Sunday, March 7, 2021

It feels like spring


I'm cheating with this particular photo, as when I took it (early February) it didn't feel at all like spring.  The flowers are so joyful, though, and every year they encourage me to look forward to when spring will be here.

February, too, did feel like a never-ending month.  I often felt fatigue, I often felt depressed in spite of anti-depressants, I often felt the year would never move forward.  Of course, in one way I had good reason to feel depressed and every visit to my parents' empty house has made me ill for the first few days of returning home.  

But now, early March, it does feel like spring.  There have been gloriously sunny days, with actual warmth in the sun.  I've been able to do some outdoors jobs, which includes a massive tidy-up of my biggest shed.  It isn't outdoors, of course, but as far as temperature is concerned it might as well be as it has no heating.  I booked a trip to the local tip and got rid of some huge things and now the shed looks like it never has before.  I went on my first walk since October.  I just haven't had the energy till now.

Spring is a time of new beginnings.  And suddenly I do feel I've moved forward to a new time in my life.  My mood has lifted in the last three days.  Apparently I even sound better on the phone! 

Having brought back lots of tools from my parents' house, and added them to those I already had, which was more than most people have, it occurred to me that I needed to prove to myself that I could still use them and wanted to.  It has been about 18 years since I've done anything with tools other than tiling and decorating as Mike3 did everything with tools and after he died I just asked my builder friend to do all the odd jobs.  It turned out I was quite scared of trying and this has become worse as the years have gone by.  I think somewhere in there was a sense of responsibility to stay ok for my parents.  Now they've both gone, I can have a go again, and if I damage myself, well, there's nobody really depending on me so it doesn't matter.

On Friday I needed to put up a spice rack in the kitchen.  I didn't want to wait till aforementioned builder comes to do various jobs on Wednesday as it meant I could empty one of the boxes I'd brought back.  I would do it myself!  And I did.  Not entirely, it turns out, because I needed advice on using Mike's drill as it was different from my old one.  And advice on size/length of screws and rawlplugs.  But my builder had 15 minutes on his way into town and popped in and advised and now I've done it!

So it feels like spring out there - and it feels like spring inside me too.  I am moving forward, discovering rejuvenated me after a period of statis. (Blogger doesn't know the word but I'm sure all my readers do.)  Nothing I haven't been before and of course now with various age-related aches and pains but still, I feel better.  I feel like spring is happening.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Dining-room cat

Dining-room cat
So this is what this grief is like.
This time it’s taken
seven weeks to hit.
I was waiting and thinking
maybe it wouldn’t.
by the invisible
cut but not cut cord
all my life,
so like each other
in mannerisms
and talents.
The last person I was allowed to hug.
Yesterday I brought home
Dining-room cat, a painting
your grandmother gave you,
and with it I brought the grief
at last.
Symbolic of you, Dining-room cat
has been there all my life
the archetypal cat
as you were, to me,
the archetypal mother.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

World Mental Health Day during a pandemic


It's a while since I've walked down by the canal - or anywhere, come to that.  Life has taken over.  Probably nothing all that different from what is happening to everyone else but the effect on my mental health has been noticeable.

Until recently there were really only a couple of people I talked to about how I was feeling, because what's the point when everyone else is feeling much the same.  I realised, though, that I wasn't talking to quite a number of my closest friends.  Why not?  Eventually I realised it was because so much had happened since I last spoke that the first question might be "why didn't you say anything?" and I didn't really have an answer.

The other reason was that for a few weeks now my life has been filled with anxiety for half of the day while I do things, make telephone calls, arrangements for and speak to my parents, and they are both having a tough time at the moment.  When I did tell anyone about what was happening, the anxiety returned.  Better to say nothing, then.

I got round it eventually, in one case by demanding 5 minutes of a friends' time because I was relaxed after a glass of wine and wanted to tell her when it didn't make me anxious.  She graciously gave me 15 minutes while her husband sat poised with a paused box set at a crucial stage in the denouement.

Gradually, I've talked to or messaged most people.  It's better.  Several of them have sympathised.  Several have said they don't mind me letting off steam, even people I hardly know.  

So on World Mental Health Day I have a message.  It's my usual message, actually.

Talk to people!

Whether you feel anxious, depressed, sad, isolated or happy, relaxed and ready to go, talk to people either about how you feel or about how they feel.  There are too many people in society still not doing it.  

For those who've been following any of my ramblings, my garden is the thing which brings most contentment in this most hideous of years.  Everything seems more difficult with a pandemic, except gardening.  I know this isn't true for everyone, but I feel really sorry for anyone who would like a garden but doesn't have one.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Days of lockdown, part 4 - the wider picture, sort of.


How has my mental health been coping with lockdown?  Am I losing friends, as a report on Radio 4's Today programme recently suggested would happen with friendships when you don't see the other person for more than three months?  Am I being too extreme in my approach?  Not careful enough?  How has my life changed permanently due to Covid-19 rather than the sort of changes I might have expected normally?

