Enough is Enough. Time to get the pacing right.

by Amanda Harding


Utterly exhausted. I woke up this morning with a deep sense of gloom. It's already January 21 and my month's sabbatical is slipping by. In just a few weeks time I will be taking myself to task on what I've achieved, certainly looked on by my so-called loved ones (or fans, critics and fellow cynics) all holding me to account for a month "out on the bench".

In order to catch up I tried to carry out the near-perfect sabbatical day. After a night filled with haunting nightmares I shot out of bed at 7:10, one daughter already up, dressed but waiting for her long-promised breakfast smoothie. Old black and well-traveled bananas in hand and with the help of the liquidizer she was soon satisfied. Of course I managed to wake the others in the house up too, but they were equally rewarded with their morning banana milkshake. So far, so good. Next, I walked the eldest to the bus stop in the cold, damp and dark, feel the freezing air biting into my bare shins and then take myself off to the gym where I ignored any attempts at conversation by placing my headphones firmly on my ears and listening to the dulcet tones of the Today Programme for the next hour. Home, shower, shoot off the odd email (including addressing my unemployed panic attack, so network network network back into business while realizing that my CV desperately needs an update) and rush out once more. The sabbatical is also meant to be about new experiences, spiritual reflection and zen living. Time to try out yoga - last practiced when pregnant fifteen years ago. It was great. A long way from being peaceful and relaxing but had me tangled in knots, falling sideways as I lost my balance, exposing tummy with my legs in the air in one direction, my arms in the other and my brain trembling with concentration. But it really was great and I will be back.

The drawback to a morning such as this is that by the time I was home I was exhausted with little hope of completing the "perfect" sabbatical day. I had started too strong. Forgot about pacing myself and can only hope that a second wind is still on the books before midnight tonight.

This notion of pacing, however, did get me thinking. 

Running out of steam appears to be a feature of our time. Our expectation is generally for the quick fix and instant result, despite talk of "investing in the long term" or "taking the medicine today in the interest of future generations" or even "we're in for the long haul". How many times are heads of state as much as local officials elected on the basis of promises and grandiose ideas only to be voted our of office soon after for their poor results. Worse still, they adjust their programs to meet the short term expectations of their citizens? Ironically, the only long term investors I can think of are those involved in the extractive industries, the Shells, Totals and De Beers of this world. And while they invest, countries such as  Ethiopia (see David Smith in the Guardian on the "African Lion" and Richard Dowden on Ethiopia as "ancient, booming but undemocratic"), Nigeria and Turkey play catch-up, aiming to break  their 10% growth average (a figure unthinkable on the Old Continent) and join the big-players of the BRIC group (see Jim O'Neill on the MINT countries on the BBC). Who will trip up, run out of steam, cut dangerous corners, sacrifice the weakest and most vulnerable, fall by the wayside. 

Today's lei motive that we don't have enough time, need to act now, can't be complacent … may certainly be true when it comes to stopping the fighting in Syria but the difference between stopping the fighting and finding peace is massive. Pacing, reflection, listening through dialogue and incremental change must be the way forward, just as I must accept stuffing it all into one day will not only not work but leave me probably very stiff and muscle sore tomorrow morning.