Barbecues, blueberries and beetroot

Summer has most definately arrived! It’s been 10 weeks since we returned from Kefalonia and I started my new job. We’ve had some beautiful weather and it’s barely rained.

I sit again on the couch planning nothing but a weekend of rest, maybe a little pottering, my heavy eyelids imply an afternoon nap may be on the cards and my sore throat needs a trip to the shop for some fresh orange juice. All other plans have taken a back seat as the exhaustion sets in. I tell myself it will ease itself, balance itself out and it is summer. Summer is a busy time for gardeners. This week I was reminded that I like meeting new people. As someone who picks up easily on the energy of others I’ve been making sure I’m grounded and protected through my meditations and hypnotherapy sessions that I’ve recorded onto my phone. I find this helps. I do get into the past cycles of trying to please others rather than listen to my intuition and do what’s right for me. Then theres the perfectionist that I have to fight. Reminding myself that I dont need to put in 100% all the time, just turning up and being there is good enough.

When I have managed to get to the allotment there’s been lots of harvesting. The freezer is full of green beans, mange tout, sugar snap peas, blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants, raspberries, gooseberries… etc! etc! I’ve got beetroot to boil and a drawer full of rocket, spinach, courgettes, tomatoes and salad. I think I’m overwhelmed by the need to preserve it all in some way and not waste it. Knowing how tight money has been (I’ve only just been paid for my second job, phew!) I’m keen not to waste anything but as Mike says, it’ll go back and make compost if we dont eat it in time!

My mind has been busy with lists of resources and creative ideas for all the gardening groups that I’m juggling right now.

My main job is a lovely huge garden in the middle of an urban town. There’s about 11 volunteers who all get on well together. This was confirmed at our volunteer barbecue on Thursday evening this week where the conversation flowed. It’s good to see these very different people get together and enjoy this open space in different ways. Some enjoy watering, harvesting, mowing or building. It’s my humble job to co-ordinate it, develop the space, help the volunteers get the skills they want, the wood, the seeds, and the confidence to take ownership and pride in the amazing community garden that theyv’e created. I love it when people drop in and ask what we’re doing, wonder what’s growing or tell us about their garden and it makes me smile when they tell us they voted against it because they thought the local kids would wreck it, it would be over run with rats or nothing would grow on this concrete rubble ground and they’re happy that we’ve prooved them wrong.

Now my friday morning job is not yet at this stage. The anti-social behaviour has caused problems and things have been wrecked, the ground is an ex-bowling green, hard and compacted, prone to flooding when it does rain, things do get dumped there or sunflowers snapped. But a recent entry into #BootleInBloom showed passer-by’s that we’re making a difference. We’ve planted sunflowers, flowers, courgette plants, squash and pumpkins, potatoes and herbs. A couple of apple trees too. Last week we had 3 people ask about volunteering, two actually done a little bit of work before the heat got the better of them! Some negativity was covered with explanations about how we struggled to get the ‘Friends of the Park’ group up and running. Finally I feel like people want to engage rather than walk past with their dogs.

The more daunting part of my job was working with school age children again. I wonder what I was worried about!!! I fall back into that role without even thinking about it, helping in gardening after school club and I’m looking forward to the summer activity club in the park. It’ll be fun!

Work aside, I’ve still been doing everything else and more to fill the days, helping at the plot barbecue, volunteering in drama shows, out with Layla, going through the menopause, looking for cars with Lizzie, the car breaking down in Aigburth, doing research into grants and funding, entering our flat gardens into a housing association competition, and here’s me wondering why I’m so exhausted! Right, I’m off to get a bit a shopping for tea, no rest for the wicked!

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Spring

Waiting for my laptop to load lately has been like waiting for spring this year, frustrating. I was busy doing other things to keep me well so not being busy down the allotment wasn’t a priority. I’ve had sessions on understanding anxiety, being part of a wellness group, EFT (Emotional freedom technique), cognitive behaviour therapy, meetings with my unison rep, phased job return and then an interview for my new job. I’ve also been supporting my Mum through the process of getting Dad (later stages of Parkinson’s Disease) into a nursing home. A very busy spring!

I’m trying to download a photo to add but it’s making me say things like ‘Are you for real?!’, ‘How slow can you be?’, etc. Patience testing that even a buddhist would struggle with. I always joke and say I only get my new jobs cos I tick bisexual and buddhist on the equal opportunities form. Both are true, if I have to pick a religion it would be buddhism, having trust in the universe providing will come in very handy when my new wage tries to keep us going in food and electricity bills. And the bisexual bit? I was married to a woman in the past. Lets leave that there for now.

