Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Article excerpt

I am sitting in the middle of the living-room floor doing my "mindfulness" meditation. This is a new thing for me. Recently, my stress levels have been off the chart. I must have more than a million things to worry about.

First, the condition of the roof struts in the house we are moving in to; where on earth we are going to find builders at such short notice; whether we should be moving at all, considering the house is derelict and too close to a major ring road; how on earth I'm going to pack all the boxes with a baby and a toddler needing my constant attention.

Then there's whether and how and when I should go back to work; whether if I do go back I will be made redundant; whether if I get made redundant I will find another job before we default on the mortgage and lose our home; whether I should start giving the baby pureed food or follow the trendy new "baby-led weaning" regime; whether the toddler should go to nursery more, so I can do more work, or less, so I can spend more time with the children.

As if the actual things I have to worry about are not enough, I also like to fret over a selection of state-of-the-world issues that are completely beyond my control. The perilous state of the environment, mainly, but there are others.

I realised it was time to take up meditation when I found myself lying awake at four in the morning worrying about the economy and the rise of China.

So here I am, kneeling on the rug, trying to focus on my breaths and count to seven. …

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