Sanity walks

I watched Casualty on Saturday night. One of the characters was a woman who was caring for her severely autistic teenage son and not getting much in the way of breaks from the full on nature of it all. She ended up abandoning him in the city centre. He got run over and she got drunk and fell down a flight of stairs. When she arrived in A&E she claimed to be a single woman until she was found out.

I have no intention of abandoning my children and pretending they don’t exist! I have no intention of getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs either. But what stopped me in my tracks somewhat is the feeling of total identification I found I had with this woman. I found myself finishing her sentences for her. Nodding in total empathy. So much so that One, afterwards, said in a worried voice ‘You’re not going to run away from us, are you?’

No. No, I’m not.

I’m a very introverted person, ideally needing frequent alone time to recharge my batteries. In our current situation, that is simply impossible. I don’t mind at all, it’s just the way it is, and I love work and I love being with my children, caring for their various quirks and needs. But with a complete lack of the alone time my personality craves, coupled with a long series of late nights trying to do all the essentials to run a household, and never ever catching up, I can feel myself starting to break.

Last night I dreamed that I ran completely out of cope and had a breakdown. And I woke up feeling slightly wistful. Time for some serious insanity prevention!

I’m not sure how much I can feasibly do about the late nights at the moment. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in. When I do finally fall into bed, head busy and full of the conversations I’ve just been having, worry about children, money, home, everything, feeling stressed and annoyed with myself that I still haven’t washed up, or made the next day’s lunches, and knowing I’ll have it all to do the next morning, and the alarm is going off at 5.30 and it’s already midnight, I can’t sleep straight away and let myself drift off playing games on my phone with podcasts in my ears. It’s often well after midnight by the time I go properly to sleep. I know I’m (mal)functioning on far too little rest.

However, I’ve come up with a cunning plan for the alone time. On Sunday afternoon I was so, so stressed, shouting at everyone, almost in tears over the state of the house, which as usual was a metaphor for the state of my mind, that I took matters into my own hands, took charge of myself and sent myself out for a walk. All by myself. I walked three miles, listening to the podcasts I usually only get chance to listen to at bedtime, putting one foot in front of the other in the fresh air.

Exercise, endorphins and alone time. Talking to nobody. Walking where I wanted to walk, in control of where I wanted to take myself.

It did me so much good.

After tea tonight I went out again. This time I did a much shorter route. I was out for 20 minutes and walked just over a mile. That’s something I can make time for most evenings, I reckon. In that space of time the children barely noticed I was gone, yet I had the much needed space my mind is desperate for, as well as the exercise my body is craving (I’ve never been so inactive since I started work. I drive everywhere now, because there is never time to walk. I’m putting on weight quickly at the moment and my knees are protesting even more than usual. And my clothes don’t fit. However, I’m far more bothered about my mental health than my physical health just now – any physical benefits are just an added bonus!).

Having blogged, I now see it is 9.15pm. Now I need to wash up the tea pots, make tomorrow’s lunches, do a quick audit of what we already have in the cupboards and freezer, and complete the supermarket order online to collect it tomorrow evening while I’m out taking kids to and from youth club. I have promised someone I’ll scan in some documents and email them, so that has to be done before bed too. I will fall into bed, mind racing, and wake up with the ridiculously early alarm tomorrow morning, mind racing immediately, to start all over again.

The prospect of another 20 minutes out of the house after tea tomorrow, pounding the pavements with my trainers, listening to my own choice of podcasts in my ears, and speaking to absolutely nobody, is already filling me with a tiny bit of hope.

I hope I can make this a regular part of every day. I’ll let you know when I start feeling the benefits! Till then, I can’t quite imagine when I will next have time to blog…

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Still in shock!

Son went to his dad’s for the weekend.

Before he went, he looked like this:

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He hasn’t let anyone near his hair for a very long time. Its length was massively important to him. Last time I cut it to tidy it up (a year ago) it involved heart rending screaming and sobbing, having actually run away beforehand at the thought of having it cut.

He appeared after school today looking like this:

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I was so surprised I couldn’t speak for at least 5 minutes!

He likes it. So do I when I get used to it! My boy is growing up.

More change is afoot for me and this boy. I’m still coming to terms with a lot of it and his hair is just the start. There are tears in my future and I have to remember that wherever he is living, he’s still my amazing, unique son.

And he’s so neat and tidy! Bless him.

Our Day Out

One and I went to Liverpool on the train this afternoon. It was a bit of an impulse trip, planned only yesterday and on condition that we were both feeling up to it. We were. Hurrah!

