…and the livin’ is easy!
I have always had a sense of freedom in summer.
Still, as an adult, I tend to have a more light-hearted mood in summer, even if I’m working. As a child and teenager I never got bored, as some kids do. Even if we didn’t go away anywhere on holiday, I was just happy and content that didn’t have to be anywhere (like school, even though I liked primary school). Nor did we have to do anything in particular (like homework). Every day, I just woke up to another whole day of doing what I wanted and the day just unfolded. I didn’t plan anything and it didn’t matter. Fun days materialised. Holidays just happened. Caravan parks were stayed in, sandy beaches played on, and Jokers, Mr Frosties and Pear Picking Porky lollies were eaten.
Summer days were long and sunny…
… full of swings and bikes, of rolling down hills, having picnics in Rowallane Gardens with cousins, making finger-gloves and perfume from foxgloves in the fields behind us, in the playing, squabbling and laughing with sisters, cousins, neighbours and friends until darkness came and you went inside with the scent of ‘outside’ on your clothes, sand in your shoes, and muddied and grass-stained knees and hands scrubbed before supper and bed. Even the wet days were exciting with the chance to play monopoly, snakes and ladders, ‘colouring in,’ reading about Br’er Rabbit outwitting Br’er Fox (the book I continually re-borrowed from Saintfield library, every three weeks and got really annoyed if someone else managed to grab it upon my return, as I tried to ‘re-borrow’ it).
There was also the famous five, and my favourite Mr Pink-Whistle turning invisible and playing pranks on naughty children (which I loved), and watching endless episodes of Zorro, the Banana Splits, the Arabian nights, and Robinson Crusoe. When kids TV was over, that was it! Time to do something else.
We had no pause buttons, replays, videos or DVDs, no iPads, tablets (apart from the medicine kind), or laptops, no PlayStations, mobile phones and few modern gadgets, but my childhood was free.
Life was simple and easy. Summer was mostly sunny and fun. It was freedom.
Summer in Northern Ireland
Now, I’m not sure when summer actually begins or ends in Northern Ireland, as it seems to happen in a flash and as the sunny part and the rainy part and the cold part merge into each other and the ‘rainy monsoon season’ tends to come in different months every year, and that even changes within the one summer.
In fact all four seasons blending together into one day is not a rare occurrence.
The seasons, and the weather in particular is the main topic of ‘small talk’ in our country. It’s how we meet and greet each other. In fact. After the ‘hello, how are ya’ bit comes the ‘isn’t it ‘turrible’, a miserable old day’ or ‘isn’t it great – the sun is out’, and the whole sentence, including the weather, seems to be totally integrated into the social greeting. Maybe the social ‘weather’ chatter comes from the continual change in weather here, or maybe it’s because this is traditionally an agricultural country which was very dependent on how the day was going to fare, and ‘would it stay drylong enough to bring the hay or silage into the barns?’ Why we have to say all of that when we meet an acquaintance or friend, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s rude not to. Who knows! Trying to explain it to someone who has Asperger’s is even more difficult. And I have tried to, but probably unsuccessfully so, deciding that you just do it and you’re more likely to make friends and keep people smiling. By the end of the conversation neither of us really understanding why, but both in agreement that it was essential to talk about the weather to be polite, and even though silly, we both just smiled.
Sometimes I suddenly realise it’s summer because I don’t need the five layers that I do in February and that I’m driving along with the car window down. And sometimes, it’s just because the rain is warmer.
For teachers, it’s much easier to tell the season has begun.
Their absolute favourite time of the year is when they’re leaping out through the school doors on the last day of term in June, but oh how quickly it comes round that they are draggin’ themselves, heavy laden with files, bags and books and preparation papers, heads bowed through those same doors the last week in August, and that’s the ones who enjoy teaching. For the others, it’s a complete dread, as the routine of the new term approaches and quickly begins for another year.
So summer is thought of as a time of freedom, for some, at least.
I’m not just as fortunate as teachers, I don’t get two months off work during summer, but my work definitely decreases during that time and my work schedule is a bit like the academic timetable. People don’t tend to be as weighed down with the busyness of work and life the same in summer and aren’t as interested in or have the same need for coaching or training, or workshops. They are too busy out enjoying the long days and time with family etc., and rightly so!
This year was a bit different for me as I was quite busy in July, but now I have time to do what I really enjoy. The least busy month for me tends to be August, and I love to read and write, listen to talks on YouTube etc., listen to music. It is a time of reflection on what has happened so far in the year. It’s also a time of catching up on my accounts, clearing out cupboards and wardrobes etc. My spring clean tends to happen now, not in March or April as others would suggest. I also like to see friends and family when I can, and getting outside, and it’s also an important time for planning and preparation for the next few seasons.
Unlike when we are children, if we don’t plan, it doesn’t happen. The best plans can go awry through illness or familycircumstances or pressures of work, but if we don’t make a plan in the first place it’s very unlikely to happen at all.
