Five Happy Things: July 2021

Happy things! Happy things! All of the happy things!

1.Sitting in our neighbour’s garden with a fire globe & wine & fish and chips

We were over near our definitely-not-local fish shop (there is a local one, which isn’t yet open… progress on that is a matter of fierce anticipation for everyone in the area!) and picked up some for our neighbour as well as ourselves – perfect social distancing food, as everyone can just eat out of their own boxes! We had old fence wood to get rid of, too, and so we got to use said neighbour’s fire globe… and the wine, well, you gotta have a glass of something. It was a nice, quiet evening, and was very much a balm to the soul – plus we got some cat company, which is always a pleasure. (The fish may have had something to do with that, I admit!)

2.The weight is lifting…

I’m not doing a whole bunch of stressful admin for an old house (it’s been handed over to a lovely agent, who will definitely be better than me at remembering when to get new certificates for everything, and trying to fix everything that’s gone wrong this month) and it just feels so much better. I’m a bit frustrated at myself that I didn’t ask for help earlier (to be fair, I didn’t realise that I could) but better late than never, I guess.

I also saw some ex-work friends for lunch (which was lovely – I really do miss the people!) and everything’s still generally on fire there, and IT IS NOT MY PROBLEM! It’s such a great feeling. I knew it was all heavy, but didn’t realise quite how much it had dragged me down until it wasn’t any more, and I’m in a job that doesn’t demand my heart&soul and spend every working hour reminding me that however much I do, it will never be enough. I’m still absolutely fucking angry about that whole thing, but I’m also aware that there’s nothing more I can do, and it’ll just drag me down again to be thinking about it – so I’m trying not to. But it is lovely to hear about the rolling chaos and know that I don’t have to give a single fuck any more.

3.Travel? (UK… and further?)

I’ve been booking bits for December – we’re going to Chester – and London in October, and it’s been very satisfying to be able to think about travel again… even if it does get cancelled, which is fine, and we have contingency, but it’s a nice possibility! We’re also thinking about Canada and Antwerp for next year, but that one’s a bit more of a “let’s just see how the next few months go…”

We’re also starting to do more in the local area, too – Otter & I have been trying to find things that are nicely distanced, so we’re going kayaking next week sometime, and hopefully trundling out for some walks that we’ve wanted to try for a bit. Wytham Woods is first on our agenda!

4.The Garden

Having spent the last year or so with zero energy and zero spoons and absolutely no desire to go into our garden (our neighbour’s garden has been the saving grace for getting outside, as they are a keen gardener and so if we wanted beautiful flowers, there’s always something there), I finally have more energy and a desire to do something, and we did a Garden!

We’ve taken out the over-enthusiastic goose grass, put in purple wisteria (not in the same quantities…), added two raised beds, cleared the path, encouraged the tomatoes, planted some more veg, got to the gooseberries before the birds (TAKE THAT, YOU THIEVING BASTARDS – we got TWO last year. TWO!) and some raspberries, took a bunch of old wood over to our neighbour for burning, added some trellis for various things, restrained some rather enthusiastic growers, and generally Tidied.

We’ve got a few more plans, too, which feels nice (and like they might actually get done!) – dig in the path, sort the patio, add some plants to the fence (we have some small flexible plant pots, so we want some climbers/smellies/herbs in the pallet holes), tidy the shed, and sort the compost. But it feels like a nicer area to be in, and that’s really satisfying.

The wild meadow in the centre is growing nicely, too – we put yellow rattle in last autumn to fight back against the grass and that’s flowered nicely this summer, plus there’s been a bunch of other odd things popping up from the wildflowers I scattered in October. The bees are definitely enjoying it!

5.WOE (and also WOE, and more WOE, and have some extra WOE)

There has been the standard amount of very vocal woe from a small black furry Woe Machine, but there have also been purrs – so many purrs! I picked him up the other day and he was just rumbling away in my arms. He’s been DEMANDING cuddles in the morning (me) and evening (my partner) and enjoying belly rubs (!!!!!! – only my partner is brave enough for this, I haven’t dared yet.) In short, he’s being absolutely spoiled rotten, and is enjoying it thoroughly – despite the ever-present wailing and claims that he is Starved and Neglected and How Very Dare We. Dare I say, he is actually quite happy (especially when there are biscuits.)

And generally…

As you can probably hear, I’m doing better; there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not on fire! I’m definitely still grey, and have occasional bad moments, but they’re nothing like as bad as they were. I’m slowly coming out of a pit of no-energy too, but it’s translating at the moment into something that feels almost manic; I’m keeping going and keeping going and somehow it doesn’t really feel like my brain’s involved in that! But if it means I can get out into the garden and not either immediately feel horribly overwhelmed or need to spend a day recovering from the small amount of work I do manage, then I’ll take it.