I seem to have got out of the habit of taking the kids out and about. Their dad does a lot of that sort of stuff when they are staying with him, and for a long time I didn’t have the money or the mental resources to somehow bring myself to plan trips. Unemployment and depression are a bugger. I’m feeling better now and have a teeny weeny bit more disposable income, but seem to be finding it really difficult to get past that mental block which has stopped me taking the children anywhere more interesting or further afield than the local park.

Just taking one child is a good way back in, I’m finding. This afternoon was an absolute pleasure. We more or less ran to the station in order to catch the 11.57, which turned out to be firstly hugely delayed once we got there, and then simply cancelled by the time we’d bought the tickets! Ended up sitting on the platform for 40 minutes catching our breath…

Once in Liverpool we found Pizza Hut and indulged in their weekday buffet lunch. Again, far more affordable for only two of us than it would have been with four. Eldest daughter is tremendous company and we laughed our way through the meal, which was delicious and filling!

We headed to the Walker Art Gallery by mutual consent and had a good time looking at the pictures (and making up silly captions for some of them); particularly enjoying the special exhibitions and more modern art. Having been starting to draw during this past week, mostly through the marvellous medium of Zentangle, I looked at the pictures with a slightly different eye than previously. Bought myself a cheap sketchbook in the shop and have already started using it. Not sure what has set off this sudden craze for drawing, but I’m loving it. I feel like I’m moving in new directions with my creativity for the first time in years, and it’s really exciting. Is it an allegory for my life moving in new directions, due to starting work this year? Who knows? I’ll just go with the flow!

On the train journey home there was a lady with her almost 2 year old daughter in our bit of the carriage. They were delightful. The little girl was so enthusiastic about absolutely everything, and so very, very, TWO. A TWOness I remember well from my own children back in the day. The mum was very hands on, playing with her, chatting to her, interacting with the rest of us too; it really brightened up our journey.

It gave me pause for thought about how things have changed for us since One was that age (at which point I had a teeny baby Two as well!) I had almost forgotten what it was like to spend my days with such a small person; the total full on hands on parenting that has to be done; the exhausting, relentless, delightful chatter; the handing over of the bunch of keys, the remote control, the empty crackly bag, whatever will divert and amuse the child for the next one and a half minutes before the next excitement needs to be produced.

My youngest is almost nine now, and the oldest is getting on for fifteen. It’s a very different experience these days. Travelling today with One was just the same as it would be travelling with another adult. The pleasure of her company was totally equal to the delight the lady in our carriage was showing in her own daughter, but it was expressed in a totally different way. I could read my Kindle all the way to Liverpool and all the way back. I didn’t have to cope with a pushchair, a changing bag, several snacks to be brought out at predetermined times (though we did have to use the lift in the art gallery due to One’s dodgy ankle and she was lamenting the lack of a wheelchair to push her around in!)

My friend Serendipturas posted on a similar theme to this the other day and I feel as though I’m copying – but it really was the small child and her mum on the train, as I was travelling with my much bigger child, that sparked off this reminiscence – maybe N’s post was in the back of my mind already.

I loved being a mum to littlies. I love being a mum to these much larger people now too. It’s a very different experience. I’m not needed any less, but I’m needed in a different way and there are times when I can actually do my own thing (like reading a trashy chick-lit novel on my Kindle instead of providing constant exciting entertainment on the train!).

It’s been a good day. Fun, with excellent company (love that eldest daughter of mine  and our identical warped sense of humour!). Exciting with the different view this sudden drawing bug has given me. And thought provoking about the way my life as a mother has gradually changed in the past fourteen years.

Still not sure I’m feeling ready to take all three of them on an expedition at the same time yet, but this was a good start. 🙂

Tough week

If I was still volunteering, I would be giving myself a ‘mental health day’ off today.

As I now work for money, instead of the above I am giving myself a shower, a big breakfast and a stern talking to.

This week, balancing work and home life has fallen apart and everything feels impossibly tricky.

If you know a single working parent who appears to have it all together, be kind to them today. Just in case, like me, they’re secretly floundering a bit.

I know this is totally normal. By next week I’ll probably feel on top of things again for a while. I’m holding out for the Easter holidays to catch up on the admin and phone calls I’m too mentally exhausted and busy to achieve when I get home from work each day.

But today, this is my blog and I’m telling it like it is. And this week, how it is feels almost impossible!

Blogger’s block

I seem to be suffering from a definite blogging slump at the moment. It isn’t that there isn’t plenty to write about; it’s more that I have a combination of lack of time to sit and type, and lack of confidence – I can’t quite bring myself to believe that anything I have to say is interesting enough to put out there for the internet to read!

I was listening to one of Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre podcasts a couple of days ago, in which Charlie Higson said something along the lines of ‘when you are a writer, you absolutely have to have an attitude of total self belief and confidence’. That made me think about how I’ve been letting my blog languish a little, as total self belief has given way to doubt over the past few months.

