Caught My Eye

It wouldn’t be accurate to say I’m massively spiritual… ..or is it? I do believe in a grand design, a higher power I suppose. Ah well, we can explore all of that some other time, but what I wanted to get to is how I genuinely believe things happen for a reason. Not that it necessarily was always destined to turn out this way or that, but that people come into your life and things happen at the right time.

Today I am referring to Coachie, who, as you may have astutely guessed is a coach. No, this wasn’t on my radar AT ALL. Coaching might even be something I put my nose up at a little, it just seems a bit poncey, doesn’t it? Anyway, it came about from a thread on Facebook group for Swedes living in the UK. Someone had asked how people are and if anyone’s set any goals during this lockdown to work on. So I happily told the group I’m studying counselling and want to use all this home imprisonment for studies but also for writing “that damn book”. And poof! There she was, Coachie. She’s studying coaching and offers pro bono sessions as she needs to do this as part of her studies, much like for counselling we will go on placements from September. And I thought, what the hell!

Mostly I figured the more love you send out there, the more will also come back to you, and if I put my hand up for this it’ll help her just like I hope to get my foot in the door at an agency come autumn with clients willing to entrust me with their deepest thoughts and otherwise. That was my motivation, plus I was curious also to see how Coachie structures sessions and contracting as there are similarities I suppose. Indeed, our Level 2 tutor works both as a counsellor and also life coach. Of course, if she could help me get my arse in gear and write, that’d be fucking fabulous.

Well, it worked a treat and, oh, Clairei47! I’ve now written 6,000 words over the past two days! I had begun a little and had about 1,400 to add to that. How’s the running and who owes who now? Do you owe me miles or do I owe you words? Weehoo!

What Coachie did was simple and genius. She pulled out of me what I want do to but most of all why. She pulled it all out of me, the clever lady. It’s not by magic but it’s magical how much you can clarify for yourself by just having another person bouncing things back at you and challenging you. To think the whole world needed to come to a standstill before I finally got started… And to be fair, even if – sorry, WHEN! – I have written enough to start working out where to send it, the chances of it getting published are depressingly small, but that’s out of my hands. What I can do is write the fucking thing and do my very best – the things I can control, right? So ignoring whether anyone will ever publish a book written by Yours Truly, let’s work with what we’ve got for now:

Why do I want to write it? What might happen if I do?

  1. Someone just like me might read it and find a tiny bit of hope.
  2. Someone who loves someone like me, an addict, might understand a little reading this addict’s experience of addiction.
  3. If I continue to pursue addiction counselling/recovery coaching, having a book published is surely a nice string to my bow.

Operation DO IT:

9-11am, Monday to Friday, I spend writing. Doesn’t matter if it’s total shit so long as I write and do nothing else. No distractions, no finding other things to do to avoid it. Remember I don’t HAVE to do this, I GET to do it. Just like I get to be sober – HALLELUJAH! My daily goal is 2,000 words. If I hit this, I can stop sooner unless I feel inspired to continue and of course if I want to spend longer this is awesome, but two hours seemed like a fully attainable goal with a smidge of enthusiasm and discipline. I have lots of the former but none of the latter, but there’s a first for everything and Sober Me has surprised me many times now. If I can stay sober I can do fucking anything, no? These 2,000 words per day equate to 10,000 words per week and this means it’ll take me roughly eight weeks to reach the length of the average novel. This in turn, means I’m closer to reaching my why.

Off to a flying start, but I’m always good at getting all fired up and taking off at furious speed. This ain’t a sprint, so I’m trying not to get cocky although I’m sure my tone betrays I’m ever so pleased with myself. Well. This is the plan and you’ll be the first to know if I get stuck or find I couldn’t make myself do it.

In other news I’m now also officially a “befriending volunteer” for a local charity and will be assigned three or four people I will be calling to chat with during the lockdown. I guess it’ll be those who may be vulnerable, lonely, anxious etc. It feels good to be able to do something, especially when we see healthcare workers, supermarket staff and other key functions do so much to keep us all safe and well. Finally something, albeit very little in comparison and from the comfort of my own home. I braved the supermarket today as it happens, and as a store colleague passed me and caught my eye, I smiled and gave her a discreet little clap. She probably cringed and thought I’m mental but I figured I can hang out of our front windows every Thursday evening and clap and whoop all I like but at least today I knew someone I’m applauding knew that I did.

Gosh, check me out all full of myself and on top of the world. Do you know what, I’m so OVER this bloody virus and I’m so often feeling anxious and scared of what’s happening, so now that some magical things are happening I’m just going to enjoy this little burst of optimism and hope for the future, OK?

