Sunday, 14 December 2008

I've decided I'm not a lazy woman I'm a downshifter.

I have recently come across a fantastic woman that I've met virtually, (like so many of my really, really good mates actually!!) through her fantabulous site Book of Rubbish Ideas, called Tracey Smith. Her book and website were recommended by another of my virtual friends Mrs Green ages ago and I had not really had either the time or the inclination to have a proper look, until a few weeks ago when I eventually got round to ordering myself a copy of the book and what a book it is! For someone like me who would consider herself a little imperfect when it comes to all things green, it offers loads of ideas and inspiration for 'greening up my act', to surely nick someone elses cliche!! Some of it I am already doing like the fact that I use very few chemicals when it comes to cleaning. There really is no need to have a zillion different bottles and jars under the sink when a microfibre cloth, some bicarb and a dash of vinegar will sort out most things. The biggest thing that I have gleaned is that it brought to my attention that we actually waste quite a bit of food, or I think we do anyway, and it really is time that I address that issue in my life now.

Tracey's blog is also full of loads of ideas too and I read with interest her 'Top Ten Tips for Downshifting Sucess' ...and as I did, the realisation hit me that this is what has happened to me this last year in Italy, although I feel now that I have fought the idea on a concious level every step of the way. I have given up a full-time job childminding and also having my own pre-school daughter at home, to suddenly having no job of my own and both kids in full-time education. It actually scared me to death really, and I have spent a lot of the last year depressed and thinking that I need to 'do' something to earn my own money to be able to buy the 'stuff' I want and also to make myself sound more interesting when speaking to the people I know. What I didn't realise was that I am actually a downshifter. All that 'stuff' that I thought I needed to buy, well I don't think I actually need it after all; in fact what was it going to be anyway? Those people who say 'but what do you do all day?' don't actually matter. In fact, a really, really good friend of ours, whenever I have ever moaned about stuff has just said, 'for christ sakes, get a job!!' like this would be the end to all my problems. However, a job. It sounds good doesn't it, but will it give me 3months off in the summer because that's what I need to look after my kids during their very long, very European, summer holiday? Or will I need to farm them out to a 'Kids Club' like an ever-increasing amount of Italians now do? or worse, send them back to the UK and miss out on parts of their life whilst the Grandparents get to spoil them and bitch about me in equal measure? I think not. They are still young and I am still needed. I might not always remember that I am lucky and that actually I enjoy it, but that's ok. That's part of being human. Will I look back and say, 'god, I wish I had worked more then', or will I look back and think, 'god me and the kids had a good time then, really, on the whole'? I think it will be the latter, don't you?

Sometimes, you need a new perspective and a new way of seeing things in order to appreciate what you have and this is what I definately gain from reading blogs such as Tracey's and Mrs Green's at the moment. So, to all the doubters, I am a downshifter, ok and not just the lazy cowbag that you thought.... now what am I going to do with all this spare time that I'm giving myself permission to have.......?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Snow, friends and how to embrace what we have.

I want to talk about a few things today, so perhaps I should kick off with the fact that we had snow on Tuesday night so we were confronted with a white mass yesterday morning. This caused a mixture of reactions in our household. For once, DH was up and around with me and the kids, rather than laying in bed until I leave to take the kids to school and then having to come back to take him to work! He was playing it cool, but I knew he was excited. The kids had no such qualms over showing their excitement and were dressed, breakfasted and wanting to go outside about 45 minutes before they needed to be at school. My reaction was a bit more lacklustre I'm afraid. I just thought to myself, 'oh God, I need to try and drive in all that and I can't remember the snow-driving rules again'. I always think it is quite amazing that one person's idea of fun can be another's worst nightmare. It goes to prove that we are all different and all a little unique, but also it depends on your point of view and the level of responsibility you take for certain situations too, I think.

