Friday, 24 December 2010

It's gonna be OK

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
(Author: Kate Inglis)

This is a tough one as there have been so very few moments where I felt everything was going to be OK this year.
Truth be told (and I am not looking for sympathy-just telling it how it is), this year has been a bad egg for me, personally...never mind what has been happening to this country and the world at large.
Things became so unbearably bad that when my long-term friend and fellow soul-mate begged me to let her fly me out to Australia for her wedding and six weeks of healing sunshine, I thought to myself, "What have I got to loose?"
I had already lost practically everything bar the roof over my head and the clothes on my back.
The flight, as I am sure you can imagine, or know from your own experience was horrendous. I didn't sleep, I was fed a diet of seeds and carrots and possibly grass because I had been booked on as a vegan (I am not a vegan) and was seated next to a very fat lady. We had two brief stops: Dubai (I got lost trying to find my connecting flight) and Bangcok (I got lost and was also treated like a suspected terrorist because of my leaking nail varnish.)
My friend came to meet me at Sydney airport but almost walked past me as she didn't recognise the pale, bloated,broken-looking woman that was limp-waddling towards her.
Other friends from the UK were staying at her house as well as me. I had the sofa and therefore no personal space. With my condition, I NEED personal space. It was a bit of a 'mare for the first few days. I had gone from a confirmed agoraphobic and Princess stay indoors and sit in the darkness to someone with absolutely no escape route surrounded by loud people continuously.
After about three days of being "forced" by my situation, to do things I wouldn't normally do, I found myself brave enough to wander around Newtown by myself, engage with my friend and her fiance's Staffie dog and even be civil to the partner of our mutual friend staying with us, who was the most despicable example of humanity I had ever encountered.
On my third night in Upside Down Land, I met my dear friend, the bride to be, for a shared bottle of Cava in a beautiful roof-terrace bar near the station at Newtown after she had finished work.
This became a regular ritual over the next six weeks and she always referred to it as "Lizzie Time"

I had not talked much about my situation because she was due to be married and things were frantic as all of us had been helping to prepare for the day.
However, she insisted upon me telling her all my woes, so I did.
I told her about how I had got sick without warning, my terrible symptoms, how frightened they had made me, how it had impacted on my (well paid and well loved) job so profoundly that the new Head booted me out despite 11 years of exemplary service, how my OH didn't really love me any more and was using emotional blackmail on a daily basis, how I had no money and there were no jobs out there and how I was so SICK of this condition and how my doctor had been of no help and how I feared losing my home...and other things that were happening in my life.
It all poured out.
She did what she does best and held my hand, calling me "sister".
"We'll sort this out Baby Girl," she said.
"For the next six weeks all you will have to worry about is getting enough sunshine and proper food in you. Don't let money worry you. The best wedding present I could ever have is you being here and me being able to help heal you."

That's when I KNEW.
My dad hadn't been there for me. My OH and his family hadn't been there for me and neither had the NHS or my Union when my evil ex-boss shattered my world with a harsh and unnecessary decision.
I hadn't been there for me either- I had given up trying.
But she was there for me.
She believed in me.
She loved me.

It was then that I knew things would be OK somehow. I had the strength to get myself to Oz even though normally I barely had the strength to leave the house.
I had the strength to allow someone to look after me for the first time in my life because, and here's the thing, I had the strength to ADMIT that I needed help.
With Lou by my side, I could do ANYTHING.

And, over the weeks, I DID do anything and everything. I slowly began to remember what a wild, adventurous, bright, inquisitive, stupidly optimistic person I was- the real me.

Lou bundled me back on the plane six weeks later- brown as a berry, a stone lighter, completely off the Beta Blockers and other meds and ready to face the crock of shit that awaited me back home.

Now, the tan is faded, I still have an OH that is less than attentive, no job, no money and all the same fears and worries.
But thanks to my time in paradise- a window into another world that could be mine, I cope.
Were it not for my Lou and her loving friendship, I am not sure if I would even be bothering to write this by now.
Were it not for the mantra I have now indelibly etched into my subconscious- "What would Lou do?", I would not have had the self esteem to try and whore myself on the job market again. I would not have had the confidence to phone a random stranger and say "Gis a job mate, I'm brilliant me and just what you need!"
I would not be in a position where I now have my first interview lined up since I lost my job. Sure, I probably won't get it, but the important thing is, I have built up enough self-esteem to at least try.
Without my "inner Lou" I would not have made the decision to change my behaviours and bite my tongue enough for my rather cold and distant OH to be tempted into this whole Christmas malarkey.
The skills and confidence I gained in Oz have allowed me to brave crowded shopping centres with fearless abandon and chose my Christmas gifts for the immediate family myself. Last year, OH had to do it as I was too afraid to leave the house.
I am now able to drive again and go to pubs and see friends and do all the normal things that many people take for granted.
It is like being reborn. EVERYTHING fascinates me and almost nothing vexes me or sends me straight back under the duvet any more.
I get bad days, oh yes- but now I hear Lou in my head, whispering gently to me: "Come on Baby Girl. It's just a blip. You can do this, beautiful."

My future is very, very uncertain.
However, thanks to my friend, who knows me better than anyone in the world, I feel that I can at least face the unknown as it bites-and I shall bite right back.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Giving emotional intelligence a try. I gave it a year.

Why I did it: I tried to be more in touch with my emotions. I thought it might help my boyfriend be more open if I was, too. I thought it might make people like me better if I was more like them.
My emotions are pretty simple at one level as in:
I am angry. Why am I angry? I dunno I just am.
I am happy. Why am I happy? I dunno I just am.
But they can also be so very complex that I can't give a name to them.