So my other half gets frustrated with my relaxed approach to the plot. I’ve been there an hour, so I water the greenhouse, fill the bird feeders, fill my own water bottle, find my gloves, cut flowers, plant flowers. Then he comes over and asks me if I’m going to hoe those weeds or clear up the weeds that I’ve removed (from the straight paths that we laid- I laid the paths and he made it straight!). I was asked by his sister if I had a lot to do, I said no, its not a one off process, like his sushi production line, it’s ongoing, there’s always something to do. I think the therapy process have given me this added relaxed approach. I no longer need to be perfect at everything. things dont need to be perfect or even to my own standard all the time. I have things growing. They’re not growing very fast (well the mares tale is) but they are planted and growing slowly. I love the low maintenance things like asparagus, raspberry canes, strawberries and fruit trees. Loads of plums developing there. I’m still sharing last years plum jam.

This relaxed approach is spilling, flowing over in my new job. I’m the community garden co-ordinator (I like the hyphen, I think there should be one) within a charity organisation. They do all sorts of other well-being things in the centre and the garden is over the road. There seems to be some great enthusiastic volunteers, all different, and its my job to look at developing the garden. I love a good challange. Sustainability is the challenge. The charity can only inject so much money so it needs to provide us with some income eventually. I was saying, relaxed, I’ve got to work 20 hours, I was asked when I’d like to work them. God, I’m indecisive! But never had the chance really to pick my own working week. It’s picked now, but not fixed in stone, flexible, hours in leiu available too.

Right the glorious sunshine is flooding into the flat along with the noise of the neighbours kids fighting in their paddling pool. Time to go chill out at the allotment. Thanks for reading my waffling. I’ll try write soon

Feeling Numb

The above sums up how I’ve felt this week. Not really with it. I can function, I have functioned well, in work, at home. This morning I was upset, sad at the thought of keeping well being so difficult. But I managed to be a bit creative yesterday and draw and write some little splodges of strategies. These little positive actions can help motivate me in the mornings to remove myself from the bed, the pit of depression, my safe space but also this is the place for my procrastinating, avoidance of life, duvet literally over my head. My phone and its games, solitaire and sudoku also take part in this distraction. It’s difficult to prize myself away from the mental anguish of self depreciation.

One of my little symbols is a trophy. My trophy that I held after creating a garden for the Flower Show last year. I remind myself that I’ve come far, my acheivements are plenty throughout the 45 years that I have lived. I have a degree and two diplomas, I have 3 offspring who are alive, healthy and thriving. I have physical health, which is a factor in my awe at the winter paralympics happening in South Korea right now. I am loved and valued within the communities that I mix in. The lady downstairs had printed off a photograph of my snowman and sent up some biscuits last night. I was like a big kid again with the snow. I love it. Mike and I went out at 8am to be the first ones to step on the crisp soft ground down the plots. We done the responsible bits like fed the birds, then made a 4 ft snowwoman, this was on Thursday, International Womens Day afterall. We had to fix his fruit cage where the weight of the snow had torn the mesh. I love how quiet and light it is with snow. It covers the litter and the imperfections. I love it that the primulars that I planted are still poking their coloured flowers through. I planted them here outside our flat, outside the pavillion at the allotment and on my plot.

I remember that I presently have 25 tins of paint in my car boot. Granddad Mick works painting and decorating. He often has paint left over from jobs and is not officially allowed to redistribute them. I have friends in need and even if lilac isn’t their colour, they’ll find a use for it. News from Nowhere, vegan cafe might be turning that shade soon. I like to avoid waste and help others aquire things that they will use. It makes sense even if it makes Mike’s eyes roll. He doesn’t always understand my altruism. Sometimes my altruism might have an overwhwlming effect on me but I think of it as building up my Karma. There are always others who are worse off than us and if I can help I will.

Helping others can be a downfall. I am an empath. I take on the energy of others. I’ve recently practised imagining my protection. I have this pink ‘ready brek’ glow, allowing me to listen and offer my input but attempting not to absorb the emotions of others. I wouldn’t describe myself as telepathic, but I often feel pains or aches and when I talk or see someone close, they tell me of the same pain. Sounds crazy, loopy, off the planet. Until I read a book by Judith Orloff, MD, The Empath’s Survival Guide. It’s not my imagination, and while the book is rather americanised (twee at times), it’s helped to understand these things that I feel. (I’m aware I’m not doing a book review, I have no place to talk about qualified doctors or published authors, but just expressing things how I find them). Now I understand I can begin to practise strategies. I need to be more assertive when negative energies try to manipulate my efforts. I need to find ways in active listening that result in accepting rather than wanting to problem solve for everyone else.

