Straight Talk – A Fresh Coat Of Paint
When Life Gives You Lemons……It’s time for a second honeymoon?
Having lived with my children for 23 and 27 years respectively, when my newlywed daughter recently moved out leaving an ‘empty nest’, I thought I would be fine. I was pleased that both my children were at the stage of starting their own nests. Job done, mum (and dad)! Who knew that as she closed our front door for the last time and opened her own brand new one, that I would experience an emotional ‘wobbly’?
As I stared into her empty bedroom, saw the indentations in the carpet where her desk had stood, (and caught sight of several sheepish looking dust balls on display, now that the bed had gone) I burst into tears.
Fortunately, my husband knew exactly what I needed; a distraction – time for a fresh coat of paint. Knowing how much I love pottering around the house, he decided that ‘the house’ would be our next project and within a short while, we had everything we needed to paint and redecorate the empty bedroom. A clever plan, changing the landscape like that, as it stopped me associating the space with my daughter’s absence.
It was also time for a declutter; starting with a physical declutter of a lot of the ‘stuff’ we’d accumulated over the years, as a family. There was so much in our ‘stinky room’ aka the shoe cupboard under the stairs, I felt like I was on an episode of ‘Cash in the Attic’. Sadly though, our finds were minus the precious works of art and antiquities, the most valuable item was a brand-new unused steam cleaner. The dust balls quivered at the thought!
We filled two or three bin bags to donate to charity, made several trips to the recycling centre and breathed a sigh of relief. It seems clearing out cupboards is quite therapeutic.
Putting a fresh perspective on our living space, incentivised us to reassess our sleeping space too. Research shows that sleeping next to a mobile phone may not be the healthiest option. By boosting radiation exposure, it seems that sleeping with a phone nearby could impair the sleep cycle – reducing the time spent in deep non-REM sleep – and affecting circadian rhythms (which assists with functions like feeling sleepy, body temperature, and metabolism). The blue light emitted by screens inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone that controls the circadian rhythm.
“I need my phone for the alarm!” I had protested at first, being a ‘serial snoozer’. Enter our digital assistant smart speaker with her ability to substitute as an alarm (you can tell her to snooze, and she understands ‘slurry sleepy’ voice too!). The first night without mobiles, I slept like a log. I could have been exhausted from all the decorating and cupboard clearing, admittedly, but falling asleep with no Social Media clutter and having spent quality time chatting, felt good.
Enjoying the ‘Zen moments’, we decided to up the ante and experiment drifting off to sleep, listening to the whooshing sounds of the ocean, courtesy of the same handy smart speaker. It worked a treat, hubby started drifting off straight away, until, temptation took over and feeling devilish, I sneaked my mobile back in to play a trick on him. Literally ‘undercover’ (duvet cover), I googled, ‘sounds of seagulls screeching’ (as you do), which started playing along with the soothing ocean waves, creating a cacophony. The sound of my husband’s expletives, accompanied with ‘How can they think that seagulls are a relaxing ocean sound?’ before he realised what I’d been up to, was one of the funniest moments ever; I laughed until I cried!
Incidentally, research suggests that laughter strengthens our immune systems, boosts the mood, diminishes pain and protects from the damaging effects of stress. What a great way to declutter negativity and improve emotional health!
Another metaphorical ‘fresh coat of paint’ that we embraced, was not spending so much time watching TV (my absolute addiction – bring me Strictly and the Jungle any day and I’ll happily hibernate for a few months). Sensibly, my hubby realised that lounging around on the couch would probably not do my psyche any good, given the circumstances. He booked us onto a glass-blowing taster course in Somerset. Hand blown glass and its unique beauty has always fascinated me, so off we went to try our hand at the ancient craft. It was one of the most intense, hot and challenging things I’ve ever done, and I quickly realised that I’m not good at multitasking. But, with perseverance and a lot of help from our instructor, Will Shakspeare, I made a plate and a misshapen paperweight (my glass receptacle collapsed – still gorgeous though, there is a certain beauty in imperfection).
We also decided to physically declutter, at least I did, after eating one too many chocolate muffins from Grow Coffee House. I haven’t ridden a bicycle since I was a young girl, aeons ago, but in keeping with wanting to be ‘greener’ and also be more active – which releases those helpful happiness endorphins – we started cycling to work. What a freezingly exhilarating experience! Apologies to any motor vehicles that saw me wobbling along on my first morning, I have improved a little since then.
Finally, when we are feeling stressed and emotional, it sometimes helps to take time and space to process the emotions that are cluttering our headspace. Do something that we enjoy, like reading a great book, listening to our favourite music, or in my case, watching the birds (or squirrels) pecking at the bird feeder in the garden. The sheer simplicity of their existence brings me a sense of peace and helps me to take stock and have a mental ‘breather’ from the hustle and bustle.
It has felt like a second honeymoon, we’ve enjoyed our ‘alone time’. Even the hours spent ‘Polyfilla-ing’ and sanding, whilst rocking around to our favourite playlist, courtesy of our virtual ‘you-know-who’ assistant.
Empty Nest? Bring it on!
Written by Stella Nicholls
Glass Photo by Stella Nicholls
Other images sourced via Unsplash