Friday, 6 August 2021

Outliving A Parent


Morning all!

I haven't blogged for a while, and I might write about why another time (it's partly related to the topic of this post) but today I wanted to share a mile stone that I passed a couple of weeks ago, and what difference it's making to my life.

It was my 63rd birthday last month. Nothing special in that - a bit depressing perhaps, to be another year closer to old age and the big sleep - but not significant in itself. However, my mother died of cancer at the age of 62 and the fact of that has been at the back of my mind (and recently right at the front of it) for a decade or so. Back in December last year, I crossed the actual dateline in years, months and days lived that my Mum had lived. I got foolishly anxious in the days leading up to it (on top of all the anxiety from the Covid debacle) and, once I got through that day without pegging out, I breathed a superstitious sigh of relief and got on with my life.

However, in the few days before my 63rd birthday, I found all the old anxiety creeping up on me again. What was the point passing that point in December if I was still going to die at 62? I should say, by the way, that I am in perfect health, that there is no earthly reason why I should have died at 62, just the anxiety that has become a constant companion in the last year made me fear it.

So, as I went to sleep the night before my birthday, I was glad to have the Climber beside me for comfort and reassurance (of course, I didn't tell him anything about this anxiety - as the son of two parents both still gloriously alive in their nineties he wouldn't understand.) When I woke up in the morning and the Climber wished me Happy Birthday, I found myself spontaneously throwing my arms in the air and shouting "I made it! I made it!" He had no idea what was going on but it was a clear sign of the stress I had been under for a long time, and the relief that I felt on waking.

That stress had several components - generalised anxiety, survivor guilt, plus the horrible sense that, because my Mum and I didn't really get on, somehow I didn't deserve to live longer than her. That chorus of inner critics can be hard to ignore.

From the moment of that shout of joy and relief in bed, I have been more relaxed. I honestly feel like I've achieved something - ridiculous, I know, but still... I felt moved to draw two little posters for myself, to remind me not to allow stress to dominate my life. The first one states in bold black letters NO MORE FEAR! The second is at the top of this post and is a celebration of life. I hope my Mum would understand my relief. Even though we weren't close, I would much rather have her, as the Climber does with his parents, here and in my life - for her sake and mine. I think we would inevitably have drawn closer as we both aged and perhaps found ourselves to have more in common.

So now, having passed that long-anticipated birthday, I do feel freer, I do feel (a bit) more light-hearted about life, I even feel more confident. My attitude to life now is to try not to worry about dying. Better people than me have died younger. And to try to enjoy every day as much as possible, not to allow anxiety to ruin whatever time I have left.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Beni's Giant Banana Mountain

This is guaranteed to brighten your morning!

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Timelapse - Icelandic volcano eruption

This is amazing! Did anyone else watch this live? Earth's power at work - awesome.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Happy New Year...Hopefully


Well, folks, at last 2021 is here and it couldn’t come soon enough for me. I expect it’s been the same for most people.

I’m normally a fairly bouncy, positive person. In fact, I’d say that being a positive presence was my ‘thing’. From childhood, I’ve seen it as my job to keep people smiling, to check that they’re okay and make it good if not. Only once I had done that with whoever was in the house or on the radar at the time could I get on with doing my own thing. I’m not an angel. I get angry with people, frustrated and, increasingly as I get older, rather bitter at contemporaries who’ve had better luck than me. But I have always tried to leave someone happier than I found them. In a frightful phrase of my own invention, I like to ‘spread sunshine’.

But last year wore me down to almost nothing. It was okay at first. Back in March, with a national lockdown, I felt I was doing my duty, that the loss of personal freedom would be worth it and, though I found it hard, I knew it was a lot worse for many other people and did what I always do - I looked for the good in a bad situation.

Then, just as we were coming out of lockdown and I was looking forward to shopping and cafe-sitting again, the Government introduced compulsory masks. I objected to the concept - didn’t feel it had a solid basis in science - so, rather than risk fights and dirty looks, I just didn’t go to the shops or my beloved cafes (where I did most of my writing and a lot of my thinking.) And I think that’s where the depression began to set in. I didn’t go beyond the bounds of my own house, the Climber’s house, and my regular walk on the hill behind my house for literally months - 3 months the first time then, after that brief foray back to sort-of normal life, another three months or so of seeing no-one but the Climber, the postie and the occasional person while I was out walking.

