to what you think is the top of the hill only to find another summit waiting. There are some days when I have too much to juggle and I seem to 'short circuit' and can't think things through. I then 'instant' myself through the day...I do what i feel like doing and stop when i no longer feel like doing that. This only applies to the days I am not working and can freewheel and I have to stop myself from giving myself a list of jobs.
    Tear up the list and 'instant'
    I often feel I am like a bee buzzing when I do that. I hope that makes some sense! x m

  12. I naturally lean towards quiet and find that the busier I get, the crabbier. I have no advice except that if you find that you're not happy in your busy-ness, if you allow that feeling to arise and experience the unpleasantness of it, perhaps the desire to do some of the activities will fall away. There can be a renunciation of activity that's not at all painful, when the discomfort of the hurrying is really felt. On the other hand, if you're busy but love it, is there a need to change?

  13. I try to keep my life as simple as possible, I just don't know how people do it "all". It tires me just watching my husband. Like Zoe said if your not happy something has to go. Our lives are kinga a juggling act. Good luck.

  14. 'No' is such a small word, but so difficult to say. Strangely, it was whilst living up in your part of the world that I should have used it more often too.

    If you're a busy person, people will always ask you to do more. That's life! Take it as flattering that people don't see you as a lazy good-for-nothing. You'll ALWAYS find time.

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  16. I think you're either plate spinner or not. I am a spinner. But I've learned that we have what I call periods of ability - and also that one big focus is enough at any time. So when I write I find it hard to keep as fit as I like, and vice versa.

    Just finished an advance copy of Rory Maclean's book "Gift of Time' about the last months of his mother's life as she lives with them. It is a beautiful book, full of love, you will like it - comes out in August.

  17. How I recognise that feeling of being stretched too thin.... Nothing to add to the good advice given by other people except to say that if you don't act NOW, while it's just a growing awareness of how pressures are building up, then something will give - something that might not have been your preferred choice.

    My response to this situation, when it happens to me, is to separate out what absolutely has to be done, add what nourishes and refreshes me, and put the rest on the back burner till I feel ready to take them up again - or not.

    But don't leave it to build to the point of exhaustion, ill health or unhappiness. x

  18. Ah, was it not ever thus? But you rationalise it beautifully. So much of my own situation is mirrored here.
    The tension between wanting to do more (because you enjoy active life) and wanting to do less (because you enjoy passive life). But whatever you do you seem to enjoy it and seem to use your time with great energy and efficiency.

  19. A client once told me I thrived on pressure and deadlines. I remmember thinking that if she only knew I could bottom a bottle of wine every other night to 'take the edge off the day' due to the stress, she would reconsider that opinion.
    Being self employed, which I have enjoyed/suffered for over 11 years, means constantly saying yes - period. Only the recession and less work being around has allowed me to change down a gear or two, which creates it's own anxieties.
    It's taken me a long time to realise (some may say obviously) the need to create balance in life and be able to allow myself some 'me' time at the expense of everything else.

  20. working? for yourself? I've missed this! Will have to delve through and find out. You'll make it all happen - you must be the piling on type. Good luck for the next phase - you coming to Malvern??

  21. 2 Acres of garden. WOW..not many shortcuts there then!

  22. When you get that formula down pat, please send it along. I am feeling a bit limp these days and my juggling abilities aren't as sharp as they could be. Be careful with that pruning. Sometimes it's easiest to prune things that are completely ours and leave the things that are more 'outside' interest, because it's just easier that way. I've done that and regretted it.

  23. I think so long as yo are happy spinning all of the plates keep them all up there, but do take time out for your self when it all gets a little too hectic, a good piece of advice I once got was instead of saying yes, try and say 'leave it with me and I'll get back to you', it allows you time to decide if you really can commit to another project or date.
    Best wishes.

  24. Gosh I feel like that sometimes but for different reasons. I have given up on relationships for exactly this reason (oh well and others!!). I think the most important thing is to take each day as it comes, I always go back to that approach when things get too much.

    I find myself resenting my job at times as it stops me doing gardening or garden visiting and 2 days at the weekend is never enough but it pays for me to do things. You wont always be charging around to see your brother and I'm sure your FIL will get easier as you get into a routine. Plus of course the days are getting longer so a little gentle evening pottering in the garden might help bring balance

  25. Veg artist - I do think there is a simpler life here but I totally accept that you take yourself with you!
    ronnie - thank you for that, simple and practical and I have just the view for it right in front of my house.
    Chris - you are right. I will try and walk out of my door tomorrow. I have all that Welsh countryside just sitting there offering to help!

  26. I love your blog! I read your posting recalling how your mother cooked and how you felt sorry for other children who had to each "gray" food. Loved it! I had a mother who was a wonderful cook and made dishes with great taste and eye-appeal. I'll be back. I'm your newest follower.
    Ladybug Creek

  27. Learn to say no rather than yes or maybe.

  28. 1. You've raised fine kids to be fine people. You've already contributed a great deal to society.

    2. If you want to volunteer, pick one thing that you are able to regulate (not something that has a hard schedule that you must adhere to).

    3. Don't give up yoga. It will help you deal with whatever you decide to keep up with in the rest of your life.

    4. Treat yourself with as much kindness as you treat others. If you let yourself get washed out, you won't be much good to anyone else either, eh?

