furlough/ˈfəːləʊ/noun – leave of absence
Most of us had never even heard this word just over a year ago. I’ve been really lucky, working as I do in the travel industry, to have been able to keep working all this time whilst many of my colleagues have been furloughed, and of course many people (not just in my industry) have lost their jobs. It’s been a tough year though, and I don’t mind admitting that I did like the idea of having a break when things were really stressful, but it wasn’t feasible at the time.
I first brushed with furlough a few months ago when I was told I would go from 5 to 4 days a week and be ‘flexi-furloughed’ for one day. It took a little while to get used to this bonus day off, but to be honest I quite like a 4 day week. Then came the big one – a month of furlough. My company is doing the right thing, making the most of the support available, and I guess it was inevitable that I would be furloughed eventually. So, here I am, about to start my stint of furlough. A month off work.
It’s strange, now that everything is starting to open up in the UK and many people are going back to work, to suddenly find myself with time on my hands. At first I freaked out and in my panic started making a mental list of all the things I would have to do during this time to make it worthwhile. Pole, stretch, dance, do Couch to 5k again, walk 12,000 steps a day, tidy everything, read all those books that are piling up… the list went on and my brain hurt. Then I stopped. Literally, in the middle of the street as I was pacing about. I stopped and realised I don’t need to be a superhuman. I don’t have to prove anything
But I know how my brain works, and I know what’s best for my mental health. I need some kind of structure, and I need goals, even little ones. So, here’s my furlough plan:
- Relax and enjoy some downtime. Don’t feel guilty if one day I watch a lot of TV, or another day I take a book to the park and sit and read all day. It’s about time I had a bit of a break and time to recharge.
- Work on my pole, fitness and flexibility goals, but listen to my body as I go. It’s not possible or sensible to train hard every day – I need time to recover too.
- Spend time outside – whether it’s walking, running, or sitting, I want to get out of this flat and see something other than these four walls!
- Cook! It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but use this time to cook nice things. I’ve found when I’m busy or stressed I still turn to convenience food (and there is so much yummy vegan convenience food!) but I do actually love to cook, so now’s the time to dust off those recipe books.
- Just be. Every day doesn’t have to be full of achievements or Instagram-worthy moments. Some days it’s perfectly fine to just be. See some friends. Go for a walk by myself. Read. Dance in my kitchen. Whatever makes me happy.
None of this is to say that you won’t be seeing a bit more of me on Instagram and maybe even here in this blog over the coming month. I will be learning new pole things, I am doing a running challenge, and I will hopefully cook something worthy of taking a photo of at some point. But I don’t want to obsess over the numbers and the achievements. When the first lockdown happened last year and lots of people found themselves on furlough, there was a huge amount of pressure on everyone to achieve. Is this the time to write that novel I’ve always dreamt of publishing? Maybe, but probably not if I’m honest. Is this the time to enjoy some (hopefully!) nice weather and have a bit of a break? Yes. And is this the time to simply do what feels good? Definitely.
Let’s see where the month takes me…
Why do I dance? It’s simple really. Dancing makes me happy. I dance because I love the music. I dance because moving my body and learning new things excites me. I dance because I can.
I love my dancing friends and family. The dance community is a truly special place and I can’t imagine life without it now.
Tonight was the first night back this year at my regular class, where it all started, Salsa Souls. Although I now dance various styles in different places, and I enjoy travelling to congresses and events elsewhere, Salsa Souls will always my dance home – where my heart is. I owe so much to the teachers there and the amazing friends I’ve met there.
This year, as I approach three years on the dance floor, I feel like I’m ready to dial it up a notch. I want to get good. So, I’ll work on my shines and footwork, I’ll try not to anticipate the lead, and yes teacher, I will learn to spot when I turn!!
Why do I dance? Why on earth wouldn’t I?
Welcome to the cliche – new year, new blog, new me. But I don’t care. This blog is something I’ve been thinking about doing for months, and now seemed like a pretty good time to get on and start it.
So what’s going on here then? Those of you who know me will know I’ve been blogging a long time – over 10 years in fact, in one way or another. But over the last couple of years I’ve been going through something of a transformation, and that’s changed the amount of time I have to write. I no longer spend my weekends sat around at home in front of the computer – instead I’m usually out and about, and quite often dancing. Actually, over the last year I’ve hardly blogged at all. I often feel guilty about not blogging, but then I remind myself that I don’t have to, and that (most importantly) there’s no point in writing if you don’t have anything worth writing about.
But you see, writing is one of the things that I’m most passionate about. You could say it’s one of my reasons for living. When I ran into the concept of ‘ikigai’ recently (a Japanese word which basically means ‘reason to live’), it got me thinking about all of my reasons for living, and I wanted a space in which I could explore all of the things I’m currently passionate about.
There’s work of course, and I am lucky enough to do a job which I genuinely love and feel happy and proud to do, but I do think a reason for living can be a lot more than one’s career. For me, my ikigai is everything else. It’s all the things that get me out of bed on a day when I don’t have to get up and go to work. For example, this morning, 1st January 2018, I rolled out of bed at 7am so I could go and join my first ever Park Run, a timed 5k run. Why? Because I’m committed to challenging and bettering myself, and because I’m a little bit crazy.
Often, when I’m tired and I’ve had a busy day or week, I feel like I could just curl in a ball and hibernate for a while, but usually on those occasions I find a bit of oomph and I take myself out dancing, because dancing cures everything. (I’ll talk more about dancing in coming posts, I’m sure!) Dancing is definitely my ikigai.
So, ikigai is the name of the game, and this year, this beautiful new year of 2018, is when I’m going to let the words tumble out of my fingers and see what happens. Thank you for joining me – I promise it won’t be boring.