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Work-life balance

I’m about 6 weeks into my new job which has prompted this particular post.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked consistently throughout my life since the age of 13. From an evening paper-round to a farm shop weekend assistant to full time employment. I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I have found consistent work and yet in the back of my mind I’m always aware I’m probably a couple of paychecks away from being reliant on my husband. This scares me because I don’t want to be.

Work is more than just a pay check to me. It’s about my personal independence and, more importantly, it helps to keep my relationship with my husband, family and friends intact. This post isn’t criticising those who stay at home and don’t work. It’s just, for me, I couldn’t imagine not working.

Since changing jobs, the biggest change I’ve noticed is my relationship with my husband. We’ve always loved each other but over the months before I changed jobs, it did seem like we were arguing more and more. One job swap later and the difference is pretty incredible. I love seeing him when I get home from work. We talk more and we are just more relaxed around each other. It’s probably no coincidence I feel more relaxed even though I do work when I’m home.

I know things might change if we have a family. I don’t think it will as I think I’ll always want to have an element of work. My mum worked and I think she influences me a lot.

I don’t live to work. I don’t work to live. The two just coexist.

Music and memories

Driving back to Yorkshire today and singing along to music made me have a think about this very blog post. Partly prompted by listening to Ariana Grande which always makes me think of Manchester and makes me sad. Music has always meant a lot to me. Perhaps more than I was aware of until today.

Music isn’t just about music, it is tied to memories. Some sad but most happy.

Michael Bolton reminds me of my husband. Our first dance was “When A Man Loves A Woman”.

“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations was a song that became my theme song at university. Made all the better singing in a taxi on the way home.

Michael Jackson “You Rocked My World” and Alicia Keys “Falling” is tied to my flatmate at university who lived opposite.

“One and Only” by Chesney Hawkes – theme tune during college time. For the first year at university I would be woken up by friends calling my voicemail and on answering would hear the lovely tones of Chesney, with the slightly less tuneful tones of my friends screaming down the phone.

“Call me Al” by Paul Simon – reminds me of a very lovely and special friend who would laugh hysterically at my attempt at the “do do do do” in tune.

“Just the way I’m feeling” Feeder -reminds me of the times spent during university at the campus pub, desperately trying to avoid doing any form of work with one of my friends.

“Jump Around” House of Pain – reminds me of countless fun nights out with another friend.

“Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Ritchie – reminds me of a last night out with a friend before she headed off to the Big Smoke.

There are sad times too. “As long as you love me” by Backstreet Boys reminds me of a friend’s funeral on my 16th birthday.

There are countless more songs and memories. Many more to make.

Feeling blue on a Monday?

Thanks firstly to @Ms_Wire for suggesting this topic due to my need to write but not knowing what to write about!

Yesterday was Blue Monday, also known as ‘The Most Depressing Day of the Year’. According to a tabloid newspaper I wouldn’t want to promote intentionally but which seemed to have the best summary “It is calculated using a series of factors in a (not particularly scientific) mathematical formula. The factors are: the weather, debt level (specifically, the difference between debt and our ability to pay), the amount of time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take charge of the situation”.

Blue Monday causes me to have mixed feelings. On a positive note, I believe it is important to raise awareness of mental health and an attempt to cause people to think and be more conscious of people who do have issues with mental health.

However on the other hand, does allocating a day to be the most depressing day send a message that it’s okay to be depressed on that one day but not any other day of the year? What happens if a person with depression actually feels pretty okay on Blue Monday but then Tuesday is their Blue Tuesday? Will the day make them feel even more alone?

Amplification of a topic as massive and important as mental health is good. Bringing people together and making them feel not alone is not good. Naming a day and identifying a day when it is okay to be depressed on that one particular day? I’m not sure.

I remember going to an event where someone said to the group ‘why do we call homeless people homeless? We identify the one thing that they don’t have and attach it to them’? Why do we attach Blue Monday to people with depression?

If people take away from Blue Monday experiences and thoughts from people with mental health issues which help to educate and raise awareness….then I think it is positive. If people think about Blue Monday for one day a year and then assume that people don’t have good days/not so good days…then I think Blue Monday may well be a day that I’ll choose to forget.

To be honest I didn’t take much notice of Blue Monday other than some social media posts. I did like the fact Samaritans hijacked it slightly and turned it into Brew Monday. I think everyday could be Brew Monday. Except for me because I don’t drink tea. Or coffee. Can you brew hot chocolate?