Take the family summer holiday.
You need to budget for it, and/ or save for the actual costs and spending money, maybe do without something else so you can do it. You have to either ‘get the brochures’ or go online and browse, think about what type of holiday you all would like – city break, beach holiday, country cottage or whatever, and plan what fun things there are to do in that area, and
then get everyone to agree on it. You need to check your passport and driving license haven’t expired, book the flights, the accommodation, the rental car, maybe buy new clothes that are more appropriate for the location, get the sunscreen, bug repellent, have vaccines etc. As you get closer to the time, not only do you have to do the usual daily tasks of home and work, but you have to wash, iron and pack clothes and make sure you have everything that is required now to get through the airport. Then there’s the checking the house is okay, the bin is emptied, there’s no food left that can rot and stink the house out while you are away, inform your favourite neighbours that there should be absolutely no one at your house or else, have someone check on it, and finally leave the pet rabbit with the granny and granda. And off you go.
No wonder it can take a few days into the holiday before you can relax, because there has been so much planning and organisation just prior to it. But it’s the planning and organisation that can also make the holiday. In fact, sometimes there can be more excitement in the planning part than the holiday itself. (Well almost!)
I didn’t realise, as a child, how much work my mummy did in planning and organising for our family holidays and there were four of us girls to look after. She had all the washing, ironing and packing to do for us all when we were small, while working as well. I honestly don’t know how she did everything. I think it’s only when you are older that you appreciate all your mum did for you.
And that’s the other side of freedom – Sacrifice.
In order for me and my sisters to have the freedom to play and have fun and not worry about anything, my parents sacrificed their time and money and worked hard to give us what they could and to bring us up as best they could. There is always a cost to freedom. And the cost is usually not ours.
It’s usually at the price of someone else’s freedom.
For example, in this country, women have a freedom that in so many other countries they don’t have. We have the freedom to vote, to drive, to ride a bicycle (yes I did say that – because once a girl turns 13, in some countries, she will be stoned if seen on a bicycle), to run, to swim, to wear what we want, to work, to marry who we choose, to have equal opportunities, to have a right to our own children (as long as we are looking after them), to owning property, to having a voice, and we have institutions and law enforcement policies and organisations that work to ensure those freedoms. But all of those freedoms are at the cost of other women fighting in the past for the right to do all of those things we take for granted today.
Generally, we have more freedom than we realise. It’s important to have freedom of speech, freedom of thought and belief, freedom not to be targeted, marginalised or abused by others for what we believe. But sometimes we may choose to forego freedom to help others who have more need of it. For example our time, our money or working to help others, which is a cost to us but brings a relief and freedom to others. Sacrificing our freedom so that others may be free. Foregoing our rights so that others will see the freedom that can be theirs.
Boundaries and Freedom
The other thing is that sometimes we may have the freedom to do something but it may not be in our best interest to avail of that freedom. We need to learn how to use the freedom wisely. For example, a child may be given the freedom to eat every sweet in the shop it wants, but the long term life and health consequences could be loss of teeth and future dental problems, obesity and diabetes. So in order to be free there also has to be boundaries for freedoms that we can’t dealwith ourselves, but where have to learn how to control ourselves and use that freedom wisely.
I’ve come to realise how important freedom is to me, especially when I see others in the world who have little or no freedom, but it also makes me want to see others free from whatever is burdening them. So often I help people with the practical every day planning and organising of their lives. Sometimes that is all they are looking for, but at times I believe that I am not helping them with the most fundamental need that they have and which they don’t realise themselves – spiritual freedom.
Knowing our needs
In my spring 2016 E-zine, “Don’t let anyone put you in a box. You are unique”, I referred to the four core dimensions of the human being as being physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In all of the previous Javelin Success e-zines and within my work, coaching, training and speaking, I tend to concentrate on the first three dimensions, and I will continue to do this for all my readers and clients.
However, I have decided to devote a whole new e-zine to that of the Spiritual dimension, and I invite you to sign up for it, if you are interested. It will be about this most important part of your life, because it affects all aspects – all of the other three dimensions. Your spiritual world view will affect the core of your being. All coaches, psychologists and counsellors have a particular perspective. I’ve noticed that most of them currently are heavily influenced by the Buddhist one. I am not in that category.
My world view is from the Biblical perspective. The new e-zine is called ‘Feed My Sheep’ and the first edition will be live very soon. If you would like to receive it, please sign up by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I said I will continue this Javelin Success e-zine and it will remain in similar form. In the ‘Feed My Sheep’ ezine, we will go into greater depth about the meaning of life. I hope to cover many aspects of life and living, topics like that discussed today, of freedom and sacrifice, responsibilities, boundaries etc, but at a deeper level. But for now, I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer and make the most of any sunny weather that comes our way and if it rains, don’t let that stop you!
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