We have been in Anglesey for about eight weeks now. It has been fantastic. I’m living in the present here.
Stopping time…for a while
As I write this I am outside, sitting at the table under the parasol. If I look up I can see the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance and the patchwork of fields. Dotted in between are the occasional house or farm. The swallows that have nested in the outhouse, where we keep the broken garden furniture and an impressive collection of cobwebs, swoop in and out, dancing above me. All I can hear is birdsong, my fingers tapping on the keys and a distant radio from some builders working on a barn down the lane.
The kids have, on the whole, loved being here. We have had a few moments of homesickness and the obligatory squabbles that come from both being together too much and sleep deprivation, but on the whole they are aware of the privilege it has been to be able, for a while, to stop time on real life (school and routine and uniforms and structure).
We have enjoyed days at the beach, discovered beautiful coastal walks, body-boarded with the best of them (thanks to some very enthusiastic guests), had countless picnics and some fish and chips thrown in for good measure.
The children have started learning to horse-ride as well as trying a variety of water-sports. And I have taken up pottery again (for the first time in 20 years), learning to throw pots. I’m being taught by a man who looks a bit like Father Christmas.
I, we, will be very sad to leave.
But in the midst of it all, occasionally I have noticed a wave of sadness about this time here. I was so concerned about making sure it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I almost missed the joy of it all. I was so worried it wouldn’t be all I hoped and imagined, I almost missed the reality.
As I thought about these blue moments I realised there was a mindset preventing me from throwing myself in to the unexpected, everyday adventures of our time here.
I was comparing.
I wasn’t comparing to another person, or another time, or another place, so it took me a while to notice I was doing it. I wasn’t comparing my house, or achievements, or productivity, or even weight.
I was comparing what it is like being here: the reality, to what I thought it was going to be. I was comparing what I thought might happen to what has actually happened.
I was brought up enjoying (sometimes enduring) countless UK-based holidays. Somewhere rural near a beach in a rented cottage or borrowed house. Somewhere with a garden, and lanes filled with wildflowers.
Based on my own experiences (or my memory of them) and probably some 80s TV (I blame The Darling Buds of May and Anne of Green Gables), I had conjured up an image of what our time here would be like. Pastoral. Idyllic.
I thought the children would learn the names of all the wildflowers. I thought we would have copious time just hanging out, getting bored with long, lazy evenings to fill. I thought we would be riding our bikes down to the beach at Newborough through the forest, carefree, with all the time in the world.
I think I had forgotten it was us coming. And our youngest cannot ride a bike (he is 8, it is driving me insane) and the kids have no interest in learning using my Collins book of wildflowers (trust me, I have tried).
I thought their ‘school time’ with their excellent tutor, would be Famous Five meets My Family and Other Animals. In reality there is still Maths and English that needs to be done. I still have to fight with my youngest over spellings, and instead of geographical projects taking place on the beach where they learn about fossils or the tides, they play a lot of rounders in the garden when it is dry, and Monopoly Deal inside when it isn’t.
I had pictured myself writing in an imaginary room full of inspiration and the quiet I need to write. Instead I am writing in the dining room next to my husband (while he is on Skype or making calls for his work). I’m surrounded by the kids’ school books, often able to hear them laughing and apparently working in the next room.
It is not how I had pictured it.
So good to be living in the present
However, it is so, so good and there are so many things that have far out-stripped my expectations.
Conversations with my children and husband I doubt we would have had if we hadn’t come.
Ideas springing from this temporary other life we are living: book ideas, blog ideas, photography ideas, heck – even ideas for the kinds of pots I want to make.
New experiences I hadn’t dreamed of, yes including bodyboarding in gale-like conditions (I am only exaggerating a tiny bit).
There is more here that is good than I could possibly have imagined or thought up. But I almost missed living in the present, I was so set on what I thought it was going to be. I had written an internal check list before we arrived. A check list built on the unknown possibility of what might happen. Written with all the understanding and knowledge of someone who has never done this before.
Without realising it, I had begun to hold each day up to this check-list and, if I was not careful, I came away disappointed. Disappointed because we didn’t have a dog called Timmy and lashings of ginger beer…. OK, not really, but you get the point.
So I have named the comparison, and dismissed it.
I have treated the unnecessary and misplaced disappointment with gratitude. I’ve named the many, many fantastic things, pointing out the beauty all around and revelling in the surprising delights of this place.
I am living in the present, relishing the good now, not the perfect impossibility I had imagined.
And the good here is more than good enough.
It is excellent.
This discovery is not just for my time here. It is for all of us in all the messy and unpredictable days of our lives. You can only live here, in this one precious day, in this one unique hour, in this one holy minute.
Don’t miss living in the present by comparing it with what you thought it might be.
Be here, now.