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5 More Things I have Stopped Caring About

1 Apr

1. Dancing in public

By in public I do not mean in a night club or at a party or festival.  I mean in the street, during the day, in the corner shop, in the supermarket, at the garden centre and in the swimming pool. Having worn Elsie in a sling for much of her first year of life I have gotten so used to swaying, bopping, bouncing and squating my way around life that I’ve forgotten how not to dance.  The first time I went to the corner shop post Elsie, without Elsie she was about 10m old and I found myself dancing in the queue, at 2pm in the afternoon.  When I realised my faux pas I felt the need to explain myself to the man behind me.  He just laughed and said not to worry and that I have “rhythm”.  Since this incident I have realised life is actually a happier place to be if you dance along. I don’t care if it looks totally bizarre.

2. Intellectual conversations

I used to love to explore intricate, abstract and philosophical concepts.  Over a bottle of wine, country walk or lengthy telephone conversation.

Now?

Please don’t ask me anything complicated!  Don’t ask me to think!! I don’t have space in my head to think about anything extra and you are distracting my limited processing power from thinking about what I want to think about which is: working out what I can cook for Friday night that is baby friendly, healthy, tasty, vegetarian, wheat free, not massively processed and can be prepared with one hand during the time Elsie eats her lunch on Thursday and provide a lunch for the next 5 days. Actually. Sod that. I don’t want to think at all, Please can you think about that for me too.

3. How I look

Here I am talking beyond basic cleanliness and health.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never aspired to be magazine cover material and always focused my energy in other directions.  But now? It’s fallen totally off the radar.  I used to worry people would judge me for not making “an effort” but I’ve realised there is no law about having to make yourself look pretty.

4. Making up crap songs 

I’ve always wanted to be good at music, but never really developed the skills.  During my pregnancy I read that I should sing to my bump. I thought it was a good idea but the perfectionist in me got stuck in working out what song it should be, should I write one? What if it’s Rubbish? I never did sing to my bump.

Now? We have a song for everything.  The songs are not remotely poetic or musically sound but they aid communication, provide cues, jolly us up and punctuate our days. They get us through! Here are a few examples:

I’m going to wash, wash, wash your wees away. Wash, wash, wash your wees away. Wash, wash, wash your wees away and wiggle your waggles away (to the tune of shake your sillies out) 

We’ll have a cup of tea and a boobie, we’ll have a cup of tea and a boobie, we’ll have a cup of tea and a boobie, ’cause that’s what mummies and Elsies do, boom, boom boom (to the tune of Alice the camel) 

Bye bye water, bye bye bubbles, bye bye day time, bye bye troubles (I don’t know where that time comes from) 

5. Having low-brow tastes

Please consider this my official “coming out” I’ve always secretly liked a bit of crap telly, but now, if I get the chance to spend a few minutes in front of the box I need a zero-effort-super-fast-brainless- hit.  I need something to turn my brain off to.  I love made in Chelsea, TOWIE and 90210. While I’m confessing I might as well tell you I also love KFC, Krispy Kreme and all inclusive beach holidays. I wish I didn’t, but I do. Life’s too short to pretend otherwise.

What do you no longer care about? Either as the result of having a baby or due to other sources of personal change?

5 Things I have stopped caring about 

31 Mar

Everyone knows that becoming a mother changes you so I won’t bore you with all the usual existential, emotional, time or sleep related revelations. Here are the things that I’ve noticed that have taken me by complete surprise…

1. People hearing me poo 

I used to avoid pooing anywhere where I might be overheard, for example, the office toilets.  Now I don’t care, in fact, the office toilet is the best place to poo because it is the one place where I can guarantee not being responsible for a toddler, having an audience, needing to give a running commentary, trying to talk Elsie down from a tantrum because she doesn’t want me to do a poo or being interrupted with questions such as ‘where are Elsie’s socks?’. 