    5. Remember that your blogfriends are faithful and patient, and if you need to cut down on your blogging in order to get the rest of your life in order, we will still be here when you come back. No pressure.



  29. Isn't it hard to say "No!". It is a thing which I have gradually become better at, but I still have a long way to go, so I can understand your dilemma. Sometimes it is very hard to balance out all of the things we need, or want, to do. Just be careful that you are not becoming too stressed. If you are, then you have to make a cut!

  30. Karen - I think I am a natural plate spinner. Perhaps what I have discovered is that if you are one you have very little room for manouevre if life throws some serious curve balls at you. Usually it is just good!
    Linda - The idea that this is just a busy season for me is actually very helpful. Not much to do but keep paddling frantically.
    Anna - I did no work at all for a couple of months when life fell in on us and have been trying to get back on top. You are right, as are others, that I should make sure not to take on any more!

  31. m - interesting idea about "instanting", I will give it a try. I do know what you mean I think.
    Frith - I think that generally I am not too bad at getting it right. The problem now seems to be that I have new responsibilities overlaid on what I was expecting to do. I will have to listen to myself as you say, and let go of something somehow.
    Linda - I love the idea of a simple life but I also love challenge and passion and achievement and being there for my family even when it's not easy! What a balancing act eh?

  32. You've had an horrendous few months and must be very tired .
    The volunteer work sounds interesting but you'll have to be firm , you musn't become their " Wonderful Mrs. .... , who does everything for us " ! You're already doing that for your family and friends .
    Meanwhile this year, it's especially important that you make time , ruthlessly if necessary , to get out into the garden . As an escape mechanism , like sewing or sketching , it can't be beaten . Perhaps FIL would like a raised flower bed to potter in ?

  33. Cro - I did manage to find time until the last couple of months when family needs have changed hugely! I already have the cunning plan of treating my journey to see my brother as a bit of time off rather than another thing to fit in.
    Mark - the idea of one big period of ability strikes a real chord with me. I have often found that in the past. If I am working really well, other things fall by the wayside a bit.
    Rachel - thank you. I think your advice is very sound. Perhaps if I my own nourishers and sustainers to the things that absolutely must be done I can identify what is not vital. Have been suffering from feeling that everything is vital!

  34. Do you have someone to talk to? The right friend, or professional, can ask questions that give you the opportunity to evaluate your own thoughts. That is how I go from "Something's gotta change!" to "Achievable Goals". Good Luck.

  35. Oh dear, no answers from me, only sympathy/empathy. If you're so used to constantly spinning plates, I'm guessing you're naturally the kind of person who would miss it if the plates stopped spinning. Maybe you've just got a wee dose of "grass is greener"?

    If you can just take time out for the stuff like cups of tea in the sun and an extra half hour's kip, then that should keep your batteries in charge enough to keep spinning the plates, perhaps.

    And maybe reassess your plates, so see which, if any can be laid aside, even if only temporarily?

  36. Of course you want to have it all, Elizabeth. You're an intelligent, dynamic and active woman who is clearly accustomed to being productive and useful doing things that are meaningful to you. Being in your lovely Welsh place and turning your hand to the land and all things domestic doesn't mean that that part of you (the dynamism) has gone to sleep.

    A friend and I were having a conversation around this topic yesterday, and we agreed that if you have the gene/need/habit to be useful and to make a contribution beyond the limits of your own skin (forgive me, that's rather badly put) you're not happy unless you're doing just that.

    ER's advice is good. Another person's perspective or just being able to ask the right questions could help you find your way to a balance you're happy with. In the meantime, I hope the knowledge that the time and compassion you give to others fills up your well.

  37. Hmm, yes, I'm lookig forward to retirement, but then my mum is about to move in with us, I have a confused aunt to visit, I'm about to become a granny... does that sound like a quiet life for pursuing hobbies? I wonder. And sympathise.

  38. Ah,Bless you. It's easily done - but,then again, it all sounds like great stuff - maybe you are just one of life's natural busy bees - I know that I fantasise about life in the slow lane but in reality if I get a quiet moment I'm the kind of personality that has to fill it with something - even if it is something supposedly laid-back,like gardening, yoga or a long walk : ) Enjoy what you do, that's the main thing : )

  39. You and me both, Elizabeth. haven't been able to get near PC for various reasons. You are clearly doing a wonderful job of looking after other people, but I do hope you find some time to yourself too.

  40. I'm a plate spinner too, your description of not knowing what to prune because you want to do it all resonated very strongly. If you find the answer, please let me know ;-) I always seem to end up completely flot-bot before I realise that I really need to rein things in. Something has to give, but what?! I try to balance the things I need to do because they are important - spending time with the people I love for instance - with things that I need to do because they need doing - cooking, cleaning - and things I need to do for me, because otherwise I will be crabby. Oh yes, and then there's work. Plate spinning, like you said. For me, visiting gardens has been pruned, which hurts because I bet the Magnolias look amazing at Westonbirt. But I'd rather miss out on them than miss out on nurturing my own garden. Sigh. Good luck working out what you can trim out without leaving yourself feeling lopsided and vulnerable.

  41. The plate-spinning at least shows you have lots of energy. Voluntary work can be unexpectedly time-consuming! Sometimes people in a voluntary organisation have Wonderful Ideas and then expect others to carry out the donkey work. One has to be firm and say no to some of it (I only learned this through experience!).


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