In every end there is a beginning

I lost my job this week. A job that I loved. For an organisation which I was so proud to be involved with, let alone employed by.

I had an inkling that there were questions around the validity of my remote working. I knew that had I been closer to Glasgow I would have found opportunities to extend my remit and help out with more of the face to face, feet on the ground administration of the small charity.

However, I knew, and remain confident, that I was providing a valuable, cost effective and efficient service. Only it would appear that the powers that be disagreed.

I wasn’t consulted or involved in the decision. On Monday it was presented to me all tied up and with a ribbon on the top. Only there wasn’t actually a ribbon, that might have softened the blow.

I’m gutted. Eviscerated with the shame of it. I’ll find another job. I’ll manage to get money coming in. The dent in my confidence. The wobble in my self-belief and newly seeded doubt in my abilities aren’t so easily remedied.

I’m acknowledging the queasy, cold sweat of this uncertainty. I’m not wasting it. If I’m already feeling the fear I might as well capitalise on it. Instead of seeking the familiarity of sticking to secretarial and admin roles I’m venturing out into the unknown and am planning to see if I can get paid for writing.

The terror that this fills me with, the plethora of questions that I need to muddle answers to and the tiny flicker of excitement that this could be amazing are the best sort of distraction.

It’s really lovely to have a cunning plan while I’m curled foetal position, mainlining dairy milk and writing elaborate lists of ways to fast track karmic payback on my less than appreciative ex-employers.

Run for your lives

It will surprise no one to know that I have always leant towards the dramatic. “Run for your lives” was my childhood catch phrase. Oft repeated as I tore around the garden sporting a cape made from an old curtain and fully prepared to assist Wonder Woman in the foiling of dastardly plans.

I am the living embodiment of making a mountain out of a molehill and a drama out of a crisis.

Unashamedly.

I do really well in a crisis. I’m majestic under pressure. It’s the mundanity of daily life which I crumble under.

There is, isn’t there always, a downside. I am prone to panic. My imagination knows no bounds. Helped along by my extensive reading, watching and listening to post apocalyptic, dystopian and the end of the world fiction.

Should my long suffering husband be 10 minutes later home than expected he’s dead. No not in a threatening I’m going to hurt you way. In a horrible accident, police at the door, sobbing widow way.

Now a sensible person would use the tracking app thingy to locate him or phone to check in. I carefully and methodically begin planning his funeral. Agonise over how I am going to tell the girls. Break out into a cold sweat at the thought of navigating the parents in law without an ally. All because he’s stuck behind a tractor on the A96.

I am conscious that this probably isn’t terribly good for my mental health. Let alone my cortisol and adrenaline levels.

I have been attempting lots of mindfulness and distracting myself with gratitude lists and the like. It has had absolutely no impact.

About a fortnight ago I was having a bit of a wobble. In an effort to attempt to settle to sleep I put on radio 4, only to hear a news report about the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. Immediately, I go straight to – do they have nuclear weapons? Shit I think they both do. I’m now navigating my way through the post-nuclear landscape to Tesco to get a shopping trolly and head out like in Cormac McCarthy’s Road.

Sleep was not going to come. I switched on the light and wrote. A big list of worries. It was a much easier list than those gratitude ones I had been agonising over.

Climate change.

Brexit.

School places.

The employment prospects of my eldest daughter – she’s 13 at the moment so I have a while to worry about this one!

Will we ever chose wallpaper for the bathroom.

India and Pakistan. Syria. Sudan. Yemen. All the other places where my limited geographical knowledge lets me down.

All featured on the list. The very act of writing them down released me of the need to continue to bounce them around my head. I slept better than I had in ages.

My new bedtime routine has me skipping to bed. Where I perch, pencil poised ready to list all the things that want to keep me up at night. I’m having such fun. As was my husband, laughing at me.

Although he shut up pretty sharpish when I threatened to put him in the blue suit when the grey suit looks much better open casket. It would appear that actually telling people you have spent large chunks of time planning out their funeral doesn’t lead to them sleeping quite so soundly.

Feeling the overwhelm: Could pleasure seeking respark your joy?

I work from home, only have two children and am fine with our house being clean-ish but chaotic. I should have hours to spend as I please. Time to spend on activities to revitalise, refresh and rejuvenate me.

Except I didn’t. I spent very little time doing anything which brought just me any joy. All my focus was on other people. All my joy was derived from the happiness of others.

I know that I’m not alone in this. My friends, sisters and the equally exasperated women I encounter are all saying the same thing “we never get any time for ourselves”.

