Room to breathe


Much as I would like to design the details of my life and garden, plan where all my perennial vegetables will go, how my kitchen will look, how to juggle different commitments, for now, I’m going to have to live with the overriding pattern of my life: the building project.

Four years ago, we took on a huge commitment. Just the two of us renovating an entire house was never going to be easy. As we went, we came up against some challenges. We found, for example, that hiring scaffolding is out of the question, because our plot isn’t accessible to lorries. So we took on more and more big jobs that we originally planned to delegate to the professionals.

I have long since accepted that this building project is just a way of life – a phase of several years that will eventually come to an end. If we want to get to that end, though, we have to keep plugging away at it. Each job is new to us, so we spend a lot of time learning how to do them. Every day where we make some progress is celebrated. And sometimes you just have to have a few guilt-free days off.

The Permaculture principle ‘design from pattern to detail’ means that we need to look at the big picture of what is happening on a piece of land or in our lives before we allow smaller details to distract us. For us, this means that the building project, and the hours of work that are required, is the priority of our life that everything else has to fit around.

I have tried. I have tried to start up a little online business in parallel with the building project. Of course, it didn’t work. You can’t do two hugely challenging things at the same time. Basically, except for small things that can fit around the edges, everything that isn’t to do with renovating the house gets parked.

The edges are important here though. It is absolutely necessary to set boundaries around the building project. It’s easy enough to let it go out of hand and take over everything. It may be the defining pattern of our lives right now, but we also need to stay in control of it.

Over time, I have created a shape to the day that works for me. It means we can get a good amount of work done, but I also get some time to myself. I have time for my Druid practice and time for a social life. Without that room to breathe, I lose myself.

Giving the big pattern of my life the time and energy it deserves, I also create space around it where the rest of my life is free to flourish in its own way.

Image by Alfonso Cerezo on

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