Inspired by the nature around me, here’s my reflection on feeling the need to fill my time, always being busy, and taking a moment to pause.
I sit on a balcony in rural Vietnam as I write. My summer holidays began a week ago, after a long and busy term as we broke out of lockdown and resumed normality again. I’m just a 3 hour drive from Hanoi, with its traffic and noise and pollution, but Mai Chau couldn’t seem further away from the city life I’ve been locked in for the last few months. I’m staying at an ecolodge and there are only a couple of other families here, who I seldom see except for mealtimes. Mai Chau isn’t a tourist hotspot full of things to do, and I’ve been here before anyway. It’s simple, it’s quiet, it’s laidback. So why aren’t I?
My head is full. This is due in part to a congested nose, leaving my head feeling as thick as the humid air and myself feeling dazed. But my head is full in other ways too. Full of ideas. Full of goals. Full of plans.
It’s silent here, save for nature and the odd motorbike rattling past. Roosters doodle-doo from every direction. Crickets chirp from the grass. Leaves rustle in the breeze. Lizards hop from post to post, pausing to breathe. With no diaphragm, most can’t breathe on the go. They need time to rest, to pause, to catch themselves.
The summer holidays are, for teachers, like a prolonged lizard’s pause. They’re a much-needed few weeks out of the classroom. A time to rest and recuperate. A time where a seven o’clock wake up is a lie-in. A month or so of lazy mornings, self-care and days filled with not much at all: a blissful time during which our mood or actions are not determined by the 20+ children in our care, but by ourselves.
This is where I struggle. I find it hard to do nothing and just ‘be’. Even here, where there’s nature and nothing else, I feel a pressure to be doing something. My list of intentions, my goals for the summer, is long, but it is focused on myself. Yet even so, it’s about self-development: finishing my journalism course, delving deeper into the climate crisis through online learning, painting more, reading more, blogging again.
They’re things for me and yet I feel pressure to achieve them. Like the whirring of crickets, which comes on suddenly and persists for a while before finally breaking again, these thoughts come and fill my head. What could I be doing instead? How could I be learning more, bettering myself?
I suppose that’s a good trait: constantly wanting to be better and do more. I just need to remind myself that it’s okay to have a break from that too.
Crickets can’t whirr all the time. Lizards, who dash from place to place, must take a rest to breathe. Even the roosters let up on occasion. The breeze ends, giving way to the summer heat. The clouds above even seem to have stopped. The leaves are still.
There’s a lot to be learnt from nature. Perhaps what I need to learn is that even if I pause for a while, life will still go on in its own beautiful way.