My mental health was absolutely fine during the first few months of lockdown but gradually and more recently I have been struggling from time to time.  I love living on my own but I am quite a social person so I've missed going out for coffee with friends the most.  As restrictions have lessened, people who live with someone else can fairly safely go out to restaurants, pubs and cafes but people who live on their own who are not in a bubble with another household can only go on their own.  

People who live with someone else can go on holiday together.  People can do some kinds of holiday, e.g. camping, with friends they don't live with.  People with grown-up families can take holidays with them in places like rented cottages.  I, on the other hand, have been self-isolating for two weeks before visiting my elderly parents and their live-in carer.  The final tin lid on that was that I planned a week of 'holiday' when I came home, to enjoy sitting in my garden, meet with friends for coffee and Cake (which I normally avoid mid-week) and other social things.  Instead, we had a week which was mostly wet and windy plus two sets of my friends that I would otherwise have seen went on holiday.  Life became a bit grim for me and I was been periodically depressed.  

Depression in my case usually involves anxiety and a sense of being out of touch with myself, amongst other symptoms.  On at least two occasions when I did encounter other people (online and 'live') I realised afterwards that my anger was influencing my reactions and behaviour in a way I felt I needed to apologise for.

I started to question why I was self-isolating before visiting my parents when their carer has resumed some of her social activities and went out to lunch (eating outside) with friends, travelling by car (wearing masks but still three or four in a car) and popping into small shops when she goes out for a walk.  There doesn't seem the same point in my not doing that for two weeks before visiting them if she's doing it all the time and before I go again I'll assess the situation carefully and decide at the time how careful I need to be.

I don't think I'm losing friends while not seeing them but then I have friends I rarely or never see anyway.  There are a few local friends I have not been seeing but somehow I think my belief in real friendship still holds good - that it will stand any amount of absence and on seeing the person again it will only be a short while before you are back where you were with the relationship.  I'm fairly confident that friendships will survive.

What I've been experiencing is isolation and some loneliness.  And I've been really grumpy about it all.

Friends say they can't meet for coffee on a particular day because they're doing something with someone else.  Well, you're much better off than I am, then.  I don't have 'someone else' I'm doing things with.  I don't say anything.  But maybe I should?  Friends probably don't know I have any problem if I don't say.  I know there are many people much worse off than I am, however this is about my mental health - and I'm "just sayin'."

The wider picture for me is coloured by the knowledge that autumn is pretty much here, bringing an end to meeting outside and the implications of all of that.  Fortunately, after five months, my acupuncturist has resumed working and I have begun  to feel more like my old self.  I've lost most of the anger.  I've also been mentioning how I feel to people I know, even those I don't know well if they live on their own.  Most people who live on their own seem to think the same way as I do.  This is interesting and makes me wonder if living with other people insulates you in some way against being over-careful.  

Maybe I have been over-careful.  I'm thinking of asking my cleaners to come and clean while I'm at home.   Other people, including my parents, have been doing this.  As autumn approaches I am looking ahead at the things I like about autumn and winter - open fires, good tv to watch, closing out the world once it's dark.  A friend and I have worked out a strategy for safe socially distanced watching of films with a takeaway (or cook-in).  We have a similarly careful attitude and are both happy to move about the room out of each other's way, put on masks when necessary, etc.  And I am getting some nice, mild days so I can eke out a bit of summer living and adjust to the autumn.

As for the wider, wider picture, the national view, world view, politics and social issues and, and, and, and .....  I'm afraid for now I'm unable to give my attention to it.  I do what I can for people I'm closest too.  You really can't do more than your best and that's my best for the time being.

In case you missed it, I'll just point out the pun of the wider view of my vegetable garden above!  And to finish off, we, like everyone else, have had some spectacular sunsets recently and I now have a working camera to record them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Days of lockdown Part 3 - my position

My position, like most people's, is probably unique to me.  Others have similar views but we are in different situations.  This is mine.

Before lockdown began, I could see it coming.  I stopped using public transport at the beginning of March and didn't go anywhere I wasn't prepared to stay shortly after that.  I visited my parents for what I expected to be the last time for months.  After I'd had time to do all of that, eventually we were in lockdown and my 100 days began.

I wore a mask whenever I went out, which to begin with was fortnightly to shop for food for me, and for a couple of months for a friend who was shielding.  A friend who mows my lawn would have a cup of tea on the patio and we used wipes for things we were both handling.

People were talking of lockdown being for a few weeks, or returning to normal, or variations on those but I was never expecting that.  The history of pandemics, I was told by my historian friend, is that they usually have a second wave which is worse than the first.  Then there's our government and the decisions it makes.  Nothing our government was doing was encouraging me to think otherwise - everything was decided at least too late and sometimes insufficient measures were introduced.  To say nothing of the confusion ...

Gradually lockdown was "eased".  People started doing things they hadn't done for months.  I haven't been to a pub or restaurant and don't intend to for the time being.  I'm still wearing a mask when out and in shops and now - quelle surprise! - we're being told we have to.  For a long time, shopping was the most risky thing I could do and now people are waking up to that.