Best of all is of course that:

Today I’m not going to drink.

Tone Down the Crazy

Day 1 of lockdown has been a pretty good day, actually. Given I was looking for work when all this kicked off (talk about screeching to a halt!), my existence hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve really realised how much I adapt and how bad it is for me to not have enough to do – I’m at my best when a million things happen at once and have tight deadlines, so you can imagine what this does to me… It ain’t good. So I’ve already been trying to get focused and productive, and today I’ve almost finished all the things I set out to do.

Bambino and I are friends again. I apologised for calling him an idiot and he apologised for being one. A big thank you to you lovely people for reminding me that teenagers can be arseholes and sometimes we’re right to yell at them. I shouldn’t swear like that and perhaps tone down the crazy but there we are. What’s done is done and I’ll try to learn from it. I don’t think I need to tell you that this would have been an absolute catastrophe of biblical measures if I was still drinking. As it was, it was a shitter but it could be dealt with, as things can when we’re sober. See? Always a win! No matter what it is, being sober always means there is at least THAT, and it’s always a glorious victory.

On my run last night I had one of those little I’m-in-love-with-humanity moments. Boris says we’re allowed out for exercise once per day – thank GOD – so off I went to run the standard loop past the university, then along the river to the lock and up the high street back home. Lovely, lovely people! So well behaved and considerate, and do you know what, it’s contagious! Be the change you want to see in the world – best advice ever. Remind me who that was? Was it Gandhi? I can’t remember but whoever it was, it’s awesome advice. And there we were. Around that 6k loop I passed probably around 20 people and like clockwork we all gave each other space by moving aside, often running out on the empty roads or cycle lanes. And everyone smiled at each other. I came home bursting with endorphins and love. Talk about a turnaround from the hell hath no fury like an angry mama situation of Sunday… Well that’s me – I’m nothing if not wildly pendulous.

Well. There was one single instance of not giving space and being considerate. On the home stretch there’s a hill and on the way down the sidewalk is really wide so you could easily pass each other without having to get into the cycle path or the road. Two little old ladies were walking together and chatting. I began to move to the edge as they were on the side furthest away from the road. So far, so good. Tried to catch my breath in order to have enough of it to gasp “good evening”. Then the silly old bats moved further apart, no thought in the world as far as a two metre distance goes. In the end I had to get right out into the road to ensure I was keeping enough distance. Felt like snapping IT’S YOU GUYS WE’RE DOING THIS FOR but forced a polite smile instead.

Careful you don’t get hit, luv,” one of them said unhelpfully.

Indeed. Silly me, eh.

The oldies don’t seem too bothered about all this, though. Do you find this? My best friend in Sweden said it’s the pensioners who are still out and about in force, lunching and socialising. That is, the people at greatest risk are the ones who seem the least fussed about it.

My grandmothers are both 92 and when I call them for a chat I usually call one after the other as otherwise they’ll get on the phone to each other and I’ll get told off for not calling the other if I called one of them. Lovingly of course, but still. It’s a bit of a lottery these days as they both have terrible hearing, plus my dad’s mum doesn’t like picking up the phone when she doesn’t recognise the number in case it’s a sales person (mine comes up as unknown) so I always try her first. This time I was in luck, she picked up just as I was about to hang up as it had been ringing forever. She told me she’d stood there for a while deciding whether to pick up but then thought it might be me as I hadn’t called for a while. Anyhoo. So I spoke with them both yesterday. Both said the same thing. Now, with almost everyone I’ve seen or spoken with since this pandemic began, there’s been stress, panic and anxiety to varying degrees. Not with my grandmothers, who, at their respectable age are pretty unlikely to get through this if they were to catch the virus – they are jointly by far the least bothered about it. And they said exactly the same thing, pretty much verbatim:

Well, can’t complain. I’ve had it pretty good, can’t ask for more. You’ve got to be content with having got to where I am.

Really not a worry in the world, it seems. And it struck me how nice it was to have that sort of outlook. Whatever will be, will be. They both said how bad it is, but just went on to express a sense of peace with the situation. One is slightly immobile due to bad balance and brittle bones – she just said, well, the people who deliver her meals and help her out are healthcare staff and they just take extra care. The other still goes out on her walks but said she is more careful. They’re aware of it and they’re doing what they can but have no fear of the unknown or the things out of their control. Perhaps that’s what the age of 92 does, perhaps you’ve reached some sort of wisdom and feel at peace with the world and life. Although I think it’s right that we’re adjusting our ways in order to manage this crisis, my grandmothers’ view on the world reminded me of this one simple device:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t control, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Another thing that struck me as I spoke to them, was how these two old ladies also really demonstrated this other thing I heard or read somewhere. Can’t remember who said it but I think it’s a buddhist thing. See, so many of us will say: “PANIC! Everything’s out of control!” but the buddhist way, apparently, is to say: “CALM! Everything’s out of control!”

