I’ve had a few low points this week when the pain from my frozen shoulder has been high and I am incredibly grateful to friends who have sent me texts, met me for coffee or just offered a hug. However if I made every blog a gratitude for them it’d get boring very quickly so I hope they take it as a given that I am always grateful for them in my life.
So this week I am mostly grateful for the British weather in all it’s predictably unpredictable glory. A couple of weeks ago every was posting pictures of snow on social media and this week there is wonderful sunshine and temperatures in double digits (Centigrade).
One Tuesday I had to go to London for a meeting. I finished at 2.00 and gave myself 90 minutes to walk back to the train station (blog for that can be found HERE ). One of the best things was not having to wear a coat. I had an hours walk with the sun on my face and soaking up the Vitamin D.
On Wednesday and Thursday I worked from home. I usually sit in the kitchen and work from the dining table. My kitchen tends to capture the sun so I got to sit with the sun on my back.
And today I had another walk – this time to the supermarket and about a mile and a half, with my playlist blaring in my ears and more Vitamin D. I’ve even managed to hang out and dry a wash load
It really is a mood booster especially when you are having a trying week. Even though I still ache and struggle the fact that I’ve had some sunshine has made my week so much the better.
I found out last week that I’ve got my third bout of frozen shoulder in 10 years. I can’t remember much about the first time beyond getting sent home from work after taking too many painkillers and getting the giggles (not good as I worked in a benefit office).
The 2nd time it happened I worked in Community Support. I had to adapt what I did to be able to carry on working. Within this job I was classed as a lone worker and would often have to travel by public transport lugging my (then) heavy laptop and notes. In the end I found my old flight bag which I could then use to pull everything around rather than carry. Regardless it all left me feeling very vulnerable. I had the constant fear that someone could grab the bag and run off with it and I’d be helpless to stop them as I only had one fully working arm. (As one of my colleagues had had their case stolen from them as they sat in their car I knew this was always a possibility being on foot).
I also had no support from my line manager. On bad days I could be in tears. I could do my stats from home but still had to go to work. And I often felt that I should try and get to work. My job involved helping vulnerable people who had far worse problems than me.
I’ve learnt several things since then. One that you shouldn’t compare problems. Yes these people are struggling but that shouldn’t diminish my issues. Secondly you can’t fully help someone when you aren’t at 100% yourself.
After a while gaining no support at all with management I moved jobs. I had to put myself first and practise the self-care that I preached.
Cut to now. While my job involves travel it’s mostly on train to places. I have a tablet rather than laptop and can access my emails via mobile so I can make my baggage as light as possible. If all else fails I can leave it all behind and find a hard drive somewhere to plug into. I try and go to the gym several times a week to exercise and the biggest thing I’ve noticed from the last few weeks is in the difference in people I’m surrounded by. Friends and family obviously are supportive but I’m talking those on the periphery (big word!). After a reshuffle I have a new manager and both her and the gym instructors have both used the same phrase….What can I do to help and support you?
I genuinely felt like crying when they’ve said this as it’s a complete 180 from before. Such a simple sentence and from it some simple results. I have the option to work from home where needed or come and go to work from where is the easiest on my joints. The gym has created a lightweight plan that allows me to practise movement in my arm while I wait for a physio appointment, taking into account doctor recommendations. This makes me feel more secure in myself and less vulnerable when movement is bad.
But the biggest change is in myself. I’m not afraid to ask for help and the rewards are worth it. Support is in place straight away and I feel like this time it won’t affect my mental health because both me and the people around me have awareness of what I can and can’t do and are working with me.
So it’s a reminder to people to ask for help because people do care and do want to make sure that you are ok. Asking for help is also self-care. Speaking up early this time was a kindness to myself and hopefully will mean a quicker resolve to the issues.
Today is Time to Talk day, a day when we talk about our mental health and support each other. For some reason I also thought it was National Kindness Day (it’s actually 17th Feb). However yesterday on the Action for Happiness calendar the instruction was to thank someone and tell them how they made a difference for you.
This blog fits all that in and is also the key thing for my gratitude this week.