Post January musings

So, we are already halfway through January. Time seems to fly by so quickly recently and it emphasises the need to truly embrace decisions and changes however difficult that is to do.

For me January meant a change of job. New career, new people, new location. I’m still in training mode at the moment so things may change but I have some initial thoughts.

Normally, I would describe myself as pretty outgoing, someone who talks to anybody. However in a job with new people, it does take me a bit of time to work out my place in the team. By that, I don’t mean whereabouts I am in the management hierarchy. Instead I mean identifying at what point can I be myself. Sometimes it takes longer to gel with some people than others. I have quite a sarcastic (or dry!) sense of humour which some can take the wrong way. I felt very strange during the first few days of my new job, a bit out of place and desperately missing my old work colleagues who I had developed friendships with over the past five years.

Roll on 2 weeks and I still miss my old work friends. I’m still determined to keep in touch but I’ve realised something. I want to stay in touch not because they were my work friends. I want to stay in touch because I like them. They made me laugh. They hugged me when I cried (or made me laugh to stop me crying). I could be myself with them.

There are a few new work people already where I can see friendships forming. We all seem to be quite chilled out and friendly and I’m eager to see where my new job takes me both personally and professionally. But I know I’ll have a base of people I’ve collected over the years who will be there for me no matter what. I can add to that base hopefully.

Review of 2017

It seems a little premature to write this. After all there are still 4 days left of 2017. However, tonight is the night I am a little reflective meaning tonight is the night I write my review of 2017.

2017 has been a mixed bag. Personally it was shaping up to be a positive year or at least more positive than previous years.

I have become a car owner once more. This makes me happy because it enables me to be more independent. I have an amazing husband who will take me wherever I need to go, however there is something so positive in the ability to make that choice to go and visit friends and family when I choose to. I have reconnected with a few friends and hope to continue to reconnect with friends who are so valuable to my life but who I have neglected in 2017.

Until today I hadn’t lost anyone to illness. Today I say goodbye to my great uncle. A man who I didn’t see often but when I did, gave the best hugs and who I remember with fondness and love.

I don’t deal well with change but 2017 paved the way to a new job. I’m still a little shellshocked although I am grateful for the opportunity. Although I love my job, 2017 was the year I thought about a family and ultimately a job where I commute for 2 hours a day isn’t viable.

A family. I have written often about the pressure and obligation to become a mother. I fluctuate between knowing it is what I want to knowing that now is not the right time for me. But a new job will pave the way in time.

I want a career and I want a family but I have chosen to get settled in my career first and a family will follow. Some days I may say different but I am content with the decision I have made.

I have reconnected with friends and, somewhat sadly, lost touch with others. No big fall outs, no arguments, just a gentle silent acknowledgment that perhaps our friendship has changed. And that’s okay.

Others have become my constant friends. Those who are there no matter what. On WhatsApp at whatever time and who I can just be me with.

And through it all my husband. My family. Words cannot say how 2017 made it their year when they stepped up. Social media may show the rosy side of marriage. Marriage is hard. It is difficult. Around July this year it became particularly hard for me and my husband. Partly due to the fact I choose the self destruct mode every once in a while. He was there. He is there and I don’t write on social media about what he means to me because that is for me to know.

2017 has shown the worst side of humanity with the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. It has shown the terrible effect of a fire. It has also shown the best.

So 2017. A year. I am hopeful 2018 will be better. And I will remember 2017 and learn from it.

Change is good but difficult

So, this week I discovered that I had a new job offer for the New Year. I am not a person that likes change. I cope with change but I don’t embrace it, I don’t like it.

I probably project a person that embraces change and life in general, you might think I’m optimistic all the time. The truth is I don’t like change and being optimistic is hard.

Yet earlier this week, I had a chance for change. It was difficult in one sense because I love my job, the people, the actual job. I wasn’t actively looking for change until one difficult commute too many. Then an opportunity to apply which I took. Then an interview. Then an offer.

The truth is though that when I stopped thinking about the job and the people, the decision was relatively simple to make. Closer to home. No more 2 hour (minimum) commute. Opportunities for growth and progression. A company that I’ve wanted to join since hearing my auntie speak about the company decades ago.