It reminded me a bit of a conversation I had on Facebook with an old childhood friend on Monday. I wrote my status for Monday as something like, 'Have kneaded my bread dough and it is now proving nicely', and she commented saying 'bloody hell, you are well domesticated nowadays. Makes me feel quite inadequate!' Well I felt a bit taken aback. Was this the same person who had written last week that she was really excited to be taking her kids to see Madagascar 2 at the cinema? Or the person who had had a fantastic time at her kid's school disco and been dancing away with all the kids (she is also heavily pregnant I might add here!)? When I read these things, I wished dearly that I would have been able to get excited about taking my kids to the cinema and also, if I was excited, to be able to admit it 'openly' on Facebook. But that just isn't me, as I am sure that she has never thought about making her own bread, whereas I am obsessed with it at the moment after finding little packets of Fresh yeast at the supermarket. As the late, great Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote about knitting: 'if you hate to knit, why, bless you, don't; follow your secret heart and take up something else.' I think that sometimes we see others doing stuff and we feel that that would be nice.... but..! There is no time and no inclination to fit in ALL these things. We are so accustomed nowadays to seeing certain lifestyles advertised to us and feeling that if we don't fit in to certain boxes then we are rubbish that it is hard to switch this off in ourselves. There is also the problem of recognising it on the first place too, of course as there are so many media channels that influence us covertly.

That's the thing about us humans isn't it? We are never happy with what we have. Sometimes it is best to accept things. In fact not just simply accept them, somethings are naturally unacceptable, but maybe to embrace those things that we cannot change. Perhaps what I needed to think when I woke up yesterday, was 'Snow. A good chance to practice my driving at my own pace in the snow so that I get better. As it is a fact here that life doesn't just stop when it snows.' Also, maybe reading what others are doing is also a good way to get inspired and embrace a bit of change. Perhaps my friend's post, rather than make me feel envious, would have been a good opportunity to think, oh a kid's disco, not sure I would be up for that, but I wonder if my own kids might like to put some music on later and have a dance around the front room. So inspiration rather than feeling that I am a hopeless mum. Sometimes it is the way you look at stuff that needs a rethink, as opposed to what you do.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Feeling Content

Yes, I know. I haven't written here for a while. There seem so many other things to do at the moment like reading flabby Nineteenth Century novels by Charles Dickens and George Eliot for example, and cleaning the house constantly, turning around and it looking no better than when you started, and waking up in the middle of the night because I suddenly panic that I haven't sorted out Christmas yet. You know the sort of stuff. However, I am feeling so much better in myself.... in fact I am actually feeling content at the moment. This is a very rare thing for me to say, and I am a bit dubious to talk about it, being mildly supersticious that once you say that you are feeling good, or happy or another of the plethora of positive emotions that a person can feel, it is suddenly dashed away from you again. But there it is. I am feeling content.

Makes a change from depression I can tell you. Depression and all the negative emotions that follow from it are yucky and they are destructive too. They don't just destroy the person feeling them, they go a long way to destroying those around them too. Those people you need most. It is also very good at destroying other stuff too. Jobs and careers as it is difficult to get your head out of the sand and get on with what you need to, lifestyles, you need a job and also you need to be in control of your finances which a lot of depressed people cannot do due to having their head firmly embedded in the sand.

But this contentedness. What is it and where on earth did it come from? I am not really sure I have an answer. It is like a switch has been flicked in my head. It is like rooting your feet into the ground when you practice yoga and saying 'I am here and that is that'. The Italians have some good and consise ways of expressing these things. They say 'basta' which means, 'enough' but it is much more final and defiant than the word enough. It just is enough and there is nothing more to be said. The other one I really like is 'cosi', which means 'so' or 'like this' in English and quite often you will hear Italians here saying 'é cosi' or 'it's like that' or 'it's just so' and that's it. Thats the way it is. Basta! or punto. which means full stop. Maybe it is infectious and I am picking it up from the Italians, the longer I live among them. Probably this is very likely as I am finally figuring out it is best to ask questions, listen to answers and if you can't change something 'é cosi' and that is that. You can choose how you react to stuff, and more importantly you can chose whether you react to stuff or not. That's it. Simple.

