Over the last few years Sundays have promised lots but delivered little for me. I have often found the days crowded with lots of potential projects and happenings but with no shape to the day and usually by early evening I feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable about my eventual lack of achievement no matter how much I might have appeared to have done.
I have pondered why many times. In part I think that I have too high an expectation of Sundays, wanting both its restful qualities and seeing it as a day with space to do things I cannot fit in elsewhere. I think too it sits uncomfortably against Saturdays. Saturday has the luxury of a Sunday to follow whereas the fateful Monday follows Sunday leaving no room for manoeuvre. Often Friday nights are ones where I am tired and restless. I take stock of the week just gone and set out in my mind what I might do on the weekend. I have no lofty ambitions here – my to-do lists would include anything from shopping, washing clothes, tidying up, finishing a novel, watching footy/cricket according to the season, relaxing in front of the TV, catching up on work not done, planning for the forthcoming week and so on and so on. That list can seem frighteningly long and I know I mentally covet Sunday as the time where I will catch up with everything. This releases Saturday from my attention and demands as there is always Sunday to follow. And for some years that pattern has been around. I wake up Saturday and think I can just relax and unwind and do what I want as I have tomorrow to clear the decks.
Of course the inevitable happens. I end up with heightened expectations of what I will do on a Sunday, find that whatever I do or don’t do by early evening I am feeling let down. I can have watched 6 hours of football on Sky or caught up with saved programmes from the previous week, or watch a day’s third team cricket at Tickhill or even part of a test or international on TV and can have done a host of small household things such as shopping or tidying up but by 6 pm i realise tomorrow is not far away and I need to think about preparing for the week ahead. Often now I have become a little tired and listless as if the expectations of the day have been too much and I then struggle to complete the tasks I had set myself for work and either end up giving up (an increasing occurrence I am afraid) or working till late and then starting the week off feeling tired and unfulfilled.
I have experienced too many of these Sundays for this to be a coincidence. Even if the day is filled with something exciting, like the Junior Six-a-aside competition or a day out with friends or whatever because I will have lumbered Sunday with everything else I can feel cheated or panicked come Sunday evening. Maybe this is my fate for Sundays and I cannot escape it though I have noticed that this has not felt quite the same here in Hong Kong and today, I achieved what I am regarding as a near perfect Sunday, the first for a long time.
Firstly why does it feel so good? Well I have no unfinished business for tomorrow. I have work to do but nothing I have to do now before tomorrow dawns. Thus I feel rested and unhurried. I can find time to type my blog or have a drink or go to Pacific Coffee for a coffee and to finish my novel or do nothing, that is the feeling I have at 10.30 this evening.
The day has not been spectacular so that cannot be the reason for my calm. I set the day out yesterday and have achieved most of it and there is a lesson there for being realistic about what I can expect from the day. It has not felt crowded or hurried and thus the pace has been calming and ultimately I feel rested and ready for tomorrow.
The facts of today are these: I had a relatively late start this morning, enjoying a lie in to re-charge the batteries. I got up had breakfast and then settled down to watch the first ODI against Australia. This went on for about 7 hours but because it is the sort of cricket that has many gaps and quiet periods, I simply fitted in what I needed to do. I washed the pots, I did my clothes washing and drying, I mopped the floor and in-between caught the cricket and read my novel. At the break in the cricket I had my lunch and answered some emails. At the end of the cricket I took my novel and went for a walk ending up at Pacific Coffee where I finished my novel (reported on in my next blog). I returned home, had supper and started to write this blog. So this was nothing extraordinary but what it was , was an achievable day with a shape and some simple goals which i have achieved.
It marks possibly the beginnings of a new way of thinking about my time which this period in Hong Kong is beginning to generate. I have found a renewed importance on relaxing and recharging so that when I am working it is productive, focussed and centred on the tasks in hand. I am not subject to an agenda which is constantly overwhelming. I am not having to deal with unexpected issues in or out of work such as the cricket club. I am more the master of my day with no guilt about what I do in it and how it ends up. That may be an important lesson which I have hidden from in recent years. Maybe that is what people mean by work-life balance being the capacity to remain guilt-free about how much you do, and in giving yourself the space to relax and unwind, this unfreezes the experience of both work and play to get more from each. Is this a lesson which I can nurture and understand more before I return to the UK. I have four months to think it through.
Why was the day not perfect? Well Australia beat England in the last over and thus it is impossible to assign perfection to a day where Australia were rare victors. But even that defeat was assuaged by the feeling of quiet satisfaction with a day well managed and well constructed and I hardly talked to a soul all day!!