The Glow of Gardening

I must admit I’ve never been a gym bunny, I’m just not into treadmills and rowing machines and static cycles, or the kind of en masse exercise classes where everyone does aerobics or hot yoga or zumba together deliberately working up a sweat.

I’m not a naturally sporty girl, either, no running or gymnastics or hockey or netball or badminton or table tennis for me. I do like walking and swimming, although nowadays I have to be careful not to overdo anything with my arthritic hip. I have to do enough to maintain strength in my muscles but not so much that I put any further stress onto my crumbling joint, so it’s just a case of trying to get the balance right between doing and not doing the things I like that keep me active.

I really do enjoy gardening though, it’s such a good way for me to get a reasonably relaxing workout in the fresh air and I usually come in afterwards with a healthy glow in my cheeks, more from satisfaction than exertion… πŸ™‚

JusJoJan: Exercise

Weekly Prompt: Glow

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Just Breathe…

I don’t know why I get depressed. Or at least, I don’t always know why I get depressed.

Sometimes it’s a reaction to something – like right now, I’ve recently been made redundant and it’s left me feeling very vulnerable and a bit lost, so perhaps it’s not too surprising I’m struggling a bit emotionally at the moment, up and down in mood, frustrated and fearful and tearful at the drop of a hat.

But at other times there’s no real rhyme nor reason to it, yet I start to feel the familiar tensions and anxieties that are the precursor to a full-blown depressive episode and so I try harder to force my everyday life activities to over-ride that restless black void hovering so close on the periphery of my vision.

Sometimes that avoidance strategy works, my mood starts to lift before I descend into the darkness and all is well, but at other times I realise with sadness I’m already there, being sucked down silently into the welcoming blackness in a well-oiled elevator with no emergency stop button.

Once I’m at the bottom, I stop fighting it and just throw in the towel. The panic subsides, a lost cause in a chasm of despair. Like being sucked into emotional quicksand I just keep emotionally still, force myself to relax as best I can, let it all flow under me and over me and all around me and envelop me.

I am surrounded in thick black fog and yet I can still breathe, so I just do that – I breathe. I keep calm and hold my heart safe and instinctively feel my way through, going about the barest minimum of everyday activities of life as best I can, until eventually the darkness recedes and the light returns and I find myself free again, until the next time…

JusJoJan/ SOCS: Throw in the Towel

Weekly Smile: 16 Jan 2023

I haven’t participated in Trent’s Weekly Smile for ages, but here goes…

Since having Covid two years ago this month, my sense of taste has never fully returned – it comes and goes to a greater or lesser extent, but even on good days is never as fully vibrant or nuanced as it was pre-Covid. Luckily I’ve been cooking for so long I can usually manage to season things reasonably accurately just through experience, and when eating these days I generally ‘remember’ how things taste rather than properly taste them.

I’ve had a cold recently so my sense of taste has (as usual) pretty much disappeared again for the duration. However yesterday I made a chicken and vegetable stew for dinner, which we had with creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, and for the first time in ages I could taste something of the flavour rather than just be aware of the texture of the food in my mouth – so that’s my smile for this week, I could actually slightly taste my food again! πŸ™‚

My Beautiful Dad

Today’s daily prompt on WordPress suggests:-

Talk about your father or a father figure in your life

I’ve been thinking such a lot about my 86-year-old dad recently. He’s had vascular dementia for the last six years, playing cruel tricks with his memory so that he doesn’t always know where he is, or when he is, what is reality and what is not, or how to do some of the most basic of things.

After several strokes over time progressively reduced his mobility bit by bit, it became abundantly clear to all of us that even with all the social care support packages available mum could no longer care for him at home. Eventually after a bad fall a year ago resulting in a prolonged stay in hospital, dad now lives in a nursing home. It’s not a perfect situation for any of us, but we are where we are and it is what it is.

Luckily for us dad usually (but sadly not always) knows who we are, or at least recognises us as family members at some level – he frequently thought I was his favourite sister rather than his daughter, but we still manged to have some great ghostly conversations set in the distant past and in many different places which he clearly enjoyed. To me it was still a valued connection between us.

