Re-Emerging

I don’t take enough breaks – and I really should.

There’s pressure all the time to get things done – but during the working day I rarely take a moment to stop and make a drink – let alone step away from my desk.

Even if I do step away from my keyboard I rarely take my full time allowed.

I know I’m not alone in pandemic life in this respect – and from what I read online my total average hours worked per week aren’t all that bad.

The problem I think is particularly acute when you work in isolation.

When it’s just me banging away in the office all on my own (with no-one else to talk to) I always end up feeling that I might as well just carry on regardless – and by doing so potentially save myself some work tomorrow.

The truth is though that the next day just brings another, bigger raft of things to do – which ultimately means that I’ve still got too much on my plate – but to add insult to injury the following day I’m also just a little bit more tired than I was the day before.

I hate looking at things building up though – and this feeling is even more acute when my work stack (being slightly specialised) is only going to be looked at by me and I know that the only person that will end up having to do it is me.

I do get told off for this though.

Both my manager and my partner are constantly at pains to remind me that I must practice ‘self care’ and not keep doing this.

On the one side it’s nice to be told by your boss that you’re effectively working too hard (the alternative would make me feel awful) and nice to know that my partner respects my work ethic and willingness to do things right – but they do end up pointedly telling me to not work through without stopping.

My manager has recently made me schedule down time in my calendar (which is a very busy place) and mandated that I use these slots for their intended purpose.

I keep telling him (and my other half) that I’ll be a good boy but I always seem to find something that seems really really important and end up doing the absolute opposite of what I promised.

I know it’s partially a problem of my own making – but even this self awareness still fails to make me change my behaviour.

Oddly however I’m the first person to tell other people that they should look after themselves.

I’m continually to be found tutting at the hours my partner works as a teacher (which are waaaaaay longer than mine and seem to be endless at times) and telling her that I don’t know how she does it.

Teachers have brutal schedules and time expectations heaped upon them every day of the week and it’s just not fair. To expect them to continually do 11-12 hour days is simply not sustainable – especially when you hear the negative commentary they get in the media.

Somehow it’s always teachers and their unions that are at fault for a slow return to normality, not the government’s complete lack of any education focused vaccination programme to enable this.

I doubt I’d be quite so angry about it if I didn’t see the reality of what this means for teachers in their home life and the emotional impact that it has when you they are so often forced to make a choice between doing their jobs well and spending time with family and friends.

It’s no surprise that teachers with children often have the motto ‘no child left behind – except your own.’

I’m always in awe of how much effort my partner and her colleagues selflessly put in. I just wish I could make it better in some way other than cooking dinner – but I guess I can’t.

Only the teaching profession as a whole can do that – and they it doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon – along with many other overworked and under-appreciated public sectors.

It’s always easier to try and fix other people’s problems than it is your own though – and when you’re doing so it’s a way of neatly avoiding your own behaviour patterns.

When I’m speaking to my partner (and telling her to practice self care) I’m often acutely aware of the obvious contradiction (and hypocrisy) of the the words I’m spouting – since they aren’t matching up with my own actions.

I can’t really say ‘you should be having a lunch and a break’ if I’m not willing to do it myself.

Maybe I should just lead by example – and to that end I’m going to try and get better.

Working through my breaks and eating my lunch at my desk doesn’t seem to have had any impact on the volumes of things I need to do – so I might as well have a proper rest and feel less stressed.

At least that’s the theory.

I doubt anything will stop me waking up at 3am and thinking (or worrying) about it all until I fall asleep again just before my alarm goes off.

It’s just who I am.

Sigh.

Anyway, if nothing else the weather has marginally improved – and with it my calf muscle appears to be getting stronger – which makes me really really happy.

Now the days are getting longer again I really want to start improving my fitness and pension off my car once more.

After a week or so of parking up half way to work and walking (well – hobbling) the rest of the way in I’m now gradually increasing my distance capabilities once again and am back up to walking about mile without it feeling like it’s pulling or hurting.

I’m a long way away from the fitness levels I used to have – and my Apple Watch annoyingly highlights this when my pulse begins to race on hills. It got up to 139 while walking up a hill last week – and previously I’d have had to run up Snowdon to make that happen.

However – I have to be pragmatic.