Yeah, well maybe not THAT simple but it is good to voice it and acknowledge that you do have a choice isn't it and maybe in the same way we practice something like yoga or another hobby we can practice choosing how we react. We might not always get the results we want and we might not get it right all of the time, but being aware of something is a pretty good first step on the road to changing something, or not changing something at all but learning to live with it and be content.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

My Black Dog

It has been a while since I last posted so thought it was about time time I got back here to tell you why I haven't been blogging. So, the reason is that 'My Black Dog' has been paying me a visit. This is a term that I have borrowed from Winston Churchill. It is good to know that I am in great company as a sufferer of depression and I think his use of the black dog as an analogy is one that is very helpful to me. For one thing, I like dogs a lot, and this is how I choose now to view my depression after years of fighting against it, as a faithful friend that constantly trots alongside me although doesn't always need attention, so doesn't make itself apparent. But I know it is always there just as I know that I am the master of it. Sometimes it needs looking after so that it goes back to placidly trotting alongside me rather than biting me and this is what has happened to me over the last week or so.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point in my life though to be honest and it isn't easy to be so Zen about things when you're in the midst of it but I always try to keep in mind that everything must pass eventually and yesterday afternoon it did. I have to say that I have had oodles of help from one of my lovely friends EJ who has been giving me lots of virtual TLC this week. Thank god for the internet is all I have to say!!

I'm going to leave this here for now as my children need feeding but will come back to discuss this further, I think!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Another go at Being Thankful

OK, tis late here but I want to spend my 3 minutes doing this again tonight!! So.....
  • I am thankful again for good friends. I have had some lovely messages both here and in other places and I feel truly special today.
  • For sorting out my sons swimming lessons and feeling the fear and just doing it and watching him get a bit of vivaciousness back again. It suits him!
  • For my body. You know, it isn't exactly how I would like it, but I am tall and sturdy and strong and it belongs to me and only to me. I am unique.
  • For my sister who made me laugh so much just by writing this sentence in her email to me today: Wish u were here….. we’re having fireworks tonight, not the same with out all of the kids together trying to poke each others eyes out with sparklers lol!
I think this coveys the necessary sentiment and I love it nearly as much as I love her.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Being Thankful again.

I really want to have another go at this today as it really helped yesterday to make me feel good. So, here goes:

Today I am thankful for:
  • Being able to drive a car. Without this skill dd would not have been able to go to nursery here and learn how to speak Italian so quickly. It would also mean that on rainy days like today, I would be walking DS to school rather than all being nicely protected in the car. This is something I see as a great privilege which I am truly thankful for.
  • My sense of humour. I might not always be able to see the funny side straight away, but I do usually see the funny side of things eventually and it just makes life more bearable in general if you can laugh at stuff.
  • My books. They may not be high-tech, but I love the smells and the ideas and the possibilities that are available in books.
  • My ability to read. Without this the books would be useless and I would miss out on such a lot of what makes life livable for me. The ability to read in general is magical. I am fascinated by it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it manifest itself in DS so much that I had to offer my services to the school in order to help the children there to understand the pure joy that this ability brings.
Well, that is enough for today for me. There doesn't need to be lots of stuff I don't think, but for me I feel it is important to do something like this. Sometimes it is so hard to be thankful for anything that maybe just a little habit like this will be able to help me to look at things a little differently.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Being Thankful

I have my mate Heather to thank for leading me to this place here and the idea of the three minute thankyou card. So to do what it says on the tin here goes!

Today I am thanful for my two kids. Noone else fills me with such joy and love and humour and knowledge than these two little people.

I am also thankful for my own intellegence in getting the hot water and heating functioning again on my own.

