The art of pottering and meandering
UPDATE: as a result of this blog, I was on Woman's Hour on BBC4 as an expert on... get this... Pottering! How totally brilliant is that! You can listen to me sharing my expertise and rather unfortunately talking about my man drawer here.
This blog was written in June 2020.
As lockdown eases, are there things you want to hold on to?
Has the slowing down of life been beneficial in some ways?
What new mindfulness or calmness would you like to retain?
For me, it’s all about pottering (or puttering in US) and meandering.
I’ve been a Sunday potterer for years, my pottering consists of cooking, sometimes a little beadwork, a little housework, doing the sudoku in the paper (definitely the i now that the Independent has departed from the newspaper shelves). During Lockdown I have mastered the Jigsawdoku… I am inordinately proud.
I feel meandering goes hand in hand with pottering. Creating pathways through the day that aren’t necessarily direct but finding this not frustrating, but enriching.
And boy have these activities become daily. Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t a constant gentle breeze. Home schooling, grieving the loss of a career in the arts that once was and the general terror of a global pandemic have certainly disrupted the flow. The need to find new income sources is not without stress.
But there have been moments, daily moments, where I’ve stared out of the window and found a little more sense about something or had the chance to view things from different perspectives, sparking new ideas.
I have pottered. Pottered in a meandering, mazy motion. And I love it. It hasn’t stopped me achieving things. I’ve launched a new business for one. But I am calmer. Less stressed. Less wrapped up in the expectations of others and it feels so good.
SO how to retain this. Firstly, I need to say no to things that aren’t in someway beneficial to me or my family. I need to treat my time as the precious commodity it is. No more driving across town/Scotland for a meeting that can happen online and, as a result, buy me more hours. I still want to see people: I love people! And no amount of zooming about will replace the human connection in the same room. But I want to make those face to face times special.
I was discussing this with fellow coach, Chris Grady and he’s definitely not a potterer. He said he was either full on speed or no speed. I asked him what has changed for him in lockdown: “My lockdown changes have been to realise what I miss - time in a pub with my daughter, a meal served which I haven't cooked or washed-up for, the buzz of other people. I miss going to the theatre and seeing people's work. I am not a convert to seeing as-live shows on laptops. I sense I haven't changed very much.”
But what about the pottering? Surely everyone has it in them to be a potterer… right?? I asked if pottering appeals? “I get lonely very quickly. I am fine on my own when I know that it is my choice. I can work away at my desk alone for 1-2 days. But If I walk into my room and thought I'd be doing something or with someone and it isn't going to happen, and I am suddenly having to be unexpectedly alone - then I get lonely in an instant. "Pottering" sounds to me like being lonely. It hasn't a purpose. I am not needed whilst I am doing it. It's just me and I don't need just me.”
I’m often wrong. I’m often surprised by other people’s perspectives and Chris’ openness at sharing his thoughts is no exception. Looks like we’re not all potterers!
But for those of us who are, my key lockdown learning is if I wish to keep up daily pottering I need to change my attitude to time. Through coaching some fabulous clients, I’ve realised, as my kids get older and go to bed later, if I want quality time on my own it needs to happen early not late.
This has been a brutal realisation: since my early teens, I’ve always had the narrative that I’m a night owl and I’m not a morning person. But… and it’s a big but… if I want to make the most of my precious time, the early morning is where it’s at.
So last week I did it. I was awake by 6.30, on the yoga mat by 7am. Downstairs for breakfast and do a bit of work before getting the kids up and ready for Joe Wicks at 9am. It was amazing.
This Monday morning, after a rare troubled sleep, I didn’t rise early and I’ve felt rubbish all day.
Damn! Now I’ve gained this knowledge there’s no putting it back in the box. Earlier nights and earlier mornings is undeniably making me healthier, happier and in the long run probably wealthier.
It also taps into my productivity early so later on there’s time for pottering. I did more sudokus last week than any previous lockdown week. But I also ticked a load off the to do list.
Now the hard work begins where I need to rewrite my story: to make that early bird authentically me. My inner toddler isn’t gonna like it, but I know it’ll be worth it.