Looking back on older blogs there was a time when it took me over an hour to complete a mile – and currently I’m doing it in around 19 minutes.

I’m trying to not think about the distance I have to go – and more about the enjoyment of the journey to get there.

It’s also been an interesting week regarding my blog, because despite the decreased frequency (and some may say interesting content) of my posts there are still some odd people out there reading my thoughts – and in some cases they appear to be benefiting from it more than most.

I found out today that someone that has recently recovered from Covid 19 may have had a better outcome than she otherwise would have if she hadn’t followed a healthier lifestyle prompted by reading my blog a few years ago.

Also someone that I care about (after reading some thinly veiled comments in my post) has decided that having the vaccination is a good idea.

That makes sharing my thoughts (both good and bad) something that’s positive and worthwhile.

It also seems that as far away as Indonesia I have regular (and very welcome) regular readers that wonder where I am – and if I’m OK – when the posts tail off.

In my own isolation and withdrawal I often forget that simply by sharing moments of frailty and feelings of pain, discomfort, isolation and even fear we can prompt hope in others.

The continued effect of this is that the feelings of hope (and kindness) are reflected back, and for every word I write there always seem to be someone that reacts with positivity and love.

As hard as this last year has been for all of us – and as alone as we’ve all felt at times the truth of it is that whilst we may be physically apart there are human bonds that bind us all together all the time.

Even if you’re locked in and bingeing on Netflix (whether you recognise it or not) you’re looking for human contact. You’re watching people going through either fictional or real lives in lieu of being able to engage with them yourselves.

We’re all deferring feelings and pain relating to a lack of human contact until a later date – but they’re still there – and they need to be resolved somehow.

One day we’ll be able to – and I for one want to be fit enough again to walk into town for a coffee with friends and family – before grabbing a baked potato and sitting in the park holding hands with my partner and watching children play.

I can’t help feeling when I write this that I’m re-emerging – and with that in mind I might as well share a recent picture.

I think for quite a while (whilst I was beginning to lose weight in 2016) I struggled with this kind of thing – because I had a very complex relationship with my self image.

Well – actually there was no complexity about it. I truly hated myself.

Then – my image was everywhere and I became proud of how I looked and how far I’d come.

I’ve noticed recently a lot of those old negative feelings creeping back in over lockdown. As my weight management has faltered and I’ve struggled emotionally I’ve found myself withdrawing quite a bit – and that really needs to end.

Once again I’ve found my inner monologue telling myself that I can’t possibly see people again because they will be disappointed in me – or look down upon me because of my ‘failures’.

What I conveniently forget however is that I’d never do that to them, and they’re unlikely to do it to me.

So – here I am.

I’m a bit cuddlier, just as flawed as I ever was, and a looking bit pensive about being out and about.

Whilst I don’t really want to start down the long long road of getting healthy again completely in the public eye I can’t ignore the fact that when I do share things about my ‘journey’ (I still hate the J word!) it helps not just me but others too.

So – in the spirit of that here I am.

Laters internet.

Stay frosty.

Davey

Subscription renewed

Sigh.

It’s the weekend – and I’m looking at my bank account. After a ‘minor tech refresh’ it’s taken a beating recently.

Many of my favourite things had outlived their usefulness and (in my view anyway) needed to be replaced with newer ones. I’d resisted doing this since being made redundant in 2016 – but now I feel settled in my job (I was finally taken on in a permanent capacity late last year) I thought the time was right to dip into my savings and engage in some retail therapy.

I don’t like debt – and I don’t buy things unless I have the money to do so – but when I do I try and make sure that I don’t buy twice.

It’s like painting a wall though. One coat is never enough, and every time you stand back to admire your handiwork you see a patch that you’ve missed and need to touch it up. Once I’d scratched the first itch another arose, and so on and so on until I finally felt the urge subside.

Now it appears that I’ve reached (almost) the end of this particular cycle I’ve been trying to be good and rebuild my savings. Then a text came through, and I lifted my wrist to glance at it on my watch.

‘Thank you for renewing your WordPress subscription’.

Dammit.

I’d forgotten about that. An unexpected £84 charge arriving to irritatingly chip away at my progress.