I haven't hugged anyone, not even my friend who had her cat put to sleep.  I have once had coffee outside a cafe with a friend and once in a garden and I've had one set of friends and one family visit on my patio, with food and drink, which we all accessed separately.  Before that I was becoming depressed about how almost every person I know was managing to do something in the way of a holiday with family or friends and I didn't seem to have anything ahead to look forward to.  Yes, I could go away on my own to a safe location, but the point isn't the going away, it's the 'with people'.

I am now self-isolating for two weeks prior to going to visit my elderly parents for a week.  I will enjoy that as it's always good to see them and as they have a live-in carer, I get to talk to three people whenever I want.  I phone them every day but I know my occasional visits are an emotional lifeline for them.  When I'm there I do hug them.  After 14 days of seeing nobody and feeling exactly the same, it's unlikely (though I admit possible) I have the virus so it's a tiny risk to take.

The observant amongst you will have noticed that the title of this post, although it's Part 3, is "Days of lockdown" without the 100.  This is because lockdown is not over, it's only eased.  Many people seem to think everything is ok now and we can relax completely.  It's not ok now and we can only relax slightly.  

Many of my friends think the same as I do but they all have tales to tell of their friends who don't.  I really don't understand where people's head are at.  Hundreds of new Covid-19 cases every day in the UK and many deaths EACH DAY.  Occasionally you get a low day, 9 or 12, but often it's still over 100 deaths in a day.  

So are there any plus points in my new normal?  Yes.  I've had my house repainted on the outside.  A flash of inspiration about how the colour would show the garden to its best advantage now that I'm able to spend more time there, and now here is crocosmia in all its glory.

Secondly, I've not been anywhere or done anything to interfere with my weight-loss regime so have been able to stick to eating very strictly four days a week and relaxing completely at the weekend, with the result that I have already exceeded my annual target of losing 7lbs during the year.

Thirdly - and this is not as incompatible with secondly as you'd expect! - I have discovered that after all fresh yeast is so much better than dried.  For a long time when lockdown began, dried yeast (and flour of any sort) wasn't to be found anywhere but our healthstore had fresh yeast and strong flour.  We had no shortage of bread but I decided retirement was as good a time as any to resume making my own bread.  It's been a great success and I've branched out to focaccia, and almond croissants (see top photo) which are a favourite of mine.  All delicious.

And that's it.  There have been other positives in my life but they either haven't been as a result of lockdown or have been second-best alternatives to seeing people regularly.

The next post in the series will broaden out, I think.

P.S.  I see I used the picture of the almond croissant before.  But I'm leaving it, because it was that good.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

100 days of lockdown - Part 2, patterns

When I began to write "Things to be thankful for" I knew some days they would be very little things because nothing in particular had happened.  I managed to find something positive every day even when things were bad and that with one exception I managed to find something different every day.  At times things were bad too - how do you feel thankful when the world is constantly spinning and you can't lie down to sleep?  But I managed it.  For which, I guess, I'm thankful!  Here's the summary of categories.  (Some things came into more than one category, before anyone does the maths!)

  • There were 21 things related to my garden and 4 to do with wildlife.
  • There were 17 things that were directly related to Covid-19 or lockdown.
  • There were 15 things related to people.
  • There were 14 things related to food and drink.
  • There were 9 things related to weather and 5 which were specifically about rain.
  • There were 6 things related to shopping or treats I'd bought.
  • There were 5 things related to my health.
  • There were 15 things that didn't fit any of the above categories.
  • Although I spent several days thinking I mustn't mention bees again, I found I hadn't actually mentioned them once!
The list is quite interesting to me because I think it might relate the amount of time I spend thinking about all the different categories.  Undoubtedly my garden is hugely important to me and I spent a lot of time in April and early May working in it.  I'm pleased to find that people figure quite highly because people are important to me but sometimes I fear I get distracted by other things going on in my life and don't spend as much time with or on my friends.

Food and drink - well, considering how much time I spend thinking about food and drink it's surprising that I only mentioned them 14 times.  

The list also shows that I haven't gone overboard on comfort buying and don't dwell overmuch on my health.  I'm not sure about the accuracy of these two.  I have actually spent a lot of money during the past three months but much of it has been on equipment for making silver clay jewellery, having decided that's the direction I want to go in at the moment.  And as for health, well I do spend quite a lot of days thinking about my post-viral fatigue and whether I need a nap or not as well as the various injuries and aches and pains I have.  But I suppose I don't tend to talk about these very much as I think I would soon bore people.

I'm very glad I did this and glad that I maintained every single day for 100 days.  It would have been easy to miss the days without anything obvious but my list sometimes made me think carefully about what was important and sometimes it took my focus away from things I needed distracting from.

Lockdown isn't over.  The news describes it as "eased".  However, I knew I needed to set a finishing post, for one thing because I really was going to be repeating myself sooner or later and for another I wanted to concentrate on other types of post and forms of writing.  It's good that I've been prompted to blog, which has been increasingly neglected over the past two years or so.  

And finally, coming to the end of writing my 100 things seems to have coincided with my starting a new direction for my creative work.  The last post I wrote before lockdown was last December, when I wrote about retiring.  I'm quite excited to find something I want to do and am now going to get on with it.