I’ve been pondering NaBloPoMo (committing to a blog post per day for the month of November), but I know myself well enough that making a public commitment to do almost anything is a fairly sure way of setting myself up for failure. So I’m not going to do that.

I am, however, making a statement here and now that I do believe I have a writing voice worth listening to. That my blog doesn’t have to fit into an obvious genre or niche. That I choose to post about whatever is important to me, without holding myself back worrying about what anyone else will think*. From the entirely trivial right through to the deepest matters on my heart, this is my blog and I won’t be ashamed.

So as and when I find the time and have the inspiration, I’m going to stamp on the unconfidence demons and just write. For me. I have a feeling I’ll be a better blogger again once I stop trying to please the hypothetical critical readers living inside my head.

*Mostly, if I’m honest, I assume people are thinking ‘bloody hell, this is tedious…’

140 characters

– Busy week. Tough in places. Fabulous in other places. Blog suffering. Facebook suffering. Twitter not suffering as 140 characters achievable

– Have felt like a terrible parent and a wonderful parent at times this week in approx. equal measure. Shouting and hugging have both featured

– Went to GCSE ‘Raising Aspirations’ evening at high school. Motivational speaker superb but maybe not best for child already ill with anxiety

– Fell fast asleep on sofa by accident on Tuesday and Two cooked and served up the entirety of our evening meal for us all. What a total star.

– Tuesday & Wednesday volunteering in year 2 and year 5 were excellent & a great boost to my self esteem. I needed that this week! Want a JOB!

– Went to bed last night knowing I was knackered but not expecting to end up staying in bed till 10 to 2 this afternoon. Must have needed that

– Put a loaf of bread in the freezer & sliced my middle finger on a packet of frozen beef mince, making it bleed (the finger, not the mince).

– Life is so much calmer than this time last year. Doesn’t say much for this time last year! Situation’s not changed much but my attitude has.

– Blogging alongside all my parenting roles seems impossible at the moment. Follow me on Twitter for life’s minutiae 140 characters at a time!

Enough!

I am so over today now.

I’ll list the reasons why and then move on to positives to cheer me up and send me off to bed on a brighter note.

– I had a job interview today for a job I really, really wanted, and I didn’t get it. Among the other people being interviewed were three trained teachers, one of whom got the post. Selfishly, I am ashamed to say I feel resentful that people trained as teachers are applying for Teaching Assistant roles and getting them. However, I’m accepting that it wasn’t meant to be this time.

– It is a year since I last had an interview. That interview came a year after my first one. I am now wondering if it will be another year before I’m lucky enough to secure another one.

– I collected Three from school, got home, sat down and curled up with a long awaited cup of tea and immediately received a phone call from the secondary school asking me to collect One as she was feeling poorly. Up I got and did the same car journey all over again.

– Finally managed to drink my not-quite-as-hot-as-I’d-have-liked cuppa, and fell asleep without meaning to, meaning the supermarket shop, and therefore our tea, was rather later than I’d planned.

– Halfway round the supermarket I fielded a call from one child who was complaining (with very good cause) about the behaviour of one of the others. While choosing a chicken for Sunday dinner and crossing ‘chicken’ off the list with one hand, pushing the trolley with the other hand, and balancing the phone in between my shoulder and my ear, I attempted to calm down the situation. I heard shouting and slamming doors.

– I had the overwhelming urge to sit down in the middle of Tesco next to my trolley and burst into tears. I did not do this. I applauded my own self control.

OK, here are the positives:

– I enjoyed the interview, and loved seeing round the school and meeting the children and some of the staff. I got good feedback from the head when he phoned to tell me I hadn’t got the job, and he said ‘you’ve got the process nailed so just keep at it and I’m sure you’ll get something soon’. I hope he’s right!

– I managed to diffuse the family war zone situation by threatening one of the children with no egg custard for dessert (they were on the reduced shelf) unless he calmed down. Funnily enough, he calmed down… 😉

– At least I got the shopping done so we have another week’s worth of food in the house!

– Not getting this job means I can continue volunteering in year 2 and year 5 at Three’s school for a little longer. This is something I love and and has been keeping me sane over the past few years.

– I have been communing with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream which fell ‘accidentally’ into my trolley at the supermarket earlier. At that point I crossed ‘chocolate’ off the shopping list as I’d decided to buy ice cream instead… and then some Green & Black’s accidentally fell into the trolley later on as well… oops.

– I know how to be kind to myself when it’s been a difficult day! (See above)

Right. A bit more ice cream, then the washing up, then bed. Tomorrow is another day. This one has worn rather thin!