Not so long ago I saw this as good value. I wrote all the time, felt I had a lot to say, and viewed all of my blogs as a therapeutic diary of sorts.

These days however (in the absence of a world outside) Netflix can seem like a better way to spend my money – but this once again makes me more of a consumer than a creator – and that’s not who I want to be.

Logistically it’s difficult to avoid WordPress’s fees and go back to their ‘free’ model.

There’s too much in my litany of posts now to fit into a standard plan. The photos within them take up gigabytes of storage space.

Since the posts I’ve written were often built around the images I posted they don’t really make sense without them.

If I remove them the blogs I’ve uploaded would be confusing and eviscerated – so in my mind I have one of two choices.

Firstly I can continue paying WordPress to host my recent history and just suck it up – or secondly I remove everything altogether and shut up shop.

It seems a shame though to go with the second option. An awful lot of time and hard work went into the creation of my posts – and absolutely every word I’ve written has been both heartfelt and honest.

I’ve never been so consistently creative in my entire life as when I first started blogging – and one day I want to get back to both the artistic and physical state that I was in back then.

It’s hard though.

I’ve been feeling older lately than I have in ages. A combination of poor choices regarding food, using my car more and reduced lockdown exercise over the last year have taken their toll – and I have depressingly familiar aches and pains once more that I thought were long gone.

These are affecting my willingness to write as well as my capability (and willingness) to exercise.

Who knew that putting weight back on would lead to the same old muscle and back strains occurring all over again?

Chief among these is my left calf – which frustratingly has been pulling more often in recent months than a randy teenager in Benidorm.

It’s no laughing matter though. Walking (or twalking) was my thing – and lately I’ve really really struggled with it.

Every step feels like it’s going to cause another injury – and the stiffer way it makes me walk (as I try to protect my calf from tearing again) means that I force other parts of my body to take additional strain.

Before I know it my left knee starts hurting, then my right hip, and eventually my back.

It really doesn’t help that (thanks to a childhood car accident that left me in traction for a few months) I have one leg that’s 1cm shorter than the other.

This has resulted in a variety of problems with nerves and tendons in my left leg over the years – and my thigh (after a strain incurred whilst working in Amsterdam some years ago) is still completely numb.

Completely numb that is apart from tingling and burning sensations which continually arrive without warning to remind me that I still have a thigh at all.

I’d take numb and tingly over the pain of a torn muscle and the corresponding worry of continual injury any day though.

It really sucks – and its insanely frequent occurrence recently is getting me down a lot.

However – toward the end of last week I’d gradually been increasing my walking radius again – all the while trying to reduce the number of times I have to stop to let it (and other parts of my legs) recover from the odd gait it produces.

For the first time (from around Wednesday onwards) it didn’t feel like taking a step would result in a painful ‘twang’.

Consequently today I’m feeling hopeful and dare I say a bit cheerful.

It also might be attributable to my partner (who plays as my Switch avatar in Animal Crossing) always dressing me in a manner that she believes suits me or makes her giggle.

Occasionally this means that I have a flower in my hair, some star shaped sunglasses and a skirt – but more often than not she seems to capture my ‘inner Davey’.

A couple of weeks ago I was running around catching butterflies in a full Star Trek uniform – but this week I appear to be a plumber…

She does make me smile.

If I’m honest though it’s not just her geekiness (and appreciation of mine) that’s the cause of my bouyant mood.

I suspect that this also corresponds with an improvement in our diet as well. After a gradual return to better eating habits (cutting out little bits here and there over the last two months in the shopping until no crap exists in our house at all) both of us are feeling proud that there’s not a single thing (aside from a small pot of honey) in the fridge or cupboards that could be considered ‘sinful’.

The last thing to remove was granola – which had begun to take up an uncomfortably large portion of the kitchen cupboards.

We told ourself (without bothering to work it out) that this delicious crunchy cereal was better than biscuits and chocolate – but I suspect that the reality from a calorie perspective (especially when 1kg of it could mysteriously disappear in a day) was that it was pretty much as bad as all the other crap.

However – the fact is that my making increasingly better choices bit by bit we’ve moved from a shopping list (during the peak of lockdown) that included cake, chocolate, hot cross buns and crisps to one that once again has only wholemeal pitta bread, potatoes and Weetabix as our last remaining concessions to carbs.

