Little furry ball and chains

I just tried to go for a walk. My cats had other ideas. First Poppy followed me, miaowing in a most uncharacteristic manner and circling my feet. I figured she was just miffed that I had left without letting her back in the house – so obediently retraced my steps and let her in. At which her brother, Ixxy, came bounding out and proceded to do exactly the same when I set out again. This is not particularly like them. Do they know something I don’t I wonder?

Anyway. I decided to come in and have a cup of coffee instead. I’ll go out in a bit and catch the bus into town. Walking can resume another day.

And it will. The purpose of my walk, as well as just a walk on a nice-ish, warm-ish spring day, was to talk to myself.

Sounds odd perhaps, but I set myself a little mission a while back, to get better at talking. Outloud.  I’m fine with written communication – but sometimes I really struggle verbalising orally.  It’s like the wiring between brain and mouth is dial up compared to that between brain and hand which is high speed fiberoptic or whatever the latest whizbangery is.

So I try, occasionally to do one of these brain dump type things into the voice recorder on my phone.  It’s tremendously difficult. And listening back is excruciating. Why do I sound so posh? And knackered? The microphone picks up every pant and wheeze. I don’t sound healthy.

Of course I’m not really very healthy at all. And therein is another of my many motivations to walk.

Tomorrow is my last day at work.

I took voluntary exit. This is huge. Sixteen and a half years. All manner of stress and torment. Done.

I’m sad it’s ended the way it has. It’s going to be a damp squib – only one or two people left of those I have spent such a chunk of my life with. The service I have worked in and tried to build up and improve over the years as I got more responsibility – well. Good luck to those left behind and now arriving. I have hope but it shouldn’t have been let down so badly. Cuts upon cuts upon cuts – so much skill and knowledge lost.

But that ceases to be my problem tomorrow.

My problem then is me. Sorting out my head, my body, and building up a new life that will bring me more joy than I had before.

I don’t underestimate the task.

Walking threads through it. I’ve long wanted to build up a daily walking habit, but long commutes and working hours have combined with depression and exhaustion to just make it never stick. Well then now is the time to overcome that.

I have all the time in the world. For at least a few months. Which should be enough to build a habit.

Fitness, time to think, to brew ideas, to talk to myself. To feel the breeze on my face, to explore my beautiful home, to listen to the birdsong and the wind, the distant trains and cars. Smell the smells of the countryside, both fragrant and foul. Be inspired, take pictures, paint, write poetry. Remind myself that the world is there, living, breathing, being so much more that what we see in the tellybox. That there is peace and joy among the chaos and the noise.

And somewhere in there I will find the strength I need to make the next however many years better than the last. Not that the last have been bad – but we all deserve better if it is possible.

It’s not about money, or fame, or status. It’s feeling at peace, and that you are doing what you should be doing with your time, not just whatever you ended up doing when your little boat first hit the shore of adulthood.

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Tick tick tick

Waiting, waiting. I am leaving work in two months. Was meant to be last tuesday but I agreed to stay on – to help, to do some things which I am best placed to do. Half thought there might be some financial benefit but I don’t think that is the case now. So now I am watching the clock tick down – knowing I won’t get done what I need to. Being delayed by the same infernal internal politics that had me running for the door in the first place.

And I am also waiting for a date for surgery. Which will probably come around the same time as I leave. So I know I will need some recouperation time. Which means I can’t really plan anything. Which is frustrating.

Meanwhile I try and think about what I want to do. With this time I have, with the few months I can give myself before I have to be earning more money. And what do I want to do to earn that money in the long run?

I had been working towards doing a PG Dip in Counselling next year. I’m on the PG Cert at the moment. But it will be an expensive and time consuming process if I do it. Maybe I need to think more thoroughly and be sure if that is the right avenue. I am interested in the theory. I am interested in people. I want to help, and I think I have an aptitude – but, but. How does it impact me? How will I respond to real life problems? When they transcend the difficulties that I have helped friends through in everyday life.

I’m thinking a little counselling of my own, and maybe some volunteering in some way might help me see whether I am as suited as I think I am. And if I can overcome other challenges which may be in my way.

Should I then focus on some of the things I haven’t had, and won’t have the chance to do othewise. For a little while. Writing, painting, making things.

Follow a path, see where it leads.

