The Hours

Because of where I live, because of all the circumstances that surround this peculiar disjointed life of mine, because I am compelled to feel ‘useful’ despite not having a job, there being no children at home, because of all of that, I feel bound to propel myself through my day. I go from chore to chore, as stepping stones.

I have several rules which I apply simply because I feel if I began to indulge, I may reach a point of no return and my day would disintegrate which would leave me disintegrating too.

I never watch the television during the day. Not unless I am unwell.

And I never siesta. Not unless I am unwell.

So today – as I do every day – I walk the dogs for almost an hour before breakfast. It was cold this morning, I walked in wellies with a scarf wound about my neck. The wind bit as I turned to face home. This afternoon, when I walk, the sun will beat down and I shall peel off my sweater and the dogs will pant and lag. In the morning they bounce and race one another and tear ahead of me.

I entertained a rare guest for breakfast. He is here on business. And needed a quiet morning to collect himself and his agenda before heading to the office. He is from Holland. I wondered as we sat across the table from one another over toast and coffee what he makes of my dislocated far away living? Ordinarily my breakfast is a mug of muesli at my desk.

My morning was spent in front of my computer. Paperwork. Except it so rarely is now is it? The ticket I booked for Hattie will never materialize as anything tangible; a reference number on a screen, that’s all. I write a paragraph for Ant, something he needs at work. A brief dip into the cerebral. Learning something I didn’t know before.

I drink last night’s tomato soup for lunch and then spend the afternoon bowed over lampshades so that now my shoulders ache. I made three as I listened to Women’s Hour and thought what wonderful company Deborah Mitford must have been; she spoke to Jenny Murray with such candour and eloquence about her life, she giggled about Coming Out (‘but not that kind of coming out’) and described her chickens and the delicious brown eggs they lay and her abiding passion for Elvis.

Then, with ipad in hand and the Duchess of Devonshire describing how harrowing it was to live with an alcoholic (her husband), I head to make a start on a Shepherd’s Pie for supper. The scent of lamb mince and garlic attracts Gippy. She sits obediently just outside the kitchen and I can’t resist feeding her some of the honey sandwich I make myself.

And then it’s 4pm and the day, which has taken pleasing shape as fullfat, (they’re not all like this, the days, some are hollow with jutting ribs which dig and worry me) is getting to its end. Soon I will feel able to step back. I will walk the dogs in a while with some tiny sense of satisfaction (my morning walk is full of anxious plotting about how I’ll fill the hours that stretch ahead; I never enjoy it as much as my late afternoon outing – which is always better because either the day has delivered or, if it hasn’t, it is, thank god, almost over).

Deborah Mitford scoffed at happiness; she suggested contentment was what we ought to aspire to.

I think she may be right? Perhaps happiness is too transient, insubstantial? Is contentment weightier I wonder? Will it endure better in the face of what life lobs at us, sustain for longer?

6 Responses to “The Hours”

  1. Ellie Says:

    I feel that happiness is a transient emotion — akin to anger or grief — whereas contentment is a state of being, more like depression can be. Does that make sense? It made sense inside my head but now I’ve written it, i’ll have to ponder a bit more ….

  2. iotamanhattan Says:

    I agree with Ellie, I think. Though the boundaries aren’t defined.

    What about joy? Can we aspire to joy? Is that higher up the happiness hierarchy? An emotion or a state of being?

  3. Kit Says:

    Sounds like a good day. Contentment is a long term thing, happiness and joy occasional highlights, so maybe aspire to contentment and let happiness visit you anytime it likes. I used to love reading about the Mitford sisters, must look them up again.

  4. Connie Shingledecker Says:

    I have no idea how I came upon your blog, but have enjoyed your posts, especially your now daily ones. We lived in Nairobi for 15 years (1981-96)- another world from where it appears you are now living. My husband grew up in Burundi and lived there for his first 16 years (a missionary kid)….and I had lived in Minnesota for most of my life and expected to be teaching elementary school in the US until I retired. Life has a funny way of turning out! We had friends living waaaay upcountry among the Orma and the Pokot. How strange that I always felt unsafe when visiting them….and they could never understand how we were brave enough to live in Nairobi! Do I miss living in Africa/Kenya (some people say Nairobi isn’t Africa)? No- I am extremely grateful for unlimited access to water (on the shores of Lake Michigan), electricity, huge supermarkets, safe drivers, not having bars on all the windows and doors, feeling safe when I drive/walk/shop/sleep. I do miss my wonderful rafiki, who will welcome me with open arms as if I’d never left, if I ever have a chance to visit. I miss the perfect cup of chai (which I can’t seem to make here) I miss the holiday pantomimes we attended as a family every year. I miss the exotic vacations on the coast, at Mt Kenya, in Samburu. I miss the market, bargaining with vendors, who always gave a little free treat to my watoto. I miss Joyce, my loyal househelp for 11 years. But move back? No, I am content to read about and imagine your life- thank you for sharing so eloquently.

    Mama Mwende

    Connie Shingledecker

    Zeeland, MI 49464

    Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2014 13:43:45 +0000 To:

  5. sustainablemum Says:

    Happiness is indeed a high bar to achieve all the time. I think contentment is a wonderful aspiration with some happiness thrown in from time to time.

    I remember hearing that interview with Deborah Mitford some time ago, thank you for mentioning it I hadn’t realised that she had died recently hence the repeat of the interview on Woman’s Hour. I read a book written about the family a few years ago, they were a fascinating family.

  6. Family Affairs Says:

    I was only just discussing the art of contentment today – I think it’s a more “mindful” state to be in and less fraught with snatched moments. Your day sounds wonderful – shall we swap for a bit? Lx

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