I have to admit, I’m actually worse with motivation now; I’m able to feel slightly enthusiastic about some things, so it’s making everything that I’m not enthusiastic about that much harder. I’m also still finding people hard; I don’t know what to say! I’m doing my best to keep going and also respond to people who have contacted me, and start to repair some of the missed communication threads, but it’s going to be a slow process. (As one of my ex-colleagues said: you send someone an email, and then they email back – and expect you to reply again?! I already did the email thing!!)

I’m also now having to deal with some Actual Feelings, and that has meant a few breakdowns – the nice thing about not caring is that, y’know, zero fucks, but now… but hey ho, I have coping mechanisms, and I just gotta get the practise in again! It does also mean that I’ve got to actually deal with/work through/get out a bunch of stuff, so that’s going to be fun – especially if this is only the start of everything lifting. But again, if it means I’m actually feeling instead of just being numb, then I’ll take that as progress.

So overall: doing better, and cats.

Death with a kitten. "Cats are nice."
Unfortunately via Pinterest, so no source

A Kate Update: June 2021

Update of Kate things! Happy things!
 
New job (as of almost two weeks) at Elsevier, doing journals admin; it doesn’t require me pouring my heart&soul into anything, but does require boatloads of organisation and being left alone to do said organisation, and is therefore AMAZING. I am very much picking everything up, and will be for the next year, but it’s been good so far and they’re all lovely. I am also still doing freelance work, which has been good & steady, and I’m enjoying all the random books I get to format.
 
New therapy! As of… three weeks? I think? Good so far, mostly just talking, but I think it’s helping. She does keep telling me that I’ve been through a lot and I’m just sort of “well… it’s life, y’know? Everyone has. We all kinda… cope.” But the rest is useful, I think.
 
BOOKS! I have been reading and will shortly spew out a heap of reviews so I can gush over all the things at all you book people. I also got to read a draft of a continuation of one of my favourite series and it’s SO GOOD and also I did have to message the author to yell at him… it’s the small things that make it.
 
CAT! Grumpy. Cute. Fixated on biscuits. Managed to tread perfectly in his own poop, which… is actually quite impressive for a creature that’s supposed to be an apex predator. (Thankfully he cleaned his own paw off from said poop incident, although I won’t share the method. Safe to say I’m not going to be going with the Cat Method of Cleaning anytime soon.)
 
Friends & family! In the last month or so I’ve seen an old friend (after three years!!) and we got welcomed by a blackbird family too, which was adorable. I have also been enjoying the sunshine with a neighbour, met another friend and had a very long and excellent grumble at The State Of The World, trundled over to see a good friend in Swindon (we had distanced pizza, which rocked) and I also got to see my family, which was great. It feels like I’ve used a lot of spoons but it has also been lovely. (Yes, suitable precautions were taken for all of these instances.)
I think that’s it? I’ve been slowly getting rid of a few pressures, the absence of which is gradually making itself felt. I’m feeling manically cheerful, with occasional dips, but I’ll take that over thoroughly depressed. I’ve got something of a life plan back; my task list has slowly been going down; and I’ve actually joined a very nice local yoga class so that I get out in the fresh air once a week. (Well, I usually get out more, but I can’t claim that having a glass of wine with my neighbour is in any way exercise.) So slowly, steadily, I’m rebuilding.
I shall leave you with a really good app if you’re anti-food-waste or pro-good-cheap-food: Too Good To Go. I was recommended it by an amazing friend, and you can basically book in to collect going-out-of-date-that-day food in your local area for cheap – ours has Greggs, M&S, Paul, Le Pain Quotidien and Costa as part of the scheme, amongst others! It’s been really good both for getting me out of the house and for obtaining us bags of random food items for not much money, all of which have been fab. (The M&S ones in particular are AMAZING.) Definitely worth a look for your local area!

Looking Back and Looking Forward: 2020

For the past few years I’ve done an “Aims for XXXX” post, but given the general shitshow of 2020 and the likelihood for 2021 being similar, I don’t think I can cope with that. My aim for 2020 was, overall: a year of slow building and small joys. I suppose it did sort of work, given the general overview of the year. Small joys was pretty much all I could handle.

This year, my aim? Survive. Sanity optional.

2020 was, frankly, bad. I don’t cope well with working from home; I don’t do well without some sort of routine; and I definitely don’t do well with an additional pile of stress and work which shows no signs of reducing. My mental health has been spiralling and it’s taken a serious load of anti-depressants (which I did not want to go back on) to keep me at a remotely functional level.

