The last month seems like a dream already! It is amazing how quickly one falls back into the real world. Amongst my e-mails was an invitation to a workshop on balancing work and life. Sadly it was designed for HR type people in managing a "family friendly" workplace. That is all very well and good, but the lessons I "learned", while away, were, I suspect, more fundamental than that.
In Paris, I was impressed by the fact that it was very difficult to find an empty park bench from about 11:30 though to 2:30 in the afternoon. No matter how big or small the park and how many chairs there were, they were all occupied by people reading, relaxing or enjoying lunches out of brown paper bags. The culture was to stop at lunchtime and relax before heading back to work. How many of us do that? Of course in Italy things got even better with shop hours being listed as 9:00 to 12:30 and then 2:30 to 7:30 or 8:00pm. This was as true in the back streets of Rome as it was in the Tuscan countryside.
I am not suggesting we should all start taking two-hour lunch breaks, beneficial as that might be, but I suspect there is a lesson to lean here. We take a half-hour or one-hour lunch break. Into that time gets squeezed lunch, errands that have to be run during the day and often the time gets eroded because a patient has us running late. How many of us have to depend on an RDO to gain some space and time for non-work matters? We so often spend our lunch breaks time rushing around and watching the clock. This is a great recipe for a relaxing break with time to recharge the batteries! We need time for us!
Did I find any truffles? No, I didn't but I did get to savour their unique contribution to Italian and French cuisine. I almost mastered the art of driving like an Italian, and one evening came very close to collecting a pair of wild boar on the road. If only my reactions had been a little faster! While in Toscano it was the height of the wild boar season and we were awoken by gunshot most mornings. And yes we did get to make a ragu from wild boar - yummmmh!. And as for the fresh wild Porcini mushrooms………?
Reality is biting seriously at present. I hope that I can put many of the lessons I observed into practice in balancing life and work. The trick is, I think, in balancing work and self, rather than work and play. Working hard and then playing hard may be great for a while but I believe the more important thing is balancing work with self. Time will tell. I have been back at work 3 days and not grumped at the team, so things are looking up.
It is good to be home and good to be back among colleagues and friends, although a travel fund has been established ready for the next adventure!
'til next time,