At the time, I didn’t think it mattered. I’ve always been the kind of person that makes the best of a bad job. Not just that, I almost relish a bit of adversity so that I can prove what a trouper I am. But the cumulative damage of being so relatively isolated, coupled with the feeling of being deprived of the small pleasures that make life easier - a bit of shopping, coffee with a friend, a couple of nights in a hotel in a new place - started to really make itself felt in the last month or so.

Added to this there have been family problems. In normal circumstances these would have been just part of the warp and weft of normal family life but 2020 was not normal circumstances. I feel as if I have spent almost the entire year supporting other members of my family, or dealing with problems originating with them and, unfortunately, it feels like there’s been little support coming back in the other direction. When I could have done with leaning on someone else’s shoulder for a while, instead I had to ‘be there’ for other people. The final straw was Christmas Day and its aftermath, with a succession of problems with my brother coming to a head. I won’t go into details here but suffice to say it has brought me almost literally to my knees. I have almost no resilience left.

But the Climber has been a star. It took him a little while to realise how bad I was feeling, how low, but he’s on board now, he’s trying to keep me perky, he’s distracting me when I get down and, slowly, gradually, I am beginning to climb out of the pit. 

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Thoughts On Getting Older


Thoreau gets it spot on, as he so often does...

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Anyone Else Finding It Tough Going Just Now?


Photo credit: Mariah on Flickr
Morning world. Is anyone else finding life just a bit blah just now? Stupid question. I would bet that almost everyone in the world is worn down, anxious, frustrated, scared and depressed just now.

Until this week, I've tried to be brave about the difficulties I'm having with lockdown and masks and all the other nonsense we're being told to do. I told myself that I was in a fortunate position. I knew how much worse this crisis must have been for people with businesses, for people on low wages, for those at home alone ... and on and on. But, even so, I am now definitely suffering from stress and I can honestly say that I haven't felt this bad since grieving for the Golfer fifteen years ago.

It's insidious, isn't it? This creeping sense of futility. For me, it's come from the slow sense of loss of control over my own life - not being able to do the small things, like doing a bit of retail therapy, or getting away for a night or two, or even having friends round for dinner and a laugh. Until this week, I refused to join in with the compulsory mask-wearing and that meant just not going shopping. I got everything delivered or did without. Last weekend, I was so down, the Climber forced me to go out with him and so I broke my mask duck, so to speak. I went into my nearest large town for a proper shop this week for the first time in eight months. Eight months! I used to go in five days a week, to do a little shopping but mainly to sit in a cafe and write. (Okay - as you can see from the pic, I used to play Hearthstone and read as well but I DID write too!)

And so, for eight months, I have not done this. It's a small thing compared to the sacrifices other people have had to make, but this and other small sacrifices are really beginning to affect my mental well-being. Incidentally, although I had a lovely time at the shops, giving Waterstones and HMV lots of money, the mask wearing was unpleasant and I felt so sorry for the shop staff who have to wear the damn things all day. So I'm still down, I'm still depressed, I'm still feeling squashed. I've tried distracting myself. I've tried thinking of people worse off than me. I've tried keeping myself so busy that I don't have time to think. But none of it works for long. So, I thought I'd just share, in case anyone else is feeling bad too - you're not alone. We really are all in this mess together and I only hope that one day the people who landed us in it will be held to account.

Take care of yourselves - this too will pass...

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The Most Beautiful Video You’ll See Today

This is a wonderful glimpse of the inner person behind the facade of Alzheimer's - please take a look.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Autumn on the Hill

 I've been having some wonderful walks up the hill this autumn so I thought I'd share some of the images from my most recent walk - hope you like them...

The spiders' webs were highlighted in dew this morning - a misty day.
Spotted this tiny mushroom at the edge of my drive - don't know what it is but something's been having a delicate nibble!
I love this part of the walk - beech trees and an ancient wall, covered in mosses.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Shutting Up Shop


I am a bookseller. Well, to be more exact, I used to be a bookseller. I closed my little internet bookshop, which I have run for 11 years, yesterday. And, honestly, this morning it feels good to be free. I seem to have spent most of my adult life serving other people, whether as parent, daughter, carer, pet owner or in my career. All my jobs have been book-related and serving the public - librarian and bookseller, both as proprietor and drone in Britain's largest chain bookseller.

