2017 mid-year in review

I’m a few months late really for a mid-year review but I’ve just spotted my gratitude/good- things-happening jar is 3/4 full. Without looking through it (that’s a treat for between Christmas and New Year) I’ve been thinking about the last 8 months.

Work – It’s been a roller coaster year. Some days I love my job and some days I just want to hide under the duvet and pretend it’s not there. Pretty standard with most people I guess. I’m just a Geminian drama queen so when the horrible days happen I’m telling everyone I want to quite and having mini-meltdowns (as I did about 6 weeks ago). However I’ve recently taken on the role of well being advocate so I get to put together events such as our team walking challenge. Events like that make me happy enough to push through on days when it’s not so great

Self employment – I had a push to re-start this in 2017. It’s also had it’s ups and downs to the point where I decided to take a step back to see if it’s really what I want to do with my life. Turns out I’m passionate about these things but not so hot on working for myself. I’m just not business minded. There are so many things I could be doing besides updating websites, pushing the business, and doing all that annoying paperwork. As I have a day job guess what – the boring admin jobs don’t get done. The task now then is to find ways to utilise the things I love but maybe not on a self employment basis. Or just plod along and see what the universe has in store.

House – This is an area with lots of success this year. Tomorrow I get a new hall carpet after it twice suffered through a burst boiler. I’ve talked in previous blogs about having a debt plan and little spare cash so this is a big deal for me at the minute. I’ve also repainted all the rooms. Still a little bummed that my lovely coloured walls are all pale magnolia/barest peach but if I follow through on my plans to sell up in 2 years these are the colours buyers want. If I decide to stay then Oh I m going to have so much fun repainting everything red/orange and yellow! I’ve also replaced lots of little things like lampshades, kitchen utensils, pots and pans and so on. By the end of the year the last few rooms (kitchen and cupboards) will have been repainted. I may have to give in to the idea of pale walls but I’m getting my colour in my accessories.

Health – My diet blogs are ongoing. 6lbs so far and I’m keeping up to the diet. I’ve a walking challenge on this month but I’ve been pushing the number of steps for a while now. One thing about being a wellbeing advocate. It means I have to practise what I’m preaching so less pizza more health. I’ve reconnected with a dentist and currently saving for some cosmetic dental treatments. I finally started having the money to get my hair styled and coloured on a regular basis. The second half of 2017 is all about me and these small things are going some way to not finding myself but rediscovering myself.

Fun/Life – Oh this needs work. I’ve been to a few events this year. First music concerts in a  couple of years and some drinking nights out. What I’ve discovered though is that I miss being out and about. I’m a sociable person but the debt plan is killing that. Me and my friend who lives in a different city had a heart to heart about this with the plan that we will take turns visiting each others houses per month and go out on the town. That’s one thing to look forward to. I then made a list of who I am and what I like to see how I can use it to start reconnecting with people. How do I get out without much financial investment. I’ve started at a couple of book clubs which are ok. It’s early days yet. One of the things I thought of was a night class. Instead I decided to re-start my open university degree/ I have 2 (part time) years left. That will give me the opportunity to go to some study days and connect with people on Facebook forums. I’ve a little list of some other bits to look at too.

Money – This is a biggie. I am now half way through my debt plan. I’ve managed to reduce the end date by 3 months and most importantly I have cleared 50% of my debt. Seeing the figures last month was one such a happy moment and one I didn’t think I’d see

So when I have a bad work day or a day when my mood is low I can actually look back and see actually this year has been pretty amazing. They’re all small steps but they’re adding up to one great year.

The Quiet Ones

The other day my manager called me ‘quiet’. I took huge umbrage with it. I’m not quiet ask anyone. I did – that night I met 5 good friends for a meal and mentioned it. They laughed… a lot…

You’re not quiet. Where did she get that idea from???