Well, there we are. I’ve gone from loony-tunes furious to peaceful and optimistic again. And all it took was a good run and speaking with two little old ladies.

Today I’m not going to drink.

Yet Another Way

There seems to be a huge disparity in how seriously people view this crisis. Yesterday was the first time in my life that I actually felt like slapping Bambino across the face. No, I never would. I never will. Nor have I ever. But God help me, I wanted to. I wanted to slap the stupidity out of him. Bambino at 15 years of age, seems to adopt the position of “it’s not dangerous for me so I can do what I want“. Precisely the sort of selfish, ignorant and downright dangerous attitude demonstrated by the stockpilers and that faction of society who defy the guidelines we are all asked to follow.

What’s hard about this? Stay at home. Don’t congregate with people who aren’t in your household. No non-essential errands or travel. Let’s do what we can to slow the spread of a virus that is potentially fatal for the vulnerable among us and together we’ll get through this. Capish?

Some people seem to without question follow advice and do so calmly and I consider myself to be one of them. Whilst a lot of this worries me a great deal, both for myself and loved ones and for the world at large, I have trusted the advice. We have not stockpiled and we have without grumbling followed guidelines around social distancing. No, I don’t believe I’d get anything worse than being very ill from this virus should I get it. In fact, in some ways I sort of think it’d be better to get it (because it’s likely I will at some point) and just have it over with. But that’s not what we’re trying to do here with these guidelines, right? These guidelines are designed to keep us all going and ensure that when those who are at great risk get the care and treatment they need, and the way to do that is to do our best to avoid them all getting it at once.

Mu-UUUM, it’s not gonna kill me and it’s not gonna kill you either. And [friend] doesn’t have any symptoms“, a defiant Bambino whined at me.

You’re not to go“, I told him.

He went. As he stomped down the stairs I shouted after him “YOU ARE NOT TO DO THIS” but he went ahead. I did everything except physically grab him or stand in his way. Let’s just say I broke every parenting rule in the book last night. I called my child an idiot, a twat, “because of idiots like you” and a selection of other harsh statements that rolled off my tongue. I was livid. I was literally screaming at him. I was so angry it gave me a headache, yelling at him about what these guidelines are actually about and the reason we need to follow them. I finished off with “fuck off to your room“. There you have it – and on Mother’s Day at that. A fine mum I am.

I was equally furious, but bit my tongue, when Bonus Son #2 decided to catch a cheap flight to Budapest a couple of weeks ago. You know, for a break. Their mum is a chain smoker since her teens and also suffered a collapsed lung several times in her twenties. Yet they all seem to come and go and just hey-ho, whatever like there’s nothing to worry about. The Prime Minister was telling the country that the best Mother’s Day present this year is to stay away. Nope. And even if no one in the immediate family would die of the virus, we’re still spreading it with no regard for those who might indeed fucking DIE. What is the problem?

It’ll suck horse balls not to see Bonus Sons #1 and #2 for months – of course I don’t want that – but better that, than contribute to this thing spreading faster than it needs to. And by ignoring the advice that’s what we’d do. This social distancing thing will only work if we all stick by it.

Yes, I went for a run yesterday. In the park. I can’t tell which groups of people belong to the same household so assume others were following guidelines too. We all seemed to give each other a wide berth as we passed. Where people were walking four-wide, I went over on the grass to keep my distance as I passed. Downstairs at the entrance a neighbour and I passed each other. We clocked each other coming and I motioned to her to go first whilst I stepped aside and gave her more than the advised two metres. We could still say hello and how are you. No problem. That doesn’t seem to be so difficult. Weird yes, but we understand this and why we need to do this. For all I know this lady could have a respiratory condition. For all she knows, I could. So we follow guidelines in order to protect each other.

What doesn’t work right now is hanging out with those you don’t live with. It’s shit, but we can’t invite the Bonuses to come stay. Nor can we go and see them for lunch, not that there’s anywhere open to have lunch in the first place. But surely it’s worth it if it means that we can slow the spread in order to make sure those it’ll be dangerous for get the care – or ventilators!! – they need, which they won’t if we allow this virus to explode at lightning speed and we all get sick at once.

So there was my anger and I unleashed it on Bambino. Fucking teenager. I proceeded to print out a huge fact sheet that explained in detail why these guidelines are in place and I swear to God if he displays this attitude of I’m-alright-Jack one more time I’ll go schizo.

