(Daughter’s bedroom undergoing big changes from pale to much stronger colours!)
It’s officially the school summer holidays now in the UK, even though my children have been home with me for eleventy seven weeks already! Considering the ratio of school work done to computer use for gaming is about 0.000001:100, they’ve actually been “on holiday” for all eleventy seven weeks!! The head of my son’s school reassures me that the work portal will remain open all summer at least and not to worry, so I could “shift” my attitude a bit, “ctrl” the amount of gaming, and “alt” (alter) what we do through the summer. I admit to being rather slack during these weeks, not enough housework or encouraging the children to do school work and get outside, but I bet I’m not the only parent. Lots of other things have slid as well – not been to the allotment for a while, spuds hurriedly shoved in the garden, the house is an eyesore inside and out, etc., etc. – but I feel a sea change coming this week. Despite feeling annoyed that I’ve not done the things I’d planned at the start of lockdown, for missing so many opportunities to improve parts of our lives, it’s not too late. Maybe we needed all those weeks of nothingness in order to settle into new ways, to defrag our brains from the previous way of doing things, and find new paths for ourselves.
Football training is back on, there’s talk of matches soon; my daughter’s friends are beginning to play out; I’ve been for a socially distanced meal in a friend’s garden and SD walks. The new (better? different?) way of living takes a bit of getting used to, that’s all, and sometimes your brain protests at that. After all, the notion of change upsets that old limbic bit of your brain, suggesting that it’s bad, you’re not safe, making you anxious and inclined to dig in your heels against the unknown. If we didn’t accept change, nothing would change: adaptability to changing environments and the ability to create change are what’s kept our species going so long. I know people who are changing their ways of working, have pivoted their businesses or started something new, taken the opportunity of the changes all around them to strike out in a different direction. Doing different things does feel ‘wrong’ somehow, but that’s only because you’re having to move onto another path, make a little detour. Maybe you’re working differently with what you already have: shopping from the cupboards and freezer to put together a meal, using up food in creative ways instead of throwing it away, or re-purposing items to use differently.
My friend, Juliet, set us just such a challenge last week in her Psychologies InstaLive. She spoke about using different media to create a piece of art, suggesting alternatives to paper, paint and brushes. How about ‘painting’ on an old tea towel with a fork and some food colour? Or try ‘stitching’ with grasses onto a piece of kitchen roll? You could cut up some old jeans and use various objects around the house to experiment with bleaching the colour? (* PLEASE do this last one outside or in a well-ventilated space, use rubber gloves, and supervise children!) Below is my effort, using part of a cardboard box, plants from my garden, and garden twine and wool to stitch them in place.
The second picture, below, was taken the morning after, and you can see how the greenery is dying, changing state. I felt it was important to show this, to remind me about things changing, that plants die, change state, and move on. It also reminded me of the idea of making ‘art for the bin’, where you simply have a go at something, without much of an idea, recognise that it’s just the process of making, and then chuck it away. It’s hard to preserve this kind of art without resorting to chemicals or whatever, so maybe it’s good to enjoy what you’ve made right now, take a few photos for posterity and then bin it, put it on the compost heap, and use that experience for creating your next ‘thing’.
‘Shift + ctrl +alt’ is all about change. It says ‘shift’ your thinking away from what doesn’t serve you anymore, change to a way that helps you, that moves you in a different direction. ‘Ctrl’ doesn’t always mean literal control of everything in life; maybe it’s being aware of what can reasonably be controlled and what (or who) is actually needing to change. Rather than resisting and trying to control everything rigidly, loosen that control and guide yourself (or others), be open to some flexibility. Finally, ‘alt’ could be read as either ‘alter’ or ‘alternate’. Try and alter how or what you think or do, your brain is plastic and always receptive to growth and change. Follow a different path when you go for a walk, swap your meals around, be more aware of what you think and try to challenge your brain. Alternate is a regular change between one thing and another: alternating between different coloured socks, choosing one supermarket over another. Why not go for a walk on alternate days of the week, if you find it difficult to go every day? It could soon become a good habit, and you could always change it up again! If you are finding eating healthily is hard, why not promise yourself to do so every other day, small changes like this are easier to slip in, without your reptilian brain getting too worked up and alerting you to perceived danger!
So what would you like to shift, control, or alter/alternate this week or soon? I find these things hard, I’m just beginning to learn after a lifetime of doing otherwise, not a life coach by any means! It’s important for me to see all this written down, like a coaching session to myself, a reminder or gentle nudge to do (and keep doing) these things in order to grow and change. I’m curious to know how you feel/think about this, do let me know via the comments!