Family

This has been a hard week in so many ways. We have come to the latest milestone in an excrutiating restructuring programme which is eviscerating my team. Already we know who is leaving. Today is the deadline for those applying to stay. A horrible process which – while it was never going to be easy – has certainly not been designed to minimise stress for the participants. It’s been hard work even to do my contributions, when I know I am leaving. The torment for those wanting to stay is just horrible.

I worry for the future. Theirs, mine, the service we have struggled so hard to keep going and do well. But at least we have one. The hardest thing this week has been losing one of our own. We heard on monday that a colleague had passed away the previous week. This was sudden, despite her having been ill for a week or two. We didn’t have any idea it was anything serious. Indeed neither did she. She thought it was stress related, as did the doctor she saw. Because the last few months have been awful, it’s not unlikely that many of us might have been fraying at the seams. But apparently there was something else underneath. We don’t know what yet.

I feel bereft. My team is my little family. I feel motherly towards them all. I do everything I can to try and help them. Worry desperately about trying to ensure everyone rubs along well together, try to help people understand eachother. I am hugely proud of what we acheive together despite little being in our favour most of the time. I try to encourage staff to make the best of themselves, believe in their capabilities and gently encourage them to reach for whatever goal will bring them happiness.  Sheila was relatively new to the team. She’d been with us a couple of years. She came to us having had a rough time in her previous job, and I wanted to make sure we made her feel welcome. It really wasn’t hard. She was so helpful and willing and eager to learn. She had to learn a whole new range of tasks and applications and processes – because information work is quite different from generic administration work, and more complex than people think it is. But she never moaned. She was keen and interested and gave great service to our customers.

Someone shared with us that she had told them she felt really valued and happy and at home in our team. That gives me comfort. We did our job well.

I am angry that there are managers out there who don’t think like that. Who see their staff as sponges who can absorb more and more and more work, or be wrung out until there is nothing left. Who are unsympathetic if people are sick, or need adjustments to help them be able to deliver the best work they can. We spend so much time together, why make it unpleasant? People who think only of themselves. How can I use this individual to in some way improve my own chances. What competition are they to me? What can I do to sabotage them. I hate that in people. People who see work as an excuse to behave in a manner they never would with friends or family.  Seeing “professionalism” as somehow hard and cold and ruthless. These are the kind of people that make work hell, make people ill, and paradoxically, often make their staff less productive, efficient, cost effective etc. And yet they are the ones who end up at the top of the tree because they don’t care who they step on to get there. Don’t mind making the “difficult decisions” that mean people lose their jobs or are pressured into illness. They don’t say no, or offer other ways of doing things, because they only care about pleasing the boss. Regardless if the boss is wrong. Which they sometimes are. And need telling, respectfully, why what they suggest is a really bad idea.

But that’s a tangent. I was talking about family. There are lots of different types of family. The actual relative ones. The blood ones you don’t get to choose. The adoptive ones you dont get to choose but who chose you. The friend ones you probably get on with most. And the work ones. Who if you are lucky are also friend ones. You might not know them as well as some of the others – but whose fault is that? Anyway. They are precious. Look after them. Mine is hurting and I wish I could make it stop.

Habit forming

True to form a couple of weeks of relative good behaviour, going to the gym, walking etc – is followed by illness which lays me low. Coincidence perhaps but I must, as soon as I can walk more than three steps without feinting or coughing my guts up, must seize the day, bull by the horns, grasp the nettle, clamber back upon the horse (exercise bike). I need to build these habits to the point where it feels wrong not to go.

I was enjoying it. I generally do. It is more time and mood and energy that gets in the way – the latter two of course benefit when I find the first, but work and commuting and public transport collude to make it hard.

But I will try again.

If… If, I take the plunge and find myself at greater liberty next year, I must make myself build a walk in every day. For fitness, but also the inspiration it brings. The thinking space, that is so hard to find. In the house, I am plagued by should do this and should do that, or worse should have done this or that, a million miles and hours away from when it would have done me any good. For peace of mind I try to chase the thoughts away, mindfully meditate, breathe deeply and calmly. But sometimes you need to think. But have the thoughts be useful, helpful, inspirational. And walking does that, eventually. The first half hour or so you chase away the nagging doubts, and with sweat comes clarity – first the fresh air and beauty around you, a quiet respite, then something stirs and lightbulbs light.

