Playing Truant

I am writing this on the first day of Term 1 *, sat sheltered from the breeze in a nook in the cliffs on the sand somewhere outside of Padstow. Exactly where I am, well, I will look that up later, but I’m looking out over Rock and Daymer Bay for those who know the area.

Taking the first couple of days of term as leave, although entirely legitimate, feels like playing truant, so why on earth am I writing this? Not only am I playing truant from the office, but I’ve also stolen a few hours leave from motherhood as Himself takes the small peeps to a theme park.

That kind of place leaves me as cold as the soggy end of a log-flume. Taking this “me day” has reminded me of my promise to my Kent-Teach colleagues to rustle up a few more blog posts over the summer break.

Earlier in the summer I was lacking inspiration. I tend to write when I have the muse or need to vent and I was struggling for both until the somewhat generic “mental health” term was suggested, being the mental health nerd that am. I’ve written on such a theme before, but thought it was about time to reiterate that this term is not only a euphemism for “mental illness” or “mental disorder”. And so this is today’s muse.

How would you feel if I reframe “mental health” as “wellbeing”? Are we a bit more comfortable now? Over the last few months I have done some work with colleagues in Public Health England, interested in the agenda that is “wellbeing”.

Wellbeing is a more palatable, less threatening term, and my “me day” is a selfish attempt at topping up my own sense of wellbeing, although I’ll admit that earlier today that was the last thing I was feeling.

My Cornish me days start at the Camel Trail in Wadebridge, where I head towards Padstow and the section of the South West Coastal Path that it leads to. Four miles in, and around two from the chemist in Padstow, I couldn’t ignore the blisters any longer and despite the Met Office’s bland “cloudy” forecast there seemed to be wet stuff falling from the sky. It is safe to say that I was doubting the wisdom of my expedition.

Now, plasters in place and refuelled by way of a pasty and a rather dangerous slice of chocolate cake, my equilibrium is restored and my attention has turned from physical food to soul-food. I often let term time get in the way of moments like this; sitting on the sand, drinking in the sound of the waves and relishing a few minutes of solitude. The sense of playing truant and this me-time being just a little bit naughty will restore my wellbeing battery to last me well into term.

Today has also been a bit of a metaphor for life. It’s possible to get a good way into a plan to then doubt its wisdom, find it a trial, painful and start to wonder why you started it in the first place. Time to balance the wellbeing – whether pushing on and finishing something will be payback enough for the short-term challenge, or whether it is time to cut your losses.

To be fair, giving up can be for the best. I have, for example, given up on another of Padstow’s pastimes – crab fishing from the harbour wall. My son is an accident looking for somewhere to happen and at risk of jinxing myself, this is the first holiday in some while that we have not steri-stripped him back together.

This is where I give up. If my blood pressure was high before we came away, it must have been through the roof supervising crab fishing with boy-child fidgeting, line in hand, with his legs dangling over the harbour wall. I have long since concluded that there are things in life that it is important for him to do, but I don’t particularly want to witness.

So what lessons? First, I think we must note that being “selfish” is not always negative and can instead be a positive and necessary thing. Ring fencing a little time to ourselves will make us more productive in the long run.

Secondly, in our professional lives as much as our personal, we must learn the balance of when to hang on in there, and when to call it quits. And finally, sometimes it is best to turn a blind eye if something is good in essence, but makes us too uncomfortable.

As long as things happen, does it matter if we have not contributed that time? Our egos would have us believe we have to be part of every success (although this time no crabs succumbed to the bacon scraps), but sometimes the cost to ourselves of being all things to all people is too great.

Most of us are great at putting the wellbeing of others first, but maybe we should all look a little closer to home from time to time. Another day, I’ll introduce you to Six Ways to Wellbeing, but for now, my Kindle and the sea are calling.

*I cheated slightly. Blue glitter pen in my notebook (yes, really) was too challenging to publish so I’ve had to type this in a gloomy office, while rain slams into the windows. An extra wellbeing treat as I got to take myself back to Padstow for a short while!  

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