Gradually, over the last fifteen years, my responsibilities have melted away, sometimes with joy, usually with sadness and grief. Parents died, husband died, son left home and increasingly went his own way, beloved dog died. Before I was fifty, I found that I had nobody (except the aforementioned beloved old dog) to look after any more, nobody to put first. It was not a situation I expected to be in. I'd always assumed that family would always be at the centre of my existence and the meaning in my life but it was not to be. Before you all get your tissues out and have a good cry, though, let me also say that it was tremendously freeing. Very difficult to adjust to (and I still am trying, fifteen years on) but there is no doubt the pleasure of only having to please yourself.

So, partly due to the current situation in the world and the stresses it has brought to all of us, and partly because I am now in my sixties and want to please myself for the first time in my life, I have gradually but steadily over the last few months grown more and more certain that I was ready to close the door to my little bookshop and do other things instead. Yesterday, I spoke to the folk at Abe and Biblio and all of a sudden that was it - my shop no longer existed.

Today, I must admit I am a little down but that's to be expected, I suppose. Selling books has been a part of my life for decades. Also, the Climber didn't help - I invited him to wander through the shop, picking out anything he wanted to take for himself and he spent most of the time saying "what a shame, what a shame" - not exactly what you want to hear when you're trying to look forward!

But I AM sure that I've made the right decision and I can't wait to do WHATEVER I want every morning when I wake up. And, best of all, I am now a book BUYER again and, instead of having a bookshop, I now have a private library that's mine all mine! 

By the way - this ISN'T my library...but a girl can still dream, can't she?

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Silly Saturday

Here's a bit of jollity to brighten up your world'll never see Boris the same again!

Friday, 2 October 2020

The Place We're All At Just Now

 Say what you like about the Covid thingy, it's certainly brought the world together, if only because we are all suffering because of it. I don't know why I didn't think of picking up my blog again right back at the start of the pandemic, and particularly when lockdown was announced here, but better late than never.

So, what’s my tuppence-worth on this thing? Well, like a lot of people, I started off scared of the virus and completely compliant with the UK government’s instructions to lock down. Then, after a couple of months, as the government and the media were continuing to terrify us every day with tales of death and disaster, I began to have difficulty reconciling that with what was going on in my world. True, I live a quiet life in a quiet part of the world, but none of my loved ones had died (a thing I’m sure we were all preparing ourselves for at the beginning). In fact, none of my loved ones had even fallen ill. Trapped at home with only the Climber for company, and a few scattered family members to chat to online and on the phone, I got my information about the wider world from the postie and from the many, many delivery drivers that satisfied my need to shop. After about four months, after talking to them and hearing the experiences of the Climber’s many friends around the country, I knew personally four people who had caught the disease, and they all caught it abroad, skiing. Through wider contacts, I heard of three people who had died DUE to Covid-19 - one caught it abroad and sadly died, one went into hospital for cancer treatment, caught it and died, and the third, heartbreaking, account was of a man in his nineties in a nursing home who killed himself because he’d simply had enough - he wasn’t ill with Covid, he was one of the silent many for whom the ‘cure’ was worse than the disease. (I should add that, another three months on, I don’t know of anyone else to add to the sickness or death figures.)

Because of the mismatch between what the government and the BBC was telling me, and what I was seeing with my own eyes, I began to look for alternative sources of news. That’s a whole other story which I might save for another time but, suffice to say, I found myself peering down the rabbit hole and contemplating jumping in, head first. I pulled back, mainly because it was just adding to the stress so now I am back to alternately scratching my head at the bizarre and random decisions being made by Boris and Nicola Sturgeon, and shouting at the telly. That’ll do for now - just wanted to make a start...more to follow...

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Here We Are Again...


Well, folks, according to my records, it's been a couple of years since I last blogged here. I always seem to do it when I've fallen out with my guess what? Here we are again!

What interesting times we live in. The Climber and I have quite a feisty life together as it is - surprisingly feisty for two such mild-mannered people - but 2020 has put extra strain on everybody's relationships and we're suffering, like everyone else.

Our most recent arguments have been specifically about how we each are dealing with the Covid situation. The Climber favours accepting everything the BBC tells him and obeying the restrictions we are subjected to, so long as they don't interfere with his climbing. I, on the other hand, while naturally a very conventional, law-abiding person, began to question what I was being told after the first scary couple of months. This, apparently, makes me a conspiracy theorist and a trouble maker.

I'll write more in the next post about Covid and stuff (just in case you hadn't had enough of the damn thing already) but that'll do me for just now. Hope you're all well and thank you for sticking with me through the long, long silence - I'm back!