And I want to get fit. If I end up back in some 9-5 sat on my bum scenario, I want the load to be lighter. Who knows what life is like without debt or weight? Both so heavy round your neck, they bend you down until you cannot see the way ahead.

I don’t want to be a willow the wisp. Just not quite so gravid, quicker on my feet. Able to jump down from a wall without fear.

If. If. Of course I might not be let go. And so Plan B must also form. Which will recquire much greater discipline.

Hope Floats

 

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So if you are in England and watch the news you will probably have noticed that things got a little wet. Over much of the North, Scotland – homes & businesses destroyed, bridges washed away, roads collapsing.

The Calder Valley has been hit hard. Again. Somewhere I wrote (I think on my old blog) about the events of 2012 – when we were hit twice in the space of a month, once from rising river levels, and then from a freak flash storm onto the already saturated moors turning roads into waterfalls and overwhelming the rivers and drains again. People went through hell, but they also banded together and worked hard and most got back on their feet. There were a few casualties among the businesses of the valley which never opened up again, or which didn’t last long – the difficulty of getting insurance or cost of claiming – along with a less than stellar economic climate, makes it really hard. But even in the past six months new enterprises have sprung up from the ashes of old (Moyles hotel /bar/restaurant had stood empty until the new Moyles B&B was opened in one third of it)

But then it happened again. Boxing Day – I was in Leeds myself and watched the horrible events online as the waters rose and my firends were once again innundated. I live in Hebden Bridge, so most of what I see is related to there – but the damage is widespread, Mytholmroyd, Eastwood, Todmorden, Elland, Brighouse, Copley – more. The waters rose higher this time, over 6ft in some places (above floor level, which in itself is much higher than the usual river level). People had in many cases tried to put their belongings / stock high up to save them, high enough that they would have escaped in 2012, but not this time.

As the waters dropped and people surveyed the devastation – mud and sludge and silt covering everything, the valley began to do what it does best.

If you’ve never been here, Calderdale is beautiful. Absolutely stunning.

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Stoodley Pike looks down over the bost alluring mix of gentle rolling hills and rugged craggs, man made echoes of industry somehow complementing the wild moors and steep wooded sides. It is beautiful. And a wonderful place to live. I was almost going to say despite the floods. But I also want to say because of the floods. Because the floods show you what is most beautiful, which is not always easy to see. And that is the people. The wonderful people – many of whom do great things in drier times too, as we are a creative, generous place – but so many more who when the need arises, ask no questions except – How can I help?  Thousands of people who flock to volunteer to muck out, to clean, to feed, to clothe, who donate cleaning equipment, clothes, toys, furniture, electrical goods, their time, money, services. Everyone thinking desperately “what can I do?”. People trying to turn their skills so that they can support the effort to put the valley right again.

It is going to be hard. So many people have no insurance, or cannot claim – ridiculous excesses / expense imposed on people who have nothing by companies which make obscene profit every year. Businesses which would often find these coming, post christmas months difficult at the best of times. People who were on zero hours contracts, whose workplaces are out of action for who knows how long. And still the rains fall.

But – with the help of the people of the valley – and the even more amazing people who are travelling from all over the country to help, to bring free food, to restore our faith in humanity and show the meaning of compassion and love (more on which another day) – there will be recovery.

A number of appeals have been put together to raise money – a main one which will help individual residents and be matched by the government – and then lots of crowdfunders for the many businesses which are affected. Celebrities and authors have donated items for auction to support some particular causes, and there are some great ideas like a raffle to win a wedding package with all the different things you might need.

If you are able, please do contribute – if you want to offer more practical support or buy something to support the clean up / refurbishment effort then please check the posts on Calder Valley Flood Support facebook pages to make sure you get what is currently needed, as the situation changes day by day.

Calder Valley Flood Support on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/cvcsg/?fref=nf

Amazon wishlist of items needed – buy from here and it will be delivered direct to the hubs
https://www.amazon.co.uk/registry/wishlist/16057BFO4YNG1/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_it_wl_o_xIOGwb0E8EH8B

Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal:
https://localgiving.com/appeal/flooding

Calderdale’s Big Fat Wedding Raffle: (can you donate a prize? Or watch this space for details of how to buy tickets)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/806485476141124/

Support for individual businesses / organisations / schools etc.