Unexpected Rain 

Tinkle, tinkle, plink, plink,

Rain from the gutter, into the sink,

Dribbles and pours, in flurries and drops,

Splodges and spurts, it spits and spots,

It’s dry in the shelter, dont step out,

Still trickling and gurgling, down the spout,

A puddle, it swells, into a pool,

A pigeon preens, make myself look cool,

Dancing and leaping, it plays a beat,

Entranced I watch, what a treat!

howdy stranger!

I’ve been writing: goals, therapy charts, emails for a back to work plan and in my journal of course but not on here lately, apologies.

A bout of anxiety knocked me for six last year, and then under the radar slid in depression. Like the hidden undercurrent in the Mersey, alongside the sandbanks of crosby beach (if you’ve not been, then google Anthony Gormley’s iron men). A friend (many have helped to listen, reply to texts, made cuppas, etc) described her depression to be like the waves upon the said beach. Some days you go and splash happily prepared in flip flops with the sun shining and breeze trying to blow my waxed hair out of shape (unsuccessfully of course). And other times the waves are tsunami-like, come from nowhere and knock you off your feet and you need rescuing on a huge scale. The mudslide pulls me down from poor sleep, too much worrying, trying to presume what others want and expect of me. Now most days I manage to dodge the surf, with little splashes touching the back edge of my heels. I’m using grounding tecniques, breathing and lots of written work to prevent me being swept in.

Done is better than perfect- Sheryl Sandberg

I discovered I was a perfectionist in work, everything had to be done, on time and completely perfect. However after winning a Gold Medal with only 75/100 in the recent flower show, (I won a large silver trophy too) I realise that just for turning up, you usually get a bronze medal. Just turning up to work, is ok, I’ve managed to be on time which is great! My 4 months off have gone in a blur of therapy sessions and visits to Mum, intermingled with days of being glued (you know when your welly boot squelches in that gloopy mud and you almost loose it as your foot pulls out trying desperately not to leave the boot behind?) in the quicksand that is my bed. As a master of procrastination and avoidance I have spent the last 30 years believing that I am not worthy of being loved, and that’s been underpinning a heap of other negative thought patterns. So letting go of all these is a massive task.

I am now trying two days a week in work to see how I manage. Little by little the things I enjoy are creeping back into my life. I had great fun making a snowman before work last week and even managed to have a good disco boogie at a party with my other half at the weekend. 

Challenging the anxiety: before christmas I decided that as I was scared just doing everyday stuff that I’d try a beginners boxing class. Something brand new. It was great. I loved it, I ached for days after each session but the no-nonsense approach that men have was refreshing. It didn’t matter what I wore or how slow I was, whether I knew my left from right these were the exercises, join in. I loved the guys who would challenge me to improve and throw their full weight in punches, I managed to throw mine stright back. I’m not saying I’m any good or that I can afford the membership fee but it was a therapy in itself. I got up this morning for a jog/walk. I know exercise is vital but my interest sways between obsessive and bored. It always has. 

An another part of my recovery is to engage with the things I enjoy. I used the anxiety to get back up on stage as Pim Pam Po and read out some of my poems last saturday. The pale ale calmed the nerves a bit and the relief I feel afterwards reminds me that this adrenalin has a job to do. I like it when I get inspiration from others and I’m in awe of musicians and their talents. I do like it when I inspire others to write or to have a go themselves or when they’ve related to one of the topics. I read demands (all about the teenagers!), the date, the disaster (internet date), lost the plot (about meeting mike down the allotment) and woodland for sale (my desires to live off grid, away from the irks of modern life). I have to read them as my memory is really poor lately. Wordfinding and remembering threads of conversations is difficult. I’m not sure if this is a mental health issue or a menopausal one! But it’s very frustrating I know that. It’s all part of the new relaxed, one small step at atime, forgiving myself for mistakes, me.

Anyway Cheers again for reading to the end, hopefully I will return soon with joyous tales of spring growth from the plot. Suppose I just wanted to acknowledge The Life Rooms in Walton for their courses, My GP has been a huge help in listening and acting upon what I wanted rather than just dish out the pills. I’ve had Cognitive Behaviour Therapy from her referral. Also Occupational Health were good at helping me plan my phased return and I cant forget my UNISON rep, who’s been amazing accompanying me to work meetings, emailing and phoning me. Worth every penny of my £9 a month subs.

