And so it seems that the stresses of modern life have finally penetrated our Yorkshire idyll. The huge changes of the past few years caught up with me in the end and I have had to take a few weeks out to assimilate my feelings and start edging towards a way forward for the future.
Stress is a little like bindweed, I think. If you keep your garden tidy, it is easy to spot and remove. You can never get rid of it completely, but you can keep it under control and stop it from smothering your chosen plants. We have a bed in our front garden that needs attention – I am planning to pull most of it up next year and start again. I walk past that bed for weeks, not seeing the tell-tale heart shaped leaves as the bindweed works its insidious way up the tangle of geranium and other plants which have run rampant. Only when it has taken a firm hold do I finally see it and removing it is much harder than it might have been. I see a few leaves first, start to remove them and then suddenly they are everywhere. Weeding them out is a daunting task.
Stress is the bindweed of life. Whilst most areas of life are under control, it is easy to recognise and manage – never going away completely, of course, but at a level which can be used to challenge us, keeping us on our toes and even encouraging our creativity and fulfilment. However, as life throws more and more things at us, often so slowly we don’t see them coming, stress puts out its tendrils, winding through our lives until it feels impossible to eradicate. Finally, when everything feels out of control, just like our flower bed, we realise how we deeply entrenched it has become and addressing the problem can feel very daunting indeed.
No one thing can be held responsible for my stress. I love my life here as much as I ever have. The cats and garden are thriving, D supports me with his usual unswerving love and practicality and I still feel extremely lucky to be here. However, it cannot be denied that we have been through large life changes at a time when the world itself feels like it is shifting and changing in potentially dangerous ways and we have never really stopped to draw breath and consolidate the changes fully. I have needed the past few weeks to start that consolidation process.
Home has become my refuge and yet the best way I have found to start weeding out the stress is to go out and re-engage with the world. I have started small. Sitting in the gardens at Beningbrough Hall, listening to the bees in the flower borders and even on one occasion communing with a mouse who popped out of the wall to say hello. Walking down the towpath along the River Ouse, leaving the bustle of the city of York far behind me, greeting the dog walkers and ramblers along the path. Taking time to enjoy the garden at home and eating well, chiefly home grown fruit and veg. Spending time with the cats, with D and with family. Taking care of myself.
I am starting to see my way back as I pull out more and more of the bindweed to reveal the flowers beneath – the things that really matter. I am lucky that I have so many positives in my life which I have never really lost sight of – they were temporarily covered but never totally buried. And when life goes back to normal, which it will eventually, hopefully I will have learned from the experience to take at least a little time to weed out the stresses early, while those bindweed leaves are still small and the stems weak, leaving me to enjoy the beauty of our chosen New Simple Life.