On Saturday, we gathered the family for an afternoon tea to celebrate the kidlet’s twelfth birthday.
My sister arrived with the most beautiful and delicious cake. She always makes my kid’s birthday cake – has done for pretty much every party. Now, Toots has come up with some amazing cake creations over the years – 3D representations of Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz, fairies under toadstools, teddy bear picnics, beachside parties. This year, the cake was decorated simply with the Marimekko poppy pattern – my daughter’s (and my) favourite design ever. It was the simplest, least elaborate cake Toots had ever made. But it was, in my mind, the most beautiful.
As I laid the cake on a platter, I was reminded that simple, most basic, things can have a huge impact.
Once, during a tough time, someone asked me if I was sleeping and eating, and I looked at them and shook my head. ‘Not much,’ I said. ‘It’s on the list, but there are two things ahead of it – I need to breathe and I need to hug my kid. I know that she is getting plenty of hugs so I feel that I am getting that right. And most of the time I don’t have to remind myself to breathe, although there are times that I find myself staring into space, holding my breath and I have to concentrate on exhaling. I eat a little; I sleep a little. But I breathe. And I hug her and that has to be enough. That is enough. There is no space for more.’
I have come to learn about finding space for the basics and not beating up myself for things that don’t get done. Of course, sleeping and eating matter, but I worked out that doing the minimum of those things got me through. I did what I could until I was at my limit. And then: there is no space for more. Six words of permission accepting I was full. Nothing fancy – just do the basics.
Understanding this has become essential to my survival – even when not going through a crisis period. I focus on what there is space for and that is usual the most basic and simple things. There is space for love and the people who support and value and encourage me. They understand the ebb and flow of what can be managed.
I have space for work that is fulfilling and enjoyable and challenging and I am fortunate that, almost twelve months into what I am still calling my new job, my work is all of these things; the decision to jump without a safety net is justified each and every day.
I have space for small things that bring great joy, remembering that it’s not necessarily the grand gestures or big events that necessarily have the greatest impact.
It was my birthday on Sunday and it was, quite possibly, one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. It involved a sleep in, breakfast at our favourite place, a late lunch of dumplings, wandering around with my family and then sitting at home watching Gilmore Girls. It could not have been simpler or quieter. And it was perfect because it was exactly what I had space for.