I’ve had a lot of change and upheaval happen since I last blogged.
I sometimes look at myself, where I am and what I’m doing and I wonder who the hell is looking back at me. There are glimpses of a person who seems familiar, and then there are days when I have absolutely no idea who this person looking back at me in the mirror is.
I’ve been through a lot, even more so in the last 3 weeks. I’ve not been well and like this unshiftable tickle in my throat, I think I’m battling a subsumed mental health struggle. But I think I’m avoiding tackling it because if I tackle it, I’ll unravel, and right now, I can’t unravel.
I tell my mum off for being an ostrich, but bury-your-head-in-the-sand tendencies are very much genetic. I have the worst procrastinator gene and the worst avoid -it until-you-can-no-longer-avoid-it habit.
I don’t necessarily recognise this avoidant behaviour in myself. I’m usually good at facing things head on.
But like the picture below , I don’t recognise myself these days.
It’s been quite a difficult few days. It’s been stressful along a multitude of fronts.
With the number 8 figuring prominently in a lot of things. And yes, I’m being cryptic. Mostly because I don’t necessarily want to say much at all. I’m still gathering thoughts and processing emotions (and sorting out the spaghetti bowl of emotions is never a straightforward exercise).
Last week, I received a resounding yes in answer to something that I’ve been praying for for a while (there were a lot of tears and storming the gates of heaven). Then I had to pray for guidance about how to go about having the difficult conversations that would come following the answered prayer. Whilst I don’t think it went the way I wanted because they were never going to be painless, the difficult conversations were had and I feel relieved to have had them and now I can move forward.
I am thankful for my faith. Because I can focus on the knowledge that yes, things are bad, yes things are challenging, but my God has me in the palm of His hand. My God has the perfect plan for me, with the perfect timeline, and all I have to do is trust Him.
So one of the things I always want to do is to read more and I always allow things to distract me from that particular goal. It’s not for the lack of trying. But I think this year, I need to find time to stop looking at my screens. I need to reconnect with the things that bring me joy. I need to find my way back to the things that allowed to me recharge.
Enter my tsundoku. You all know what a tsundoku is right?
Tsundoku is a Japanese term referring to the phenomenon of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. For those of us with the never-ending goal of wanting to read, we start these book towers that represent out fervent wish to find time to immerse ourselves in our reading genre of choice.
My current tsundoku isn’t that very tall yet. I hope it doesn’t grow too much. I need to catch up…on last year’s intended reading list!
To be fair, I was okay. I had a better state of mind, and whilst I was battling some sort of viral infection, I felt okay about going back to work. I think it helped that I was working from home this week and only had to roll out of bed and walk to the work desk I set up in my living room (there was such a huge mindset shift in having a separate workspace area, as opposed to having my desk in close proximity to my bed, let me tell you!).
Apparently, post-holiday blues are now a recognised thing. According to verywellmind, post-holiday blues usually refers to the short-lived mental distress, anxiety and sadness after the holiday season. I’ve always just used it to refer to my reticence about going back to the daily grind. Of course there were days when I really could not face going back to work – the whole getting up, getting in the shower, getting dressed, commuting to work and sitting at my desk was a bit much to contemplate after the holidays. Of course, like everyone else who had a job, I did the adult thing, dragged myself out of bed and sternly gave myself a telling off (verbally, in front of the mirror and mentally, still sometimes in front of the mirror).
After reading through several articles, there seems to be an agreement amongst mental health professionals that the holidays can have an effect on a person’s psychopathology. In the run-up to the holidays (especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali), there is the frenetic energy of preparing for it, all those tasks on your to-do list to get things done for friends and family, for all the meals, for the gift-giving, treats for visitors and the children. Then there are those days that you are enveloped in feel-good feelings where you are loved-up, relaxed (or in a contstant state of stress as family or social situations can be stressful!), or marinating in dopamine-producing experiences.
Then of course, there is the huge thump of a landing once the holidays are over; you are back, right smack in the middle of the daily grind. the days are grey, damp, cold and depressing, and everything that made you happy might not be around you anymore. I love Margaret Wehrenberg’s suggestions on Psychology Today for beating the post-holiday blues: to start with, it’s the mindset shift that whatever you’re going through is a change in stimulation and, more often than not, it’s less stimulation so you need to get used to that (so be kind to yourself and allow yourself to adjust); then it’s physical activity (which I think, in my case is finally unpacking completely and finally finding all my comfy sweats because apart from them being comfortable but presentable lounge wear, they’re also warm!); following that you go through a “looking forward” exercise – not resolution-making or massive life goals-setting (because that’s just daunting and you don’t need daunting whilst dealing with the blues!), just planning or thinking about something that you want to do in the new year (in my case it’s getting a lovely tea set and ingredients so that I can invite my friends over and have tea and cake with them in the new place); and finally, you steer clear of any holiday-related reminders, like watching Christmas movies because the post-holiday blues is a rabbit-hole that you don’t want to, like Alice, want to inadvertently fall into.