2. Eating alone in a restaurant 

I used to feel awkward at the thought of sitting in a restaurant, eating alone, surely people would look at me? Judge me?

Now?

Just. Give. Me. The. Chance.

 To eat a meal, without having to rush in the knowledge you’ve only got 5 minutes before the baby will stop tolerating the high chair, feed anyone else, debate parenting strategies to decrease the chances of fussy eating, make small talk to be polite whilst knowing you are wasting valuable shovelling time.  

3. My personal use of the following phrases: 

Dont worry, it’s just a bit of vom

Don’t worry, it’s only wee

Don’t worry, it’s only a bit of poo

Here, let me chew that for you

Thank you for your boggy

I’m just going to squirt some breast milk in your eye

Let me sniff your bum

4. Buying pre-chopped, frozen onions

Yes, it costs £1 more than buying the Un-chopped ones, yes you could argue it’s lazy. 

Whatever.

It saved me 15 minutes and removed one of a multitude of barriers to me cooking a healthy meal and decreased our chances of ordering a takeaway. 15 minutes is worth £1. Easy. 

5. Small talk

If, by some miracle, we are two adults managing to have a conversation then, for the love of whichever god you chose, lets not waste it on the weather, sport or people neither of us actually know or care about.  Tell me something real, talk about something that actually matters, let’s laugh, let’s cry  or fuck it and enjoy a minutes silence. 

Moments of compassion

22 Apr

Work was hideous today. I felt like I was banging my head up against a brick wall, trying to get heard about ‘risk issues’ I am professionally responsible for communicating but powerless to act on. Lots of phone calls, dead ends and defensiveness. My heart raced and I exploded in a mess of tears in the office stairwell.

On returning home I wanted to skip karate, order a 14″ pizza, drink 2 cans of cider and pass out on the couch.

I found my self ruminating over all the crap that I had encountered during the day.

I stopped and noticed what I was doing.

As an experiment I tried, instead to notice all the compassion I had encountered through out the day:

The positive, inspirational blogs I read on the loo this morning.

Bronwyn returning her ball to me during our walk.

My colleague listening to me and supporting me.

The team secretary who decided not to bother putting through non-urgent calls.

The colleague who filled up my coffee cup without asking.

The colleague who contained me in the stair well.

The lady from social services who took me seriously.

My husband who took a panicked phone call from me at work. And listened.

My puppies who delighted in my return from work and licked my weary face.

All the people who liked and followed my blog 😉

Me, who despite tendencies towards the unhelpful took herself off to karate.

My karate sensei, who caused me so much pain I forgot about all the mental stresses of the day.

It worked, I feel better, I feel supported and emotionally regulated.

Thank you 🙂

Going ‘Off Plan’

20 Apr

It’s been a stressy week. I have not managed to take time back.

I have worked overtime, over time that I won’t be paid for and probably won’t manage to claim back.

I figure that I need to start giving clients a set number of hours per week and sticking to it! I have been pulled into various meetings about clients and have still felt it was important to go and see them, write their notes and analyse data about them. This just isn’t feasible! (unless I can get my caseload down to two!).

Anyway, yesterday (Friday) I was driving around Thanet between a session with a client and a case conference about a different client. I realised I had a hour to spare; not enough time to get back to the office; too much time to go straight there.

I realised I was driving through broadstairs and it occured to me that I could take a lunch-break yes a friging lunch break. I had heard that Broadstairs is nice, and I suddenly felt like I might have the opportunity to do something totally unpredictable to even myself.

I felt as I were being somewhat reckless as I parked my car on the high street and walked down the hill towards where I imagined the sea might be. To think that no one in the world knew where I was or what I was doing, nor could they guess felt alien and exciting to me.

I felt as if I might have managed to go off plan; to have demonstrated my own free will and independence of thought.

