Everyone has hard days, either at work, or at home. Yesterday I had one of those hard work days. A year or so ago I would have dealt with that with food – cake, chocolate, wine – and hours of Facebook/Instagram scrolling. And allowing myself to get angry inside.
Yesterday I leaned in to my new support systems.
A specific colleague who is great at having perspective and a less emotional reaction to bad days. She does not get into the mess with me, she offers me a way out.
A specific group of friends who I am virtually journeying through the year with in a particular quest to make life a little bit better together. We cheer each other’s successes. We help each other through the bad days, offering a wider perspective that we are not bad people, we are good people who have bad days. We have a wide range of skills and talents and sometimes we do things wrong, but we have what we need to correct the mistakes.
A knowledge that eating well and resting well will ultimately help me. So I spent travel time resting not doing. Not diverting my brain, but letting it process. I did indulge in food-based treats – but just a couple of squares of very dark chocolate. I stuck to the healthy eating otherwise during the day. I didn’t reach for the evening coffee and cake combo that my brain started telling me I needed.
And then my domestic support in the guise of my husband – a support system that has been in place for close on three decades! He shepherded me to a cosy corner of a local pub for a G&T. Not the totally healthy solution, but better than downing half a bottle of wine in the kitchen on a school night. Being out of the house contained the debrief of the day. Once we were home I felt happy, supported and reassured and able to refocus in on all that is good.
My sunrise and sunset check in show one little blip in life. At sunrise I was running along the Thames. The day was good as well as bad. I had plenty to write in the gratitude journal, and my overall reflection on yesterday – a very good day with loads of support and lovely people in it. Couldn’t ask for more.
Yesterday was my birthday. I love my birthday. It is a day to relish and do the out of the ordinary. It’s day to take stock of life and enjoy what is good.
I always take a day off work on my birthday (a hangover from when I worked somewhere that offered that as a benefit), yesterday was no different.
My day was filled with a birthday plethora of family and friends, some in person, most via brilliant cards (very funny ones this year!) and kind texts and Facebook messages. It always fills me with amazement and a lot of thankfulness at the huge group of friends I have built over my nearly five decades of life and the steady growth in the family.
It’s been a busy few months and planning the day was a casualty of having too much on my plate over the past few weeks. So friends and family stepped in and planned for me. My birthday involved breakfast out with my husband, a run, some downtime, outdoor swimming and jacuzzi and a relaxed lunch, dinner with family. I ate my favourite foods and drank excellent wine.
None of yesterday would have felt special without the people involved. I felt loved and cherished and that feels good. Thank you everyone.
Thank you for support yesterday. The dog had his blood re-tested and all is well. Apparently having abnormal blood tests is something that happens sometimes, the re-test showed everything to be as expected. The vet said the very reassuring “panic over” (actually I hadn’t panicked – I was just mithering, and I should have been panicking??). I am blaming the strange test results on over-consumption of doggie birthday cake. I am blatantly not a vet, so my diagnosis of cake-affected blood panel should be ignored. The dogs tell me the cake was delicious and they feel it should be consumed more often. As you can tell, the relief is making me slightly silly.
It was a great exercise in me spending a short time writing down the problem I saw and immediately getting a new perspective on it. It is not always clearer, but it is always different to see my thoughts in writing instead of just in a muddled mess of thinking.
The day changed after blogging. The sense of being overwhelmed reduced and somehow nothing seemed so impossible. Hurrah for writing.
My computer insists that the word ‘mithering’ is not correct and keeps auto-correcting it to ‘withering’. Which feels quite apt actually, because I have spent this weekend with a mithering worry in mind and it is withering my relaxation and sense of happiness.
It is just a mither though – nothing too serious and nothing we will not cope with, but still there and bothering me. The dog is not well. We know the dog is not well – he has cancer of the adrenal gland which has made him unwell for well over four years now. But just over four years ago he was given somewhere between weeks and years to live, and he was properly poorly. He has, in his own poodle way, taught us to approach every day of his life with an enthusiastic wagging tail and to look forward to whatever meal, walk, cuddle is right in front of him. Not expecting more, just loving whatever he has. It has been a good lesson in life.
It is a lesson I took to heart a few weeks ago when we decided to have a mad celebration of his tenth birthday. Having never been sure he would make it to ten, we thought it fitting to celebrate what was there in front of us. We baked a dog cake, we bought presents. In fact we seem to have taught the old dog new tricks – unwrapping presents and emptying gift bags – unfortunately he has no way of differentiating between his presents and those intended for others. Oops.
So, I do feel we have enjoyed every moment as much as we can. But this afternoon the vet wants to re-run some blood tests as they suspect the poor dog has a second very rare disease. That would colloquially be known as sod’s law.
It turns out that although I thought I had made peace with him not lasting forever, the sadness of having to actually face this is definitely pervading my mood. Time to just accept I am worried and get on with the day being worried and doing other stuff at the same time. I am hoping that naming it helps that process.