But it’s made me think. I’ve written in some earlier blogs about how being in debt robbed me of my self esteem and I stopped going out and socialising. It also seems that I stopped talking to people. The friends above I’ve known since we all started working together 8 years ago. My best friend I’ve only known 4 years. I made a friend at work when I started my new job 10 months ago (although we were stuck together on a training course in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do except talk to each other).

So somewhere over the last 2 and a half years I’ve stopped sharing to new people. Old friends know me and my depression and can spot up and down swings and know how to work within that. New people don’t and low self esteem issues have meant I’ve not even bothered.

In the spirit of positivity and because I have to start going out (but cheaply) more I joined a new book club. And it was excruciating…well for me no idea about the others. I didn’t say a whole lot and when people shared what they do for example run some blogs where I could have said ‘Oh me too…’ and moved a conversation forward my brain went ‘oh no you can’t say that they’ll think you’re competing’…..

Aargh

It’s ok I have given myself a big kick for that.

My boss is a big fan of ‘So what?’…so what are you gonna do about it? I started by telling people about my weekend, I shared holiday chats with the big boss. I told her about enjoying art galleries and history. I texted everyone I know that I lost 4lb in my first week at weightwatchers. And a few other bits and pieces. I don’t think I overdid it. And I’ll never be an over-sharer with personal stuff (I hate that on Facebook )

But I’m going with the new thought of telling people stuff…any stuff and if they don’t like it…tough. I’m also going back to bookclub. A different one but same book shop as they run a few (the one from last week isn’t on again until August but I’ll be there also) and I’m going to speak up. I can deliver presentations to groups of people who hate the government I work for without batting an eyelid so I can have a go at letting people get to know me. I can only try.

 

So I’m sharing and then people will see what my old friends already know….

I’m not bloody quiet

(P.S….there’s nothing wrong with being quiet as a natural state 🙂 )

2017 – Be Excellent to Each Other

I saw an article yesterday that said 130 celebrities had died this year. I may be riddled with flu but I was stuck naming more than a handful besides the few that died this week. I’ve seen arguments on both sides about how much grief one should have about a celeb death and how much with that grief has.

On the other side, sadly I can name more than a handful on my Facebook friends list who have lost family and close friends (and I’m including the pets in this) which is  a bit more close to home.  While it’s sad for anyone to die these mean more to me because I’m seeing my friends (no matter how long it’s been since I saw them last) suffer.

Facebook and Twitter seem to be awash with negativity and various polls, elections and votes have given results that have stirred up anger even more to the point that people are viewing this as one of the worst years ever. I’ve seen the twitter posts stating 1939-1945 were probably worse which is right but sometimes I think of social media as a hive mind of doom. Bad news and misery seems to be following us everywhere. There was a twitter moment regarding some good things that happened in 2016 (mostly animals coming off the endangered species) but in less than 48 hours it’s gone and we’re back to misery and political tit-tat.

We really need to kinder to each other. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t best friends with a celeb, if their lives touched you grieve away. Better than keeping the crap bottled up and struggling. If you don’t like it, unfollow that person on FB for a few weeks. Then let it all go back to normal. Let’s help each other out. If someone is upset (for any reason) give them a hug; offer them tea or just sit and chat. As someone who has suffered with depression for many years sometimes this is all a person needs.

And then maybe we can spread that to people outside our social circle. But in the secret altruistic spirit of George Michael let’s not tell anyone! Don’t tell us you gave Bob the homeless guy you’re filled free coffee coupon. Post some articles or write a blog on the plight of the homeless instead. Don’t tell us about your volunteering somewhere – raise the profile of that charity instead. Let’s share the different ways to volunteer and help people rather than making it all about us.

(However if you’re after the money for charity, promote away. I may be doing that again if I decide to do the St Gemma’s Midnight walk again.)

We need to make 2017 a year where we’re not counting down the hours wishing it to end but one filled with as much positivity as possible that we’d be quite happy to do all over again the following year.