Sure – these all have to be eaten in moderation (which still presents a challenge) but our lockdown ‘taste’ for processed foods finally appears to be waning.

Despite a stressful return to classroom based teaching I’m also proud to say that my partner in crime has completely managed to avoid chocolate, croissants and sweeties.

I couldn’t be prouder of her in this respect. We both have our ‘go-to’ stress foods and if I’m honest I’m pretty pleased with myself for managing to do the same – because hers is not the only difficult work environment.

I am currently faced with such an insane amount of work to do in my job that it’s actually become quite comical.

My colleague and I worked out the other day that the hardware that’s in storage waiting to deploy to users (which the both of us have to somehow manage between us) currently represents the man hours of me and him working full tilt for six months to complete.

That’s without any new technical faults or support requests arising in the meantime…

Oddly though it’s still a rewarding job and I really like what I do working in the NHS. It’s a small chance to make a positive difference in a world that’s been screwed up for way too long – and if I can make the lives of those who look after us a little easier – then it’s worth it.

Plus – there’s a point where any given workload becomes so ridiculously impossible that you either cave under the weight of it all or simply accept that you can only do as much as you can do, step back mentally and just relax into the tasks at hand.

Oddly I’ve often found in the past that having just a little bit too much to do is more stressful than being completely overwhelmed.

Being almost able to complete your allotted tasks but not quite having enough time means you get within touching distance – don’t make it – and then feel like you’re failing at life.

Worse still – If you’re conscientious (like I feel I am) then it often results in you working longer hours ‘just to do that extra little bit more to make tomorrow easier.’

This can be a really self destructive cycle – and I often think that employers rely on this kind of behaviour in employees to penny pinch and avoid hiring additional resource.

If your job is completely impossible then you eventually have to just shrug your shoulders and get on with it or walk away.

It’s difficult for more reasons than just workload though. Last week I was also moved from the location I’ve been in for the last year (itself quite isolating but at least there was someone to talk to occasionally) to another location where I’m now completely on my own.

The offices that I’m in are almost totally empty (since most staff are still under orders to work from home) and now I’m finding that I can spend entire days at a time with no peers to bounce off.

I have customers that come in – and they can be quite lovely to interact with – but the interactions you’d have with a person that’s essentially your client differ entirely from those that you’d have with friend or colleague.

Sometimes I feel that my life is all work (aside from a weekly trip to the supermarket just to break up the monotony) and it presents no opportunity to just chat with friends or colleagues and share thoughts.

Although there was one very nice lady who stopped by and spent the time to talk to me last week.

As we nattered I felt that both of us felt very similar things (she described my own feelings above practically word for word) and that we were both starved of the face to face interaction and human contact that we loved.

The conversation was almost a ‘hungry’ attempt on both of our parts to share as many thoughts and feelings about life as we possibly could before the time to go back to our jobs came and we had to end our chat.

It left me feeling quite energised – but also underlined just how much I miss being around people in the workplace.

I didn’t want our time together to end.

When I managed a team years ago I loved sitting in the middle of them and listening to the chatter. You could spot who needed support and react before things got bad.

It wasn’t just one way either. As much as you lifted them, they lifted you.

These days it’s all about the grind – and how long you can keep going in isolation.

I have to believe that a better day is coming though. I have my 2nd Covid vaccination next week – and although that doesn’t mean I can’t catch it hopefully it does mean that I won’t end up dying from it.

My partner will soon have hers as well.

It won’t be long before we’re both protected – and then I can slowly begin to let go of my continual underlying fear that something bad will happen to the person that I’ve come to rely so much on and care about.

I can’t imagine life without her – and I think that we want to have our second inoculation as much for each other as we do for ourselves.

Sadly though I’ve come across some people who think differently – that want to avoid having the jab (either they mistrust the science – or didn’t believe in Coronavirus in the first place) and I worry what this will mean for a possible third wave of infections.

Lord only knows the NHS (and me) have been ground into the floor by the whole exercise – and even though we’re now in a better place after three months of lockdown it’s difficult not to see the same behaviours causing a return to the rising infection rates that we had before.

It’s not just that though.