 

Episodes

autumn-foxglove.jpg

I’m not apologising for my lack of blogging, I’m just not committed to writing for other readers. My journal is full of ramblings, short poems and angst from my mental health episodes over the past few months. Perhaps one day I shall share it.

I will call them episodes. Mental illness. Anxiety. Perhaps peri-menopausal. Perhaps just finally my past, catching up on me, forcing me to really explore my pschological cycles. I try reiki, massage, light therapy, aromatherapy, crystals, meditation, talking to my union rep, being off work, while the doctor prescribes cognitive behaviour therapy. I go to see a counsellor. I’ve tried Emotional Freedom Technique this morning for the first time. I do feel lighter, relieved. The meditation where I focus on the pause in between my breaths, eases the tight chest and anxiety. The positive affirmations get stuck in my throat. I know I need to continue with them. I have to convince myself of my qualities. It doesnt come easy. I feel my battle against mental illness, this time, is one I am going to win.

The symptoms this time have been completely different, hence me feeling they are linked to hormone changes within this 45 year old body. Moods swing to and fro, changing more often than the autumn weather, chest tightens, can’t breathe, throat is dry, I’m thirsty, my mind races, my temperature fluctuates, I’m laughing but I’m not sure I should be, paranoia creeps around me, I’m not really listening because I’m worrying about what I need to do next, but feeling overwhelmed. Don’t ask me to make a decision, that gives me a headache, even if it’s “tea or coffee?” I have a good day and realise I can’t remember the last two months, can’t remember the last time I felt like myself, can’t remember the last time I had a conversation and actually really listened. It’s when I think about driving into the on-coming traffic do I realise I’m really ill. I think that I want the pain in my head to end, to go away, and the rational, practical me has transformed into a teary blob curled in a ball down the side of my bed. It’s not nice or easy to explain. Especially to ask those that I love, for help. I tell my colleagues, my unison rep, my manager. I sit next to my partner and can’t find the words, they well up inside my heart and I swallow down the tears with effort. The brick wall of my illness stops me, where do I start? Why can I explain all these symptoms to a stranger in the street but not to my partner? Why would he love someone this messed up, this ill?

He does, I am lovable, I am worthy of love, I am generous, I am compassionate, I am strong, I am loyal, I am brave, I am kind, I am assertive, I am creative. I can overcome this sadness, I can forgive myself, I can begin to fill the void, open my heart and be loved, to feel loved.

I Wake
I wake, it rains
High pitched drips 
Onto metal
Waves of lethargy
Mixed with analysis
Why's and where's
Solutions spill around
Mill around
The crinkled sheets
Laden with warmth
With affection
The covers tucked around
A warm hand lays beside me
Sleep
Please be mine
In the darkness
Before the rumble
Of the first train
In the early creeping hours

 

A Shed Load of Solace

garden 2017

I’m out of the habit of writing, out of practise. I look in my diary and it was May the last time I’d written in my plot diary, but I’ve written in my phone notes and my home diary. Most of it is moaning about menopausal symptoms, memory loss, back pain (after creating the above gold medal and trophy winning garden), headaches, itchy skin, I shall not go on, but I’ve got a long list of irritating things happening to my 45 year old body. I’ve written lists of things to do, to remember, a few poem like pieces, but most originate from feeling stressed and down. Its summer so I berate myself in believing that I shouldn’t be feeling depressed. The sun shines, it’s been a really good summer, with the past few weeks topping up the water butts with night time showers. I like waking to the rain soaked car park, heating up, turning paler as the sun rises over the neighbours fence. I like to cherish the good days, the days when I feel like myself but I’m left with the wonder of where I have been. The real me, not the one thats always busy, the one racing past people so I don’t have to have eye contact with the people who know. The people, who are friends, the ones who know if they stop to ask if I’m ok then I won’t be, I’ll break. They know I need to work through this, they know I’m holding the outside together, they patiently wait, happy to give advice from afar (they know how stubborn I am), but assertive enough to tell me whats best for me. The ones who recognise I’m on the edge, who forgive me if I dont text back, but keep on texting to check I know they are there. Friends, bloody good friends, are priceless. They’ve reminded me that my family is happy and healthy. My friend’s neice has a tiny, premature baby with an under-developed brain who will not be resuccitated as the doctors advised she wouldn’t live. She is living, breathing, feeding, burping, bringing joy and wonder with her strength. Friends who remind me that I’m talented and beautiful in my own, blue haired, clumsy way. Colleagues who support me and have faith in my abilities join that list of bloody great friends.

Where’ve I been?

Asleep, no. Sleepwalking, sleep working, sleep digging! Communicating, not really.

