Day 5 – be silent for an hour

Attempt 1.
11:30am. The front door clicked shut. The eldest at school and my father had just taken the youngest to play at the gym hall. I had an hour lie on the sofa and drink in the silence. I fell asleep.

Attempt 2.
9:00pm. The kids asleep and my husband playing a computer game downstairs. I seized the hour to enjoy the silence. I fell asleep.

I don’t remember falling asleep on either occasion, I may gave taken a really long blink.

I suppose five years of surviving on a third of the amount of sleep required by humans will mean that your body will take any moment of silence to sleep.

Day 4

A range of self-blaming thoughts have invaded my mind recently. Subtle thoughts. Rogue thoughts. Dangerously plausible, yet not entirely accurate thoughts. The negative thoughts build in their number and, if not quelled, their scale escalates. Bingo! I have a depressive episode on my hands and I didn’t see it coming.

This time around I didn’t pick up on the slump until the mental chastising went off the scale and I was berating myself for not having created an internationally acclaimed art installation made out of sharpened pencils. Barking. The lightbulb turned on. “Ah, I can see it for what it is now. I’ve gone totally cuckoo.”

Today’s task was to put up a counter argument to the internal dialogue of self-blame. I was to consciously congratulate myself. Not as easy as one might anticipate, but if nothing else it has made me realise just how often I have come to blame myself for just about everything, even really inconsequential things.

Between 8-8:30am I had:
• Blamed myself for my youngest urinating on the dining room floor and then minutes later on the doorstep.
• Blamed myself because I hadn’t planned for a third change of clothes in less than 20 minutes.
• I had berated myself for not preventing my eldest from getting soap in her eye.
• Admonished myself because I hadn’t fathomed out how to stop my eldest from being nervous about going to school.
• It was my fault [fill in the blank with any minor event that wasn’t absolutely Brady Bunch perfect]
Oh the conclusions of an unfettered mind.

At 8:40am, I clicked front door shut behind us. We had made it. We were on the school run. I took a quick moment to congratulate myself. In the space of thirty minutes I got both children dressed (one of them three times), fed three people, performed successful first aid, done a load of laundry, cleaned up two puddles of urine and delivered a rousing speech extolling the merits of school.

Getting a reluctant four year old and a potty training two year old out the house is no mean feat. I did it. Well done.

If I’m lucky I’ll get to do it all again tomorrow.

Day 3 – A family celebration

A week later than originally planned we held our annual meal in honour of loved ones who have passed.

The sticky ginger cake, in memory of my late paternal grandmother, was carefully iced and decorated to resemble a Day of the Dead mask. The eyelashes were a last minute addition after the youngest plunged his finger into the inky eye socket and smeared black food colouring all around.

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Day 1. Round 2.

My eyes have been mutating into coals of late. The disconnect between the world and I has been taking place for a while. As with the last time I don’t know exactly when it started but it’s fair to say that I have finally worked lose from my rocker once again.

I tried to go to work today. I failed. I succeeded in cowering in a quiet corner of the city library, my face poorly masked by a copy of the Complete Works of Dorothy Parker.

So here begins 365 Days in Kind (Reprise)

Day 349 – give a gift

I had an hour to kill in Clevedon while I waited for my bus. Clevedon has an ageing (more correctly it has an aged population) so has an abundance of charity shops with some real gems in them. I found this Royal memorabilia mug for the princely sum of 10p. I bought it for a friend whose kitchen shelves sport a big of a collection.

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Day 365 – Flowers for the neighbours

It was a vision straight out of Little House on the Prairie, only more concrete jungle than prairie.

The children and I filled a basket with some small posies. The children took it in turns to knock in our neighbours doors and present them with their bunch of flowers.

Flowers for the neighbours. And there ends my 365 Days in a Kind project.

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Day 336 – climb a hill with my husband

My husband and I had it all mapped out. The children were sent for their second ever sleepover with the Grandmothers, we were going to climb a hill, have a meal out and watch a film.

When the time came to it we ditched the plan almost in entirety. The children still went to visit their grandmothers but that was the only element of the initial plan that held out. I spent the morning writing while my husband spent the hours sat in a deck chair drinking beer. Friends came around for afternoon tequila. More friends came over for early evening beer. There was a BBQ with incinerated sausages because by that time my husband and I were too tipsy to care. Another friend joined us later for gin.

