the biggest lives are the smallest ones

The Quarter Gap Year (QGY) is not just a period of time – three months, a quarter of a year. It is also a mindset. It is about trusting yourself, following your interests, taking notice of the things around you and paying attention.

I do that naturally when I travel, maybe because I am conscious of my surroundings and making decisions about where to go next. I’m quickly finding out that it works just as well – but differently – at home. Where travel offers dramatic scenery, awe-inspiring nature and finely curated history, at home I have switched lenses to take in the tiny details of the normal, the familiar, the usually invisible or taken for granted. Here are my top ten in no particular order…

1. There is the park across the road. When we moved into our building last Summer we bought fancy plastic champagne flutes with the aim of decamping for happy every week to soak in the views of the river. We did that once. I’ve been every day since the start of the QGY, though not with bubbles yet… Today I noticed it is dedicated to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. More on her in a future blog post…


I spent a peaceful hour there this morning, journaling, watching dogs playing on the cool grass, elderly ladies taking a rest on a bench on their daily walk, a young guy with a laptop making it his WFH office, and the occasional DC power walker talking much louder than necessary via the medium of their apple blue tooth earphones.

2. The view from my lounge window – the sun streaming through the green green leaves. Nothing more – that’s it. Yet so peaceful, so beautiful, so fresh as you start your day.


3. The simple joy of a homemade lunch cooked with care, attention and no care for time. Exibits A and B.

4. Having the time to see what’s happening around me. In the gardens by the Capital over the weekend, friends finding a way to connect, a woman on the phone among the tulips, the Capitol casting its white glow on everything around it.

5. Getting out of bed because I want to rather than because I have to. Strangely for someone who have NEVER been a morning person, I’m up before the sun these days. Seasoned readers will be placing bets on how long this situation continues.

6. Writing. I love to write. I care about a lot of things. The past five years, the only thing I’ve written about is kidnapping, and very narrowly because of my position. I can now allow my mind to wander, be free, explore ideas, and work through new positions. It’s good to be back. My latest: ‘when the storytelling needs to stop’

7. Naps. I never nap. Not my thing. But I sure as hell reserve the right to. Day Three – two naps in. Nice.

8. Feeling the sun on my face. And even better, when you know you don’t have to move anytime soon.


9. My husband. My reduced stress levels are already paying dividends for our relationship. Last night in bed, he spent a happy 15 minutes telling me about a new programming language he’s learning. He lost me at “I’ve started learning…” but it felt so good to listen – really listen – take an active interest, have nothing else on my mind but what he was saying, and encourage him along with questions. He deserves that from me, but I haven’t been able to give him enough of that so far.


10.,Gin. I’ve always enjoyed a g&t, but lately I’ve started to understand it, savor it, and get the hang of botanicals. Drinking. I also like drinking it. Ever the forward planner, Paul (husband) researched and bought me a raft of award winning gins for our drinks trolley ahead of the start of the QGY, along with rather more bottles of tonic than I am comfortable admitting to. Whether it’s a Gun Powder Irish gin with its licorice flavor and a straight tonic or a classic Hendricks and cucumber tonic, 5pm comes and you know where to find me. Location details below.


And so you see, the biggest lives really are the smallest ones. Sleep and sunshine, love and listening, food and fun making. These are some of my favorite things – and for the next three months I can have as much of them as I want. And that right there is why I love QGYs so much.



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