He would regularly ask me how ‘the old folks’ were and had I seen them recently, meaning his parents (my grandparents) who have been dead for decades, so I would prevaricate a bit, then simply say as honestly as I could that I hadn’t seen them for a while but as far as I knew everyone in the family was well, which always seemed to reassure him well enough. I treasure those conversations and the familiar closeness they brought.

Lately dad’s speech wasn’t always that clear – sometimes he might slur a bit, or forget what he was saying, or shift slowly to another decade and the words would just fade away – but he could still speak, I could hear his voice and I could remember, smiling inwardly at his dad-like choice of words or his dry humour turn of phrase, and I would think – yes, my beautiful dad is still in there somewhere…

But now dad has had another small stroke, and although he has recovered a lot, sadly his speech has not returned this time. In fact, he’s not uttered one single, solitary word since. He smiles and he nods, still looking confused at times, but there are no words. And for me, for the reality that somewhere down the line without knowing it I have had my last ‘proper’ conversation I will ever have with my much-loved dad, for me too there are no words…

Love you, dad, to the end of time, and I wish you could know just how much I miss hearing your lovely voice… ❀

Dementia 1: Dad 0

By the law of averages, my dad should probably not still be around. It’s not just a matter of his age – he’s now 86 – but of his slowly disintegrating health. Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia when he was 80, after a couple of devastating strokes left him with debilitating mobility issues and a forgetfulness that was clearly going beyond just forgetfulness.

Since that time he’s had another couple of strokes, each one just a little worse than the last. Each time both his mobility and his memory have decreased further to the point where, after a bad fall at home and a serious knock to the head a year ago resulting in a prolonged stay in hospital, dad was finally discharged not back home to mum, herself finding life more difficult as she too gets older, but to a nursing home where he now lives with much-needed 24hr care.

It’s been so hard watching dad’s memories of who he is being erased over time. To begin with there were distinct periods where dad would seem fine, and then periods where he was clearly confused. Confused about time and place and people and reality and memory. And over the years those periods of lucidity became less and less frequent. Dad became less and less certain of where he was or who he was with. He began to live more and more in the past, present in body but not in spirit, out of reach to us much of the time, lost in an inner world of his own that only he could experience.

But sadly since his bad fall last year, since the long isolated stay in hospital where he caught and fought Covid along with everyone else on the ward, dad’s growing dementia deterioration appears decidedly more marked. He can no longer walk at all, and seems to have lost the last of that small precious spark of triumphant defiance that still remained. It’s as if the dementia has won, as if the shutters have truly come down for good this time, and I feel the loss keenly.

Dad no longer comes out with the little quips and humourous comments and groan-inducing bad-dad-jokes that were such a recognisable part of his character. We no longer seem to have access to that shared familial experience, the secret short-cut code that is the DNA of everyday life. It sometimes seems dad is more comfortable with the company of the staff and residents than with his family when we visit. I’m pleased that he appears so contented, genuinely I am, but at the same time it hurts like hell…

This is not the life dad had imagined for himself, not the old age he (or we) had envisaged. But clearly it is his reality – and it is our reality too. Dad is still with us in body but not in spirit, and I honestly miss him more than I can possibly say…

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Law

Word of the Day: Erase

Boundaries

I have boundary issues, in that I find I’m not very good at setting normal interpersonal boundaries between myself and others.

I do understand how it’s supposed to work, and I do understand how and why I have these issues, but what’s not so clear to me is how to fix it fully, once and for all. I do my best, but what tends to happen is that when things get too much for me and I feel totally overwhelmed I find I put up solidly serious emotional barriers and simply withdraw from people, which sadly can feel a bit like rejection to those I love…

I’m hopeful I’ll eventually find a way to fix this issue so that I have a more positive sense of self with normal boundaries between myself and others, even if I do have to go back to therapy to find a solution… πŸ™‚

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Boundary

Typically Topical

I tend to find the content of my blog posts seems to mirror whatever is going on in my life at any given time – whatever is life-topical at the time, inevitably becomes blog-typical.

When I first started blogging over eight years ago I was 50 years old, living in a one-bedroom first floor flat in London with no garden or any outside space at all, and my blog reflected that reality. I went out a lot, just to be outside, and typically took pictures of big city life, of parks and public spaces, of tube trains and buses and buildings and inevitably people – nameless and generally faceless strangers, commuters and tourists and locals and incomers.