I’ve posted about craft club before. One of my goals for 2019 is to make new things, create new things and learn new things – if all at once even better. Today in craft club I learnt how to zentangle. I haven’t really done much art since school and while I say I can’t draw it’s actually that I haven’t really done any drawing. Zentangle is the art of being zen and tangling which is basically fancy doodles.
One of the crafters told me in the first session they ran everyone was their usually noisy chatty selves to start, then slowly the noise levels reduced to nothing. All she could hear was people’s breathing and then she noticed everyone started breathing in sync. How wonderful is that! And it happened again today. I forgot all about work and what was going on in the world and for half an hour it was just me, a fine ink pen and my doodles.
We crafted onto a heart shaped card which we then made into a Valentine’s card but you can do it on anything. After the session my colleague sent me an email receipt for my annual membership fee and said she was looking forward to us doing more crafts. Not just because it’s a kindness I sent a reply telling her just what I had got out of joining and how much it is beginning to mean to me. She really appreciated it (and asked if she could use my comments for the newsletter – an added nice side effect).
It felt good to actually just message someone and say thank you. How often do we pay compliments? So today, I was both kind in words to them but kind to myself by taking an hour out of the day to just focus on myself and do something fun.
This week among the usual shout out to family and friends I am grateful for 4 women I met 12 months ago on a development course. 2018 was a very chaotic bumpy year. The course was split over five 2 day modules with the first starting January 2018. We were put into peer groups of 6 to work together for various activities.
The year started great and we bonded really well, sharing stories and spent a lot of time together quite a bit to put on a workshop around better ways of working. Then I missed the 3rd module because of the health problems. This really knocked my confidence as it was just after the scare with the breast lump and subsequent panic attacks. Again they were there for me, as we are all spread around the north of England this was remotely and mostly by whatsapp but it was nice to get a few messages of support.
For module 4 I managed to get to the classroom for Day 1 but found it so stressful and hardgoing and so didn’t attend the second day where we would be just in the peer group. I wrote in an earlier blog about how my anxiety got so bad last year I lost contact with people and when I was with people struggled with the idea that they were on my side or was just weirdly angry at slights that just didn’t exist. Anxiety can be awful on friendships sometimes.
Even up until Tuesday I really didn’t want to attend the last sessions and would not be able to give the requested feedback. You know what though? It was absolute rubbish! I think this week was actually my favourite session of all. I got to really re-connect with the others and genuinely bond with them. Some of us have very similar work struggles and we had a good hour airing our grievances about jobs which was really cathartic but then after that we spent another hour trying to work out how each one of us could work around that or suggesting ideas for moving on. I came home today feeling really inspired and empowered. None of this would have happened if I’d given in to the anxiety at the beginning of the week and the chimp in my brain telling me it would be a waste of time (for chimps see The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters)
At the beginning I mentioned a group of 6 peers but a shout out to only 4 (with me making 5). Sadly one seems to have dropped out. She disappeared part way through the day I missed (I’ve been told why and it’s not relevant here) and never came back. She’s not shown much interest in staying in touch in between but that happens and on a course like this you won’t bond with everyone and you can’t please everyone.
Going forward the 5 of us are going to have monthly calls to chat about work and what our current steps are and will try and have 6 monthly meet ups somewhere. I’m so glad to have met them and grateful then when my life got chaotic they were there and supportive when I needed it most.
I’ve ended my first month of side hustles and I have to say I’ve really enjoyed the little bits and pieces I’ve dipped into which have earned me £135. Of that there are some sites where I still need to earn more to reach a download limit so I haven’t accessed all of it. Then being January and a long month I’ve had to dip into the rest to pay for the dentists and some other unexpected costs but in the end today I paid off £40 towards a high interest loan I have bringing me that little bit closer to clearing it. This is the priority in my debt clearance as everything else at least has a definite end date or a lower interest rate.
I’m really pleased with what I’ve managed to do. It’s been simple and for the most part hasn’t taken up much time. I’ve listed the websites below for anyone that wants to try some of these and also the 101 side hustles blog page that I found my inspiration.