But we do. An Oxford University study has shown that we have lost some leisure time since the 1970’s. But we’ve only lost 2.46 hours a week. Leaving us with 113 glorious hours of free time. So why are 81% of women reporting that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope?

An operation on my ankle, and a period bed bound, gave me an insight as to why this might be. With instructions from the doctor to rest, I was relieved of all household and childcare duties. I worked from bed but the rest of my time was my own. I was miserable.

I had no idea what to do to spark joy. I watched hours of Netflix, convincing myself that an opportunity to watch all of the box sets was a great thing. It wasn’t.

Being stuck in bed wasn’t the problem. I was so disconnected from what brought me pleasure. I had no idea how to spend my time when all I had to do was please myself.

I brainstormed all the things that I could do to make me happy and started seeking joy.

I wrote letters to friends and family, delayed gratification but the flurry of post in return was joyous. I read, 9 books in 3 weeks. I wrote lists, journal entries and even a couple of short stories. I phoned people, not text, actual conversations. In short, I did things that I claim I don’t have time for when I’m on my feet.

It was heavenly.

Of course, I had to get back out of bed. I wasn’t dreading it. An idea was starting to form. It isn’t about the time devoted to pleasure it’s about maximising the pleasure in whatever time you have.

It’s easy to prioritise the needs of everyone else and much harder to take control and say “I need”. So start small.

I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier. This way I have time to disguise the dark circles under my eyes and apply an eyeliner flick and some mascara. It brings me great pleasure to feel pulled together and not see a wisened old crone every time I pass a reflective surface.

I’ve stopped talking the dog on our ordinary, boring route and now factor in an extra 30 minutes so that I can get to the woods or beach where walking him is an absolute pleasure.

I bought my husband fancy headphones. It was a completely selfish gift to give me peace while he watches tv of an evening. I spend those blissfully quiet, child free hours reading.

I grab myself a take away coffee at the supermarket. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the weekly shop is when I’m adequately caffeinated.

I haven’t managed to add a 25th hour to the day. But these wee nuggets of genuine, completely selfish, joy make my days. And as with anything the more you go looking for joy the more you find.

Emotional Continence

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Obviously not literally, I like mad jewellery but that would be pushing even my boundaries. I’m trying to say that I’m not really capable of hiding what I’m feeling.

As the name of this blog suggests, I am the proud owner of an impressively witchy cackle. When I’m excited I squeak. I kid you not, like a slightly broken guinea pig and don’t be mucky I didn’t mean that kind of excited! If I’m passionate and enthusiastic about something I will be loud and hold on to all breakables I’m the terrifying combination of clumsy and a gesticulator. Confusingly if I’m angry, tired, hormonal, sad or especially happy I will cry. Good luck tying to figure out why I’m leaking.

I’m quite happy to ride a rollercoaster with my emotions, bouncing between extremes. Admittedly, given the amount of liquid eyeliner I wear the fact that I cry most days is a little inconvenient. Well it was until that review and welcoming Kat Von D into my make up bag. I’ve digressed.

I cry most days. I also laugh multiple times every day. I’m not depressed. I have been. I didn’t cry, or laugh, or really feel anything at all. For me depression is a numb, desolate place where even my emotions are muted. My normal is running the gauntlet of lots of powerful emotions and dealing with them openly and often loudly.

It seems to be the crying that causes people the most discomfort. People know how to respond when I’m cackling, are generally too worried about breakages when I’m enthusing and when I’m excited hilarity that a grown woman has just ‘squeed’ will follow. Tears have most people stumped. It’s horrible. A good cry is a magnificent thing. The palpable release of tension. A signpost for those people who care that you need them. But much more than all of this we need the tears to really feel the laughs.

Life is never going to be all about those belly clutching, ‘I think I might have just peed a bit’ laughs. In order to truly and better appreciate them there needs to be an opposite. The mascara ruining, multiple hankie, blotchy faced sob session.

I believe that in embracing the snotty sobbing we expand our range. Enabling us to reach headier heights of happiness. And if you need some suggestions here are just a few of the things that have made me greet.

  • When the cake I bought was pastry with cinnamon and not enriched dough and cinnamon.
  • Charity adverts.
  • G and the girls finding loads of fly agaric toadstools when I couldn’t go for a walk because of my stupid ankle.
  • If I think about Flash for too long. Flash was my cat, he had to be put down in 2015.
  • Bad haircut. Ok, several bad haircuts.
  • Part way through a massage.
  • During a stupid fight with g over a hedge.
  • Some nights when I tidy up my duvet dancing girls. Eternally grateful that we get to tidy up sleeping children.
  • Almost every book I read.