I am also thankful to my mate Sasha for finding enough space to speak to me today with a lot of wit and humour and also for telling me like it is.

To my virtual mates: To EJ for making me laugh so much and chatting, to Alex for her virtual jumpers and hugs. To iluv2cook for her pure and simple friendship and good humour, to Soapnutter for transporting me to her world of Chickens, home-edded kids and just purely for inspiring me.

I am also thankful for my knitting and my warm house for giving me comfort. oh and the laptop, without which, none of this is possible.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

There is always a choice.

Well, after letting DH have his way on Friday night without complaint I thought things would be OK for the weekend. Me and the kids had done our thing and let him do his thing (which appeared to be to watch Ray Mears episodes -but there is no accounting for taste is there?). I must admit that I did come home and after getting the kids into bed I was pretty exhausted myself so went to bed soon after, whilst DH stayed up to watch yet another episode of his hero Ray. I have no idea what time he came to bed, but it must have been late. The next morning I was awake quite early so got up quietly, made coffee and came straight onto the computer to do a bit of blog reading and writing and then a bit of general chilling out. Needless to say, the kids were not far behind me, but at 5 and almost 9 they can sort their own breakfasts so I got on with my computer stuff. I was, however, more than a bit shocked to go back into the bedroom about an hour later, to find DH dressed and ironing..... and was it my imagination or was he also huffing?

Now, this could be my imagination, as it was Saturday, so for me it is a day to chill and take things a bit easy, but I felt that he was showing, yet again, that I was failing as a housewife by getting the ironing done (again!). I really do try with the ironing. His plan for me is to do it literally as I take it off the washing lines and then put it away, but I kinda go for my mum's approach which is to save it all up and then tackle it in front of a good DVD. However, I haven't found much time for DVD watching recently, either with the ironing or not. I let him get on with it, whilst I found stuff for me to do too, hanging out more washing from the machine and washing up etc. I tried a bit of tentative chatting. You know the kinda thing -'are you OK today?' Reply: 'fine'. 'You don't have to do the ironing now' reply: 'it needs doing'. Well I gave up a bit after that, helped the kids get dressed, DS to get his homework done and then excused myself with dd to go to the shops to get some bread for lunch. The relief to get out into the sunshine was enormous. Also with one of my little partners in crime too is a bonus. DD is only 5, but she talks a lot of sense and we had a fascinating conversation both to the shops and back about why bees have hairy legs. She knew everything incidentally.

We arrived home to find that DH had now assumed the more usual position of sitting in a chair, feet on footstool, laptop on lap. I told him I had got rolls for lunch and he didn't really respond. So I asked who was hungry and it seemed that both the kids were so I set about putting lunch on the table. I didn't have much in the way of salad (wasn't given any money for the market this week -but had a little left from the week before -I hate asking for money) but we had bread, and ham and cheese and I had brought some small cakes too, so felt this was enough. I told everyone that everything was ready but DH was the last into the kitchen and then spent ages rifling around in the fridge saying things like 'no tomatoes?' 'How long has this jar of pesto been here?' and generally denting my housekeeping prowess even more. I wonder if many people know what it is like to spend nearly the whole week in your own company, alone with your own thoughts or sitting with the laptop open, in the hope of just a little adult connection that might care about how you feel and maybe even be able to tell you that you are OK? I think, there might actually be a few and I am definitely one of them. I wonder if I were to tell DH this he would want to listen without judgment and criticism? Alas I already know the answer to this one. No he would huff as I am being problematic and then give me about twenty reasons why I am not making the grade as a person and that all my problems and moans are down to me and me alone. I don't need to hear this anymore. I have had more than a few years of this and I don't need to hear it again. I think I know more than most my own failings as a person and don't need to hear them again, especially not when I am trying to be open and am at my most vulnerable. So I keep it all inside myself. I eat my lunch, forcing it down because I don't actually feel like eating, but any deviation results in me spoiling stuff for everyone and am relieved when everyone gets up from the table and leaves me alone to wash up and breath out how I feel.