I walked down the road and identified that Broadstairs was indeed, middle class, with an old-fashioned bakery, haberdashery and butcher on the high street. A funeral parlour with the tag line “today is a good day to plan your funeral” gave me an idea of the demographics of the town, yet strangely, the only young people I could see were teenagers. Not British teenagers, but French, in fact, the only language I could hear being spoken was French. I wondered if I might have accidentally entered into a rift in the space-time continuum, or maybe just, absent mindedly driven through the eurotunnel into France.

As it began to rain I realised I was indeed in Britain, and like a true Brit, carried in regardless down to the beach.

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I walked along the pavement by the beach huts and identified a picnic bench to venture across the sand for. Wearing a full length woollen coat and my red-leather work shoes I suspected that should anyone have noticed me they might have thought me rather odd. Indeed, in my psychologist outfit, I felt more removed that usual from nature and less able to be connected with the outdoors. I fantasised about taking my shoes off and running across the beach to paddle in the icy sea. I noticed this urge and reflected that, had I have not been in psychologist mode I probably would have gone with it. I comforted my self with my flask of coffee and a cigarette.

I was aware of this chap sitting in the bench next to mine:

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I’m not a fan of seagulls but he stayed put, looking at me and talking to the other seagulls. He reminded me of a dog, or rather dogs when they whine at each other. On making this association, I paid him some more attention. He seemed wise and grounded. I wondered if he had an understanding of the universe and realised that, on a level, he did. Not a cognitive level, but on a practical, behavioural level, and perhaps, an emotional level. Looking at him made me feel as if he had a sense of mastery over his world, a complete understanding of all he perceives, or at least the feeling of understanding of all he perceives.

I reasoned that I had a fairly good, practical understanding of the universe and my place in it, but there is no way I will ever have an understanding of it all on a cognitive level. Even if i had infinite mental capacity to understand all the knowledge in the world, the facts are still unknown. I wondered if I could ever understand it all on an emotional level and fairly quickly dismissed that as too time and energy consuming.

I wondered, however, whether I am missing a level or two?

I started to get cold and wet and retreated to my car, dissatisfied with my attempt to be reckless but satisfied that I had achieved some thinking space of my own.

I felt a sense of achievement as I arrived at my next meeting with wet hair and sand in my shoes.

Also, at the meeting I apologetically informed my colleagues that I would not be present the week after next for two consecutive weeks. They surprised me by seeming genuinely pleased for
me to be getting a holiday. I walked away realising that I had fallen into a trap of thinking my presence is more important than it actually is.

I drove home after the meeting feeling a little bit free…

Karate Grading

20 Apr

Last Sunday I attended my second karate grading. My club tends to wait until you are ready and have done at least so many classes. Once you have been registered for grading you have to go and run through all your karate basics (kicks, punches, blocks and stances) and your Kata (sequences of basics) with everyone else in the region.
I knew from previous experience that I was unlikely to fail (they rarely ‘fail’ anyone on the day). However I wasn’t expecting it to be as hard as it was. They made us work for those belts! By 30 minutes I could barely stand. Let alone do ‘good’ karate!
Still, I passed, and I felt as if I had earned it!

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Breaking into a sprint

1 Apr

Life has gone and got busy, again. Work has got stressful, again.

I never really stopped after the doctorate, never really had the’come-down’ I was led to believe was inevitable.

I recall feeling as if I had just got off a high speed train in a foreign land, but was still running along the platform. I have come to realise that this is because life simply doesn’t stop (well not until the end anyway!). We really are on a journey and there will always be stressors in our lives.

A few months into my new job I spoke to my mother and told her that, for the first time in my life, I felt as if I was in an enviable position. I described feeling guilty for having so much. My mother re-assured me (albeit in a slightly cynical fashion) that life would not stay this good forever, so to enjoy the good times while they lasted, and not to worry, I would get my fair share of cr*p.