Beyond that, to have me give a firm NO and still proceed to head out, is possibly the most defiant and disrespectful thing he’s ever done, so I’ve adjusted his world to the lifestyle to which I’d like him to get accustomed as a result. All devices gone and WiFi passwords changed. He’ll have access to his laptop to get to his school work but that’s it for the next couple of days.

Until he gets the concept, I will treat him like a toddler. Him heading over to a friend’s, could mean – if he’s already a carrier – he passes it to his friend, who passes it to his family who in turn might pass it on until it does get to someone who isn’t in the “it won’t kill me” category.

Yes, I’m stressed. Yes, I lose my mind with fury.

I can tell you one thing though. I’ve never felt more revolted at the idea of having a drink though! Imagine drinking when all this is going on. It makes me feel sick. I guess even this coronavirus shit storm can in some way show me yet another way in which I’m so unbelievably lucky to have escaped active addiction. Hallelujah.

I still believe the world will turn out a better place when all this blows over. I truly do. Some people, like stupid teenagers (who, in their defence, are wired to be selfish), are being idiots, but hopefully they’re a minority.

Well. There’s my rant. I have probably demonstrated what a shit person I really am but honesty reigns supreme here.

How’s it affecting you? Tell me what’s happening where you are?

Today I’m not going to drink.

Lots of Lime

The world is in chaos. It’s heartbreaking and it’s maddening. Still, I believe we will come through this together and that we’ll all in the end be better people in a better world. Nothing is ever worth even a single human life, but remember this – rock bottom created more champions than privilege ever did. Whatever ugliness this crisis has brought out, I truly believe the beauty of the human spirit has come out so much more. I hope that will be what we’ll remember in days to come when we talk of these dark days and say “remember when“.

light lr3

I hope you are all OK and keeping well and safe. People are still raiding supermarkets here in London and elsewhere in the UK and the consequences of this widespread fear driven behaviour are terrifying. We are adjusting to the situation as best we can. Enough loo roll to last a little bit longer and shower gel too. Running low on pasta but I have a surplus of lime.

By the way, ever the problem solver, I have come up with a procedure for wiping our tushies when we do run out of bog roll. Hubby has been laughing at me so he may not be allowed to take advantage of my brilliant plan – we’ll see who laughs then, eh! You’ll need a bucket (with a lid if possible), a towel and some bleach. Actually, we have no bleach and God knows if we can get hold of any, but it’s a best case scenario list. Other detergents might work, anything that kills bacteria. This will be a bit, uhm, shit if you don’t have cleaning products.

Anyhoo.

Cut the towel into flannel sized squares, or what the hell – get inventive! Heart shapes or whatever you want, just suggesting squares to minimise waste. When ready to wipe, keep running water to rinse out the bit of towel as you go – not pleasant and if you don’t have a sink near your throne you’ll just have to improvise here, I’m giving you the best case scenario remember. Then into the bucket which you have filled to about half with water and a good splash of bleach. Then, when the bucket is filling up a little with bleach-water soaking tushie flannels (I reckon as a rule of thumb the water should comfortably cover the flannels), put through the washing machine on max temperature.

It’ll require disinfecting the sink every time but I think the rinse-as-you-wipe element is needed unless you have a LOT of bleach. And you don’t want to have more than stains going in the washing machine, is my thinking… If you can’t disinfect the sink, I reckon straight to the bucket… Well, there it is. Not perfect but the best I’ve come up with.

Gross, I know, but needs must. What are your new hacks? Or do you have a better solution in any absence of loo roll? Who can whip up a gourmet dish using the following: sausages, mayonnaise and coriander? Given the lack of available groceries we have stuff that really doesn’t go together. And lots of lime.

………..and when life gives me lime, I still live by this joyous little phrase:

Today I’m not going to drink.

With More Caution

Crazy times… And as usual my outlook is the pendulum I normally swing back and forth on: 95% joy and optimism, 5% dread and anxiety. With the coronavirus, my view has been and I suppose still is that we’re likely to get it and it’s unlikely it’ll kill us. We take the precautions we can, although I have to say I’m pretty revolted by the fact that for some people it seems to be a new thing that you wash your hands regularly and properly with soap. But I digress. I’ve felt no overwhelming panic or raced out to get enough bog roll to build a fortress of the stuff, nor have I packed the cupboards full of flu medication. Instead I’ve happily bobbed along on my Pink Cloud and shopped the way we normally do. I’ve seen so much love and goodwill in the world and a wonderful community spirit where we club together to support and help those among us who are vulnerable. Sure, I’ve rolled my eyes at people clearing supermarket shelves of toilet roll and tinned food, but I also know we won’t run out and whilst annoying, it hasn’t riled me. But perhaps that’s because I haven’t seen the consequences of this behaviour up close and personal.

