I give you permission to stop (why there’s a difference between being busy and having purpose)

A deck worth stopping on.

There’s nothing but sunshine and autumn brilliance in Sydney this morning. It’s a heart lifting respite after a miserable summer and to celebrate I drank a cup of tea out on my glorious and rarely-used-during-the-week deck. Why rarely used? Because, of course, I am usually too busy to stop and enjoy it. Too busy packing lunches, filling book orders, ironing shirts, getting sucked into the internet, marketing my business, hanging washing, trialing recipes, filling in forms, listening to readers, finding new freelance design clients, worrying about finances, volunteering at reading groups, reading my emails, making cookbooks, texting, organizing play dates, being a taxi, doing hair, correcting manners, blogging, chasing bargains, checking my email, viewing blog stats, baking cakes, fixing toys, paying bills, removing stains, networking… STOP! STOP! STOP! STOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPP! And I complain that my children are fidgets.

I’m a big fan of social researcher Rebecca Huntley. She usually has interesting points to make and she expresses them in such blunt, accessible terms. On the radio talking with Richard Glover on International Women’s Day, she discussed recent qualitative research done with young mothers. Pervading all aspects of parenting was a self-imposed guilt (about everything) and our compulsive need to make ourselves busy. As if busy-ness equals purpose, we never give ourselves a moment’s rest.

I am a prime example of this, but with the recent departure of Mr M&P off to school, I am now confronted with the gap between being busy and having purpose. With a full 5 hours of totally self-directed time in my day I find myself at a bit of a loss. There’s too much thinking time in it. Too much time to contemplate my life, my (increasing) age, my foibles.

In typical modern-day style, I’ve been contemplating a return to the more structured workforce, so that life can return to the maniacal pace that seems more psychologically comfortable. So I can be like all of the other overstressed parents who are so important that they’re never in the playground but have more crucial places to be.

Yes, I know, overscheduling simply postpones the existential contemplation of life, but doesn’t solve it.

When’s the last time you had a true moment of reflection? What did you discover in the process? If you haven’t stopped for a while, today, I’m giving you permission to just sit and think. I’d like to hear how you go – is it easy or difficult is it for you to do?

I know of course, that you’ll struggle to do it when you have SO MUCH TO DO. Therefore, today’s recipe is one to make ahead and pop in the fridge; ready to reheat when you need it. With dinner done, you’ll have a moment to stop and look within and see what’s there.

Anyway, my thinking time is up. Just heard the washing machine beeping… life calls and continues on.

Turn off the TV, just sit and eat in silence tonight. Can you do it?

Vegie & chicken tagine

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 leek, finely chopped
500–600g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed
1 zucchini, finely chopped (peel if your kids won’t eat green)
½ eggplant, finely diced (peel if you prefer)
4 tomatoes, diced
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp turmeric (for colour)
1 tbsp honey
Large handful of sultanas

To serve:
Steamed couscous
Flaked almonds
Chopped parsley
Steamed peas

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (with a lid) over medium heat. Fry the onion and leek for 4–5 minutes until softening. Add the whole chicken pieces and cook on both sides until golden (it takes a few minutes each side).

Cook the zucchini, eggplant, tomato and spices. Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes until everything is cooked through. Stir every 10 minutes or so to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom.

Add the honey and sultanas. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve over couscous, topped with almonds and parsley and accompanied by peas.


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