I’m now six months in to the job and the honeymoon phase is truely over! I have too much work to do and too much risk to manage. I’m allowed to claim back any hours worked over my contracted 37.5, but realistically, if I’ve worked over my hours, that’s because there wasn’t enough time in the week and if there wasn’t enough time in the week to do the work, then taking a few hours off the next one isn’t going to help me. I’m trying to be as effective within my contracted hours and to not work much over them. I feel like my job is important, but I don’t want it to take over my life. If this is going to be sustainable then I need to look after myself.

I feel as if I had just about slowed down to a walking pace on the train track but now I’m verging on breaking into a sprint. I would really like to just sit down for a while but I think the goal should be more like walking pace, maybe a slow jog or even a bit of skipping?

Learning from Containment

6 Jan

About a year ago I had a valuable life experience. The problem was: I didn’t really want a valuable life experience! I was too busy trying to get through to appreciate new learning possibilities. This post will describe just one of the many lessons I learned from this experience. For obvious reasons It has taken me a long time to get round to writing it but I hope it will make some of the others easier to write.

Background

During my training I had some opportunity to chose my clinical placements. I expressed an interest in working with people with life threatening or terminal illnesses. We had received some excellent teaching on working in the area and I felt that I could make a real difference to people at an incredibly difficult time in their lives.

As my year long placement in Learning Disability Services drew to an end I received notification that I was to be placed in a General Hospital’s Oncology Service.

My previous supervisor expressed concern that, without a spiritual framework for understanding existential issues I would find working in this area incredibly difficult. I was aware of her own spiritual framework and it’s importance to her, but was somewhat dismissive of it’s applicability to myself.

The Experience

Arriving on placement I spent some time sitting in on sessions with my new supervisor. I realised quite soon that, in order to cope with my recent dog-bereavement and the demands of a doctoral course, I had shut off all of my emotional self. This had not been a serious problem when advising care teams on how best to prevent and respond to ‘challenging’ behaviour. I saw, however, that in a 1:1 therapeutic situation, much empathy was required.

In order to provide containment for people in a state of emotional desperation and existential crisis you have to allow yourself to feel, at least a little, of what they are feeling. Or, at the very least, acknowledge that it is possible for you to feel it. If you are terrified of what someone else is feeling, you can not effectively communicate that their emotions are acceptable, manageable and containable.

I spent my first supervision session in tears. I explained that I had realised I would have to allow myself to feel sad in order to connect with the emotional lives of my clients and that I didn’t really want to feel sad. My supervisor was familiar with this experience, from both her clients and (I interpreted) her own experience. She taught me about Mindfulness and about Compassion Focused Therapy, she suggested I use these techniques both on myself and with my clients.

I felt I was managing quite well, until a month into the placement, I had my own Cancer scare. Fortunately, this has been resolved without further issue. Unfortunately, I was unaware of what the outcome would be until sometime later in my placement. While I wouldn’t usually have shared this news with a supervisor I felt I had no choice.

I expected my supervisor to give me a way out of the placement, to agree that it was just too hard and that I probably couldn’t cope. Looking back I believe I also suspected she would find my emotions unbearable.

Funnily enough, my supervisor offered me containment. She was empathic but boundaried. She understood I was having a hard time but didn’t think I should give up. She thought my emotions were difficult but not unmanageable. She offered me tissues and a chocolate, but didn’t send me home.

The Lesson(s)

I learned that

  • Even at their extremes, my emotions are bearable.
  • If I stop pushing my emotions away, they stop being so scary.
  • The human body can only sustain an extreme emotional state for a short period of time. Yes, that emotion will probably come back, but you have already learned about your ability to cope with it and that your world will not end through allowing yourself to feel it.
  • Judging my emotional experience is not particularly helpful.
  • Noticing, acknowledging and accepting my emotional world makes it feel more manageable.

As a result of these lessons I was able to sit with clients who filled the room with their sadness and desperation. Clients who felt unable to show those emotions to their families for fear of hurting and losing them.

I hope that, in doing so, I was able to teach them that their emotions were acceptable, manageable and containable.

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