Ebay auctions to support Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club:
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/sowerbycricketfloodappeal/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=

Ebay auctions to support the Book Case, Hebden Bridge
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/bookcasehebdenfloodauction/m.html?_nkw&_armrs=1&_ipg&_from

Contributions of Vinyl wanted for record fair to support Muse Music / Love Cafe: Donations to The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, email: lizktradesclub@gmail.com

Contributions of Art to be auctioned for the flood appeal – or a venue for this auction, contact Caroline Reed on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/caroline.reed.507?fref=nf

Crowdfunding to save 2Tone Comics:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/2tonecomics

Crowdfunding to save Ribbon Circus Habberdashery:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/ribbon-circus

Crowdfunding for Dark Angel Clothing:
https://www.gofundme.com/5pe9ak

Crowdfunding to replace toys for Riverside Fun Club:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/r-bracken-1

Crowdfunding to save Hiu Man Chinese Takeaway and help them contribute to providing food for volunteers:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/hiu-man

Crowdfunding to rebuild Monster Computers:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sarah-vardy

Crowdfunding for Mytholmroyd Community Centre:
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/karen-harker

Crowdfunding for Molly and Ginger (clothes shop)
https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/mollyandginger

Finally – it obviously wasn’t just my home town affected, here are some other appeals for other affected areas – I know there’s only so much money to go around but as they say – every little helps.

https://mydonate.bt.com/events/lancsfloodappeal

https://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/forevermanchester/GMFloodRecoveryAppeal/

http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/cumbriafoundation/cumbriafloodappeal2015

(Please let me know if you know of any more and I will add them / share widely)

 

 

2014 Bring it on

After that little bit of navel gazing – much abridged of course, the time comes for looking forward and asking what we want of the year to come. I can’t ask for it to be a better year than last. Ain’t going to be getting married again. And it isn’t going to be as much fun, because we’re going to have to reign in on the drinking, the eating, the spending. Ho hum. But then I say that every year don’t I.

1. Health
We both want to lose weight and get healthier. So – cutting out booze for a few months, then being a whole lot more sensible. Back to the predominantly veggie diet with occasional treats. More exercise. – for me, walking and swimming to begin with. Maybe I’ll go back to the gym at some point but with my dicky shoulder I think some strengthening is needed first. Goal – to be fitter, and smaller by this time next year.

2. Debt
The wedding, and christmas, have not been my pocket’s friend. So I am going to work out a repayment plan before I go back to work – I have to do my tax return too so it’s a good time to get all my papers in order. Goal: to be less in debt this time next year.

3. Write
Finish the book – and get into finished format by end of year

4. Art
Paint & draw more.

5. Business – Roses and health
Be more active in promoting Rose Tinted Ribbons, and think about how I can take MHFA out of work.

6. Home
Keep decluttering. Make upstairs as clear as downstairs. Put up shelves. Get new shed.

7. Mind
Keep practising mindfulness. Using beats to help sleep. Be kind to myself. Enjoy life. Be honest about my own basic needs.

8. Relationships
Break unhealthy routines and build new, positive ones to keep our marriage healthy.

2013, how did that go?

Happy New Year world! I hope 2013 was kind to you. I had a wonderful year. The first half of it taken over by preparations for the wedding – then in May, the most fabulous weekend of my life, followed by Como, and then the last half of the year – well. If I’m honest it was always going to be a bit of a come down. Work has been hectic. I’ve tried to do some work on the house in time for Christmas, and to give myself credit it’s a huge improvement (downstairs at least). But there was a major mood slip. And at this time of reflection I want to try and learn from the highs of the first half of the year to try and make more of 2014 similar to that than the deep depression of October.

So. Last year’s resolution post – wow. I’m not easy on myself am I! And that was supposed to be an improvement on the years that went before. Still. Did I achieve something in all of them?

1- Get Married.

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Well the ring on my finger says this one went ok 😉 No. More than Ok. I worked my arse off to get everything I needed to do done – and we had such a special day. Indeed two special days. We had a small ceremony at the registry office on the Thursday with just witnesses and parents (and an aunt, who was over from America). Was a bit odd – we had a lovely meal at the Shear’s Inn – then I went home to do more DIY, while my new husband went into town with his best man and my chief bridesmaid to buy belts. (and no doubt more beers). The weather on Friday was appalling, sleet, snow, – all in late May. So I was much relieved when I woke up on Saturday to look out of my window at the White Lion (most amazing Honeymoon suite) – to pink cherry blossom against a cerrulean blue sky. I like to think of the weather on Saturday and Sunday as gifts from my grandmas. Because come monday it was awful again.