It’s not been all bad – I am grateful that I have been functioning. I am grateful that I have a job that is good and varied, with coworkers who are incredibly supportive, and a culture that accepts mental health as an Actual Thing and takes some steps towards trying to help. I am grateful that I have a medical crutch that actually works for me, and a medical team who (mostly) listen and support me. I am grateful that I have a home, an incredibly supportive and wonderful partner, and we have gained a Very Grumpy and Very Cute cat. I am grateful for my family, my friends, and the place where I live. I know that I have so much to be thankful for, and that has helped mitigate many of the effects of both this year and my stupid brain.

However, I can’t entirely blame 2020 for the mental health dip. The last couple of years have been bad; the Grey has been getting worse, and my mental health was already low when 2020 started. I miss my writing. I miss having a big project. I miss the life I had before Oxford; I miss the relationships, friendships, hobbies. I know it’s all gone, and I am happy and certain that it was the right choice for me – but I can still grieve over what I had.

And it’s also, I think, at the root of some of the Grey. I can’t accept that I’m in a new place, because I’m just waiting for it to vanish again. I can’t make new attachments and loves because they’ll just get taken away. 2020 and Covid has made it worse on that front; I’m waiting for loss. Waiting for grief. Waiting for the world around me to crumble.

The fact that it hasn’t yet doesn’t really do much when it comes to the fun world that is emotional logic. I’m working on it all, but that’s been an uphill battle too. As my counsellor said, “you’re doing everything right, so…” and the advice of “well just keep doing it” is not the most helpful when I’m at the end of my resources and still feeling the same. But I’m trying, and working, and hoping. I’m still here, and still going.

So 2020 has been… not great. I am grateful that I am still here, and that I’ve fought my way through it – it’s felt like wading through treacle for much of it, and that has no signs of stopping. 2021 is, at least for the first half, probably going to be as bad – but I am keeping on going, and keeping on swimming, because that’s all that I can do. I have to hope that there is something more, and that even if the world does crack, or crumble, that I can keep going.

2021 is just about moving forward, and trying to heal a little. I’m hoping that my stories come back, and I’m taking tiny steps to try to find that path again. I’m hoping that I can lift my head, feel the breeze and smile as I cycle past the willows. I’m hoping that I can sip tea in the sunshine with a cat on my knee, and feel the peace spread inside. I’m hoping that I can fill in a few more of my cracks with gold, and dissipate some of the Grey.

I miss feeling. I miss being. And I am hoping that 2021 is a year of healing and of renewal, because goddamn do we need one.

A Kate Update: Christmas 2020 + 1000!

Merry Christmas to everyone, or Happy Holidays if you celebrate one of the many other occasions around this time of year! It’s been an… interesting… year, but I’m grateful to get this far. We’ve got a tree up, presents under it, and good company (when it’s not shouting for biscuits) – so Christmas is looking good so far. December’s been slow, damp and absolutely hectic (despite the slow – it’s been one of those months where each day goes so slowly and I have so much to do, but then somehow we’re nearly at the end? No idea. Time is weird this year.) But I am now on holiday, yay!

Another mini-thing to celebrate:  this is the 1000-post on Writing&Coe! Feels very weird that I’ve been doing this long enough to get to a thousand posts…

So what have I been up to this December?

DIY: We re-carpeted our stairs! (With a rug, but still – I didn’t feel like sorting actual carpet.) The previous carpet was horrible and beige and wasn’t improving with a chonky cat going up and down it regularly, so we opted to strip the carpet off and put down a multi-coloured rug instead. Bobble, of course, had to supervise… and thankfully didn’t get his tail stapled to the stairs!

Reading: Don’t ask, because I haven’t been. Same for writing. No chance!

Eating: Our local Chinese supermarket does mochi, yay! I tried the peanut one today and it’s great. The local cafe also does fantastic cakes, so I’ve managed to pick up some pandan roulade, and also brought some sayendo home for the Otter to try.

Baking: Lime curd, and veggie roast dinners. My aunt sent us some fabulously adorable silicone pig moulds that are intended for pigs in blankets (well, mini sausages surrounded by pancake batter) so we’ve just been doing pancake versions. They are adorable and very tasty!

Listening: Christmas Jazz! I can’t face standard Christmas music at the moment (incidentally, one plus of lockdowns is less opportunity to get Whammed? Which is a good thing, I think) so we’ve been listening to jazz mixes.

And me… still grey. I upped my meds briefly, but I’ve now shifted them back down to what I feel is a more manageable level, or at least one less likely to make me spaced. I’m still a little out of it, but that’s possibly better than breaking every five minutes, so I’ll take it! Been napping a lot, but still functioning – I’ve been getting out on cycle rides, managing to (safely) see friends & neighbours, and argue with the cat.

Speaking of, we have got him a tiny bow tie for Christmas… I’ll keep you updated about how that goes!

I hope everyone has as good a Christmas as possible under the circumstances, and sending good wishes and hugs to everyone – here’s hoping that 2021 starts to improve.