I’ve been dreaming about Paternoster, the coastal village with its wealth of whitewashed fisherman’s cottages and blue shutters on the barren West Coast of South Africa for years. The idea of a remote Cycladic influenced town in the middle of (almost) nowhere sounded idyllic.
And this year, I decided come what may, we were going – which was rather a surprise to my husband. But before he could object the tickets and accommodation were booked and paid for – I saved up and got a little cottage right on the beach – so that I could pretend that I was Diane Keaton from Something’s Gotta Give – really worth every penny, only of course I didn’t get much writing or editing done.
Now often when you go to a place that you’ve been romanticising for years the reality very seldom matches the fantasy, but with Paternoster it did – not that it is perfect, there is a small petty crime problem so we had to ensure that we activated the alarm for the house whenever we left and locked up at night.
After six months of hard graft, deadlines, and living, breathing, and writing it was a real break, and I felt like I just hit pause. I realised that even when things are exciting and enjoyable like writing, editing, and blogging, you need time out.
In my other life – the one where I have a day job and a mortgage, I am a wellbeing features journalist writing about health, psychology and wellbeing for an online publication – which I’m sure many of my lovely readers will no doubt now be going: aha – so that explains it when looking at most of my posts which almost always deal in some way with the psychological aspect of writing and self-discovery – topics that I am nerdishly obsessed about.
What I have found is that even when you are doing what you love, if you’re feeling excitement or wired your body responds in the same way as if it were a negative emotion. If you’re hyped for whatever the reason, over a sustained period it can’t really tell the difference – so for me, writing, editing and blogging has been incredibly stimulating, but at times overly so – where my enthusiasm keeps me up at night or a scene from my novel/s can demand my focus at 2am, while it’s certainly wonderful to experience this kind of heightened and sustained happiness and enthusiasm – it can take its toll: lack of sleep, fatigue, poor health etc etc.
So last week, I simply checked out. It was heavenly. There was no WIFI so beyond the small bit of data on my phone I couldn’t really engage in social media and while I brought my laptop with me I decided to just take time out – from everything. Days were spent watching the ocean, drinking wine and actually sitting down at a table for each and every meal – something I (sadly) never do.
On the second day of our holiday we noticed three salty sea dogs, including a gorgeous golden retriever, frolicking on the dunes and we rushed over to make friends as you do. Just that morning I’d been wishing that my dog was there and missing her so this felt like providence, truly. After that they came to visit us every morning and evening at sunset like clockwork, it was a wonderful thing to be sure about and became the highlight of my stay. Two of the dogs belonged to an owner of a guesthouse up the road who moved here thirteen years ago, after 30 plus years of city living in Joburg and thought it was rather sweet how their animals had taken to us and decided to see why.
The only male of the pack, who I named “Scrappy” as he had obviously been in some kind of a brawl, and was missing part of his ear, belonged to one of the locals but very nearly belonged to me as he never seemed to want to go home. It’s thanks to my husband that I didn’t try and smuggle them all back with me on the plane really.
These three spend their days running on the beach and exploring the nearby nature reserve, then go home to be coddled, fed, and loved – talk about a dog’s life!
It was a magical week and it was wonderful to really take a break in the true sense of the word, to reconnect with nature, to not be rushed and caught up in the busy as I so often am and now I am feeling energised and ready to tackle all my projects again – including revisions of Greek Vintage/ My Invincible Summer and eek Nanowrimo next month!
What about you – do you sometimes need to simply check out so that you can check back in? I’d love to hear.