So, the New Year will bring an opportunity to support people into work. It’s something I feel strongly about because I’ll be helping those who want to work but have barriers to accessing employment. Working to me is more than just a job. It’s the social element, coming into contact with people I would never meet otherwise. It’s the knowledge I have my own money to do what I want with. A job is there to provide security if one day my husband figures out that I’m a nightmare to live with and it shouldn’t be this difficult.

I’m really excited now and maybe change will be good.

Turkey travelling

I had low expectations of Turkey. When I decided it would be a good location for our 10 year wedding anniversary celebratory holiday, it was pretty much on the basis of going to Istanbul for a couple of days during our week long visit to a hotel in Antalya, on the south coastline of Turkey.

Now, having returned, I can’t wait to go back. I had a vision of Turkey being very beach-centric but I had not appreciated the wealth of history and beautiful scenery.

Turkey has been described as a place where “East meets West” and I think that is an accurate description. The food is amazing, the people are friendly, yet not too friendly and overall I could feel all tension leaving me during my very short week holiday.

We spent roughly one day relaxing in the hotel, the rest of the time we were out either on organised excursions or through road trips. Seeing Antalya, with plentiful waterfalls, ancient walled cities and market places. Seeing Alanya with historical castles and coastlines. Seeing Kemer with a historical park showing what it was like 200 years ago complete with rabbits and goats wandering across the path.

I hadn’t realised the influence of mythology on Turkey and how much there was to do. Now I do and I can’t wait to go back. When I first decided to go, some were surprised. Turkey feels safe and it is an amazing wonderful place I feel sad I judged it,

White Privilege and Amplification

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for a while now. Ever since I read about Munroe Bergdorf, the transgender model sacked by L’Oréal for writing a ‘racist’post. I have put ‘racist’ in quote marks because what Munroe actually said was something along the lines of ‘All white people are born racist’. She also said a number of other things within that post and commentary has been written by better writers than me about the other points she raised but here’s my take as a cis white female.

When I first heard about the post, it was uncomfortable to hear. I’m a white person so I was born racist? Then I did some reading around the subject and I agree. It’s really uncomfortable for me to write those words because I never want to be associated with racism but the extended reading around the subject makes it clear that Munroe wasn’t saying that all white people are racist. She was saying that white people inherently have a tendency to be racist due to society unless they are surrounded by other factors.

I know I am privileged to be white. I think some people think that by supporting people like Munroe, that means that you are apologising for your whiteness. I don’t think acknowledging my white privilege is being apologetic about it. After all I can’t help being white. However what I can, and do, apologise for is that society does, and I hope it is better than it was, place certain value and privilege on white people. Which is wrong.

Munroe’s article said that not being racist is not the same as being anti-racist and she is right. I consider myself not to be racist. I hope that if I see a racist act I will speak up always because nobody should be judged on their skin colour. A few months ago I went to an event which talked about women and amplification. Amplification is about not being afraid to join together as a group of people and using influence to change other people’s opinions and thoughts. There are so many beautiful, intelligent PoC writers out there who manage to say things more eloquently than me but sadly some people will take more notice of me as a white person. It’s a really sad fact and I do get angry about it but more than that I want to continue writing and signposting to those articles, because they say more than I ever could. I don’t know what it is like to feel unsafe because of the colour of my skin. From a societal perspective I’m pretty ordinary, I am in a heterosexual relationship, I identify as my biological gender, I’m white. I am a female which is probably another blog post but ultimately I’ve been given opportunities that sometimes I forget about. I’m not perfect and I’m not racist but could I improve my amplification to support non-white females? Definitely. Men as well!

Remembering Mum 25 years on

I’ve been thinking about writing this post all day today. The title says it all really. 25 years ago today, my life changed forever. This post isn’t about seeking ‘I’m so sorry that happened’ messages because I’ve heard a few of the sorrys over the years. It’s about getting some of my thoughts out in the open.

25 years ago today I went to a playscheme at a local youth club during the summer holidays. Earlier that week I had asked my mum to let me go to the playscheme rather than go with her to her job looking after children. She reluctantly agreed that day but I was really excited because the playscheme had organised a painting session to create a Chinese dragon which would be then used during a family summer day. I loved painting.

That day I kissed my mum goodbye before she went to work. I think I said love you to her but can’t be sure. An hour or so after I got dropped off, one of the playscheme leaders came and got me saying I needed to go with her. She looked a bit upset but I thought nothing of it until I saw my brother with the police. I remember them saying mum had been in an accident and they were taking me home. At some stage I asked someone when I could go see my mum in hospital and at that time I didn’t know she had died on impact, walking out in the road to get to work and hit by a motorbike. I remember lots of crying and spending the first night, that night at my aunties, my mum’s sister.