How did it go? I have spent nearly 40 years not knowing the hows and whys and wherefores of my emotions, let alone trying to share them with anyone else!
Whenever I have tried to this year, I have made the little voices in other peoples' heads go; "Run! Run away from the nutty lady! She is frightening me!"
I can see it in their scared, rabbity-headlight eyes.
I am the metaphorical 4X4 about to make another victory road kill with my attempt to make contact.

Lessons & tips: Some people are brilliant at being emotionally intelligent. I watch on with an "oooh" and an "aaaah" as if they were the most impressive firework display in the Western World as they wind their way effortlessly through the minefields of human emotion in a public display of competence.

When I try, my firework equivalent is a manky old catherine wheel from the Pound shop that goes "fffftzzzzz....fizzle....pft."

When I tried, I just frightened people and mothers locked their vulnerable infants in the panic-room as soon as I was in the vicinity.

The lesson I can provide is this:
There are some fundamental elements to each individual's psyche that they CANNOT change. One can IMPROVE them, polish them and make them a shining example of their own uniqueness, but you can't turn a boxer into a ballet dancer.

I think people preferred me as I was: fun to be with, kind and loyal, but above all, practical and pragmatic.

The lesson I have learnt is that some people are happy to share their emotions comfortably and others are not.

After a year of trying to be emotionally intelligent, I have decided that my brain just ain't wired that way.

I am going back to:
"Ooooh! Sea! Must swim in it!"
"Oooh look, friend! I like that friend, let's see if she wants to come out and play!"
"Oh, dead cat. That is sad."

That is pretty much the extent of my emotional intelligence and having tried to "out" the more deeper emotions, I can tell you that for me, it has lead to nothing but social disaster after social disaster.

I am happy being me, just as I am.
You'll find me with the special needs kids happily thinking up 100 things you can do with a paperclip.
Resources: A year of trying to tell people how I am feeling, them going "Holy crap, you are mental!" and then the sudden realisation that I was just fine as I was to begin with!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Age of Austerity.

I am slowly getting used to being a member of the "benefits underclass" that is currently being despised and vilified if current opinions are to be believed.
I fully expect to have an egg thrown at me soon, if I don't get a job.

The thing is though, the climate is depressing out there right now. I would prefer to be working at something I have always excelled at- teaching. However, given that I am also battling a disability, I can't see myself elbowing my way through the long line of eager,fresh-faced, younger and fitter teachers all fighting for one little job offering reduced rates of pay and a temporary contract. My self esteem is in tatters as it is.
I'd be happy to do some supply teaching if there were any. I'd also be happy working as a teaching assistant- I am not picky! I just want to be able to do what I do best and that's work with kids.

However, I draw the line at going for just any old job as I know I would be useless at it.
I don't have very good people skills as my brief sojurn into retail demonstrated. (I can't operate tills!) No, really! I have an honours degree in a science subject but I still can't fathom how to make a cash register do what it is supposed to do. In the end, they took me off the till and stuck me on the shop floor because I kept losing money. No idea where it went. "The till ate it," I wailed mournfully after my ten billionth time of being "under".
I loved the shop floor at first. There is something very satisfying about pricing up stock, arranging it nicely, daydreaming of sangria with Johnny Depp as we languish by his private pool...until a blimmin' customer comes along and expects you to want to help them!
How am I supposed to get my work done with all of these stupid people wanting to know where the plumbing section is?!!! I work in the Garden Centre section! I only do plants! To be fair, I really liked the plants...

I returned to retail many years later when I first moved to Brighton as a way of earning some money as I launched myself into supply teaching. It didn't go well. I hated all the old people. You know, the sort who don't want to put money in your hand and then dump their change all over the counter, expecting you to pick it up. I also didn't like the way that they would call me "Miss". Only the kids at school are allowed that privilege.

I later procured a dream job at a dream school by day and ran a night club by night. I also sang in a band that took me all over the world.
I wouldn't say I was rich on a teacher's wage, but I was happy, fulfilled, busy and life was, to be honest, perfect.
And so it went on until two years ago when I suddenly became very ill with a long term condition. The school wasn't so fond of me all of a sudden and who can blame them?
I'm not much good as a teacher if I'm not there to teach. In the end, as I wasn't going to be getting better any time soon, I realised that I would have to leave with a wonderful reference and hope in my heart that some day, another school could benefit from lovely, clever, wonderful me.
That was almost six months ago. And here I sit: in my jim-jams at 9am because I don't have to get up and dressed to go to work. I don't even have to get dressed to job hunt. It can all be done at the touch of a button...until you quickly realise the words "NO VACANCIES" are pretty much the only ones I see.
Day in, day out...same routine, same frown etching itself ever more deeply into my un-botoxed face. I can't even afford a decent face cream. However, there is a certain retail outlet that I would thoroughly recommend where everything, including face cream is only £1.
I have learned to live on my meagre benefits. It's a case of: no new clothes. Ever. No food unless it is on offer. NO going out or seeing friends. No driving because petrol costs. No visiting anywhere that isn't free to get in. NO luxuries- no hair cuts or occasional massage for me!
Society likes to have a right old dig at us benefit scroungers, but actually, it IS NO FUN.
If I could have my old life back working 70 hour weeks, getting up early on dark mornings and cycling in the brisk, Winter air there and back, with the sea beside me and my self-esteem fully intact, I would.
In a heart beat.

Instead, I am now sat at home spiralling ever further downwards into depression and low self-esteem. All because I got ill.
It can happen to anyone. It happened to me. Don't think for a moment it can't happen to you.
I stand to lose everything I worked for including my home and not just my marbles...

NEXT INSTALLMENT: How to live on £50 a week.