I took pictures of flowers in other people’s postage-stamp front gardens, taken from the outside looking in. I took pictures of trips we went on, visits to Brighton and to Scotland, including trains shots and track shots and station shots and landscapes seen through train windows.

And then in 2019 we sold up and moved back to Inverness, buying a detached house with a garden of our own front and back, and I slowly settled into making our new house a home. Sadly a few months later the Covid pandemic hit and for the next while – the longest while, as it turned out – everybody’s world necessarily shrank to the size of their own back yard. But at least now we had one to call our own.

No visitors allowed, no travel or trips allowed anywhere, no doing anything at all that wasn’t strictly necessary. It set the pace for a slow life, a small life, but a potentially safe life. Inevitably my blog posts shrank accordingly, mirroring a life that was slower, smaller, and supposedly safer. Even when I caught Covid myself in early January 2021, long before we were all vaccinated as a population, my blog followed my progress along the way.

So here I am in 2022, looking my 59th birthday in the eye with an increasingly dodgy arthritic hip and the last lingering remnants of Long Covid, wondering what comes next for my blog? And I know that that depends one hundred percent on on what comes next for my life as I approach my 60th year on this planet? Typically still lots of garden pics, but hopefully something more too – maybe a few trip pics, a few tourist pics, a few more city-scapes and lots more landscapes again?

Whatever it is, you can be sure my blog will continue to reflect my life as it happens, typically topical as ever… πŸ™‚

Weekly Prompts: Mirror

A Vagina or a Voice

‘Let’s face it, it’s like, you’ve either got a vagina or a voice, you don’t seem to have both, do you?’

Sharon Moore

Comment from a BBC report on women’s health in relation to female medical conditions, discussing how many women still feel dismissed or not taken seriously by health professionals…

One Liner Wednesday

Secretly Missing the Solitude

When the Covid pandemic first began and we went into our first national lock-down, like many others I really resented being required to stay at home indefinitely. For the first while I resisted a bit emotionally while nevertheless obediently remaining physically within the confines of my own home and garden as dictated by law.

But then I rather quickly got used to the peaceful patterns of enforced solitude, and soon found it to be a strangely comforting release from the usual societal requirement to be out there mixing with people all the time. Suddenly I had a legitimate reason for being a naturally unsociable introvert, and in so many ways it felt shamefully liberating.

Especially after I caught Covid in January of 2021 during our second period of lock-down, when staying at home helped me convalesce uninterrupted in much-needed peace and quiet. Sadly I developed Long Covid which 18 months on is a lot better and improving all the time but occasionally it catches me out and the last dregs of debilitating symptoms dog me still.

So a good two years on from where we started we are now well beyond the height of the pandemic, vaccinated against the worst of it and no longer restricted by regulations. Life has slowly returned to the nearest to normal it can be, the outside world has opened its doors again and once more staying at home alone is no longer seen to be a socially acceptable life choice.

I do truly love the freedom of being able to see my family when I choose, but otherwise oh, how I desperately miss those long leisurely days of actively avoiding all unnecessary contact with others, just being able to enjoy being quietly alone at home alone without external judgement and without feeling defensive and guilty, as if I have to explain or apologise all the time.

I’m still finding it hard to think about going back to the full levels of mixing that will be expected and required post-pandemic. Too many places, too many people, too many potential social interactions for my liking. I find as I’m getting older I’ve seamlessly adapted to a different way of being that suits me far better than the full-blown ‘normal’ life we lived before.

Personally I miss much of the social simplicity the pandemic restrictions brought to my life. They gave me a socially-distanced space to breathe freely, a space to exist comfortably on my own limited-contact terms that I’m finding hard to give up on now we’re all geared up and on the move again…

Idle Time

Idle Time…

Choose to idle away many hours
Sitting out in my garden of flowers
It’s my own time to waste
Any guilt is erased
As I soak up each plant’s healing powers

I enjoy not just colour but scent
As I savour the time that is spent
In the fresh airy breeze
Doing just as I please
Sitting quietly, smiling, content…

Weekly Prompt: Waste

PS The image is a photograph of a page of a little book titled ‘Self-Care: How to live mindfully and look after yourself’ by Claire Chamberlain πŸ™‚