The days all merge into one after that. Nobody ever taught me how to grieve, how you showed grief, how long and what form it would take. I remember being numb, then angry, then numb, then angry. I think people would call me well adjusted. I would say a combination of being able to hide my feelings and then, later, utilising coping strategies got me through.

Every year I enter a dark period. This year it started earlier but finished sooner. I don’t know why grief changes. It just does. I could say I think about mum every day. Unconsciously I do but it’s not often I allow her to creep into my conscious. It happens at moments when I least expect it and I’m unprepared often.

Sometimes I am prepared. Like my wedding day. I knew that my mum would be on my mind. I am forever grateful to my bridesmaids who were there with me during the getting ready process. They had been in my life since I was 5 so knew my mum and it really helped having someone who knew her there.

Someone said to me today, you must have some great memories of your mum. I do. Some are for me and otherwise I share with people. Like her reaction when I picked her favourite rose by accident (caught on camera!). When she spent hours on a Maid Marion outfit for the local parade in the village. When she had a loose tooth and insisted on referring to it as ‘Fred’. As it was hanging on by a thread….

I remember her hugs and her smile. I remember not being very impressed when she cut her hair into a cropped bob. One of the main reasons why I can never imagine cutting my hair. I remember her going to the pub with my dad on a Friday night. I remember her laugh and her kindness. I remember getting incredibly jealous when the children she looked after called her mum by accident.

Bereavement sometimes makes people forget that the people who died weren’t perfect. My mum wasn’t perfect but she was my mum and she was amazing. I look the spit of my mum and that makes me happy. At least I know what the future holds!

People say my mum will be proud of me and I think she will have been. I still get upset and it’s true that the feeling of loss can be pretty overwhelming still at times. I’m just better at showing it now. People tell me I’ve coped well and the façade sometime works. Sometimes I slip though and I rant. I’ve said ‘why me’ on a number of occasions. When listening to friends talking about arguments with their mum, on some occasions I have thought ‘at least you have a mum’. When people post things about their mum on Mother’s Day but add in ‘thinking of those that have lost their mum’ part of me thinks ‘really? are you not just thinking about your mum’. I make no apologies for my thoughts even though it’s unreasonable and I don’t expect people to stop talking to me about their mums.

Because that’s life. The only thing that is certain in this life is that we are born and then we die. The bit in between is the bit that changes. I wish I had my mum for longer but then that length of time would never be enough. I’d still be saying all of these things if she had lived for another 10, 20 years. I surround myself with people who are there for me. My husband, my family, my friends.

My mum’s name was Linda. She never had a middle name and this upset her for a long time. Her maiden name was Adams. We joked she was from the Addams Family.

Looking for a ladder

The title for this blog post is perhaps one of my more bizarre blog post titles but bear with me.

A few years ago I sought some help with my mental health. Thankfully I have a supportive family and a supportive manager/work colleagues so the process was perhaps less painful than anticipated even though overdue (purely on my part).

Every year I enter a period of time from mid July until mid August where I would quite like to hide away but instead seem to fluctuate between making lots of plans to regretting the fact I have made lots of plans. It can be exhausting. It’s not surprising to me in one sense as I know the trigger, my mum’s death, but in another I am surprised because it’s been a long time since it happened.

This year it will be 25 years since my mum passed away. Quarter of a century. I think about all the things I’ve done during those 25 years that she missed out on, going to uni, travelling, getting married. My emotions fluctuate between sadness and feeling pretty angry.

This Saturday I’ll be celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of my aunt and uncle. The last family occasion with my mum that I can remember. Perhaps that’s why I feel like I’m struggling a little. I forget that other things can trigger.

The difference is that now I am aware. I envisage myself right now in a big black hole. I need a ladder to get out. I know who can help provide the ladder but more importantly I know there is a ladder. At one point 5 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine a ladder long enough to help me out and now I can.

I’m still sad. And angry. Upset. Frustrated. But on Wednesday I made a conscious decision not to go to a course because I knew that I needed to just stay home and watch reality tv and have a quiet night.

I know that this month will be tough. I don’t expect you to offer support because I know I’ll be able to ask for it. That was the toughest thing to acknowledge.

I don’t even know the point of this blog post but it feels good to get it out there. Thank you for reading.