It’s going to be a difficult few weeks for all of us, perhaps more for some than others. Be kind to yourself (it’s a reminder that has almost become a personal mantra) and if things become difficult, remember to talk about it. I am reminded of a meme that I often see on Instagram: if you’re not speaking out, you’re storing it, and that gets heavy.
So I’ve been at the new digs for a month now, officially. But I still haven’t finished sorting out the things I’ve brought over. I still don’t know how I managed to accumulate so much tat in the time that I’ve been living in London.
If you’ve moved houses, how long did it take you to sort out all the things that you packed into boxes and storage boxes? Is this normal? Or am I just procrastinating again?
I can quite shake the feeling that there are things I need that I haven’t actually thought of. But of course, if I don’t sort out my stuff, I won’t know what I have and don’t have and I won’t have a clear picture of what I do and don’t need.
That should give me enough motivation to sort things out, eh?
I’ve developed a habit of having the telly on in the background for what I called “white noise”. I’m not sure when it started. I now feel uncomfortable when it’s quiet.
I used to adore the quiet, when I could be alone with my thoughts. I was happy to just doodle, or write in my journal (which I probably need to start doing properly again). I remember the enjoyment I felt, just sitting outside and feeling the breeze. I loved just sitting in the library and just letting the silence wash over me.
I think I started fearing the quiet because I became conditioned to think that the quiet happened when I did something wrong. Company, presence, conversation and affection were withdrawn when I did something that was deemed unacceptable. It was my punishment and a reckoning would happen when I made a noise. I’m not describing getting hurt physically. It was just I would be inundated with past recriminations and past infractions. Sometimes, that feels worse than being hit. Because words stay with you.
I need to learn to appreciate the quiet again. To learn to just be. To learn to be in the moment. To know that the quiet doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. To know that when things are quiet it means you can relax.
It’s a new year. And in the new year, we (usually) make these grandiose resolutions of wanting to better, healthier, fitter (some of us take out a gym membership!), more successful, more prosperous, an improved version of our previous selves; we want to make a change.
I’m not any different. I started to make my list of my new year resolutions last night, in the run up to midight. Then I remembered: I don’t have to. I already have a list. Because, really, what are resolutions but a guide for the things we want for ourselves, what we want to improve, right?
2022 was a year of seismic change for me. It was like someone took the tray that had everything I found familiar and safe and turned it upside down. I was recovering from my father’s death and I found myself confronted with the bomb site that was my life, surrounded by debris that looked familiar. There were items that I thought looked and felt familiar, or resembled things that I thought I knew, that no longer provided the same sense of security that they used to. I had to face the end of a relationship that I thought would never end – a relationship that defined my identity, my sense of self and, I thought, my future.
I suppose it was a long time coming. When you lose yourself in something, when you make impossible compromises (you know the ones, the ones where you do things because you think you’re doing it in the name of love), when you accept treatment that you otherwise wouldn’t (because, again, love), when you make adjustments in the name of being understanding (because you feel you have more capacity to understand), when you think it’s okay to settle because you think this is your lot, you made a decision, so you live with it.
It takes a life event of disaster proportions to make you see things from a different and possibly a clearer perspective. In my case, it was the end of a more-than-2-decade-long relationship for me to reevaluate everything. I guess from a making-a-change perspective, it was good that I was forced to do all these reevaluations from a different location. I was alone and I had to confront all the compromises and decisions I’d made to date. And it looked awful. I’m not blaming anyone else. I made those decisions. To paraphrase a once-favourite Wilson Phillips song, I’ve got no one to blame for my unhappiness, I got myself into my own mess. I contributed to the majority of the nuclear explosion that changed my life.
But, still thinking about that Wilson Phillips song, I am holding on. Because I know that things will change. Because now, I recognise the person in the mirror again. I recognise the person talking again. I’m learning from the experiences and I am coming out knowing who I am, grateful because I know I am so very blessed, learning the lessons and not settling for the bare minimum ever again.
I am a work in progress and I have a long way to go. But I am taking it a day at a time, a step at a time.
I am ready for the challenges that 2023 will bring because I know my God has me in the palm of His hands, I have people who truly love me supporting me and rooting for me.