The afternoon is no better. DH is on the computer constantly. I manage to get back on for a few minutes when he is watching the Formula One qualifying and he says something like 'oh I wondered how long it would take you.' like it is the saddest thing in the whole entire world. For me it is the saddest thing really and the enjoyment is sucked out immediately so I go off to start cooking some tea instead, stirring the risotto whilst simultaneously trying to read a Jamie Oliver cookbook and escape into yet another different world, where there is some love and passion and caring. The kids and I eat at the table and it is a relief that DH eats his in front of the TV. We can relax and have some chat and when DD doesn't eat the risotto I can give her an apple instead without all the comments associated with my failings as a mother too.

I hope for improvement in the evening after the kids are in bed, but DH announces that he is going to watch some more Ray Mears and so I go off to bed on my own with Dombrey and Son by Charles Dickens which, for me, is much more entertaining than watching Ray Mears wander around Australia. I am well asleep before DH comes into bed so I don't hear him.

I probably should point out that not all days with DH are like this. Sometimes we have fun, but something that I wonder about a lot, is whether this state of affairs outweighs the good times or not. I wonder one day if the kids will come back to me and say that their childhood wasn't so wonderful as they were constantly treading on eggshells and never got to do the stuff they wanted to do. Unfortunately I do not know the answer to these things right now. I also don't think there is much of a choice to be made. I have no money of my own and nowhere to go anyway. I toy a lot with getting a little job and putting some money away for my future, but know that even if I can earn something then it will be swallowed up by stuff for the kids and probably the stuff I buy now, like shopping etc. as this is how things have been in the past when I worked full-time. DH just stops giving me any money as I don't need it anymore and then complains that I am a rubbish saver! (I brought all the Xmas pressies then too!!) So for now, I will bide my time a bit, write my blog a bit, and breath out all the rubbish and hope that things improve quickly this time.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Halloween, The Open University and Procrastination

Well, I've been a bit quiet here in the last week and this is mainly down to one thing. My first essay (TMA -tutor marked assignment in OU speak!) for my current OU course AA316 -The Nineteenth Century Novel. I have now been studying with the OU for such a long time that it has almost become second nature, but so also have all the bad habits that I seem to have gotten into when my life was more full-on and I was squeezing my study around looking after a couple of kids, a house and working a full-time job. Now that life is less fraught, you would think I would have loads of time to do what I need to do wouldn't you? But I seem to have developed some really bad habits that are proving difficult to break. The worst one of these is procrastination. I have spent all of the last week doing anything but what I actually needed to do and finally, not only started, but also finished my essay at the eleventh hour!! There are a couple of problems with doing this. The first is that I now have a very messy house as I spent most of the week putting off everything else, using the excuse that my essay had to be my top priority but then not actually doing it. The second is that I know deep down in my heart that I could have done much better if I planned it properly and got on with it...... but what if I don't do any better?! What if I discover that I am actually no good at the academic side of things? and have wasted all that time and money that I've invested? What if I don't really make the grade? I kind of like to foster the fantasy that I am some kind of undiscovered genius who, because of circumstances has never been able to reach her full potential, and I have almost written a book of excuses inside my head (never to be written down and published of course) on the subject of why I don't do what I want to do or need to do. Really, there is one reason and one reason alone for this as there is for probably millions of other people, and this is Fear.

Fear is a very powerful motivation for doing (or not doing) loads of things and was essential for our survival in the past when our lives literally depended on it, but now it really is a kind of fear of the social which in turn will lead to emotional pain and the worst thing we can envisage.......the Unknown!! I have no idea what the answer is or where this fear comes from. I'm hoping that acknowledging it will let it know that I have spotted it and maybe go some way to beginning to tackle it. You never know! I read a great book last year called Gremlin Taming by Rick Carson which, although slightly Americany for my personal taste had a lot of good advice on noticing those Gremlins inside of us which really control us by using our learned and imagined fears against us. It really helped me to see that a lot of my reactions are learned responses built up in layers over years, and years, and years and that just by simply noticing we are already on the path to actually dealing with them.