I failed in my planned act of kindness but substituting the plan for one we ended up with was a much better plan. I cannot remember a day where we have been quite so leisurely. Bliss.

Day 335 – The value of friends

I made a point of catching up with some long standing friends.

In the morning the children and I ambled around a community farm cooing over lambs and kids.  We picnicked on sticks of carrot and those ice lollies that are imbued with a neon hue only acquired by roll call of E numbers.  My good deed today was to buy all the children a toxic ice pop.

On our morning jolly we were joined by friends, my friends and the childrens’ friends.  As we caught up, the children ran up hills, stroked goats and ran away screaming from the giant pigs.  I indulged in conversations with my friend. Some things we talked about were light hearted, carefree and elicited peels of laughter. Some things we talked about were the big things, the grit of life, the life altering news that creeps up on us through our blindspot, hits us square in the face and almost knocks us to our knees.  When the big stuff happens in life it isn’t words that you need its hugs, and correctly placed periods of laughter.

In the evening I was escorted to a rural pub and sat with friends.  We caught up in much the same way as I caught up with the friend earlier in the day except this time I was simultaneously working my way through a medley of drinks with one hand and a bowl of chips with the other.

I can’t overestimate how important my friendships are to me.  I don’t benefit from only having contact with friends through a screen.  Texts are great.  They are quick, easy and cheap, exactly the opposite of the qualities of friendship.  Social media is has its place but if it is the only way we engage with others we run the risk of airbrushing the cracks out of life.  A Tweet is pondered and considered so that the 140 characters present us at our wittiest erudite best.  Facebook status updates are made when our life looks good.  We upload photographs of us jumping off sea cliffs, blossom against blue skies, smiles.  But life isn’t made up entirely of moments like that.

If I substitute the physical presence of my friends for the flat airbrushed profile of them then I begin unfavourably comparing my life.  My expectations become skewed and I feel like I am falling short, or worse that my relationships with others are falling short.

When you sit down with friends you see life as it really is, not through a carefully edited filter.  When you sit down with friends the conversations are more often initiated on the basis of “I really f**ked up the other day…”,  “Help, I can’t seem to get this parenting thing right..”, “Do you remember when…”,  “The other day I found out that…”.

Today there were a myriad of hiccups and so many things that I didn’t get right.  My son threw his first truly committed tantrum, for two hours he screamed at a pitch that makes ears bleed.  The first hour of the tantrum was in public.  I was unable to work out what was frustrating him.  I couldn’t fix it for him so I just had to help him ride it out.  Food was requested, prepared and then rejected.  Too much sugar was consumed.  There were times when patience was hard to come by.  By six o’clock I was desperate to run away to my bed and hide under the covers.  By seven I was walking to meet my friends.  By 9 o’clock I realised that pretty much everyone had had days like mine this week.  By 12 o’clock I was fixed.

Granted, if your friend is living on the other side of the world, social media is a pretty extraordinary tool but their profile is no substitute for their presence.

 

Day 334 – Write a letter

As my husband and I prepared dinner last night our eldest, without prompting, began gabbling on about ‘Magic Grandad’ (when my husband’s father passed away he became known as Magic Grandad).  It was heart-warming to hear her monologue, an insight into the fact he is such a present part of her life. “Magic Grandad likes rugby.  He likes Wales.  I like Wales, they are very good at rugby.  I can’t see him [Magic Grandad] anymore, not with my eyes but I do see him in my heart.  That’s what happens when you go magic.”  Our daughter had only just turned two when he died.

When todays stick tasked me to write a letter I quickly decided to use it as the prompt to put into action a plan that has been brewing for the last couple of years.

I have wanted to pull together a little book about the family for each of the children for some time.  I would like each generation to tell the children a little bit about their lives, the things we have seen, life as we have experienced it and any wisdom we may have been fortunate to acquire along the road.  I would love to be able to give the children a gift that they can refer back to and read again and again.  Perhaps when challenges come their way, and we might not be there to ask, the children will be able to take some solace from that fact that life is full of ups and downs for all of us, but given that their family have almost always lived to a ripe old age, most of lifes curve balls are survivable.  I do not want the experience and wisdom of my family to be lost when they leave us, as we all will at some time or another.

I finalised the list of questions that I have been compiling for months (the final list of questions can be found here) and wrote a lengthy email to the many generations of our family that remain with us asking if they would be willing to get involved.

Judging by the response from family members it seems people really are quite happy to talk about themselves.