I won’t have to edit who I am anymore.
I am walking forward being truly and authentically me!
So WordPress asked me whether my life this year was what I thought it would look like this time last year.
HELL TO THE NO!
I’ve had so many shifts and pivots to my life that my life right now is definitely NOT what I would’ve even imagined it would be.
I’m not quite ready to write about it. To be fair, I haven’t actually written much about anything at all since my life started shifting. There have been a lot of massive life changes in the past 9 months. It hasn’t escaped me that it’s a 9-month reference. It feels like I’m a whole other person, and at the same time, I feel like I know who I’m looking at in the mirror again.
Life is different now. But different is good. Different means growth. Different means opportunities. Different means possibilitles.
As we inhale soothing well-being through the radiant glow of an unsuspected lighthouse in the dark stormy nights of our life, we can come to feel the exhilarating rhythm of our heartbeat, finding compassion with ourselves and at one time reaching out to all the others. ~ Erik Pevernagie
I’m back from Austria! I can finally say that I’ve walked the streets where my father walked.
In another life, I would’ve been writing about the trip for weeks on end, because it was a trip that I needed to go on for a multitude of reasons. My father’s family lived in Vienna. It was especially poignant that I was able to go and be in Vienna after my father passed last year. But I’ve been fairly introspective lately and I haven’t been writing on the blog as much. Not because I haven’t had much to say (far from it, my thoughts and my feelings are can give Lewis Hamilton’s car a run for his money!) but I’ve been allowing myself to work things out in my head (and heart) privately. My journal has been enjoying my attentions.
I am grateful for the soothing balm for the soul that is the loving embrace of family. It has been a particularly lonely and difficult few weeks. But I am slowly finding myself again after losing sight of who I was. And althought, it has been a difficult and scary journey, recognising the face looking back at me in the mirror is worth all the heartache. The reassurance of family is a necessary and comforting guiding light.
I’m not quite sure who else has “bank holidays” in the world. I certainly didn’t know about bank holidays until I moved to the UK. As far as I was concerned, when I read the phrase in books I was reading, it was just that, a bank holiday, a day when the bank is closed. In the UK, it’s not quite as straightforward. Yes, it’s a day when banks are closed and yes, it’s a public holiday as well.
Sir John Lubbock drafted a piece of legislation which became known as the Bank Holiday Bill as it passed through the UK Parliament. The bill proposed for banks to be closed on certain days. Banks would be closed to the public and consumers and no financial transactions were allowed on these days. Initially it was just banks and financial institutions that would close. That’s as far as I remember. I can’t remember when they included public holidays (of which there are usually 8 in total, in the UK). I think there’s more information on this in the Life In the UK Test reviewer books (it’s a test that you need to pass if you want to qualify to live in the UK permanently or become a British citizen). But I took my Life In the UK test (and passed) in 2010 and I don’t remember most of the things I faithfully reviewed then!
I don’t necessarily have any plans for the bank holiday but I find that I want to go out out! But at the same time, I feel all peopled out this week and just the idea of getting up, getting ready and pasting a smile on my face and being sociable is exhausting me! It makes me want to hide under the duvet!
It is actually the last bank holiday until Christmas and I kind of feel like I have to do something…although strictly speaking, I don’t think Christmas day is a bank holiday…?
Sometimes I think all this working-from-home flexibility is bad for my socialising skills. I probably need to flex my socialising muscles more but sometimes it feels like so much hard work. I’d much rather stay in bed and read a book (or five) or binge-watch a TV series. Or catch up with friends and family, either in the Philippines or somewhere else in the world. Although it’s not to say I’m not up to seeing friends…just certain friends…! Yeah I’ll stop talking about that as it does make me sound like a horrible grinch of a person.
Then there is that minefield of sharing the same language game as the people you have to talk to. I tend to have two conversations going on: the one where I say socially accepted things out loud and contribute to the conversation, and the one in my head where I say things like “Oh my gawd! Really? You actually said that out loud?” or my favourite “Yeah, you know EVERYTHING!” It also helps if I look away as I do tend to roll my eyes or raise an eyebrow. I also tend to bite my tongue a lot to keep myself from letting the internal conversations come out in a torrent of verbal diarrhoea because then I will pretty much become the social pariah that I am also afraid of becoming. I tend to have a very caustic tongue if I let myself actually say the things I want to say. I’ve learned to my detriment that my editorial button needs to be activated all the time. The world isn’t necessarily ready for the pure version of Yelly sarcasm or forthrightness.
So, what are your plans for the bank holiday weekend, then?