This week I’ve struggled with my health with an old issue flaring up and had to deal with lots of travel disruptions so it would be easy to end the week feeling miserable however the biggest thing I’m grateful for this week are my friends. I have one on holiday in Plymouth texting me pictures of her new puppy and then tea and cake with my closest friend.
I’ve been reading a short book by author Jill Mansell that I found in my kindle where she lists an A-Z of things that make her happy. I decided to have a go. It’s very hard to think of some things for the more unusual letters but after my friend said to think outside the box I managed it. I was going to add explanation but in the end decided a simple list is enough. The review for the book can be found HERE
What would your A-Z look like?
A = Art (Galleries)
B –Bubble Baths
C – Crafting
D – (all things) Disney
E – Exercise (Gym)
F – Friends/Family
G – Genealogy
H – History
I – Ice Cream
J – Japanese Blossom Trees
K – Knitting
L – Laughing
M – Music
N – Novels
O – Ocean
P – Pizza/Pasta
Q – (Rose) Quartz crystal
S – Seaside
T – Travel
U – Underwear (can’t beat a beautiful set of matching undies!)
Yesterday was quite the day. I had to go over to Blackpool for a meeting. Or rather a small town within walking distance and its own train stop. Originally I’d planned to get the train to Blackpool and then a taxi to the office but was told the local train stop was practically next door so to get that. This turned out to be a BAD THING as several trains were cancelled – all of them being the rare few that stopped where I needed to be. I ended up with a 2 hour delay at both ends of the journey. On the outward journey I stopped off at a Costa Coffee to pass the time and check my emails. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself at this point as I’d been up since 5am and was a bit cold. Talking to the coffee shop staff though they were all worried about their jobs. The shop was part of the Debenhams chain and there is talk of 40 of their stores closing one of which was potentially this one. Closing the store would mean closing the coffee shop. A customer in front of me mentioned that the store was the heart of the town centre and that if it closed then you may as well close the whole town. They also mentioned that the chain of Patisserie Valerie are expected to go under at some point this week. So many jobs from all of this will be lost not to mention its impact on already struggling high streets across the country. So thinking about it, my journey was delayed which was inconvenient. I was cold but had the funds to warm up in a coffee shop and most importantly I have a job and as a civil servant will probably always have a job no matter how much it sometimes frustrates me. I think sometimes we forget these things and hearing about the struggles of others makes you appreciate what you actually have.
The second part of my story yesterday includes a walk. No trains to get home so I decided to take advantage of some fresh air and walk into Blackpool as there would be a better chance of getting home. Rather than google map the journey I walked down to the small town promenade which led to the main Blackpool one. It was so cold! I really wish I had a had my hat but it was so wonderful to have a bit of time in nature watching the sea however brisk the weather. The walk though had me thinking about the future. For over 20 years I’ve had in the back of my mind how much I would love to have my own B&B. Walking through the towns though I saw so many closed buildings. They were in a state of disrepair rather than closed for the off season so definitely an economical thing. I think a B&B just isn’t going to work in this day and age; I can’t see it being financially viable. This then took me to Plan B which is as old as the B&B idea which is the desire to retire to a coastal town.
If I can retire at 60 I have 13 years to get some cash together. If I wait to the state retirement age I have 20 years. It will come around much quicker than I expect it to. 2019 is all about paying off my debts. 2020 then will be to start working on a future that will support me financially in my old age. Me and a friend were talking about grown up thoughts and that it’s always scary doing this. Who wants to be a grown up? People keep asking me what I want to achieve at work (job roles/promotions etc) and actually all I want is the space to build my future plans. This is where putting into place this year all the side hustles will start to pay off. Once the debts are cleared they will be part of the retirement savings plan.
So a day of mixed feelings. Even having gratitude for having a job I couldn’t escape the fact that the British Rail infrastructure is terrible and an inconvenience. It wasn’t just my trains with issues. The weather is so cold that having to spend 35 minutes waiting in the freezing cold was horrible on the final leg of trying to get home (and I definitely know there are people far worse off than me) but I finally have a bit of an idea about the future and how I can start to build towards it. I’m a massive fan of action plans and I think at the weekend it’s time to start looking at building one and what it will take to get me where I want to be.