So, it was that I ended up facing one of my other fears and that was taking the kids out on my own to a Halloween night organised by one of the other mums of a child in my son's class at school. I was on my own, because DH, being the wily character he is, left it to the last minute to announce that he didn't actually feel 'up' to coming out with me and the kids. I must admit I was and still am feeling a bit irritated by this. This was something, yet again, that I had managed to organise in Italian and really was more for the kids to foster relationships and add to their store of good time memories than for me. I thought that the least he could do was support me... but it wasn't to be and you cannot force someone to do something they don't want to do. Just as you cannot force someone to be happy with someone else's decision.

So I organised Halloween costumes with a strict budget and me along with a Halloween Fairy Princess and Frankenstein headed out into the cold, rainy darkness last night. The mum that organises this owns a shop in the centre of the small town where I live, and has managed to convince many of the shopkeepers to give out sweets and cakes and, in one case mini pizze to a large gang of mismatched kids bedecked in their Halloween finery. Yes, it was cold; yes, to me, it felt a bit chaotic but the kids thoroughly enjoyed the occasion ands after all the fun we then headed off to the local pizzeria for a pizza supper. The kids had a fantastic time all sitting together and eating and laughing and chatting. DD managed to gather a couple of older girls to take care of her and generally treat her the way she likes to be treated -like a princess! Whilst I found myself seated next to a couple of dads who made a huge effort to engage me in conversation and teach me the English that they know which was 'Shud up!!' A misspent youth I feel..... but I was also opposite another mum who is a German lady, married to an Italian who enjoys exercising her English every so often. A few of the parents ignored me and a few eyed me warily, but that was OK. I am just proud of myself for getting out there, feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Second Day -What do I want to do with this?

So here we are on the 2nd day of this blog and I'm wondering what I want to write about. I think maybe I need to figure out what I want to do with this blog. I'm not sure I konw this yet, a lot like I don't know about a lot of the areas in my life at the moment and what I want to do. I don't have a specific 'plan' so to speak and this is making me think that perhaps I need one. What motivation is there to do anything if you don't have at least some sort of a plan? I was thinking that maybe I could use this blog to create a plan as I go along, this is a bit like the 'knitting' that I do a lot of the time. Even when I follow a pattern I am still not sure what I will end up with at the end of the day. I am never even sure half-way through that i will like it, even, when I get to the end of the item. What was I thinking when I chose this wool and all sorts of stuff like that.

I have a lot of thoughts in my head all day, partly because I am that kinda person, and partly because, I spend a lot of time on my own. I quite like a bit of time on my own, but, really, I am a social creature at heart. I value my good friends very highly indeed and think that I have a good bunch of the real life variety as well as those I have met online too- my 'forum friends'. I want to use this space to write down how I am feeling. As my sister says 'a place to vent'. For me writing seems the natural medium for this. Something else that is just inside me. I like to 'rant' a bit too, and friends are really good for this (well mine are) but sometimes I feel a bit guilty that this is a bit of a oneway street and also I am not sure it is always so nice to have a mate like me who phones you up and rabbits on for hours about herself and all the little things that are niggling her. My friends don't seem to mind a bit, but I mind doing it all the time, so maybe this blog would be a good place to 'do' my rantings too. What do you think? At the moment this is just me reading, but, you never know. One day I might be more organised and then you'll all see.......

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Well here goes!

Well, this is the second attempt at keeping a weblog and I am hoping that I can keep up with this, but I feel like I need a new place and a new start to just ramble on and do my own thing and I am hoping this will be the place to do it. I just need to write and somewhere where it is simple to write stuff down without making any elaborate promises of photos or writing everyday. So here goes....