Not listening, not eye contacting, not absorbing.

Emotional tightrope, grasping, holding on, anger, stress, on tiptoes.

I’m at the other side. I’ve stepped off and looking back at the fear, the pain, standing upright in the breeze.

Looking back ready to sever the cord, cut the ropes that tie around my neck.

Tightening my shoulders, ropes that trick my chest into shallow breaths of panic.

I’m armed, with hindsight, a past mistake, the regret is the scaffold that helps me build with the strength it taught me.

Like the phoenix, dare I compare myself to the majestic creature, I rose.

From depression, unemployment, lacking in purpose or support.

I DONE THAT. I SURVIVED THAT. I AM BETTER THAN THAT.

I don’t need the capital letters to tell myself, I am worth the investment in myself.

border 2017

So this week I ground myself at the allotment. My shrub border starts to take shape. The plants escape from their black pots ready to spread their roots and the dark soil glistens with the recent rain. The downpours blow past while I shelter in my shed. I return to plant the pittosporum, getting it facing the right way, in the right position. Its shiny leaves reflect the sunshine, as I sit and absorb it, the orange seeps through my closed eye lids. I watch the grey clouds blow past in the wrong direction (usually they go away from the coast but today they go towards it) and the sun gleems in the blue pockets and gaps inbetween.

I know, I trust in the universe, knowing that these symptoms, feelings will pass, they will be lifted from me and things will be good. Things are good. I have my own allotment, my own veggies, flowers, my own natural space on this precious earth. My own little bit of paradise.

 

Memories

Is life all about making memories? What if your memory, your ability to remember events or days is crap? Do people aim to make memories or do they just happen as a result of a fun-loving lifestyle?


I was reminded this week of a girl called Kathy I used to go to school with. We made snow men when we were supposed to be inside school. We were late anyway as the 79 bus wouldnt venture down the hill into Childwall Valley. I had my camera with me (the type that took proper 35mm film, developed by truprint arriving 3 weeks after sending it off) as I was leaving that school soon after and wanted to get photos of my friends, hardily any of them were in school that day anyway. There are pictures, somewhere in our garage of me, Kathy and Karen making a snow man and rolling in the snow. It was a cold walk home but I dont remember that bit. I remember the wacky poses and the wet sock fight, leaving my scarf with the snow man and Kathy posing behind the snowman so it looked like he had a blonde pony tail. I remember our trips to town to buy wacky earrings and 80’s accesssories from St John’s market. Her sister told me she found letters I had written to Kathy after moving schools, she’d kept them, I’d loved writing letters and I only moved to Bootle but we wrote to each other for a few years before adult life kicked in.

My sister remembers so many events and things that happened and even though she’s 2 years older I have no recollection of many things. I remember when my brother crashed into a lamppost riding his bike, he didnt cry until he realised there was blood! I remember mum finding a fiver and me losing it, I remember my sister and her friend Angie getting nits and the screaming laugher and the stench of lotion as they used our hand-held, push-on-the-taps shower on their long, base of the spine length, thick hair.
I get too serious, I know, I am so busy acheiving and organising, sometimes that I forget to chill out, be laid back and just laugh. I can laugh in the face of disaster, I can laugh at my mistakes, Like our first ‘white knuckle’ ride was me falling asleep at the wheel, on our way driving to Euro Disney (I’m still not sure I’ve been truly forgiven for this) Obviously we were all ok. I know I’m clumsy, I cause my boss to have these cartoon type ‘eye exploding’ moments (when the characters eyes bounce out on springs and a loud hooter sounds) when I’m stressed I make huge mistakes, but I’ll admit them and laugh about them later.

My day to day life needs some laughter, I need to be less of the organiser and more of ‘go with the flow’ stuff. Yesterday for example, I didnt have plans with Layla so we went to feed the birds down at the allotment, she wanted to play in the woods but the nettles were too close for comfort. We went up to my plot to get some shears and gloves, she ended up making a salad, slicing leaves, cucumber and onion with a butter knife , we done some weeding, watched the birds, collected peas, watered Mikes plot and picked some roses. Then we headed down to the woods, cleared a path to the swing and had a chilled day. She’s getting easier to chill out with. Some days we need a plan, we need to be out elsewhere, the library, lego club, arty activity afternoon or the park. I’m not sure if its me who needs the structure or her?
I sit and chill out at home today, waiting for a new washing machine to be delivered. I’ll get down the plot later, whenever….
So my next meditation will be on welcoming laughter and fun into my life and being grateful for all the happy times in the past, the ones I can remember anyway.