Let’s just be excellent to each other x

2016 in review

Most of my year can be summed up by these two previous blogs Road to Promotion and Budgeting in review

The new job is going well. It’s all completely new to me and a steep learning curve but I’m doing ok and constantly learning new things. I’m looking forward to some new challenges and the chance to grow further in the new year.

My attempt at self employment, while I can’t call it a failure, didn’t take off as I got the promotion and have been concentrating on that. But you have to try these things and how will you know if something is right or not if you don’t? It’s something to think about more in the new year and I may just offer my services on a voluntary basis for now.

And I’ve reawakened a love of travel. I’m still tried by budgeting  but through work and also day trips I’ve got out and about far more than in previous years. I’ve a few ideas for 2017 which hopefully will pan out.

So it started off bad, full of pain and self doubt but thanks to the second half of the year it’s one I’m quite proud of and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store

Good news versus bad news

I’m currently reading a book called Weight Loss for People who Feel Too Much while I’ll review shortly but there’s a part in it that made me think about our actions and the way we talk to others.

In the book one of the recommendations is to live life more simply by cutting back on the amount of negativity we subject ourselves to. By that I mean reading less gossip magazines, cutting down (or out) of social media, less news article and trying to reduce the amount of negative conversations we have.

I can do most of that and apart from too much social media. I spend a lot of time on public transport including trains and it’s an easy way to pass the time. Even though I have a kindle to read I often flick between that and social media more than I need to. So in that I need to cut down.

It’s the negative conversations that struck me though. How often do we spend time chatting with our friends and it’s all about how bad our day was, what traumas we overcame that day and what gossip we had found out. How often do we ring or text our friends and say ‘Do you know I’ve had a lovely day, some good chats with work colleagues and the bus was on time to get me home…’ or whatever happens. I think we are often far too quick to moan and not celebrate the good things.

I don’t think myself and my friends do it enough. I think we can do better. Although it’s not all doom and gloom. Myself and my best friend are having a detox week – her with caffeine and me with fizzy diet drinks. We’ve been texting daily with how well that’s going and how we are overcoming cravings or planning for any self sabotage. There’s been lots of encouragement and ideas flowing over how we can move forward with the next stage in what we both need to do in a dietary for our positive mental health (less caffeine and sugar). Now those are positive conversations.

You can’t ban all negativity though. Sometimes you have bad days and need to vent to your friends or significant other. Not talking creates even more negative mental health and as my depression came from this I would always advocate talking. It’s finding the right balance between talking about issues and becoming an energy vampire. Do you make a rule to only discuss issues at a certain time or never during the evening meal? I’m going to chat this over with my friends and see what rules we can come up with for our group.

But I am definitely going to work on my balance and concentrate on not overwhelming people with negative thoughts.

2016 budgeting year in review

Last year I had to take out a debt repayment plan after finally admitting my debts were out of control and I couldn’t cope. This year I decided to set myself some money goals to see what difference they would make.

My first decision was to take the advice of  www.moneysavingexpert.com and switch suppliers of various things. (He also has lots of advice and support of people in debt that have mental health problems). Swapping my broadband and phone contract plus the house insurance saved me 20 pounds per month 

Next, after bingewatching 10 series of Supernatural in a row I realised how much I did not miss regular TV so my sattelite channels were the next to go. I do watch some TV but by letting the Sky box switch to a freeview(ish) box (it doesn’t have all the channels of freeview) and getting a Now box for a few other things my bill went from 35 pounds per month to just 7. Huge savings. 

About this time I took part in an excellent 3 week course run by http://www.capuk.org who helped me put together a budgeting plan, see where I could save money and see where I was missing essential things I should be spending my money on (like life insurance which I can now afford). Whilst I used the charity Stepchange for my debt plan Capuk have fantastic debt support themselves and whilst mine is done over the phone and internet; Capuk are excellent for that face to face service. I used them a lot in my old job and both companies are so supportive. It’s important to note they are both charitable organisations and would never charge. Don’t ever let anyone charge you for debt advice when the honest support is out there. 