In the past couple of days, I had clearly got to the end of my 95% quota of joy. I popped to our local M&S a couple of days ago to replenish berries and fruit for smoothies and I went by the shelves where they stock loo roll – there was product and plenty of it, so I went on my merry way. We have enough of the normal supply we get (a pack of 9 rolls roughly once per week – yes, we use quite a lot and I admit I’m a very excessive bottom wiper) so I didn’t get any, just felt reassured and paid for my smoothie supplies and left. Later, when Hubby came home, my Pink Cloud started to evaporate – he was stressed and Hubby very rarely get rattled by anything. Not even ME, and that’s saying something. He seemed tired, sad and overwhelmed. He works for a global relocations company and with the current situation they’re fast approaching bedlam with 5,000+ employees unable to do anything, cashflow strangled and salaries to pay. Seeing him stressed knocked me off my cloud – if Hubby is stressed, panic is in order.

Once I’d fallen off my unicorn and my multicoloured polar bear Growzer had scuttled off, I realised my rose tinted glasses were still in the bear’s saddle bags and without them I suddenly noticed several Facebook updates from friends. Everything from expressing a wish to kill people who stockpile food and supplies to calling out for help because desperately needed medications aren’t available. Hearing about a young mum being unable to find medication for her baby made my heart sink. That’s not “a bit irritating”. That’s no longer “bloody dimwits”. That’s a potentially….. I don’t even want to spell out what that could result in. And yesterday’s trip to Sainsbury’s to buy chicken for dinner and schampoo that I’d forgotten to add to this week’s delivery was a VERY different experience than my trip to M&S the day before. Like before, I walked by the loo roll shelves just to check. Empty. Or… Wiped clean, hahr hahr. That was worrying. Same with shelves for pasta, tinned foods, UHT milk etc. Most meats gone too.

OK, so I wasn’t going to get any of that, but I could clearly see how this panic is created. Walking past yet another set of bare shelves as I looked for olive oil (another item I’d missed out on our weekly shop and we are almost out of), there was ONE bottle of cooking oil left. Sunflower oil. Normally I’d leave it and get it from elsewhere, but the panic got hold of me. What if I CAN’T? We won’t go under through a lack of olive oil, but it’d be a pain not to have it as we use it for cooking pretty much every day. So it changed my behaviour. Sorry – I changed my behaviour, I own my behaviour after all. I took the bottle because it was there and in case I can’t get hold of olive oil elsewhere. I took it, in other words, just in case. If I pop into a shop today and indeed find olive oil, I have deprived another person of that bottle of sunflower oil, and that person might really need it. And I’ll just have a spare bottle of cooking oil I could be without. Panic breeds panic and it spreads like wildfire.

The same thing happened when I was on my way out with my schampoo, might-need-it sunflower oil and chicken, I saw the shelves for medicines. Whoa! All gone. And the wave of worry came over me. We’re not ill… ….YET. But we may really need something to reduce a fever and ease a sore throat. Scary. All that was left was aspirin and throat lozenges so I got one of each. Just in case. And that makes me a person who bought medication we don’t currently need, potentially meaning that a really ill person who needs it more TODAY can’t find any.

It’s not a good feeling.

No. I’m a good person. Yes, I do what I can to ensure my family have what they need and I try not to go beyond so everyone else can do the same. But I’m sure the above is enough to make me a Selfish Dimwit. Shit behaviour usually comes from fear and that’s crappy but resenting each other won’t fix anything. So I try to accept what I can’t control and change what I can. We continue to shop for food the way we normally do and hope that we won’t be the suckers who will suddenly be without when supplies disappear. We are told there is enough for everyone. So no stockpiling. But I can absolutely understand the fear because during those few moments I felt it, and my friend’s words are as true as they always were: never assume bad intent.

This crisis has created fear which in turn has brought out the worst in some (and me too), but it’s brought out the best in so many, many more and the world continues to fill me with awe. We’ll get through this together.

How’s everyone doing? As of now, schools are mostly open here in London but some (including my son’s) partially closed due to staff shortages that are down to self isolation. People are encouraged to work from home but most things seem to be running. The advice regarding restaurants and pubs is to “avoid” so we’re not in complete lockdown yet. The streets are emptier and London’s quieter, but life hasn’t completely changed yet and we do almost everything we normally do but with more caution and avoiding big gatherings and public transport. What are things like where you are? Are you worried and/or panicked? Are you uplifted or disheartened by what you see around you? Is the world ugly or beautiful?

Today I’m not going to drink.