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The intensity of modern life

Not a rat or a hamster but he’s still running to keep up.

I speak to many people throughout the course of my work and home life. Sometimes someone says something that really resonates with me. It’s not usually anything earth-shattering and it won’t change the world. It’s usually something so simple and small that stays with me awhile and has me nodding my head in understanding for days to come.

Last night I was with my osteopath having my rubber skeleton manipulated-I’m hypermobile-very bendy comes with a side order of daily pain. We were discussing the stresses of modern life. When you are caught up in everything it can be hard to recognise the effects your surroundings have on you. In a similar way, it’s only after visiting the osteopath, when bits of me have been stretched out, that I realise how bad my body had become in between appointments. Before treatment, I just don’t realise the state my joints and muscles get into. It’s only afterwards I breathe and think that’s better.

While I was there, I told him about a conversation I had with a friend who said he’d got to an age where he just didn’t want to work anymore. Virtually everyone around us nodded in agreement. It seems we’d all had enough of the rat-race. It’s a pity most of us have about two decades or more to go before we can retire! My osteopath told me a story in return of a friend who had moved away from the UK and done what many Brits do and escaped to a place in the sun. The friend came back to the UK for a visit having been away for a few years. Towards the end of the visit, he told my osteopath that he had forgotten that the south-east of England was so intense.

I thought about the word “intense” for a minute before everything seemed to fall into place. That is exactly the problem. The pace of life for a lot of us is very intense and I question how long we can live at that pace before things start falling apart. For me, I’ve physically reached a point in my life where I’m not capable of moving as fast as I once did or taking on as many things in a day as I used to. Unfortunately, everything around me still moves at the same pace it always did. If you try to live life more slowly, it really does seem like you’ll be flung off the carousel (or the degu wheel) into a heap on the ground for not keeping up.

Take my job, if a call comes in from a client and I don’t race to answer the phone or immediately respond to the email, the client will just go to the next person in line and that colleague will get the business. It’s happened in the past. I have to respond to everything within minutes if I want the job. It doesn’t matter what time or day of the week that call comes in. If you want the business, you have to respond; there’s no taking it easy.

Home life isn’t any less intense. If we don’t get up early enough to go shopping at the weekend everywhere we go will run out of disabled parking spaces and if we can find a normal space, I’ll have to walk further to get the shopping. So, it’s a rush. I need to wake up early enough to move about enough to stabilise my joints enough before I can get going in the morning. There’s no taking it easy there.

It used to be that if I didn’t rush home with the children from school on foot, because I don’t drive, to get dinner on the table within half an hour of arriving home, I’d be late to start work again. If I didn’t work, I wouldn’t earn any money and there wouldn’t be enough money to put food on the table in the first place. This one was about the only thing I managed to change for the better. I took a hit to my income and reduced my evening working hours from three evenings to one evening. But even that has made things difficult because I limited my income to do so.

If I want to see a doctor I have to ring at exactly the correct time or all the appointments for the day I want will have gone and I’ll be waiting an extra week. If I want to take a bus anywhere I need to leave earlier than if I was walking because there is no guarantee the bus will be on time or have room. That condenses my downtime even further.

Life is intense even when you’ve reduced the number of things you accomplish in a day. The trouble with self-employment is choosing and sticking to the hours you want to work limits your earning potential when it’s a client-based business. Often, clients have a different set of hours they’d like you to work. If you don’t oblige they will go elsewhere. You battle through illness because taking time off means you don’t earn money and you already know that summer holiday you had decimates your business every year.

My husband gets out of bed at stupid o’clock in the morning to get on a train and hopefully get a seat before the rush starts. He eats lunch at his desk and therefore the idea of a “lunch hour” is just that, an idea. It doesn’t happen.

Even the children don’t escape. Schools are so overstretched with inadequate facilities, my kids told me they get five minutes to eat their lunch because there isn’t enough space for everyone to sit down and eat. My daughter used to take a huge bag with her to school every day with the entire contents of what could have gone in a locker because there was not enough time in-between classes to visit a locker and swap books over.

Needless to say, I know I live a privileged life compared to anyone battling their way through an existence of war, famine and drought but I do wish I could figure out a way of providing for my family without everything being so INTENSE!