What else? Well I failed at everything I tried to do. Swapping jobs at easter to a desk job did originally start saving me cash but then I went and got promoted. Sounds good except I often work away and I’m still trying to find the right balance between working away and sticking to budget and wayhey I’m working away let me buy everything!!!!!

I’m a  work in progress….

(In  all seriousness the promotion has been great for finally helping me get on top of things. Once I stop hotel boredom eating to go with the already abandoned magazine buying for the train journeys I’ll be laughing. And I’m sorry but a 3 hour train journey and I’m taking the sweets! I just have to remember to buy from Aldi and not the train station. Life is good and getting better)

And nothings actually a failure, more of a need to review the situation a little further.

I was also meant to start a Christmas savings plan. I didn’t however this is the first year in my memory that I haven’t borrowed money to pay for anything so it’s a plus point. 

I tried to switch my shopping to weekly but it didn’t feel quite right so went back to monthly. I think that’s a piece of advice I was given that’s a bit personal and people will have to see what suits them best. 

So! What to do for next year??? Well I’ll keep an eye on the utility switching. My mobile contract is up in 12 months so will look at that. I am going to start a Christmas fund…honest. I want to clear one of my small debts. And most importantly I’d like to have a week where I don’t think about money at all. I think that’s do-able.

Smal steps that’s all I need and eventually (Jan 2020 fingers crossed) it will all be over x

The road to promotion

Next week I leave my job, take two weeks annual leave (vacation) and then on the 12th September start my new job, a promotion I didn’t think I’d ever apply for.

It’s been a rough 2.5 years preceding this. January 2014 I started a job working as a community work coach coaching people into work and supporting those who were in recovery from drugs and alcohol and homeless/housing issues. Three weeks into the job I found out, at a jobs fair no less, that my real dad was dead and had been for a couple of years. I was devastated far more than I expected as I’d been brought up by someone else. But the idea that you’ll never see someone again, never fix the rift between you, never forgive them (to their face) or talk to them again – that hit me hard. Two weeks after that news my step-uncle died and a year later one of my good friends lost her battle with cancer. That one broke my heart completely and I still miss her and talk to her most days.

In the middle of all that my son had a breakdown during university and spoke of suicidal feelings (he’s recovered now). I nearly lost my house, my debts were so unmanageable. February 2015 my boiler burst ruining my ceiling and carpets. The insurance I’d been paying for years turned out to be worthless. We had no heating or hot water for six weeks. It cost me more to fix the problems in the end than it would to have just bought a new boiler.

So depressed child, broken heart, broken boiler, mounting debts. It’s no wonder I had a breakdown of my own. I managed while off ill to get the boiler sorted, my debts sorted with Stepchange and put my child on the road to recovery. So it’s all good right???

Then I got ill!! I already suffer with sciatica, I had childhood arthritis which has been dormant for many years (only mild pain) but coming back and finally I started with sharp pains in my shoulder. Months of doctors visits and some physio and I was diagnosed with a trapped nerve, something like but not quite a frozen shoulder and RSI down my left arm! You know because why have one problem when you can have five!! Good job I have a sense of humour.

So at Easter when I moved teams to try and make life a bit easier physically I was in a very fragile state and feeling really sorry for myself. But I try and be positive and look at how I could start to turn my luck around and decided I was going to just go for it and apply for the promotion exercise when I saw it. What’s the worst that can happen? I stay with a team that were friendly and supportive and get on with the job in hand. Not really a hardship. But with some coaching and guidance I put my application in and several months later here I am – a week off a major change.

I really do feel like this is the beginning of some golden time. A new challenge, a few extra quid to pay of those debts and to be able to relax about various things. It’s been a long hard slog but finally everything seems to be on the up and while I’m still in a little shock for the first time in years I’m looking forward to what happens next xxx