That Friday night was awful. Not the meal with family or anything – but because it was the first time I didn’t have something to do – and I had to just stop – try and relax. Failed miserably. I was so worried. I was up all night tossing and turning. Eventually gave up and meditated for a couple of hours. Think I maybe slept for two. So it was a good job I had two hours of hair and make-up before the main event. Saturday morning Mark was up at the church cleaning and sprucing while the flowers were done by Claudette from Fleur de Lys. I was up with the lark and off with my A team to the Town Hall to set up.  People said, oh, you’re mad, doing all that on the morning – you should have got someone else to do it, but if the night before was anything to go by, I made the right decision. Keeping busy kept me sane. Plus, I’m too much of a control freak to have been happy letting someone else do it. I twitched that I couldn’t style each and every table exactly as I wanted it. But I am mighty proud of how I planned everything, down to the lanterns, vases and books on the tables, and the timings, to get everything ready just on time. Spreadsheets FTW!
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2. Creativity.

Well. I certainly got everything I wanted to done for the wedding. Made the invites, complete with hand drawn sketches for the illustrations, – hand bound, two different types. Made (with some assistance) a great deal of bunting, both cloth and paper. Made lanterns and lamps, table numbers, a table plan, and made bouquets for myself, the bridesmaids, a basket for the flower girl, hair ornaments, bouttonieres, and roses for the swags at the church.
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Haven’t painted as much as i’d wanted to. Though I have been going to occasional classes at Northlight – helped recently by winning a bursary from the Hebden Bridge WI to do five drawing classes. Done two so far. Plus an oil painting class. I will have to take some more pictures to add to this post as the ones I had I think were lost in the tragic hit and run which killed my phone.

Nor have I done the walking thing. We’ve been terrible this year exercise-wise actually. I’ve put on so much weight. I think since making the decision not to participate in the wedding weightloss madness – because I knew it would inevitably not succeed to the extent I would like given everything else I had going on, and I didn’t want that disappointment to spoil my day. – Totally the right decision, but since June I should have changed my habits and I haven’t. (to be continued…)

Poetry – well a few pieces have spilled out of my brain and onto this blog. But nothing concerted.

3. So the looking after myself one is interesting. Obviously haven’t done it physically. Nor did the veggie / treat day thing last very long. But mentally I think I have made a lot of progress. The beginning of the year I went through some CBT – I wasn’t sure how useful it could be – I had been referred 11 months previously when I was in a much worse place. I wasn’t actually too bad in January. But I know my brain and I knew the peaks would eventually give way to troughs, so it was worth giving a go to learn some techniques. I’m glad I made the effort.  I’ve learnt a great deal about diffusing some of my negative thought patterns, and other ways of soothing my anxieties. I’m exploring mindfulness meditation, and using binaural beats to help me relax and sleep. Sleep in itself is such a vital part of keeping on an even keel. I don’t think I realised how much my poor sleep was a cause of my problems rather than a symptom. Though of course it’s a vicious circle – no sleep = depression & anxiety = no sleep.

So i’ll give myself brownie points on my mental wellbeing this year. Added to which, I am now an accredited MHFA Instructor – and delivering the training regularly gives me a regular reminder of what i need to be doing to help myself win the battle over my wayward mind.  Of course – on the other hand, the physical side – I would probably take those brownie points and eat them, washed down with a pint of stella. Which isn’t good for body or mind. So must try harder for a gold star next time.

4. Rose tinted ribbons.

No. Haven’t put as much effort into this as I should. Any really.  I’ve kept making roses. I did one order for a lady at work. But it needs more energy and a strategy to stick to.
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5. Debt.

Ha ha ha ha haha haha ha ha. ahem.

No.

6. Novel

Hmm. Well. I did make progress. Tried to do NaNoWriMo again in November. Made a good start, but work got busy so I didn’t keep it up. But I’m about 115,000 words or so now. My plan is pretty good, but I will need to go back through and pad out, make certain things make sense. I don’t know how it will read to someone who doesn’t have all the backstory in their head. We’ll see. I also made friends with writing on the ipad – so that means I can pick it up wherever I am.

I’ll give myself a 6.5 out of 10 I think for the year.