You may have gathered that I am in a slump at the moment. I know it is the transition of the seasons from that gorgeous hot summer to the dark of the winter. I know it is the incredible busyness of September and October. I know it is the change in our family circumstance as one of the offspring leaves home. I know all of that. Knowing it makes it much easier and I had a sense of acceptance that this was just the mood of September and October.
I do feel I am coming through it. I have had to rest for medical reasons, so having to focus on sleeping has probably helped a lot. I have tried to spend a bit of time reflecting on what has gone well and a lot has gone very well and I have done a lot despite the energy slump.
One of the things that has helped a lot is social media. I know it is not trendy to see social media as a force for good, but I do. I am vigilant about what I follow and what I click on, generally I avoid news consumption on social media and I make sure I interact with people, so it becomes an important part of my social activity. It’s not my whole social activity, believe me, but it is a good part of it.
Yesterday it came up trumps in many ways. I directly declared I needed motivation to get to a yoga class and it came in spades, delivered with gusto and humour and of course everyone was right, I felt better for going, I also felt better for having some interaction with people and knowing that they were sympathetic of my sofa versus yoga battle. I could have asked some friends via text to nudge me, but that felt intrusive in their days. The friends on Facebook were obviously having some downtime too and were happy to reach out to me in that downtime. That is a lovely feeling.
Thank you to everyone who helped me out the door, I had a great evening and have had the best night’s sleep this week. And, hugely importantly I had to walk home from the class. Walking in the dark for the first time is always a psychological hurdle in the autumn I find. I leapt that hurdle and had a great evening, much of it down to social media. Thank you!
I fell in love with the work of Gretchen Rubin about a year ago and am a little obsessed with her Four Tendencies, which box people very neatly into a specific Tendencies depending on our response to expectations, both inner expectations – those we place on ourselves and outer expectations – those placed on us by others. There are four tendencies: Obliger, Questioner, Rebel and Upholder. If you would like to join my obsession, do take her quiz.
I am an Upholder, which means I respond well to both inner and outer expectations. I have no problem setting resolutions for myself and keeping to them, equally I will make sure whatever other people ask of me gets done. Each of the Tendencies has a downside though. In the case of an Upholder, it is something that Rubin calls ‘tightening’.
I am feeling that this morning. It is the start of a new month, which means that I will think about what I want to achieve this month. I am sure that by the weekend I will have found the thinking space to do this, but part of the tightening process is that it is no longer good enough to just think about the month ahead, it has to be at another level. I have woken up with the thought that I should have a plan of action for the month, neatly prioritised and ordered on a specific page of my journal. I should have a word of the month, illustrated with a word cloud. It is no longer enough to be living with a bit more intention and reflection, now I need to have everything written in a certain way? Good grief.
Last night I had a delayed train journey home from work and was just too tired to plan my month at work as I had planned, instead I rested. I know, that is totally sensible after a twelve hour day – just read some blogs or a novel. But now I have woken up feeling like a total failure because I have not prioritised my whole month. I have a to-do list for this week and next, all beautifully organised and prioritised, but this darned tightening means I still feel bad. because I don’t have a whole month’s plan. Again – good grief!
Word of the month has been decided though as I write this: loosening!
Good morning. Part two was promised for yesterday, but I was interrupted by having to mindfully buying a vacuum cleaner, having managed to blow up mine. Blogging time was, highly ironically, taken up by shopping online instead.
I cannot say I enjoyed the vacuum shopping particularly though – utterly boring. We did discuss whether or not we should repair the vacuum, but as it was a fairly dramatic blowing out of motor and the remaining carcass smells really quite bad, we are abandoning it. Fixing rather than replacing is of course a really important part of the process. It is specifically not-shopping, rather than shopping. My focus here is on the times when it feels we have run out of choices.
Yesterday’s shopping was a good example of the budget I mentioned earlier this week helping me enjoy shopping a bit more. Buying things for the house used to be a bit freeform. Sometimes I would not buy things that would be useful, because I thought they were too expensive, other times I would randomly buy things we probably did not need (Ikea I blame you). Having to decide how much money to put aside for house decoration and maintenance (pretty much the same thing in my book) has helped make those decisions really clear and relatively painless.
I have found reducing plastic has been another way to simplify shopping. It’s a good way to stop mindless purchase of beauty and hair products. It surprised me how much I did this. Instead I have found one shop which sells bars of shampoo so I am working my way through their selection. It will take me a while as the bars last a long time. I stopped buying shower gels and liquid hand soaps and moved to soap instead, it has been great fun experimenting with different soaps and scents. Some are great. Some are awful, but it is definitely a more intentional process than buying whatever is on sale.
All in all, it seems that reducing choice and having some internal rules about what I can and cannot buy has helped enormously. Less sense of overwhelm, a shared hobby or a specific purpose and surprisingly shopping has become much less of a dread.