Something in the Air | Pushing the Wave

Something in the Air

Opinion, 16 September 2023
by L.A. Davenport
Latin Bridge in Sarajevo
Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina
This week in particular I have sensed a change; a small but perceptible shift away from all that has characterised the past few weeks and months.

In one sense, it is obvious: we have resumed ‘normal’ life after the summer break.

Those unstructured, fluid days in which work takes a back seat and we live more in the present, with invitations made and accepted last minute, and we try to connect with family and friends, are over.

Now it’s all about getting back to our former routines: being up and ready for a quick departure in the morning; and making sure bags are prepared, clothes are clean and sorted, lunches are made, and everyone has everything they need to work and to learn.

Objectives are defined, timetables are set and deadlines are met.

But what is ‘normal’ life? Is it really all about following a routine or a timetable, and meeting deadlines?

Is it ‘normal’ to be regimented in one’s daily rhythms for at least five days a week, and to fit all that interests and pleases us as private individuals into the all-too short evenings and weekends?

The easy, perhaps desirable, answer is no, it is not normal.

Yet we all know, after enough time and experience, that to maintain our sanity we require, leaving aside the necessity of making enough money, some sort of structure in our lives, some sort of pattern to follow, and some targets to achieve.

More than that, we are social creatures far more than we are lone wolves. We have a need to belong and to take part in some kind of group, however it may be defined. We are also aware, whether we act on it or not, that building a community through collective action, in whatever form it takes, is deeply rewarding.

So the less easy answer is that maybe it is ‘normal’ after all to want some routine and structure in our lives. Otherwise we cannot achieve what we want.

But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as my father said ad nauseam when I was a child.

What we seek, rather, is that fabled work–life balance, or what might be described as an equipoise between the public demands that are placed upon us and desires of our private life, and what we want that to represent.

Where is the balance struck, however?

We all know when we have too much pressure and expectation, and how that wears us down and ultimately damages us. But we also know when we are insufficiently occupied, and how the resulting drift can lead to a sense of abandon and lassitude.

Of course the point of equilibrium between those two extremes is individual to each and every one of us, and cannot be defined by anyone else.

Instead, finding the line that keeps us at that midway point, and so provides a sense of satisfaction with our lives, takes experience. We need practice to find what works for us, and to discover what is necessary and what can be jettisoned.

Personally, I struggle with finding that equilibrium.

I overburden myself with overambitious plans for what I can achieve in a day, a week or a month. I can end up feeling highly pressurised in situations that, if I were to take a step back and look at in the round, are not so important. Worse, most of the sense of urgency or expectation seems to have come from within.

Resuming the daily routine of ‘normal’ life in the months before summer dropped me straight back into that tension. It took me a few days to unspool the threads binding all that together and remind myself that nothing major was happening.

I used to imagine that one day I would be free of such concerns, that I would shed them once I reached a certain age, or a certain level of maturity or insight. But this year it dawned on me that resuming one’s daily habits after a few weeks away from them is always going to be tricky, and require some adjustment.

I also realised that is that very back and forth, push and pull that makes up the cycle of life, and our sense of presence, wherever we are.
The resumption of daily habits and routines is not the only change, of course.

There is that small but noticeable drop in temperature and the slowly encroaching sense of decay. The bright colours of summer are becoming muted and the fruits we have lately enjoyed are turning brown. Soon enough, they will give their energy and hope back to the soil, to be used again in another burst of life next spring.

In less than a week, we will usher in the start of autumn, the season I enjoy the most.

After the brashness of the summer months, the shortening days, greyer skies and chill in the air of September bring about a quiet reflectiveness. It seems to tease out a more sensitive side of our souls, one that is otherwise blotted out by the buzz of summer, and the shrill winds of winter.

Thinking in this way never fails to remind me of a visit I made more than a decade ago to Sarajevo, in Bosnia Herzegovina, as part of a trip around Central Europe and the Balkans.

Among so many things I remember with utter clarity from my time in that most remarkable of cities is the light.

It was late autumn, almost December, when I arrived, and every evening a warm golden light suffused the sky at sunset. It lent the air a kind of magic that I have experienced nowhere else.

It struck me at the time that perhaps it is no wonder that Sarajevo should be the fulcrum of the First World War, one of the most catastrophic and destructive periods of the 20th century, or that it should have been fought over so bitterly by those who would prise it from the hands of the people who had made it what it is.

There seems to be something about human nature that dictates that the more sublime the place, the greater the conflict it engenders.

Or as the Great Bard said:

“Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament.”
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2
There is much going on behind the scenes, with editing, writing, adapting and creating all happening on various projects, all at the same time. So much so, I don’t really know where to begin.

If that all sounds rather mysterious, it is, but any vagueness on my part will be cleared up in the coming weeks. Promise.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Something in the Air | Pushing the Wave