If it’s someone you care about, their refusal to go ahead with a vaccination could mean a lot of pain and heartache for those left behind if the worst comes to pass.

I know that people want ‘normality’, foreign holidays and trips to the pub again – I really get it.

I also get the belief that there’s more to this whole situation – even why people might believe in conspiracy theories.

There’s a natural need to make sense out of something that defies logic, to have an ‘answer’ or an identifiable perpetrator.

The world has turned upside down and we need to blame something – anything – to have reason for why our lives are so out of control.

Sometimes events just doesn’t have an answer though – and even if there is an evil Chinese lab in Wuhan to blame does it really matter?

I’d pay through the nose to go to the cinema right now and afterwards to sit in a restaurant having a romantic meal with my partner – but there are bigger issues. We need to have enough people who are immune for our society to gradually re-open, and tentatively step outside into the light again.

Whether by design or accident things happen and without some degree of trust in our leaders (no matter how imperfect or what political creed they come from) ultimately chaos will just take over.

The best we can do is try and navigate through it and attempt to trust those around us – even if it’s temporary.

Politics and opinion is so ridiculously polarised at the moment that rational discourse (where people agree to disagree but crucially remain cordial and willing to engage in dialogue) seems to be on the way out. You’re either right or wrong – and differences of opinion have become intolerable.

It seems lately that you’re either vocally on board with whatever moral outrage is trending or you’re part of the problem. Even worse you’re identified as an offender yourself and torn apart in social media.

In no way shape or form do I think Piers Morgan is a wonderful guy – and neither do I have any particular love for Donald Trump or Nigel Farage, but they have a right to an opinion.

I worry what happens – and what gets forced underground – when we silence their right to speak their minds and their ability to vocalise their thoughts.

As odious and disagreeable as he is – if unelected technocrats can silence the most powerful political voice in the world overnight what happens if they set their sights on something else that we hold dear?

For all the joy I felt when Trump’s twitter account got banned I ultimately felt just as much worry about where he had gone when social media went quiet.

Trump and others like him haven’t disappeared – they’ve just been forced underground, along with everyone that believes the same things. The difference now is that such people feel more validated than ever and now have tangible ‘evidence’ that their world views and ways of life are under threat.

Isn’t this the way that ‘home grown terrorism’ starts?

Isn’t it better for us all to stand in the light and accept that we may not agree?

There has to be a way for us all to talk and for us to be able to occasionally to cause offence (and be challenged constructively if we do) without being instantly fired or invited to ‘consider our positions’.

I honesty think the fault lies with Social Media – and I’ve seen it polarise the opinions of those I love. It’s re-enforced every subconscious worry lurking within and created a world view that completely fits in with whatever they fear the most.

For all the democracy it promised social media hasn’t helped matters.

Mostly because of the way it pushes content to us (Cambridge Analytica anyone?) it’s radicalised both the left and the right, sharpening opinions to the tip of a spear that people can poke others with from a distance – and I have had enough of it.

I’ve practically given up Facebook (you may see my profile removed in the near future) I want nothing more to do with Twitter, and I’m hovering on the edge with Instagram.

I’ll throw the street a party when people finally get wise to the fact that Twitter and Facebook rants aren’t real life.

Until this is all over (as much as I hate it – whether its fake news or not) I’m keeping my mask on, sitting on my own at work (as lonely as it makes me feel) and I’m talking to friends via my phone (as much as I miss their faces and hugs.)

Once everyone is safe however I’m going into overdrive.

I’m travelling to the seaside just for the ****ing sake of it just so that I can sit on the beach holding my partner’s hand & listen to the waves while children play and build sandcastles.

I’m going to sit in a coffee shop, surrounded by people reading newspapers and sipping a coffee like they don’t have a care in the world.

I’m going to re-enter society – and when I do I’ll be breathing fresh air without fear.

If the truth be told I’m rather looking forward to having an aching shoulder from the needle next week.

It’s a reminder that there’s hope for the future, and that this sh*t show of a year is finally in the rear view mirror.

Maybe I’ll keep paying my WordPress subscription.

Maybe soon I’ll once again have something to write about and I can look back on my current creative drought with perspective and remind myself how good things are, when I can see how bad the world got, before it woke up and decided to meet in the middle and shake hands again.

Davey